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Introduction to Training Terms

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

Welcome back to our CatBoss version of, "Everything you always wanted to know about training your cat...but were afraid to ask! Fear no more! We are here to help! In this blog, we're going to cover some of the more common terminology that animal trainers use. You will hear and see them used in our mobile training app, so let's get you comfortable with them, and soon you'll be speaking like a professional trainer! Professor Stanley is waiting to start class, so let's get going!

Basic Terms and Definitions

Marker Words: A word or sound used to tell your cat when they have done something appropriately and they should continue the behavior or repeat it in the future. Different words and sounds can cue different reward events. For example:

  • Yes - This can be used as a "terminal marker" to verbally marks that a behavior was performed correctly and completely, and should always be followed with a reward. For example, when your cat sits on command, say, "Yes", and immediately follow with a treat.

  • Good - This can be used as a "duration marker". It verbally marks that a behavior is correct and you are pleased with them, but no treat is given because you want them to continue and that they should continue performing it. For example, you ask your cat to "sit" and then "stay". As you walk away from them, you would continue to say, "Good", "Good", "Good", in a soothing voice, as long as they remain in the "stay". When they have completed the "stay", then say "Yes" and reward to distinguish from the duration marker word.

  • Get it - Verbally marks that a behavior is correct and that a reward is going to be thrown for them to chase. This is also a terminal marker, communicating that the trick is complete with the added fun of being able to chase the treat reward or toy.

Release Word: A word used to tell your cat that a behavior is complete, but a reward is not guaranteed to come. Some examples of release words are, "OK", "Alright", "Break", "Free", "Release", and "All Done". You will want to be very consistent on how you use these words. In the "stay" example above, if "Yes" is used to release your cat, you must reward. If you end the "stay" with a "break" command, you do not need to reward them and should only reward them periodically. As you train your cat on more behaviors, you will begin to understand when to mark behavior and when to release them from a behavior.

Clicker: A handheld tool that makes a “CLICK” sound when pressed to mark behaviors and always sounds the same. These can be electronic or mechanical. They can be used for multiple purposes: many professional trainers use them as a terminal marker, so the click should always be paired with a reward; they can also be used as a recall device. If you use one both as a terminal marker for training and a recall device, make sure you use ones with different sounds or a different marking style. For example, you might mark a behavior with only two clicks, but for recall, you would use three or more clicks to tell your cat to drop everything and come running! On the CatBoss TV Training app, we show you how to mark behaviors and also train your cat for "Clicker Recall". Check out this excerpt on "Clicker Recall" from our app - scheduled for release on December 17, 2021. Sound up! Listen to Trish call Chevy with voice and clicker. Mark the date on your calendar and get your copy as soon as it's released - the perfect gift for yourself and your feline friend!

Luring: Using a reward or target to guide your cat into a behavior or to interact with a prop. When luring your cat, think of the lure and your cat’s nose as a magnet, make sure to move at their speed.

Here's a great example of using a lure in training: check out Episode 2 of Figure-8 training, also hot off the presses in our new CatBossTV Training app!

Free Shaping: Waiting or setting your cat up to offer behaviors that will eventually lead to more complex and challenging tricks and behaviors. For example, you have taught your cat to wave. You notice that sometime their paw comes very close to their face, like they are hiding behind their paw - our "Shy" trick. Once a cat learns a trick, they will often offer it voluntarily to elicit a reward from you. To "shape" the shy trick from wave, you would only reward waves that come close to the face, or use a higher value reward for the more specific behavior. Eventually, your cat will begin to connect the dots and figure out that there's a better reward for hiding behind their paw.

Capturing: Waiting for your cat to perform a natural behavior without any prompting or guidance from you, marking the behavior when done to encourage them to repeat it.

Example: While in the kitchen cooking, your cat jumps up on a step stool to see what you are doing, mark and reward their natural behavior. The end goal was all four feet on the stool, but we waited for the cat to offer the behavior naturally before rewarding.

Target/Touch: Anything your cat can touch with their nose or feet. Used to guide your cat into different behaviors or locations

Examples: Your hand, your finger, target stick, post-it note, wooden spoon, etc.

Mark: Anything your cat can touch with their feet. A mark is used to guide your cat to different places or keep them in one spot.

Example: CatBossTV Mark, Klimb, pet bed, couch, etc.

Reward: Anything your cat finds enjoyable. Used to encourage your cat to repeat the behavior in the future.

Examples: daily meals, treats, chicken, wand toys, laser pointer, petting, verbal

praise, etc.

Jackpots: Anything your cat finds extra rewarding. Used to emphasize that a behavior was fantastic and should be repeated. This can be used to boost enthusiasm to signal that an end goal has been reached or to reward effort during a difficult or new behavior.

Example: multiple pieces of chicken in a row instead of just one piece, a longer session of chasing a laser, a portion of canned tuna instead of a piece of dry treat, a wand toy session, a walk outside, high-value rewards paired with being scratched in their favorite place, etc.

Fading Rewards and Lures: The act of reducing the amount of help that is given to your cat through rewards and lures once they are understanding a behavior. This is done slowly and at your cat's pace, if they start to struggle go back and help them as needed. The end goal is to perform behaviors without the need to lure or reward each behavior in between repetitions.

Example: This is especially helpful when chaining behaviors together for a dance routine. ie cats weaves through legs, "good”, cat backs up, “good” and then cat spins around, mark and reward to complete the chain.

With these new words you are all set to learn about the more practical side of training and how to get started!

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