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Play the Training Game




What you'll need

1. 10 small objects from around the house such as: paper clip, clothes pin, small cup, elastic band, piece of paper, an ornament, pepper pot, teaspoon.

2. A pack of playing cards, or at least 5 items that look identical from one side but have different pictures on the other, postcards or photos etc.

3. Paper to write down the names of 5 towns or cities or makes of car.

4. A clicker or other marker signal (Yes, Good, Ah, There will all do. But, no conversation)


5. Some rewards, pennies or matchsticks or pieces of fruit, in about a quantity of 30-50. Count them first so that your know how many you have.

6 A  friend. (not your dog or horse!)

Now begin

The Set up:

Sit at a table opposite each other. Spread the 10 objects out in front of your friend. Explain to them that when they do something right, you will click and give them a reward. Make sure you give them the reward each time directly to their hand. Once your pile of rewards is empty then swap over and restart.


The Rules:
Keep the playing cards and word sheet out of sight in your lap.

Once you start you will not be able to talk, your only form of communication is the clicker.

Sit back and wait for your friend to touch an object, any object of their choice. They do not need to pick it up or move it, just touch it. Click when they touch and then pay them.

Once they have chosen their first object, only click for touching that object. Some people will see what happens when they try to touch all the other objects as well. No click, no reward.

When they repeat the behavior, click and reward.


What Happens Next:
Look for this beginning to happen with increasing fluency. Fluency means that the actions taken are smooth with little hesitation. Fluency is improving when they have taken the reward and then straight away, without hesitation, go back and touch the same object.

Just after you have delivered a reward, pick up a playing card, hold it up and show it to your friend. If they go for the same object to touch, click and reward. If they don't, just wait for them to make the connection. Do this about 5 times, until they are fluently responding to the card by touching the object.

Then, do not hold the card up, wait for a count of 15. Very likely they will touch the object, but you will not click. You will only click from here on if they touch that object AFTER you have held up the card.

This is called putting the behavior on cue. It is strictly considered to be "on cue" if the behavior does not happen unless cued. So the spontaneous, touch-try-touch your friend will be playing to that object will not be rewarded.

Now take that object away and let them begin to touch another. This time you will add a verbal cue, from your list of cities. Go through the same routine in the exact order:
a.. The learner chooses the object (behavior)
b.. The learner repeats until they are without hesitation (fluent)
c.. You add the cue prior to the behavior (putting it on cue)
d.. You check the behavior will not happen without the cue first

Each time you add a cue to a new object, put back the ones already learned and refresh your learner's memory as to which object goes with which cue. Move the objects to different parts of the table, and keep the unused objects overview all the time.

Take a Break:
When you have reached 6 cues, 3 verbal and 3 visual take a break!
Tiring eh? When you are ready, change roles and this time be the learner.

Evaluation time

This is how easy it is to learn a cue
What was the hardest? Remembering the visual (playing cards) or the verbal cues?
How did you remember?
Was it the shape of the picture on the card or the value of the card?
Was there a particular way of remembering the verbal cues?
Did your learner get to the point where they were "cue fluent"?
Did they respond to the cue without any hesitation?
When you were the learner did you feel you needed to think or could you react without thinking?
And was it easy to remember which cue to give and was it easy to remember whether the learner was right or not?

Tricky eh?

Dogs and Horses are better than us, thank goodness, and they can't write things down on paper to help remember either!

After that practice you have learned to:
                 a.. Direct the learning to a limited choice of behaviors
                 b.. wait for the learner to offer the behavior
                 c.. click and rewarded for simple behavior
                 d.. Wait for the learner to demonstrate they understand, i.e. fluency
                 e.. choose and add a cue
                 f.. develop cue fluency
                 g.. develop reliability to the cue, by withholding the cue
                 h.. learned NOT to click if the learner made a mistake
                  i.. have a fun time practicing which cue goes with which object

After this experience as a learner we hope you will have some compassion for our brilliant animals, who sometimes forget, sometimes lose concentration, sometimes get tired and like us, can go completely blank!

Putting cues onto behaviors is a straightforward process, but we owe our animals enough opportunities to practice. Plan about 5 practice lessons to every teaching lesson.