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.
As winter sets in and temperatures continue to plummet, many dogs will be spending more time indoors. Concept training, including teaching modifier cues, is a great way to keep your dog’s brain busy and help prevent winter blues!
Teach Your Dog to Find Your Keys
Lost your keys? Maybe your dog can help! Teaching your dog to identify and retrieve specific objects, like your keys, is not only helpful but can enhance your dog’s problem-solving abilities. Rather than simply learning to retrieve an object, the dog learns to distinguish a specific object from other objects.
Concept Training: Stationing with Shapes
Stationing—training an animal to go to a designated area and stay there until cued otherwise—is a useful training tool for a variety of situations. In homes with multiple dogs, it can be essential for keeping the peace. How do you teach multiple dogs which station is theirs? Try concept training!
Concept Training in Action: Go to Crate
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.
Concept Training in Action: Take a Hike
Teaching your dog to tell the difference between left and right on cue is not only fun, but the skill can be handy when you are walking on hiking trails. To begin teaching this behavior, you will need to set up two cones and teach your dog to touch a specific cone.
Modifier Cues in Action
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.
Concept Training Across Species
For many animals, cold winter climates, the pandemic, or recovering from an injury often results in less exercise outdoors, leading to stress, anxiety, and depression (just as it does for humans!) Fortunately, you can still provide plenty of exercise for your animals with games and activities you can do inside your home—no matter the species!
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?
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.