By Jonesy Yin
Howdy Ya’ll. Today is part 3 of my wonderful tricks and stunts class. Today, you’ll see how I learned how to pull a tissue out of a bag. This was the easiest trick of the Christmas video.
Back as a wee young-un, I learned how to pull Kleenex® out of a box in response to a “sneeze” cue.
But how did I learn the Kleenex® trick? First off, I already knew to fetch. If you don’t know how to fetch yet, go here to see how your human can help teach you. In that video, she uses a Treat&Train® but you could just use a clicker and give treats by hand. It will just take longer because you won’t be as coordinated.
Since I already knew to fetch toys, my human just started having me fetch a tissue-shaped object—a cloth. I’m so precocial that all she had to do was toss the cloth and say “fetch” and I picked it up and brought it back.
Here’s where the tricky part occurs. As soon as I handed the cloth to her, she let me know that I had done well by making a click sound from her clicker. That sound has been paired with food a lot so I know when I hear it I’ve done something right and will receive a reward. But then when I heard the click, there would be a HUGE 1 second delay before I got my reward. That’s because she was holding treats in her clicker hand and had to reach with the hand that was now holding the cloth and pick a treat out of her clicker hand in order to give that treat to me. Or she could have tried to give me a treat with her clicker hand but I guarantee I would have found a way to grab all the treats out of that hand at once.
I am very patient for a Jack Russell Terrier, so I can handle this boring delay. Luckily she wasn’t taking 3 or more seconds like I see happening when my slow-poke Labrador friends are getting trained by their humans! That would be so boring that I’d have to go do something else.
Next, she also tried just dropping a treat from her left hand onto the floor so that she could deliver it right after she clicked. That worked ok but then I had to search around for the treat and would forget what we were working on.
Wow! Humans really need 3 hands if they want to train us JRTs.
Finally she switched to using the Treat&Train so that she could just hold the remote control in one hand and hold the cloth or tissue in the other hand. Then I could get my treat within 0.3 seconds. Yay! That made the game much more fun.
Once I could fetch a cloth, she switched to tissue. I could immediately fetch that too, except sometimes if I stepped on it, I tripped and ripped it.
Now, because my human is eco-conscious and because she realized that I would probably rip a lot of tissues while pulling them out of the box, she started the box portion of the trick using the cloth. She first just placed the cloth on the box and I had no problems fetching it. I would grab it as soon as she put it on the box so she had to have me lie down and wait and then she’d tell me “fetch” so I knew to get it.
Next she tucked the cloth into the box. She started with the box close by so that I didn’t have to run far. That way I could get a lot of repetitions in a short amount of time.
Then she moved the box further away.
And after that switched to using real facial tissues. Once she knew I’d run to grab the tissue as soon as she said fetch and that could do it right every time, then she started adding the sneeze cue. I’d be lying down waiting for a cue to get the tissue and she would then “sneeze.” Basically, she could have said anything and I would have gotten used it as an excuse to get up to grab the tissue so that I could get a reward. For dogs who actually listen to what their humans are saying, she could have sneezed and quickly followed with the word “fetch.” Then the sneeze would come to predict that she was going to give the “fetch” cue and the dog would start anticipating and fetching right when they heard the sneeze.
Since learning the Kleenex® trick many years ago, I have had ample occasion to practice. I sometimes even do it when my mom is sick. So dusting this trick off for the Christmas video took all of 2 seconds.
My human just took out a gift bag with tissue and, to let me know to grab wrapping tissue out of a bag, she shook the wrapping tissue so that I looked at it, and then sneezed! I got her message right away!
BTW: This whole process of rewarding a behavior that you already know and then systematically rewarding behaviors closer and closer to the goal behavior is called shaping. I can learn super fast when my mom uses these shaping steps! The process of applying the trick to a slightly different situation is called generalizing.
I mostly generalize naughty behaviors to new situations but sometimes I can generalize good behaviors too!
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