Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Good walks

After class last night, we had quite a talk about teaching walking and management and how to be better helping students teach good walking.

It was brought up that I don't insist upon good walking in most reasons for that were along the lines of:
-We don't have to do a lot of leash walking.
-Some dogs adjust to head halters quickly. Griff and Luna are not in that category
- I have other stuff to work on.

That said, in preparation for Expo this weekend, I've been taking Griffin to Granville to do lots of walking. I am really upset I didn't video tape all the sessions! It's gone really, really, well.

Four sessions*. In four sessions he is able to walk down the block and back without pulling. Past people, kids, food, restaurants, trash cans, food on the floor. Next to me, not heeling, just really great walking.

Despite not doing a lot of walking, it's one of my favorite things to train dogs to do (...note "train"... not "teach owners"). Warmer days at the shelter... that's what I tend to be working on. And very quickly have the dogs walking well. But how do I transfer all of my "training skills" to students so they can be successful? Hmmm...

But, really, four sessions, I'm feeding him only every 5-6 steps and could probably push it further (...but I don't want to compromise the long-term integrity of the behavior.). I have a few ideas on why it went quickly, and I hope to get the chance to test this out more.

My skills:
--I'm fluent with handling leash, clicker, treats, dog
-- I can multitask, train and be aware of my environment
--My leash-handling skills. Being aware of any pressure and of when I release it
--I'm super consistent in that environment. Dog out of position? I'm --never-- continuing forward.
--I have a training plan. I know where we are, where we are ending up, and have a rough roadmap of how to get there.
--I set him up for success. All our walks have been at night. Our first walk was on a quieter part of the town (but not residential..didn't want to encounter any dogs in yards). Second walk, we ventured to another block, a bit busier. The third walk, we started in the quiet area, and then went up the side, spending about 20 steps in a busy sidewalk area, then back to quiet. And tonight, we were in front of all the shops in granville, back and forth, multiple times.

Dog skills:
--Griffin is special. (Ha ha ha... I have to say it! There have been quite a few skills he's learned abnormally fast. I really don't think it's just that I'm --that-- much of a better trainer since Luna was a puppy.).
--I am very clear. We only work on one skill at a time. If we are changing what we are working on, we have an obvious break.
-- He understands what to do with pressure on the leash. He knows to move into the pressure and the release will be reinforced with food. He knows that to get what he wants he should -not- be continuing forward.
--We have a small reinforcement history for causal walking with me.
--We have a strong reinforcement history for heeling. No, this isn't causal walking, but this is still a pretty exciting place to be.
-- With heeling and several other behaviors we have systematically introduced distractions.

Now I've got to figure out how to better help students learn this.

Tomorrow morning, provided I get some baking and laundry and dog washing done in a timely manner... We'll run into the bank and have a daytime-slightly-busier session in town. And then, we do what all bad trainers do, take it on the road and go to clickerexpo where we will be passing lots of people and lots of dogs in tight hallways. Good training eh?

Second note...these things probably are supposed to be shorter. But I guess this is not going to be a real marketing tool...just a tool for me.

Muddy Griffin makes me so happy because he is so happy. Today, in the field, he ran off, back to the dog yard to play in "his" mud puddle. Then he ran back to me and we played tug and running and fetching. Luna escaped the yard today. By the time I noticed, she had to have been gone at least five minutes. I was sure she had taken off and would be lost and I'd have to stay home from Expo to search for her. Nope. She's in the barn right there, hunting for cat poop. Covered. COVERED in the big evil burrs. And she was so happy, I was happy. The best part, she came when called. One dog bathed, two to go.

* He has been walked in varied locations in the past. Usually on a pulling harness. But...only four walks in town. Yesterday we did three other walks, a pulling walk at the metropark (...harness on), one at another people park, and a short collar walk outside of a dogpark. I looked at the nice little fenced "agility" area there...and how you had to walk through the whole park to get there. Alas.

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