Capturing a dog behaviour is the best training method to use with your GSD. It requires your GSD to “think” about the situation and it uses only behaviours freely offered by your GSD. It all depends upon your patience and skill in observing your GSD.
The capture method is based on the concept of operant conditioning, is how animals make an association between their own actions/behaviours and a the related reaction/consequence. In this case, the reaction/consequence will be a reward.
For this technique, you wait for your GSD to do the desired behaviours and then instantly mark and reward it. Great timing is the key. You need to be very consistent and repeat until your GSD starts doing the behaviours as soon as he/she sees you.
Capturing a dog behaviour is how most people, without realising it, teach their dogs to sit for them prior to placing their food bowl on the floor. They wait until the dog is sitting, and only then they lower the food bowl for the dog to it.
Read the article on Operant Conditioning to learn more about reinforcing a behaviour you want.
You can use capturing to turn any behaviour your dog does into a command.
Before you add a verbal command, after capturing a your dog’s behaviour, ensure that your GSD is doing the behaviour YOU want often and with good posture. Otherwise, your command will mean to do the behaviour in a sloppy way…and you don’t want that!
There are 2 ways in which you can add a command to a captured behaviour:
1 – Say it before he does it!The idea is to say the command word (i.e.: “Sit”) right as your pet is sitting. It’s OK if in the beginning you say it as he is sitting down. But you have to start saying it before he does it more and more often.
This requires you to pay careful attention during a training session.
Only mark and reward when your dog sits right as or right after you say the command. DO NOT reward your GSD for sitting down if you didn’t give the command!
Read the “Reliable Dog Training Command Step-by-Step Guide” for more information.
2 – Only reward sits after you gave the command!During a training session, say “sit” then mark and reward the next sit that happens (even if you had to wait several seconds).
Then watch your GSD, but DONT give the command and DONT give a reward 1 or 2 sits that happened during that time.
Then say sit and reward the next sit behaviour.
And so on, making sure you reward every sit that is followed by your command (reinforcing sitting after a command) and ignoring every sit that is followed by your cue (extinguishing sitting without a command)!
Read Operant Conditioning and Extinction to learn the learning principles involved.
You can capture any dog behaviour you see your GSD doing.
Here is a list of some behaviours you can capture and then add a verbal command:
Capturing is only the beginning! You can use the basic concept of capturing for another dog training method: Shaping!
If something is not working,
try a different method of training it.
Solution: This is called a “superstitious behaviour”. When you first started rewarding sits, your furry friend probably scratched because he was itching. The problem is that the actual scratch was also reinforced! The solution is simple. ONLY reward the behaviour without the “superstition” in it. If your dog sits and scratches, ignore it. If he just sits – Reward It!
Solution: Practice practice practice! You are learning too! If your timing is still bad try clicker training instead! This technique will help improve your timing without a doubt.