Art’s Protocol for Fading a Lure

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What Does Fading the Lure Mean and Why is it Important?

By Art Lopatin

By ‘luring’ I mean using a food treat held in your hand to manipulate your dog – his nose, in particular — into the desired position. After your dog can reliably (90% of the time) be lured into position, you then teach your dog to associate a word – like ‘Sit.’ – with that position. When he reliably responds to the command-word quickly followed by the lure you are ready to start fading the lure. The goal is for your dog to respond to a purely verbal command.

Note 1: There’s a difference between ‘luring’ with food in the hand and using the same hand movement but without food, either as part of the Lure-Fading process, or as a supplemental physical cue to help an uncertain dog who doesn’t respond to the verbal command, or as a command in itself (e.g., a deaf dog, sheep herding.)

Note 2: Some body movement (Look, Point, Step) probably will be needed for Climb and Place, since more than one Climb and Place locations are possible.)

So How Does A Trainer/Handler Fade the Lure?

Once the dog reliably responds to your verbal command quickly followed by a lure — as is taught in Phase 1 – you are ready to gradually abbreviate the lure until it’s gone entirely and the dog obeys just your verbal command.

Note: Please refer to the Foundation Style Dog Training 4.0 video course, particularly Intro to Phase 1 Obedience AND to the Phase 1 Videos.

How to Fade the Lure

  • Reward from your other hand with food still in your luring hand
  • Remove food from your luring hand (when you do this, technically you’re not really luring anymore but giving a physical cue just after the verbal one) and treat from the other hand. After a while, switch from rewarding every time to rewarding only better performances of the command.
  • Speed up and then begin abbreviate your luring motion until no motion at all is necessary, at least for static commands like Sit, Down, Stay, Stand, Wait, etc. (You may always need to point to the Place spot and the Climb platform, especially if you have more than one. See below.)

Hone performance while maintaining a high level of motivation by rewarding only quicker responses.

Begin lengthening the time your dog remains obedient/remains in position by slowly reducing the frequency with which you give rewards.

(Note: In phase 1 the emphasis is on slowly increasing the amount of time a dog obeys a a static command, like ‘Sit,’ not on increasing your distance from the dog.)

Here’s an Example:

If the cue is Down, stop moving your treat-filled fist all the way to the ground. Go down a little bit less every time you say ‘Down.’ Continue to mark (‘Good Boy.’) and reward the dog when he Downs. For the next rep, make the height to which you previously lowered your treat-holding hand your baseline and try to get the dog to Down with your fist held just a bit higher than that. Gradually, the dog should Down when you say the word without any physical cue.

Continue to reward with the hand you used to lure the dog down.

Then start rewarding with the other hand.

Finally let increasing amounts of time elapse, while you praise the dog (‘Good Boy.’), before you release him (‘Free.’) and give him a treat. (With most dogs and for most commands, it’s best to fade the lure before starting to work on increasing the amount of time the dog stays in a position.)

Accelerate luring-motion speed once the dog has understood the verbal cue. This facilitates fading the lure.

Finally, stop luring altogether and only use a verbal cue.


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