That Rattling “Roll Out the Carpet” Trick

Clara dutifully sitting on her sliver of mat

I picked the “Roll out the carpet” trick from the novice trick record from Do Extra with Your Canine as a result of it appeared enjoyable and extra trick-like than a whole lot of the opposite behaviors. We had been doing issues like sits and downs and strolling on leash and focusing on. This was extra like an actual trick. It will be new, however nonetheless appeared like a reasonably simple one as a result of Clara is aware of easy methods to push issues together with her nostril.

The definition of the trick is:

Canine will use his nostril to unroll a rolled-up carpet. Carpet could be a yoga mat, rug or towel and needs to be roughly 5 toes/~2 meters in size.DMWYD Novice Trick Listing

I’ve rolled meals up in towels for Clara earlier than as enrichment, in order that appeared like an apparent strategy to follow. So I took a 5-foot rubber-backed rug and rolled it up with treats inside, and she or he promptly unrolled it to get the meals. I had Clara do that for a few days. Simple Peasy.

However that was for follow. Luring is allowed, however I’m unsure about luring-and-eating-as-you-go-along. Even when it’s allowed—the principles for Novice tips are fairly free—to me, it’s not within the spirit of the trick. So the following time we practiced, I rolled up the carpet with no treats. Guess what occurred? See the picture above?

Clara gave the rolled-up carpet a great sniffing throughout, then sat on the little strip that wasn’t rolled up and checked out me. There was clearly no meals in there, so why ought to she hassle? Perhaps beginning with a loaded-up carpet wasn’t the very best thought in spite of everything!

I had thought the unique discriminative stimulus (cue) to get her to unroll the carpet was the rolled-up carpet. But it surely was the rolled-up carpet with treats in it. I had annihilated a large lure (maybe 20 treats) in a single blow. Why ought to she hassle with an empty carpet?

Again to Sq. 1. I noticed I used to be going to have to really educate the trick as an alternative of coasting in on earlier behaviors.

First Educating Try: Get Clara’s Nostril within the Proper Spot with out Treats

I began rolling up an empty carpet and formed a nostril contact within the appropriate space to push the carpet. This wasn’t exhausting. She would sniff when she approached the rolled carpet, anyway. So I turned that sniff into a bit of nudge. And I used to be considerate about my deal with supply, aiming for the little crack beneath the roll of the mat so I might direct her nostril proper again to the right space when she went for the deal with.

Crappy picture of my wonderful deal with placement. She at all times scrunched herself as much as stand on the mat, as a result of guess why?

Nevertheless, I had two issues. One was that she has an infinite reinforcement historical past (there’s that downside once more!) for mendacity down on mats or something matlike. Presumably essentially the most bolstered habits in her life. So although I saved my price of reinforcement excessive for the nostril touches, at any time when there was even a momentary lull, her first alternative was to lie down on the mat.

That is what we do on mats: lie down.

The second downside was yet one more habits that was stronger than the nostril push: a foot goal. She would typically hit the unrolled a part of the carpet together with her foot or stand on it.

Or else we put our foot on this half that appears like a goal.Or we do each!

Standing on it was incompatible with unrolling it for certain! And as soon as she would begin these different two extremely bolstered behaviors, it was unlikely she would discover her approach again to the nostril contact. So I didn’t simply depart her to determine it out. That will have been too irritating. I might interrupt, ask for a nostril contact to my hand or just toss a deal with, then begin us over once more.

I did reach shaping the mild sniff beneath the rolled a part of the rug right into a nudge, then a push. Generally she would give a giant push and the entire thing would unroll! I bolstered nicely for that, however once more, I didn’t really feel prefer it was within the spirit of the trick. It occurred steadily after I used a yoga mat as an alternative of the rubber-backed carpet runner, so we caught with the latter.

I used to be getting the nudge, however I had an issue. I wanted to skinny my reinforcement schedule and get sufficient pushes from Clara to unroll the carpet utterly earlier than I bolstered. However I had these two different behaviors lurking, able to come out the minute Clara didn’t get bolstered for a nostril contact. I knew if I attempted to skinny my schedule now, the primary time I didn’t reinforce a nostril push (as a result of I wished a second one), she would strive one of many different behaviors as an alternative.

Extinction and Thinning the Ratio Schedule

I’ve made it no secret that I typically pay my canine for each habits. You may see my article on it right here and one other by Dr. Eduardo Fernandez right here. You may also search for Nevin’s work outlining the arguments for wealthy reinforcement schedules creating behaviors which can be immune to extinction (Nevin, Mandell, & Atak, 1983).

I do have a couple of exceptions to utilizing a 1:1 ratio schedule with my canine. For free leash strolling, I’ve prolonged the variety of steps between reinforcers. I most likely reinforce on a VR15 (steps) or so. I’ve additionally educated stationary period behaviors the place the reinforcers get pretty spaced out. As an example, there might be time intervals between reinforcers measured in minutes when I’m reinforcing Clara for staying on a mat whereas I work within the kitchen. I’ve not less than one habits chain (retrieve) the place I typically solely reinforce the terminal habits. Lastly, simply residing with my canine, typically I randomly don’t reinforce for on a regular basis behaviors. However I most likely reinforce each day behaviors excess of most individuals. As an example, I nonetheless reinforce 10-year-old Clara with meals just about each time she pees or poops within the yard.

What I haven’t requested for from Clara, since again after I was engaged on the Coaching Ranges, is a number of iterations of the identical habits for one reinforcer. What Sue Ailsby calls “twofers.” I discovered this out the exhausting approach early in our trick coaching endeavor. Clara couldn’t do pet pushups until I bolstered each habits, or not less than each different one. Doing six iterations, as is required for the trick (sit, down, sit, down, sit, down), was not doable for us. On the third cue or so, if I failed to strengthen for a sit or a down, she “assumed” she was flawed and began hopping round and throwing behaviors, normally a stand or a hop. I acquired an extinction burst. How humbling. I hadn’t labored exhausting sufficient on cue recognition.

We had an excellent worse scenario with unrolling the carpet, as a result of my aim was to cue her to unroll the carpet, which meant nudging it as much as 5 or 6 occasions earlier than it was all the best way unrolled, then reinforce. A number of nudges for one terminal reinforcer! I knew the nudging was nonetheless weak sufficient that I wanted to strengthen each single one for some time. As a result of as quickly as I might house out the reinforcement, in would pop into the foot targets and mendacity down. And I don’t need to put her by way of extinction and not using a actually clear thought of what she will be able to do for reinforcement.

Then I noticed what I ought to do.

Backchain It!

I don’t suppose I’ve ever written about backchaining right here. I don’t educate many chains. Backchaining means you begin with the final habits of a habits chain first and work backward. There are a number of advantages. One is that you just load a whole lot of reinforcement onto the ultimate habits (keep tuned to see the end result within the video under). One other is that due to this, the canine is working towards the extra acquainted a part of the chain that has gotten extra reinforcement.

I can consider three behaviors I backchained. First, I backchained a retrieve with Summer time and Clara. I additionally backchained Clara to drop a ball right into a bowl utilizing this video as a mannequin. That’s a great video that reveals how backchaining can work, in case you are curious. It may be nearly magical. I additionally backchained stopped contacts in agility.

Right here is how I I used backchaining to get out of the rug lure.

I folded over solely the very finish of the rug. Clara had sufficient follow with pushing on the rug that she fortunately unrolled the little finish I had folded over. I didn’t load it with treats, however she had sufficient expertise by then that she would do it with out seeing the cash on the entrance finish. We did many bolstered repetitions of opening one fold. Many. Then I folded it over twice. Oops, too quickly! Bought a down and a foot goal. Went again to the start with only one fold, labored up once more to 2, and voilà! She pushed it exhausting sufficient (or pushed twice) to unroll each folds! Plenty of reps of that, too. So we continued, working backward, with me rolling the rug increasingly more. I typically gave interim treats. She was giving a number of pushes slightly than one fixed one, which was fantastic with me. I didn’t need her to go from feast to famine, however I wished her to progressively study I might pay nicely if she carried out the nostril push a number of occasions to get to the top criterion: unfolded rug. That was backchaining.

Whereas engaged on the trick, I additionally remembered she is aware of easy methods to get meals out of a rolling meals toy, so I acquired out the Tough Deal with Ball and fed her a few of her breakfast in there. It appeared like a good suggestion to construct some extra repetitions of nostril pushes nonetheless I might get them.

As we acquired near success with the backchaining, I added a cue, “Push,” and began utilizing a conditioned reinforcer, “Good lady,” as an alternative of the intermittent treats to let her know she was heading in the right direction. As for that verbal cue: I used to be dishonest a bit of. It didn’t matter what I mentioned. Clara didn’t immediately study the precise that means of “Push.” If I had been to say “Push” to her when she was lounging on the sofa, for instance, she wouldn’t begin attempting to find a rolled-up rug to nudge. It’s contextual. “Woman says one thing in a sure tone whereas I’m standing on the rug, so I’ll do the factor I simply did.” However hey, it labored.

I at all times consider the Tough Deal with Ball as “Summer time’s meals toy,” however Clara gained some fluency at it after she aged out of making an attempt to eat the toy itself.

Progress Video

The video reveals the steps we took and our victory a few days in the past. For such a simple-seeming trick, this appears like fairly an accomplishment. However I do know precisely why it was a problem for us, and I’m fairly happy I might thread my approach by way of all these closely bolstered however “flawed” behaviors to tease out the precise one.

I like the final iteration of the trick on the video. She pushes the rug a number of occasions and finally ends up with a small flap of it nonetheless folded over on the finish. She appears at me, she appears on the rug. I’m holding my breath, ready for the reinforcement historical past to burst into the image. However the folded over flap, due to the backchaining, grew to become a reasonably good discriminative stimulus for “push together with your nostril to unfold that.” She pushed either side of it to open the rug flat all the best way!

She by no means did one fixed nostril push, but it surely doesn’t seem like a requirement, so I don’t suppose we’ll hassle. We have now already discovered rather a lot by engaged on this trick!

Talking of studying rather a lot, shout out to Marge Rogers for not saying, “I instructed you so!” She’s been making an attempt to get me to coach extra tips for years!

Copyright 2021 Eileen Anderson


Nevin, J. A., Mandell, C., & Atak, J. R. (1983). The evaluation of behavioral momentum. Journal of the Experimental evaluation of habits, 39(1), 49-59.
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