In this week’s video, we see assistant Charmaine doing some mark training with Riley, one of our foster kittens. “Mark” training is when the cat is taught to go to a mark, often to Sit & Stay, but sometimes just as a bridge to another behavior. Also, notice how Riley sometimes throws a “Sit Pretty,” which is another behavior that Samantha typically teaches her new kittens.
(In animal trainer terminology, “throw” means to exhibit or display. When an animal in training “throws” a behavior, they are doing the behavior without being requested to do so. Our cats, in particular, tend to throw behaviors when they want something which is an evolved form of begging. Many of you are probably familiar with this kind of behavior, if you also have trained your companion animals to do tricks.)
Charmaine is working to get Riley to sit on his mark, without discouraging or erasing the “Sit Pretty” behavior. Since Charmaine knows that Riley will “Sit Pretty,” she focuses on creating a positive association with the mark by rewarding both “Sit” and “Sit Pretty,” but only when they are done on the mark. Learning to stay on the mark is a natural consequence of using positive reinforcement as the kitty earns rewards for continuing to stay on the mark.
Charmaine uses several different techniques from capturing to shaping. Riley’s reward evolves for a brief period during the video in that at one point Riley plays with the treat, instead of eating it. In response to this change, she simply removes the treat and gives it again as a reward, which works for a few more successful behavior captures until Riley decides that he wants to eat his treats again.
A fun side note to this is that not all our animal companions are food-motivated; sometimes, a toy or affection are used. There are different reasons in training for using different rewards, which we will over in future training-themed Acro-Cats Caturday videos.
If you would like to learn from expert trainer Samantha Martin, visit our website www.circuscats.com and order a copy of our training video: “Click Your Way to a Better Cat!” And don’t forget to also order a training kit so that you can follow along at home with the DVD!
See you next time!
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