What does it mean to Capture a Behaviour?

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When your dog offers a behaviour that you didn’t ask for but want to assign a name to, this is capturing a behaviour. I have found that this is the easiest thing to teach a dog, especially since it was them that showed you that they could do it in the first place. A few years ago I was teaching a dog to walk backwards a few steps. And the first thing that I was offered was a bunny hop. I thought that this was a fantastic behaviour to capture so I stopped what I was doing and asked for that same behaviour again, and I got it, over and over and over again. I called it “Giddy-up” and now he can Giddy-Up on command and all because it was what he thought I was asking for.

It is quite astonishing the cognitive ability to try to figure something out for themselves, and it can give you an array of new behaviours to capture.  In my option it is the sign of a analytical dog that likes to solve problems, and in the example I gave before, that is exactly what it was.

There is no exact science to teaching a captured behaviour, I always say that it’s one part observant and two parts luck. But when you are in the right place at the right time you have an opportunity to encourage a trick or behaviour that was offered.

An easy place to start is to try to capture “Bow”. Most dogs will stretch and “bow” by themselves, when they do, be ready to reward that behaviour and say “Bow” when they are in the act of stretching. Clever timing and rewarding the behaviour are key. You can’t always force it. If they do it once, there is no guarantee that you can get them to do it again. But if you do… magic happens :)

Another way to capture a behaviour is to redirect a behaviour that you don’t like, for example jumping up on people, and direct it into a trick. This can help you reduce the frequency of the unwanted behaviour by giving structure to the act itself.

There are many ways to can capture a behaviour, just keep your eyes open and if your dog does something you want to turn into a trick, reward the behaviour. You will find it much easier than teaching from scratch.

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