Like virtually every dog trainer I know, I find training people much more difficult than training dogs. With a dog, I have a clear goal in mind, and I have learned how to break the desired behavior down, step by step, so that I communicate what I’m looking for very clearly. With people, it’s too easy to rely too much on our shared language which often leads to assumptions that they understand what I’m asking (whether or not I’ve explained it adequately).
If you read this blog regularly, you’re probably aware that I’ve been sending Barnum to find my personal care assistants, either to deliver messages in a pouch attached by Velcro to Barnum’s collar, or to alert them that I need them ASAP. (As discussed recently in this post and shown on video in this post.) We are at the “proofing” stage of this behavior, meaning that it’s reliable enough that I am mostly actually using it and occasionally testing it to see if there are still any weaknesses in his reliable performance of the skill.
In the course of proofing, I discovered that I was communicating much more effectively with Barnum about what I want him to do than I was with the people involved about what I want them to do. So, I typed out this instruction sheet for my PCA (personal care assistants), and it’s posted in the kitchen. They have found it helpful, and I thought you might find it useful (if this is a behavior you want to teach) or simply of interest if you want to learn a bit more about the ins and outs of training this behavior.
Barnum’s “Where’s Person?” Protocol
If you KNOW I have sent Barnum to you (known training situation):
- Wait for him to nudge you. If he DOESN’T nudge, point to your leg and say NUDGE.
- When he nudges (whether you’ve cued him or not), say YES! And give him a treat.
- Ask him to SIT.
- Let him stay in the sit for a few moments (even if you’ve removed a pouch).
- Say YES and give him a treat.
- Say WHERE’S SHARON? It’s important to end with WHERE’S SHARON? Because I listen for that to know whether Barnum did the behavior, and because you saying that also tells HIM that he has earned treats from me.
If you DON’T Know If I’ve Sent Him (“Cold” Practice or REAL Situations) . . .
If he nudges you or he’s wearing a pouch, that tells you I definitely sent him.
If you’re not sure, try to be aware of Barnum’s body language/the situation.
Here are some clues I probably did NOT send him to you:
- He wanders into the kitchen
- He seems more interested in the food prep you’re doing (especially prepping dog treats) than anything else
In this case, please come check with me, and I will call him and keep him from hanging out and begging food from you, because this is not a behavior I want him to learn/practice.
These are CLUES I probably DID send him to you:
- You heard him OPEN MY DOOR to get to you
- He is RUNNING or trotting in to you with EXCITEMENT/purpose
- He is STARING at you
If the above apply, please follow these steps:
- If he nudges you, say YES and treat. If no treats are available, say Good boy!
- Immediately, tell him to SIT!
- Look for a pouch on his collar. If it’s there, take the pouch.
- Find him a treat. Tell him YES! Then give him the treat.
- ASK HIM WHERE’S SHARON? (And if there’s no pouch, follow him back to me.)
Happy (people and dog) training!
– Sharon, the muse of Gadget (this was one of my favorite jobs), and Barnum SD/SDiT (this IS my favorite job!)