The Magic Behind Masterful Luring:
Observing a lure master in their element of dog training is like watching a wizard casting spells, or a puppet master skilfully manoeuvring their puppet. With power, speed, and finesse that seems almost magical, the trainer gains precise control over the dog's entire spine, from its attentive nose to its animated tail.
With just a flick of the wrist, the lure master can guide and shape every inch of the dog, orchestrating each movement with unmatched precision and artistry. However, as with any powerful tool, there's a flip side to consider. But, and this is a significant "but," as effective as lures can be, they come with a potential downside that trainers must be wary of.
Can lures become poison to the dog's behaviour?
While lures are an excellent tool to initiate a behaviour, they can become a double-edged sword if overused. If they remain in the training system for too long, the behaviour itself can become “poisoned”. This means that the dog can become overly dependent on the lure, making the behaviour harder to elicit without it.
It's crucial to strike a balance and ensure that while lures are used to introduce and establish a behaviour, they don't become a crutch that the dog relies on indefinitely. By understanding the potential pitfalls of luring and using them thoughtfully, these trainers can harness their power while avoiding the risks of over-reliance.
So, what's the secret behind this seemingly magical control? How does a trainer transform a simple lure into a powerful tool that can guide a dog's every move? Let's dive further into the art of luring and uncover the techniques that make it so effective.
The Art of Luring: A Deep Dive into Canine Learning:
Dog training is a fascinating realm, rich with techniques and methodologies that cater to the diverse personalities of our canine companions. Among the number of training approaches, four main kinds of learning stand out: luring, moulding or “guiding”, mimicking, and shaping. Each has its own unique advantages and applications. In this Blog, we'll Explore the use of lures, furthermore considering the concept of shaping the lure itself before transitioning to the desired behaviour.
At its core, luring involves using something your dog desires (typically a treat or toy) to guide them into performing a specific behaviour. Think of it as a magnet, pulling your dog into the desired position or action. It's a hands-off method that capitalises on the dog's natural instincts and desires.
Empowering Dogs Through their Learning Journey:
Before using lures to teach a specific behaviour, prioritise shaping the lure itself. This primary step is crucial and is often overlooked by many trainers. By teaching the dog to push hard and stay committed to the lure, We are setting the stage for more effective and efficient luring later on. This process allows us to create a fine-tuned "rudder" down the dog's spine, enabling the trainer to shape precise and technical behaviours with a flick of the wrist.
The Dog as the Active Driver:
One of the most empowering aspects of shaping the lure is that it positions the dog as the active driver in the training process. Instead of merely following the lure, the dog pushes the lure, giving them the perception that they are driving the learning. This active participation fosters a sense of self-control in the dog, making them more invested in the training.
They aren't just passive recipients of commands; they are active participants creating behaviours with the assistance of the lure. This approach not only enhances the effectiveness of the training but also strengthens the bond between the handler and the dog, as the dog feels more engaged and in control of its learning journey.
The Advantages of Shaping the Lure:
Builds a Strong Foundation: Establishing a strong foundational behaviour ensures that the dog is more attentive and responsive, which is crucial for more advanced training phases.
Faster Learning Curve: The initial investment in shaping the lure reduces the time and effort required in subsequent training sessions, allowing the dog to pick up new behaviours more quickly.
Enhanced Precision: The dog becomes attuned to minor changes in the handler's movements, leading to more accurate responses in training.
Reduced Reliance on Rewards: Shaping the lure makes it easier to transition the dog from tangible rewards to hand movements or verbal cues, promoting more effective, intermittent, or variable rewarding.
Strengthened Handler-Dog Bond: The process of shaping the lure strengthens the bond between handler and dog, fostering trust and cooperation in various training scenarios.
My Personal Approach to Luring and Shaping:
In my experience, I often start with lures to introduce concepts, especially with young dogs. This initial phase is all about giving them a basic understanding of various behaviours. Once they grasp these concepts, this phase allows for refining and perfecting those behaviours without the dependency on lures.
By using lures to create foundational concepts and then employing shaping to fine-tune them, it ensures that the dog not only learns but also masters each behaviour with precision. This combination of luring and shaping provides a all-round training approach, ensuring both clarity and mastery in the behaviours taught.
Blending Techniques - The Strategic Fusion of Methods:
While there are four main avenues of learning for dogs - shaping, luring, mimicking, and moulding - I often employ a hybrid approach, blending these styles to complement one another. This fusion of techniques is not just a random mix; it's a strategic combination tailored to the specific behaviour I'm teaching.
Once the foundation is set, I then single out each style again, refining the behaviour further. By introducing my dog to this hybrid learning method, I ensure that they understand multiple ways of learning. This multifaceted approach not only broadens their learning spectrum but also sharpens their proficiency in each behaviour.
The different variants of styles help clarify the task at hand for the dog, making the instructions more transparent and comprehensible. As a result, the exercises are generalised much faster, and the behaviours are executed more reliably. However, each training method, while effective in its own right, has its limitations if used in isolation. For instance, relying solely on luring might result in a dog that constantly seeks visual cues.
On the other hand, focusing exclusively on shaping could make the dog averse to touch or spatial pressure. Moulding, though sometimes overlooked, ensures the dog is comfortable with physical touch, which is crucial for hands-on intervention.
Blending techniques underlines the importance of versatility in training, ensuring that the dog is well-rounded, adaptable, and equipped to handle a variety of situations. It's about creating a holistic training experience, where the dog understands and responds to multiple cues and is comfortable with touch while being able to adapt to changing scenarios with ease and confidence.
Pro Tips for Successful Luring:
By understanding and effectively utilising lures, trainers can create a dynamic and adaptable training environment that caters to the individual needs and drives of each dog.
Choose the Right Lure:
Not all dogs are motivated by the same things. While many will happily follow a tasty treat, others might be more enticed by a favourite toy. Experiment with different motivators to find what captures your dog's attention best for the task at hand.
Match the Lure to the Task:
Consider the nature of the exercise you're teaching. e.g. For agility training, a toy that can be thrown might be more effective, while for heel work, a treat held at your side might be more appropriate.
Understand Your Dog's Drive:
Different lures can tap into various drives in your dog. A ball might evoke a prey drive, while a scent lure might tap into a tracking drive. Choose a lure that aligns with the mindset you want to cultivate for a particular exercise.
Adapt to the Learning Phase:
As your dog progresses in their training, their motivation and focus may shift. Be prepared to switch lures or adjust your technique accordingly to match your dog's evolving needs and understanding.
Avoid Poisoning the Behaviour with the Lure: “Again emphasising on this point”.
Over-reliance on lures can lead to "poisoning the behaviour." This can lead to the dog becoming dependent on the lure to perform the behaviour required. This can hinder transitioning to cue-based responses and making the dog await the lure before acting. It's vital and paramount to phase out the lure over time.
Strategic Luring - Balancing Duration and Effectiveness:
When it comes to dog training, understanding the end goal is crucial in determining the duration and method of using lures. Not all behaviours require the same approach with some benefiting from extended use of lures, while others may not. For instance, duration exercises like competition heeling often retain the use of lures for a more extended period, especially with young dogs.
The reasoning behind this isn't necessarily to continue teaching the behaviour of heeling but to train the dog's mental concentration abilities. By providing a target, lures can help young dogs maintain work ethic and concentration, ensuring they stay engaged and focused throughout the exercise.
However, it's essential to differentiate between using lures as a teaching tool and using them as a means to enhance other aspects of training such as concentration. By being strategic and understanding the specific needs and goals of each exercise, handlers can make the most out of lures without risking any over-dependence.
Luring stands as a testament to this intricate dance between trainer and dog - a method that respects the canine's autonomy and builds mutual trust. When used wisely, it can transform the training process into an enjoyable and enriching experience for both parties. However, like any tool, its effectiveness lies in its application. Trainers must be strategic, ensuring that while lures introduce and establish behaviours, they don't become an unending crutch.
While there are a vast number of ways to train our little mates, the synergy of introducing concepts through luring and refining them through shaping offers a balanced and positive approach. As trainers, our goal is not just to teach but to empower our dogs, fostering a deeper bond and understanding.
As we continue to grow as dog owners and trainers, it's essential to remain adaptable, learning and integrating various techniques to best suit each dog's unique personality and needs.
What's your take on luring?
Is it a significant part of your training regimen?
I’m eager to hear your experiences and insights!