SWDI Do you see what I see

by | Aug 20, 2023

I have done a video-study here of the Scandinavian Working Dog Institute video introducing a pup to a sequence of indication at a target. This video is full of the skills of the handlers, the preparation of the pup and the well planned process of how the learning will evolve. It screams confidence because the work has been done.

Use this link to open in a separate tab and compare to my analysis. It is on FB Watch. 

The components before this sequence involve:

A sit for food, on a signal of a closed fist at the pup’s nose height. The fist at nose height is important as the pup is encouraged to only focus on the food-fist signal, not to look up at the person and seek eye contact (this is quite the opposite of most people’s desire when teaching a sit FOR a person).

This is transferred to the cone: fist held over the cone to make the association, both the fist AND cone become the cue for the sit.


The food is placed under the cone and the cone is lifted to reward the sit.

Hint: you can also get cones with holes in so that the food can be droped into the one without the pup seeing the cone lifted.  (PF = practise first without the dog). 

Particular skills and awareness as this is happening. The handler is consistent with the fist as a signal, the front of the wrist facing the dog. Food is fed in the sit; ie: taken to the pup whilst still sitting. This will encourage duration of the sit, where the food delivery in the future ends the behaviour.

This entire sequence will be happening in many different places as we can see in this video the pup is in a public car park. The handler does not require a lead having full confidence that they can call the pup to their side if traffic is a potential risk and that the pup is familiar with working around may other attractive situation as and still focussing on the food opportunities. It is a hungry Labrador puppy – the odds are all in his favour.

In this video

Once the pups is familiar with the food coming from under the cone, the trainer moves around so that their presence in irrelevant to either the stimulus of sit or the delivery of rewards.

Rewards begin to arrive tossed to hit the cone (PF) and the pup self-releases from the sit to go collect thrown food.

Trainer is moving around whilst the pup goes to sit and maintains the sit. Notice the food is likely to be a kibble or hard variety so that there is a good chance of a sound when it hits the cones or bounces when hitting the ground.


From the beginning we see the trainer holding food and ignoring the pup’s jumping, there is no response, no comments or guidance how to earn the food. This is to encourage the pup to “find” the cone and remember the relevance of the cone for themselves. This will have followed on from the early teaching of the cone=sit=get food from cone.

It may be tempting to gives some hints, but we need to trust the pup’s learning desire to begin to notice their environment and not seek guidance from the trainer at this stage.

We see the pup repeat this cone-look and the trainers throw food on each self-initiated sequence. At this point there is a danger the pup would notice the throw gestures from the trainer being connected to the food landing, so the trainer calls the pup and lures them to a side heel sitting position. (.34) (PF)

The trainer is skilled at manoeuvring the pup to a perfect heel sit position (PF with a mirror). Food is delivered several times with the left hand whilst in the sit-heel, one piece at a time from the reserve held in the right hand. The food pouch is hanging on the right side of the trainer. 

The food delivery ends when the trainer stands up, whist also indicates that the behaviour of sit-heel has ended.

The pup looks forward and spies the cone and takes themselves to the cone for a potential source of further food. 2.56.

The trainer throw food at the cones for several repetitions of cone-sit-look.

He throws food with his right hand. I doubt this is pertinent or relevant only that he is right handed and likely to be more accurate. Food in the hands will be constantly changing so that delivery can be thrown or fed in the sit heel position.

Trainer is also moving around to get to the optimum position behind the dog for the majority of the reward deliveries.

1.30. Pup is called and cues for sit-heel given followed by the lure and repeats for maintaining the heel position. When the trainer stands up as the release, this time there is one single jump at the trainer which is ignored (learning is happening!) and the pup self-inhibits to go to the cones for more rewards.

1.48 The pup returns to trainer without a call which is ignored so the pup until he goes back to the cone. A future of staying on the job without guidance. Verbal cues are only given at specific points where a verbal cue will be given in the future.

2.05 Trainer is reloading their food in hand holding several pieces and graduating to over hand throws whilst constantly moving around very slowly.

During the sped up section the pup ignores the stranger and continues to go to the cone, trainer keeps rewarding the cone-sit-look. This is the stranger we all need when out in the real world training, not one that considers “saying hello” to the pup their right. Spot on!

Trainer also have the discipline to ignore the phone and continue to train whilst it rains. Love the pup considering the camera on a tripod may also be a Cone That Pays Food.

This video indicates the many threads behind this training where the trainer is very self-aware of what they are doing at all times and why they are doing it. An awareness of the future of the pup and how this early learning is the foundation of the life time of work of this dog.

Doing your own work is about building confidence

This video indicates the many threads behind this training where the trainer is very self-aware of what they are doing at all times and why they are doing it. An awareness of the future of the pup and how this early learning is the foundation of the life time of work for this dog.

Solid behaviours:

  • A clean prompted sit with the focus on the target, (no puppy sit, this will have been established from first sitting for food)  no sit for eye contact, no sit for greeting
  • Solid duration that will have been increased slowly, initially with food delivered in the sit, repeated and thrown food acting as the release-cue without any verbal prompting. Food delivery patterns acting as cues.
  • Transfer of signals to the new target from the food-fist when the food fist is not present the cone is the attractive target as a food source.
  • Luring into a sit to heel where the dog is in a working position, clean sit, not bent around or looking up.
  • Sit to heel is maintained with food delivery pattern and when ended the pup seeks food from elsewhere.

Behaviours that are in progressive learning:

  • Pup aware of potential reward sources in the environment
  • Pup self-seeking of reward sources without prompting

More than anything this is a video of confidence. It is not the usual FB sales pitch of showmanship to gain likes and assurance. It is a demonstration of craftmanship built from confidence of having done the work. It is a generosity of sharing so that those who do want to learn can step forward and do better.

It is confidence in the reward processes and the dog’s natural abilities to learn. This confidence comes from studying, researching, asking questions, evaluating personal skills, handling skills, developing self-disciplines.

If you would find live video evaluation useful, let us know – that would be a happy combination of mutual enjoyment.

Key Reading

What’s Cooking? A Warning About Recipes

Recipes for “training” dogs are so prevalent in how we live with and talk about them that their existence often goes unquestioned.

Think carefully

We cannot presume a cue is a reinforcer unless we can shape a new behaviour using that cue as the marker. Read carefully. Think carefully. Consider multiple perspectives. Sometimes it seems easier to let someone else do the thinking for you and just copy, but we need to become thoughtful trainers.

What is a Trainer?

I know what I am, as a trainer. But does my view of “A Trainer” coincide with, or even overlap with yours?

Heartbeat of living with dogs

I like to regard a “teacher of dogs” as someone who meets dogs in their world and teaches them how to be their best whilst living alongside us in our world.

Dogs are Born To Learn

We can build tremendous learners when we get beyond the idea that “dogs are trained”.

A Road to Nowhere

When familiarity is stripped away we seek recognisable signposts that will take us back to comfort and security. This is survival instinct. It is worth listening to as it keeps us alive.

The Experienced Dog

Knowing your dog has receive sufficient preparation does not mean every eventuality, but a range of different conditions so that when the unexpected happens they will draw on their skills and solve the issue.

The Answers Await Discovery

The idea that we’re responsible for our dogs’ learning might well seem strange when we consider how we conceptualise “training:”

It’s Not Training

A carefully planned learning pathway, paced to suit that particular learner for their life ahead.

Why add fun?

When an activity gives intrinsic pleasure we do not need to add fun.

Top Training

More than words

We expect our dogs to understand the meaning of words and signals, but if you have ever worked with computers you will know that what you say doesn’t always turn into an actionable response.

Duration: sustaining movement

Continuing and maintaining a specific movement

Not all lures contain food

“the direct use of the reinforcer to elicit the behaviour”
This should always be foremost in our mind, in that many alternatives lures are available.

The Power of Passive Learning

Active learning: the learner takes active choice of what to do, how to respond, is attentive and making conscious effort
Passive learning: little conscious effort, reward is delivered for minimum effort.

Release cue or stay cue

Many of us begin with teaching sit or down, and this is one of the earliest experiences of training with reinforcement. Is the sit, or down, going to be a terminal behaviour, or a temporary position?

Evidence of learning

When we use the words “teach” or “train” child, person or dog, the operative term implies that the process is under the ownership of the teacher or trainer. What your teacher thinks you have learned may not be what you actually learned.

Stop doing that ….

Can we teach an effective Cease That Behaviour? Absolutely. We can teach that positively, without harm, and we should teach them the skills of stopping that and doing this instead.

One dog watching

The other dog working
or ….how to train the spectators to quietly rest and watch whilst you work, play, teach a single member of the group

Luring: Hand lures

Learning hand-lure skills, Collect the food, engage, follow, feed.

Obnoxious Puppy

The delight of your new puppy is probably going to last a few weeks, maybe four if you are lucky. When 12 weeks old hits, and you will feel a slam, the Delight is going to demonstrate ungrateful, obnoxious traits.

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