Typical dog training includes almost countless details and minutia to teach a dog a new behavior. These details include intentional and unintentional body language, verbal communication, specific reward placement, markers, and even eye gaze to train a dog. So how can a stationary device with limited tools be able to teach new behaviors?
Don’t fire your trainer
First off, let’s just say that Companion will never replace a human trainer! Companion is a tool that can aid Pet Parents, reinforce desirable behaviors, and teach certain new behaviors, but it will never replace the physical and mental flexibility that a human can provide. With that being said, Companion is able to teach new behaviors and actually it has unique strengths that complement the gaps in human abilities.
While humans often are delayed in our marker words or fumble with treats as we dig them out of the treat pouch, Companion has perfect timing and perfect treat launch precision. The instant the dog performs a desired behavior in front of Companion, the dog hears a “yes!” to mark the behavior and then a treat is launched into a specific zone as reinforcement.
Luring and Capturing.So what training techniques does Companion use? Currently, Companion uses luring as a way to intentionally interact and to move the dog into specific zones, and it uses capturing to teach new behaviors.
First, Companion builds a strong relationship with your dog through a specific method of acclimation that teaches them this new box is not only non-threatening but actually their new friend! Once the dog learns Companion has treats to offer, Companion plays introductory games that teach the dog their behavior can affect how Companion interacts.
One of these games includes rapid treat launches where the dog is encouraged to quickly chase and eat the treats coming from Companion, followed by a pause. During the pause, the dog has a few seconds to pause themselves and wait for Companion to start up again. As they wait, they will often sit, lie down, look at Companion, or offer some other unique behavior. The instant the dog offers any behavior, Companion marks it with a “yes” and launches a treat - this teaches the dog the concept of offering behaviors to result in a treat being launched.
Over time Companion raises the criteria so your dog has to offer specific behaviors, and then eventually it can add a name to the behavior so it is under stimulus control. And pretty soon your dog will be able to play games like Simon Says. Companion will never replace you, but it can be the next best thing until you get home from work or finish up that video call and have time for a game of fetch or a fun training session.