Bridge & Target

an overview

We teach three signals, which tell the animal when he has done what we want, when he is on track, and where he is to go (make contact). These signals are the Terminal Bridge (TB), the Intermediate Bridge (IB), and the Target (T), respectively.

We use the T to demonstrate where and how the animal is to move or position himself. For example, for a high jump, raise the T and the animal will jump in order to make contact. Set the target in place and ask the animal to touch it, start the IB as he moves to make contact, thus giving him feedback that “Yes, you are on the correct path”. The instant he makes contact with the T, he gets the TB, telling him that he has successfully completed the request.

We teach concepts and attach verbal, graphic or other labels to these concepts. For example, touch the ear, and say “Ear”. Touch (cover, or touch below it) the eye, and say “Eye”. Then hold a hand halfway between the two and ask for one of these, saying, for example “Ear”, and start the IB, encouraging the animal until he makes contact between his ear and the hand. (In this case, he is targetting his ear to the hand). Then ask for the other option, “Eye”, start the IB and support him until he contacts the hand with his eye. (This is simplified, and there is a bit more involved, such as we start with really small distances at first and make these larger as the animal gains confidence and proficiency, and we do a few trials of each choice before asking for the discrimination between the two.)

The label attached to the body part, ear, was the word “Ear”, in this case.

Similarly name directions (up, down, right, left), locations (seat, crate, pen, yard, corner), individuals (animal’s name, other animals, people), actions (eat, feed, walk, swim, wait, go, come, execute), body parts, targets (hand, pole, station, mark, animal body part), etc.. Often the target is used to demonstrate the concepts, for example, I might lead an animal over a hurdle, using the target, then name this “Over”.

We teach, often through context, ideas like “Touch,” “Show,””What,” “Who, “Where,” and “Ready”.

We then combine concepts any way needed, and can ask the animal for anything needed, in new situations, without previous, specific training for that event, and often get it. For example, one might say, to an animal who has injured his foot by jumping over a fence, and has never been in that situation, or place, before, “Your foot has pain. The vet is coming. The vet will give you an injection. The injection will help the pain in your foot. Be ‘Easy’ xxxxxxxxxxxx Good jobxxxxxxxxxxx be Easy xxxxxxx” etc.

(Even if we do not teach every connecting word, like “has” and “the” and “will” the animals seem to get the critical information from the context, experience and the words that we have taught, and so we just use normal human syntax. This way, the animal is used to hearing normal speach, and can even sometimes get information directly from other people, like a person arriving on the scene of an accident telling a dog to relax and allow a leg to be examined.)

© Kayce Cover 2008