What to expect when moving from level 1 to level 2

At level 1, dogs earn rewards for touching the Rocker anytime, but at level 2, they only earn rewards if the toy is moving in the 2-second window after the treat sound plays.

Since dog's learn by trial and error, it's very common for this transition to encourage a lot of experimentation. Your pup might even get frustrated. If you think your dog is getting frustrated, first try reducing the time interval between sounds. Level 2 with a time interval of 5-seconds, should be just slightly more difficult than level 1. Statistically, touching on level 1 will pay rewards 100% of the time and touching on level 2 with a 5-second time interval will pay rewards about 50% of the time. If that's too easy, try level 2 with a 10-second time interval, which is just a little harder and will pay rewards about 25% of the time.

If it looks like your dog is still frustrated, consider toggling back and forth between level 1 and level 2. You may also want to try shorter game sessions (5-10 min) and increase session time as long as their frustration level is good. Wait a few hours or even the next day and try again. You can also try feeding a small food portion before starting the game so you dog is still hungry but not starving. 

The trainers we've consulted with talk about good vs bad frustration. Good frustration means your dog is working and problem solving. Depending on your dog, they might be vocal, bark, or play more aggressively. (Kind of like pressing an elevator button a second time to make the elevator come faster. :-) Humans get frustrated too).

Please keep an eye out for signs of stressful frustration such as stress yawning (big curl in the tongue), excessive barking, or giving up. Consult your trainer for advice on your specific dog since every pup is different. If your pup is experiencing bad frustration, go back to level 1 for a week or two. There's no need to rush. PupPod is designed to keep your dog learning for months and years. 

If your dog is batting the toy around, it may seem like they are just getting lucky, but they are learning. That’s the challenge of level 2.

Several customers have suggested that we should wait until the toy comes to rest before playing the treat sound. We’ve had a ton of internal debate about this decision, even consulting with dog trainers, veterinary behaviorists, and canine cognition researchers, but withholding the treat sound until the toy comes to rest has an unintended consequence. 

Imagine the scenario where a dog is interacting with the toy and the sound is withheld until the toy comes to rest. It’s required for the dog to “give up” so the toy can come to rest...and then the sound plays. What’s the dog's motivation to try again? Some dogs will try again, but many dogs will give up since they weren’t being rewarded for experimenting. 

This suggestion is a compound requirement where the toy has to be BOTH at rest AND touched just after the sound. This is a complex jump in the learning process. 

Imagine giving car keys to someone who has no instruction on driving or starting a car and ask them to turn on the car. They might figure out that the key goes in a keyhole, but how would they know to press down the brake pedal to start the car. It makes perfect sense once someone explains the connection, but it’s not intuitive if you’re never driven a car. It’s a compound requirement. A lot of people would just give up and think the car is broken. 

But in the case of PupPod, the other party is another species that many people aren’t particularly good at communicating with, so we’ve tried to designed a user experience that’s intuitive to a dog, but has the downside of not necessarily being intuitive to a human.

There's a famous experiment run by the Canine Cognition Center at Yale where dogs and children are show a series of steps to earn a reward, but one step is irrelevant. The study revealed that humans will continue doing the irrelevant step, but dogs will experiment to "leave out irrelevant actions when there is a more efficient way to solve a problem." This trial and error process is called operant conditioning.

With respect to PupPod, touching the toy before the sound plays is irrelevant. Over time, your dog will learn to skip the irrelevant effort and wait until after the sound plays to touch the Rocker. 

As long as your dog is having fun and staying engaged, the game is working as intended. We've seen hundreds of dogs figure this out. The hardest part is to have patience. Trust us. With enough practice, your dog will learn level 2.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published