What is “fading the lure”?
Transitioning from using a lure to prompt a behavior to getting that same behavior without showing your dog food first is often called “fading the lure”. Since most dogs enjoy lure training and quickly learn simple behaviors, the transition to practicing without food in your hand can begin much sooner than most pet guardians realize.
How do you fade the lure?
Once you are confident that your dog will reliably perform a behavior following a food lure, it’s time to begin phasing out the lure. The first step is to wean your dog from expecting the treat to be in your hand. Using “sit” again as our example, follow these steps:
- Warm up your dog by luring them a couple of times as described in Luring, Part 1.
- Then move your hand the same way you did while luring, but without a treat in your hand.
- As soon as your dog sits, praise and grab a treat from a pouch or pocket, and then feed it to the dog.
Why should you fade the lure?
At this point, you have created a hand signal. It may not be the most natural hand signal, but you can shorten and simplify it later on. You can also add a verbal cue later on. The important thing is that your dog is no longer simply following a treat. They are working for a reward that is not directly in front of them. This baby step may not seem like much, but progressing in baby steps makes it easier for your dog to learn, easier for you to identify the exact point where they might struggle, and (when necessary) easier to return to a previous training stage where the dog was successful.
Fading the lure is very important. Think of it this way: When you use food to guide (a.k.a. lure) your dog, all they have to know is how to follow the food. Once the food is out of your hand, they must think about and understand the behavior they are doing. Though it may seem trivial to us, this is a big leap forward in their understanding!
Next time, I’ll talk about how to add a verbal cue or modify the “default” hand signal for the behavior.
As mentioned earlier, this post was written by my associate, Paul. Contact us to set up a training session with him!