Two weeks ago, I had major back surgery: A lumbar fusion, among other procedures. Bedridden for weeks, I could not stand the thought of my dogs suffering along with me. They are used to receiving daily training sessions, which give them something to look forward to and a sense of purpose. These training sessions typically require me to walk with them and around them during stay exercises, using a variety of body movements as cues. While I had been able to do this before surgery, I was confined to my bed after surgery.
After back surgery, the patient is not supposed to bend, twist or lift. Any of these activities can cause damage to the area manipulated during the surgery. It takes many months for vertebrae to fuse and any assault on the joint can be dangerous. Therefore, I came up with ways that I could work with my dogs from bed, using clicker training techniques. Not only are the dogs thrilled to be doing something, they’re even more happy to learn new behaviors.
Fetch Any Object
What is the number one thing a bedridden person needs? Someone to fetch things, especially when an object has dropped to the floor by accident.
One of the games I often play with my dogs is “fetch.” This behavior can easily be channeled from fetching a toy to fetching any object. For example, while brushing my teeth I dropped the toothpaste. By telling my dog, “Get it” and pointing to the toothpaste, she figured out to pick up the tube and bring it to my hand. It took 3 tries as she was unsure about putting her mouth on something other than her own toys, but, with lots of encouragement, she finally brought it to me.
Alert to Visitors
One of the great things about dogs are their natural territorial tendencies. Most dogs will bark when a stranger is near.
When bedridden, it’s nice to have a dog who lets me know when someone is at the door. Granted, I’m also often informed of when there’s another animal nearby, too, but for the most part I can tell the difference in the bark tone when it’s a human visitor.
How to Train “Fetch” and “Alert” Through Shaping and Capturing
The best means of teaching a dog when you cannot physically aid the learning process is through behavior “shaping” and “capturing.”
Capturing merely means being observant and rewarding the dog when she does something you want to encourage. Because dogs usually repeat behaviors that are rewarding, you can count on your dog throwing the behavior at you again to earn more rewards. The “Alert” described above was a captured behavior. When my dog barks upon someone knocking at the door I rewarded her for it. Now she will always alert me to visitors, even if she doesn’t receive a treat. The action has become self-rewarding.
To get my dog to fetch anything for me, I used behavior shaping. This is done by breaking down an overall behavior such as “Fetch” into smaller parts. Each part is worked on individually until reliable, and then “chained” together one at a time until the entire behavior has been completed.
Here is how I broke down the Fetch Any Object into smaller behaviors:
¬∑ Drop a treat near the object. Click and reward when the dog goes for the treat. ¬∑ The dog will investigate the object again looking for a treat. When she does so, I click and give another treat. This is repeated until she automatically goes to touch the object that I point to. ¬∑ Next I waited until she began prodding and putting her mouth on the object before clicking and rewarding. We repeat this several times until she automatically begins placing her mouth on the object when I point to it. ¬∑ Finally, I ask my dog to bring me the object by putting out my hand as I do when we play fetch. She already knew this cue and, with lots of encouraging praise, brought me the tube of toothpaste.
My dog was happy to help, because she not only received her usual training session, but also learned new behaviors!
Being laid-up is not an excuse to neglect your dogs’ training. They can be helpful in many ways. From fetching to alerting to just plain company, dogs help you heal and keep you happy no matter what life throws at you. All they ask for in return is a purpose and chance to learn. For more helpful and reliable information, you can check here. This is one of the trusted and reliable pages. This will also help you with a lot of tips that you can use to keep your dog tuned up when you are tune out.