Lyra has reached some important milestones in her training.

About three days ago she figured out that she could “work” me.  She started climbing on her platform with the intent of getting me to start play.  Until then, it appeared she was simply happy about standing on platforms.  Around this same time, I also became convinced that she understood that a “click” meant a treat or toy was coming – it was a marker that guaranteed something good.  But I didn’t know if she understood that her actions caused the click.

Using a click as a marker is not the same as using the click as a shaping device.

Yesterday she convinced me that she understood how her actions caused the click.  For the first time, she moved away from the location of the food and toys to reach for her dumbbell in my hand.  Obviously I clicked.  And we celebrated:).

Once the dog offers behaviors in order to cause you to click, the sky is the limit.  Dogs who can be shaped are active learners; they make things happen.  As a result they can learn very very quickly.  Passive learners wait to be told what to do – they may also be happy for the click (because food is coming) but they don’t necessarily try out new behaviors to make it happen.

Indeed, we’ve had three or four sessions since that discovery, and her progress has gone into high gear.  She mouths the dumbbell, and is beginning to understand that only holding the bar is rewarded.  She is hopping onto her platform quickly.  She is switching back and forth between the platform, the dumbbell, toy and food rewards relatively easily.

Her second breakthrough is with the importance of ME in play.  She is consistently retrieving to my lap most objects that I throw, and she will exchange one object for another.  Better yet, she will put down a toy that she is holding in order to work – back to the platform or to the dumbbell, because she knows that the click earns more than a cookie or another toy – it earns a whole lot of excited ME as well.  A toy with me attached has become much more valuable than a dead toy in her mouth.

I’ll try to videotape soon, since it’s easier to show this concept than to describe it.

Now we’re really having fun!