Video: Turning on Light Switch

Barnum and I are working on his light-switch abilities. We’ve hit a snag for the moment, because I wanted to put mylar or something like that on the wall below the light switch so that when he jumps up on painted walls, he won’t scratch them. We do keep his nails pretty short, but still.

So far, we haven’t found any at the local hardware stores. If you have a brilliant suggestion, please post it in the comments! Meanwhile, when I feel up to it again (have not been doing much training the last few days), we will keep working on the parts of the chain for this behavior. I thought we were ready to string the chain together, but as this one-and-a-half minute video demonstrates, we’re not. Still, it gives you an idea of where we’re going. (A description and transcript of the video is included below the video.)

Here’s how we got here.

First, I shaped nosing a light switch on a board on the floor. (We used the technique shown in these captioned and narrated videos: Part 1 and Part 2 of Donna of VIAD’s instructional shaping-light-switch-with-clicker series.)

Over time, I raised the board so Barnum had to reach for it and added a piece of tubing to make it easier to nudge when the switch was too far to reach above his head.

Then I switched to teaching him to do “paws up” to target my hand or a colored square on increasingly high surfaces, until he was able to do it against the wall. We used this technique from Lynnherself and Lily, which involves having the dog nose-target your hand on increasingly high pieces of furniture, until you put your hand on the wall, and the dog jumps up with feet on the wall to reach your hand.

Once I go back and strengthen each link of the chain — the jump to reach the switch and the nose nudge to turn on the light — we’ll try putting them together again. We still have a long way to go to get the behavior consistent, and then to add a cue.

Video description:

Sharon sits next to a tile wall in a bathroom with a light switch about four feet off the ground. She puts her hand against the wall under the switch, palm side out. Barnum jumps up and noses Sharon’s palm. Sharon clicks at the nose nudge and gives Barnum a treat.

Something on the floor distracts Barnum. Sharon tells him “Leave it,” and he backs away. Then he sniffs at it again and gives up. He jumps up and targets her hand and gets another click/treat.

The third time Barnum jumps up, he hits the light switch, and the room is suddenly bright with light. Sharon clicks and says, “Yes!” In a high, happy voice. She gives Barnum several treats and turns off the light.

They do two more reps of Barnum jumping up to touch Sharon’s hand. Then Sharon switches to just pointing at the light switch before taking her hand away.

Barnum jumps up and tries scratching at the wall underneath the switch. No click. He jumps up again and noses the switch plate. Sharon clicks that, even though he also adds a paw scratch on the wall.

Again, Sharon points to the switch and waits for Barnum to decide what to do. He jumps up and paws the tile. He pauses a moment and flicks the light switch with his nose, flooding the room with light. Sharon clicks the light switch nudge and says, “Yessss! Good boy!” She gives him several treats and ends the session.

Thanks for watching!

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget (she didn’t let me jump on the wall!), and Barnum, SDiT (I have an idea! Let’s turn on a light! Ha ha ha ha!)

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3 Responses to “Video: Turning on Light Switch”


  1. 1 Karyn August 31, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    What about cardboard? Some cardboard boxes I tolerate while others I do not but you could replace that as needed perhaps until you can find the mylar. I’m guessing that is the plastic sheeting. I’d look for the kind that flexes. I wonder if the cornergard store sells other than cornergards. If they dont they may know someone who would carry it. I can get you the link if it interests you

  2. 2 Sharon Wachsler August 31, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Mylar is like a sort of shimmery plastic translucent fabric. I got the idea because on the Take a Bow Wow! & BowWow Take 2 DVDs, they seem to have some behind their lightswitch extenders. I like the idea because it’s thin and cheap and not ugly (the way cardboard is). Also, I discovered that to really get cardboard to stick to the wall, you have to use serious adhesive, like duct tape, and then when you remove that, the wall is all messed up. Mylar, because it’s so lightweight, might not require so much to keep it on. But yes, I’m interested to see what the cornerguard store has, too.


  1. 1 Video: Light Switch, Take 2 « After Gadget Trackback on September 2, 2011 at 2:22 pm
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