Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"How do you get those pictures?"

I've had a number of people ask me how I capture so many pictures with dogs looking at me and/or standing still.  Here are some fun examples of what they ask about.


Pictures like this happen because of verbal and non verbal cues I've taught the dogs in my care.   I don't force them into positions I give them choice AND I reinforce the behavior I'm asking/looking for.    

Per the Karen Pryor website, here is the definition of a cue: A stimulus that elicits a behavior. Cues may be verbal, physical (i.e., a hand signal), or environmental (i.e., a curb may become a cue to sit if the dog is always cued to sit before crossing a road). 

If you are interesting in my training terms here are some resources: Training Terms and Training jargon

In terms of working with the dogs outside, Catty is a dream.  She's wicked smart, knows many cues and is very food motivated.  Food pretty much trumps anything in her world.   Keep in mind that Catty is dog reactive so, I do need to remain aware of the environment, setting her up for success. 

Viva also knows many cues and the longer she's in foster care, the more she's picking up on the game of taking pictures. She offers me behavior I'm looking for as long as she is under threshold. Viva has a low threshold when she experiences things (mainly dogs) coming into the environment.  So we are continuously working on keeping her under threshold, expanding her threshold and learning new behaviors.

D'light is very engaged with the environment when we are outside - looking for critters.  We have actually worked hard at creating and building this behavior in D'light.  When D'light first came to us back in 2011 he was a very worried and shut down with most everything.  So again, we have reinforced his behavior of engaging with the environment.  For D'light, the verbal cue of "look" is not a verbal cue that we frequently ask of D'light because it's not a priority for us with him.  Our top priority with D'light is engagement with the environment.

Here's a sampling of the verbal cues that the dogs know and that we use frequently outside:

-wait (stand still)
- look (which is look at me)
- lets go (we need to go NOW)
- come on (not urgent, just we need to move)
-  lets go look (we need to go as there's something to chase after)

Then a hand cue which is me waving my hand to get them in the direction I'm asking them to move.

Here we are with lots of peonies.  I have asked Catty to move in front of the flowers with my hand cue. I reward her (with food) for moving in the right direction and then I ask her to wait.  She is rewarded with food for the second behavior I've asked of her.  She's watching something and that's fine. 

While she is "wait"ing I take pictures. 

Then she offers a sit and I reinforce that with lots of food. I'm not one who asks my dog to sit (It's not an important cue for me).  I ask her to "wait", step back and ask her to "look".   I get the below picture and Catty gets reinforced with food.  It's a win win!

Here I give a hand cue up the stairs and then the cue of "look".  I take the picture (my camera is also a cue) and Catty is reinforced with food.

 Here we go again...

After I take the picture and give her a reinforcer of food.  I ask her to "wait" while I take more pictures of the flowers. When I'm done taking pictures she gets another food reinforcer.

I always have food with me.  ALL THE TIME.  So I'm a consistent reinforcement machine and the dogs know this.

While out on our walks we find a variety of Kniphofia uvaria

Here's Catty after her food reinforcer. and she sticks in the spot hoping to be reinforced again. Sometimes I reinforce the stick and other time I say "come on", we go and I drop a food reinforcer in front of her for giving me the behavior I just asked for.

So, could I not always offer her the food reinforcer?  Yes and I choose to always offer her a food reinforcer.  Why not reinforcer the behavior with food?  I have the food with me, it makes the behavior stronger and Catty loves it.  I am a generous reinforcer with food. All of this also strengths our relationship.

And because I'm a generous and consistent reinforcer for behavior I want - the pictures you see is what I get in return.  It's a great working relationship where everyone is reinforced!

Because we practice this all the time (daily), there are many times where I don't have to give the verbal cues.  

My behaviors are also non verbal cues.  Catty sees me pull the camera out, I crouch down, turn the camera on and then she looked at me.  After I snap the picture I reinforce Catty with food.

Then I take the below pictures.  I've asked Catty to "wait" and then I reinforcer her for that behavior.

A variety of bachelor buttons

"What a photo bomb shoot because I'm good at that too"

I asked Catty to "wait" while I took pictures of this amazing foxglove. Once I was done she was given a food reinforcer.

I've never seen it in this color!

Here's D'light after I've given the verbal cue "wait" while I take this picture. He wanted to go but, gave me the cue I asked for. Then once I was done with the picture ...

 I give the verbal cue "lets go look" which produces a reinforcer.  The release to go see what he could find is the reinforcer.  He found nothing but, the looking is reinforcing to him.

I ask Viva to "wait"

Then I ask for "look"

And then "lets go look" - the release to go hunt is extremely reinforcing for Viva.

We have lots of fun, get some great pictures, strengthen our relationship and we are always working and reinforcing behavior when we are out and about.

Here are some past posts of the training of new skills that Viva and I have done over her time in foster care.

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