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  • DateJune 16, 2020

Teaching a Chin Rest

I just wanted to do a really quick and easy training plan blog for how to teach a chin rest. I got asked about this the other day and my original YouTube videos showing the process are way back in my video list and overly long (I’m learning to edit myself!)! It is also the key to a lot of really useful husbandry behaviours so why haven’t I done this already?! 

Bear in mind though, when you watch the videos, that Odie already knows this behaviour really well so the teaching process goes very fast. When teaching it with your animals have patience because they will get there and the rewards will be wonderful!

You can use either your hand or a towel or cloth for this behaviour. I used a towel originally because it makes it much easier to generalise the behaviour from your hand, knee, leg etc onto a chair or low table or platform. Then you can take the towel anywhere with you to practice, for example, while you’re on a walk or at the vets and so on.

Shaping vs luring

I’ve added demo videos in here so you can decide which method you prefer and what might work best for your animals.

In shaping you introduce the towel and when the dog looks at it you click, then click for movement towards the towel, sniffing the towel, a chin hovered over it etc etc until you get the final behaviour of the chin target to the towel.

This video is the very first time I introduced the towel as a chin rest to Odie so you can see the process from beginning to adding in the cue.

Chin target to a towel with shaping

I added in a cue of ‘towel’ here but I tend to use the towel itself as the cue for the behaviour now. This is mainly because I use it for husbandry type behaviours and cooperation is optional so I’m not going to ask the boys to do the chin target, I’ll show them what I am going to do, whether that is a hand (tactile) or equipment and they get to decide if they want to do the target. If they are not feeling it we don’t train that day (but I think this has happened literally once with Odie and never with Sweep ha ha!)

Exactly the same approach to the training would work for introducing the chin target to a towel on a chair, table, your leg and so on.

Here’s a video of shaping the chin target to a chair (again with Odie):

Chin target to a chair with shaping

Luring is quick and effective, but you must ensure that you fade the lure quickly (within about 5 – 10 replicates I would say is ideal). The following video show an unedited first session with this cloth. It is just under a minute and shows the luring process. I hold the treat on the opposite side of the cloth to Odie so when he reaches his chin over the cloth I then click and deliver the reinforcer. You’ll see that by 22 seconds he’s already got what I am after!

Chin target to a towel with luring

Luring a chin target to a towel on a chair. In this video I used luring as well as a hand target (this is easier to do when you have both hands free and can get a good angle!). It is a slightly slower process this time I think because Odie is very distracted by the food that Sweep is getting and by whatever he heard (probably nothing!) that made them bark. I also do miss a chin target he does voluntarily at about 15 seconds!  To keep the session loopy I feed on the cloth so that he doesn’t have to move too much.

Chin target to a chair with luring

I hope you have fun teaching this with you animals. It’s a super useful behaviour, especially if you can get that target on a chair so you have your hands free. It means you can use it as a yes/no for grooming, eye drops, nail care and a hundred other husbandry behaviours.

If you have any questions drop me a comment 🙂

Carol Milner

About Carol Milner

I currently live in Weymouth, Dorset (originally from Beverley in East Yorkshire). I am a certified dog trainer, graduating from the Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Professional course in October 2016. I have owned dogs since 2001 when I got my first rescue dog Jack, a mutt extraordinaire. When I lost him I spent two years fostering dogs for a local charity and as a result I gained Odie and Sweep. Odie is the reason I became interested in training and behaviour. He demonstrates "aggressive" behaviours towards other dogs. I chose clicker training because I saw how much confidence it gives both my boys and I train mostly as a hobby with my own dogs and cats and spend my spare time with them and continuing my training and behaviour education with webinars and seminars. My passion as a trainer is in force free husbandry. If we can teach dangerous exotic animals to accept blood draws voluntarily then we have no excuse in not teaching it to our animals. I work full time as a marine biologist (to fund my dog habit!), a job I have done for 20 years. It has taught me to avoid the use of jargon while not dumbing down content, a skill I hope will help me produce a helpful blog!

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