Video: Barnum Comments on the Difficulty of Being a SDiT

I taught Barnum this trick last week. The primary reason was that I thought the tool pictured below might help him learn to do a straight-up-and-down paw thwack (stomp) versus any raking or scratching movement.

Round raised bright red button says "Easy" in white letters on the top. The base is metal and says, "Staples" on one side.

Ah, dog training. Such a serious pursuit. . . .

It turned out I was right. He learned the correct movement very quickly, and he found the sound that the object made self-reinforcing. He loves it! (Need I say that it made refining this skill, easy?)

(Shout out to Eileen, who gave me the idea with this video.)

I got the idea of adding a new cue to the original cue for foot targeting (which was “Bop it!”) to make this trick work.

Transcript of the video is below.

Note: If you are reading this post in an email, you must go to the actual blog post to view the video (click this link).


Barnum is lying on the floor, looking up at Sharon/the camera.

SHARON: Good boy. Barnum, can you help me out in the kitchen? Release!

Barnum stands up.

SHARON: Barnum, shut the cupboard!

Barnum moves into the kitchen and shuts one of the cupboard doors under the sink with his nose.

SHARON: Good dog! Shut the other cupboard!

Barnum shuts the other under-sink cupboard door with his nose.

SHARON: Good boy! Barnum, close the drawer!

Barnum nudges a drawer closed that was at nose height for him.

SHARON: Good dog! Barnum, was all that difficult?

Barnum runs over to a red Staples “Easy Button” and thwacks it with his paw. The button says, “That was easy.”

Sharon clicks, and Barnum comes over to get his treat.

End of transcript

So, can you guess what the new cue is? Post it in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by!

-Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, “easy”-going SDiT

6 Responses to “Video: Barnum Comments on the Difficulty of Being a SDiT”

  1. 1 eileenanddogs September 16, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Hah! And what’s with all those different verbal cues! Didn’t you read the rules? You are supposed to use one-syllable, distinct, slightly guttural and fierce sounding cues. Not, like, SENTENCES? Dogs can’t possibly understand those. 😉

    Seriously, great, fun video and it’s so nice to see Barnum working so happily and efficiently. And you’ve got a nice secondary reinforcer going there!

  2. 2 Sharon Wachsler September 16, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    That’s why it’s important that I have a dog who is smarter than I am. I can’t remember simple, one-word commands for complex behaviors! Although, actually, Barnum knows the manual cues for shutting doors and drawers better than the spoken ones (though, I think he mostly knows those).

    Yes, I think I might use the Easy button as a periodic secondary reinforcer, because he does love to stop on it and have it make that sound!

  3. 3 Courtenay September 16, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    AWwwww. That made my night. He has come SO far, Sharon. Congratulations and good for you for getting him there!! It’s the tough ones that make us good trainers, you know 🙂

  4. 4 eileenanddogs September 16, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    I wish Barnum would give my girls an English lesson. Or perhaps give me a “teaching verbal cues” lesson! Although come to think of it I do speak to Summer in sentences. She’s the only one, though.

  5. 5 Sharon Wachsler September 16, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Thank you! Ain’t that the truth!

  6. 6 Sharon Wachsler September 16, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Honestly, I love using ASL commands, because it’s a visual language, and a lot of the words/sentences just completely make sense, meaning that often they look like what you’re saying. (Much like the word, “hafferschlime” (sp??) means “oatmeal” in German, or onomatopoeia.) So, when I say, “Shut the cupboard” or “shut the door,” I’m actually using the same sign, which I put in ASL word order when signing (even though I’m speaking in English word order). It would be “phonetically” translated as, “That door/cupboard, shut it” or “There, shut door/cupboard.” But in ASL it would be properly translated as “shut that cupboard/door.” I don’t use real ASL signs that are too hard for a dog to see/understand because of his POV. But almost all dogs learn manual cues faster/easier than spoken, and this is extra true for Barnum, and I think it helps him to learn the spoken ones, though we are still quite far behind on that in terms of what I’d like.

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