Concept Training: Shape Discrimination

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Can animals recognize shapes? As Ken Ramirez demonstrates frequently, they can! But why teach shape discrimination? Training an animal to discriminate between different shapes is not only mentally stimulating, but the behavior can be a useful tool for many situations—particularly when there are multiple animals in a training space. By assigning each animal a unique shape, or what Ken calls a “name target,” the animal comes to understand which location to train at, reducing competition and creating a more orderly environment.

Concept Training in Action: Go to Crate

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Teaching your dog the concept of left and right is useful for many circumstances, including trail-walking, dog-sports competitions, retrieving exercises, husbandry, and more. The skill is also handy when you have multiple dogs and need to guide them in specific directions. In this video, Ken Ramirez is using left and right modifier cues to teach Coral to go to specific crates and stations that are positioned on Coral’s left side and right side.

Modifier Cues in Action

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When people think of dog training, they don’t often think beyond teaching basic cues. However, dogs are capable of so much more! Instead of simply cueing your dog to retrieve an object, you can teach your dog to retrieve the object on the left versus the object on the right—or the big object instead of the small object. Or you can teach your dog to go over an obstacle or under an obstacle, through an obstacle or around an obstacle.

Match-to-Sample Revisited

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Ken Ramirez believes that animals are capable of far more than we give them credit for—when training is fun! For example, animals can learn to identify a specific object among a group of both familiar and novel (unfamiliar) items. This concept, called Match-to-Sample, is one of the must-have core concepts that are used to train broader concepts such as Modifier Cues, Adduction, Mimicry, and even Counting!

Can Dogs Count?

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When we think of animal training, we don’t often think beyond teaching certain cues. However, Ken Ramirez encourages everyone to think beyond the cue and rethink what dogs are capable of. With the proper foundation, dogs can be taught a variety of concepts, including the concept of counting! In this video, Ken uses the concept of “matching-to-sample” as a mechanism to ask the dog, Coral, multiple questions about a set of objects in a tray. How many tennis balls? How many Kongs? Coral chooses from a series of sample boards to indicate how many of those specific objects were in the tray.