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Take a bow is a really fun behavior to train, and there’s a variety of ways of doing it. We could capture a bow.
What a bow is essentially is when your dog gets up and takes a beautiful stretch pulling the front of their body down to the ground and stretching their rear up into the air. So, it’s a natural behavior that all dogs generally do, some more than others. We might also see this behavior naturally in dogs when they are playing with each other. We often call it a play bow where one dog will bow down to another one to encourage them to play.
So one of the techniques we can use for training this is called capturing. The dog simply does it naturally, and we click or mark it with a verbal marker, and then we reward it. Of course we have to wait for it to happen.
Another way that we can train this behavior is by luring our dog’s head down while keeping their rear in the air.
And the third way, which is my favorite and what I’m going to demonstrate for you, is shaping. Shaping is where you break a behavior down into small, achievable steps and you slowly communicate with your dog along the way as to what you’re looking for as the end result. Again, you want to be organized. You want to know what the end result is, but you want to see any movement that your dog makes that’s moving in that direction slowly.
So for bow, I would first want to let my dog know by using my clicker as a marker that I want him in a standing position. So I might click standing just a few times. I’m going to wait for him to stand. I can encourage it by moving back a little bit. And then he did it for me.
I’m going to look to see if he drops his head down at all. To help with that, and there goes the front of the body, I’m just going to wait for him to do it on his own. Any movement of the front end going down gets a click and a reward.
If his rear end goes down the saddest thing that’s going to happen to him is he’s not going to get a click and a treat because that’s not what I’m looking for. We don’t want to say to our dogs when we’re training, “No, you got it wrong.” There’s no need for that. We just want to focus on what they’re getting right.