Fading out the foot target?
Just for fun and because I admire the way the finished product looks, I've been training perch work with both my boys. I'll probably never use it in any venues, just for me and to keep them busy!
Both pups are doing good with it, Dude is further advanced. I started them at the same time but Ivan is so over the top it took him longer to get it lol. He is still doing circles on the perch. If I step into him, he leaves the perch but I think he will get it with a little maturity, I'm in no hurry.
The question I have is with Dude. He totally gets it as long as he has a foot target. I'm using the commands heel for left side and close for right side. He's 100% on the commands. We have transitioned from a 6 in stool, to a couple inch book, and now we are to a piece of newspaper.
I toss his treat away in different directions and he has no trouble with "finding" heel or close. He's 100%, until I take the foot target away. I am careful to stay in the same place the foot target has been. He just looks at me like I'm crazy and offers every other behavior he knows lol!
He plays dead, he takes a bow, he spins, he speaks, he will even offer a behavior he came up with on his own, he sits directly behind me.
Besides keeping at it and being patient, any suggestions on how to fade out that foot target?
How about shrinking the newspaper? If he's still doing the behavior after transitioning from a stool to a book to a piece of paper, you should be able to fade the paper by making it successively smaller, until you can get rid of it completely.
Making it smaller is definitely one good way to go about it.
Another possibility would be to click and reward for approximations, relaxing your criteria until he grasps the idea that what you want is the position relative to you, not the foot target. It may be helpful to use a little luring or hand targeting as an alternative prompt, but you should probably try to encourage the dog to think for himself as much as possible here, rather than just transferring his dependency to a different kind of help.
It may also be helpful to take a break from perchwork exercises for a week or two and work on something completely different for a while. If you've been rewarding heavily for foot target exercises and nothing else for some time, then it's not surprising that your dog would look for the prop that he knows is connected to a reward. To break that association, it might help to do something totally different and cement the idea that "oh, okay, sometimes I get cookies for things that AREN'T dependent on finding the foot target."
Thanks for the responses.
I didn't think about him becoming overly dependent on the target but it does make sense. I'm glad to have other eyes to use, so to speak. :)
I'll have to decide on a silly trick to teach him to make him use that brain of his!
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