To Train this trick, it is necessary to train Baby to know what a paw touch is. If Baby is already a giant in the paw touching world, great. Now you can expand on that behavior and learn one of the myriad of things (and there are plenty) you can do with touch. But if you don’t know what, or how to use or train a touch pad, go back into this Trick Training Section and learn how to teach “Paw Touch” to Baby. When she is good at it, come back here and get started on this simple application of the Paw Touch.
Even more important, before you can even think of getting a positive response to the “Paw Touch” behavior mentioned above, you need to know what a clicker is all about so let’s put first things first and go read my featured article on “Operant Conditioning” a/k/a Clicker Training.
One of the things I hope to explain in my blogs is the idea in training any new behavior is normally built on the five basic commands: come, sit, stay, down, and heel. (Those are trained based on the principals of operant conditioning.) Then to further build on the basis of Operant Conditioning, is the advanced training of specialty behaviors, like the target stick, touch pad, or agility equipment, obedience exercises, etc.
Training to Click the Switch on the Wall, to Turn off the Lights
First, do a couple of warm ups on the target. While it is in your hand, slowly move it upwards and adjacent to the wall, moving close to the light switch. This is so she gets used to having her paws up and resting on the wall in order to touch your handheld target. If Baby is too small to reach the light switch, this is a great time to get her used to jumping on a stool, or some other piece of furniture to reach the light switch.
When she has no problem putting her paw up on the wall to hit the target, it is now time to put a piece of tape on your target, and stick it on the wall next to the switch. Of course, each successful attempt at touching the target with her paw is rewarded (reinforced) with a click treat and praise.
When that step is trained and solid, it is time to move the target to above the switch. (Once again clicking and treating and praising, for each successful attempt, of putting her paw on the target.)
Now it’s time to start fading that target. If you are using the standard plastic lid, get out your scissors and slowly start cutting it down, and with each cut of the target, you simply tape it back on the wall above the switch. Keep cutting it smaller and smaller. With each effort of Baby’s (give the treats, click and praise) until it is just a dot on the switch plate above the switch itself. A word of caution, here at this pivotal point in the trick. As you are cutting down the target, make sure when you tape it back on the wall it is directly above the switch so that Baby is now to the point of only getting that fabulous click treat and praise thing, when she actually touches the switch portion itself.
If you adjusted the target properly so that is placed it directly above the switch, it should not take much effort on Baby’s part to understand that click treats and praise only occur when she actually does paw the switch itself. Once you realize she knows to paw the switch, congratulate yourself as a great trainer. Relax and celebrate, because you can now get rid of that tiny little target altogether.
Now up the deal a little. She is now only going to get reinforcement (click treat, praise) when she actually pulls down on the switch to turn the light off. The point of the movement of the switch seems to get driven home faster if you use one of those older type of switches that clicks each time you turn it on or off. If Baby is the easily spooked type, better hold off on using the clicking type switch until she is more comfortable with the whole exercise.
There you go. You now have a dog that knows what a light switch is for (it’s a joke) and since Baby has the behavior down-pat, it’s time to put it on cue (command). Pick anything you like, “Baby, turn out the lights.” How about, “Baby, it’s dark in here. Would you please turn on the lights?” Maybe, “Baby it’s time for bed. Turn out the lights.”
To add the cue just make sure show knows the behavior well, and then give the cue just prior to giving her a signal to turn off the lights.
If Baby is a small, delicate, little lady that does not have the strength to pull down on the switch, an extender bar is made and can be found at most hardware stores .