Lure: shaping with guidance
The lure is an instruction, or information, as to what response is expected, what to do. How the lure is presented, what speed, where, and with what reinforcement promise (tastiness) are all part of the instructions.
Instructions should be clear as to what is expected of the listener. The listener should not have to work hardest. When your hand takes up a piece of food and you are not clear what you are saying, your listener will be uncertain what to do.
Luring comes in three stages
- Take up the lure to engage
- Use the lure to cue an action/response
- Deliver the lure as a reinforcer
At each stage the dog should clearly understand that just taking a piece of food out of the container does not mean they get to eat it. Holding a piece of food near their face does not mean they get to eat it. When these three stages all look the same, the hand will get bitten / the cup will get knocked, the dog will be confused, the trainer will give up.
This is your first skill – hands must be safe.
This means the hand you collect the treat with is never the same hand you feed with. How can we communicate this? You could use the other hand, left hand collects, delivers to right hand, right hand lures. This is the procedure with the cup on a stick – one hand places the food in the cup, and the other hand is in control of the cup.
How does the lure change into bring the reinforcer?
The lure hand can lure the action, follow this, and when the response meets the expectation, changes, and places the food into a bowl on the floor. The change between lure and reinforcer is a marker. The marker must be perceived by the dog, if not, they will either eat during the action or not respond to taking it when it is a reinforcer, hesitate.
Viewing luring as a three stage process is a skill :
Cognitively you will need to be aware why is needs three stages, what you are trying to achieve and how it can be achieved.
Perceptively you must view your hand as having a conversation and delivering information by the way you use it – perceive what the dog is “hearing” by the way they respond.
Motor skills – you will need to be able to move the lure within your hand and in the cup in different ways to explain the cues, that communicate different responses. This lure is going to have access to three dimensions relative to the dog’s face, be able to move at many different speeds, and be stages by your background body language. All of these elements contain the information the dog is seeking.
The information must be clear
Ambiguous use of hands means there will be misunderstanding. Even within our own language the same word can have different meanings and it becomes the owner of the instruction to make sure the meaning is clearly explained.
(Example. In the UK if you were invited to “take a class” it would mean I expect you to teach that class. In the US it would mean you are going to be the learner in that class.)
The simple action of hold a piece of food can mean “eat it” or it may not mean “eat it, just look at it – between you and this learner, you will need to explore how to use your hand that means the same thing to both of you.
Personally I lure with pointy fingers, and give with flat hand. Rolling the food from pointy fingers to flat of hands needs practice – lots of it.
But just as easily the take-it hand has context – it is below nose level. So I can also lure with a high hand that is an open, take it, hand as a cue to follow – looking up at this hand. When achieve the hand comes down under the nose or drop the food to the floor it becomes the “take-it” cue.
The cup can have the same cues – when moving it asks the dog to follow, when it goes upwards is asks the dog to slow down, or you may be asking for a jump, when it comes down the dog will perceive delivery and begin to speed up.
There are certain procedures I have developed from experience that can reduce the time you need to invest and learn the skills, but that does not mean you can avoid developing your skills or think you can just do the instructions without understanding what they are asking you to achieve.
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