Match to Sample

Iona is always hassling me to teach her something new.  So please follow me and my girls on a new training journey as I attempt to teach Iona a new concept:  How to match to sample!  This means that if I hold up an object, she will know to look for the same object.  I just received the brand new PORTL (Portable Operant Research and Teaching Lab) manual from the great behavior explorer website.  And was inspired to teach this to Iona (I have been wanting to do this for a while).    The manual and website lay down ground rules for how to be very clean with your training, one thing that they recommend is starting with a plan.  So here are the steps that I started with today. 

Step one:  Teach Iona how to pick up an object off the ground.  Then repeat with a variety of objects. 

I kinda cheating here as I have already done this step with Iona.  She does not have a natural retrieve so I had to teach her how to hold things in her mouth via shaping.  I also have her pick up all kinds of things off the ground and this actually comes in handy all the time now that I often have my hands full with the baby.  She now loves picking things up off the ground for me and will do it quickly and easily.  Since I did not video tape her originally learning this task, here is a video of her learning to hold a lemon in her mouth.  She is not really into this and you can see how I go about shaping her first for touching the object and then only clicking as she moves closer to the desired goal of picking it up off the ground and holding it in her mouth for me.  I will say that this took me quite a long time (maybe a month) when I first taught it to her, however it was one of the first things that I taught her via shaping.  I used a stick when I first taught her. 

Step Two:  Add a visual cue to before she picks up an object.  For the cue, I will hold up an identical object. 

One thing I learned from Portl is that you should choose your objects wisely as different objects will drive different actions.  For example, if I wanted her to nose press rather than pick up the object, I would have chosen a box.  If I wanted her to stand on the object, I would have chosen an upside down bowl.  Here she is learning the new cue for picking up a ball and a sock.  (She used to steal my socks and destroy them all the time when she was a puppy and now if I leave a sock on the ground, she will bring it over to me expecting a treat).  So she has a long reinforcement history of picking up both of these objects.

Here is the first training session.  Note that there are a few missteps here.  I think that I could have made her life easier by starting with the “pick it up” cue, however she figured out what I wanted (like always).    

Here is the second time, picking up the balls.  She gets it this time. 

Here is the same thing using socks.  Watch her thinking so hard on the very first rep! Very cool!  At this stage, it is important that I click her for understanding the concept and making the correct decision (rather than waiting for her to hold the sock in her mouth for a long time or something else).  My quick click tells her that she made the correct decision!  

Next up will be teaching her to discriminate between different objects. 

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