This video clip is from
Teaching the Yawn
YAWN: Getting a dog to yawn on cue usually takes quite a bit of time. It is basically done by "capturing" the behavior when you see the dog doing it. Persistence is the key to getting this behavior on cue.
TURN OFF LIGHT: This is not a difficult action to teach if the dog knows the foundation behaviors of "Feet Up" and targeting with the "Foot".
When I first begin training a puppy, I spend a lot of time teaching him or her FOUNDATION BEHAVIORS -- behaviors that are the "foundations" for other actions/behaviors. "Feet Up" and "Foot" are two of the essentials.
"Feet Up" means that the dog is to put his two front feet up on anything I indicate. "Foot" means the dog is to touch something with either foot.
Since Jyah was well-schooled in these two behaviors, teaching him to turn off a light (paw the switch down) was a simple matter. I say "simple" -- but it did take time to get this action on-cue as Jyah had to assimilate the knowledge that what he did with his paw was what made the light turn off. (To turn on a light -- push the switch up -- he would use his "Nose" which is another foundation behavior.)
To teach Jyah to turn off the light, I had him put his "Feet up" underneath the switch. I did this at a time of day when turning the light off would show a change in luminosity from light to obviously darker. I put his foot on the toggle switch and drug it lightly downward so the light turned off.
I did this several times, rewarding each time. Then, I put my hand above the switch and said "Foot" and rewarded those tries that flipped the light off. As soon as he was doing this by himself, I stood further back and had him put his feet on the wall and target the switch with his foot. Any time in the process he attempted to claw the wall resulted in a "Wrong" and no reward -- only sweeps downward with the bottom of the pad was rewarded.
This is an exercise most dogs have to do many times in order to understand the connection between their foot on the switch and the light change. Eventually, as you will see in the video clip, I got to the point where I could be across the room and say, "Jyah, would you please turn off the light."
Dogs will yawn when the need arises; however, it takes quite a bit of patience to get them to yawn on cue. Persistence is the key.
When I need pinpoint accuracy in teaching a behavior, I use a clicker to identify for the dog the exact action that I want him to do. The clicker was extremely helpful in capturing the yawn.
I watched for times in the day when Jyah was prone to yawn and made sure I had my clicker and some tasty treats ready so I could capture it. Also, to elicit a yawn from Jyah (so I could capture it) I got close to his face and started yawning. Many dogs will give a "calming signal" by yawning when a person is doing something a little intrusive. As soon as Jyah yawned, I clicked and gave him a treat. I gradually started moving further back when asking for the yawn.
NOTE: A person should have a good training history and/or realationship with the dog before using this method as some dogs get rather testy having someone in their face.
As with many "natural" behaviors the dog does, getting the yawn on-cue can take quite a bit of time.