Sunday, September 19, 2010

Stay Training: Part 1

Griffin and I have been working on stays. A few months ago it seemed like we would never be ready to compete. And now I'm trying to find opportunities to be in a group stay!

We've worked on several different pieces to get to where we are now and we still have more training to get to the point where we are ready to actually compete. Here's a few of the pieces we have been working on.

Frequent Feeding: Step forward to feed, without a marker, after a varied length of time. Over time, the period between feeding increased. The food is not a release. The placement of reinforcer ("Head straight, chin tucked.") inform my dog that he is not getting up.

Consistent Releases: We have a specific way to release from stays. This is always used at the end of stay exercises. I feed after the release. Sometimes we do exercises where I release after variable periods of time. Click (or mark) the release and feed.

Distraction Training: Gradually increase distraction levels. Up to and beyond what is ridiculous and practical. We use a very high rate of reinforcement and lots of repetitions.

Lots of Sit Stays: As Griffin is a dog more likely to lie down from a sit... we mostly work on sit stays.

Starting out of Sight Stays: With a barrier close to the dog's location. Shoulders behind the barrier...return and feed. Behind the barrier and return to feed. Behind and pause and return to feed.

Location Changes: Practice in a variety of locations. If we're practicing at home, vary the location in the room or direction we are facing.

Watch the Body Language: Early on, Griffin was very alert in his stays. We've been working to shape a more relaxed and comfortable position. I reinforce for anything that looks better. If we were really dedicated, we would do something like the Karen Overall Relxation Protocol. But I'm not quite that dedicated.

Make Stay an Active Position: This sounds like it counters the previous aspect. But I assure you, it does not! During these sessions, I challenge Griffin, but just barely, and reinforce him when I see him shift to the proper position or away from the distraction/challenge. Throughout his training, I reinforce this type of decision.

We're currently doing stays at 1.5 times what is needed for novice. I can go up to 25 steps away. I can be out of sight for 1/4 the Open time. We can have high level distractions (tossed items near by, people walking past, running past, throwing things).

Our next steps will be : increase duration (especially for out of sight stays), increase distraction level, work with other dogs nearby, set ups with other dogs (where dogs "break"), increase handler distance, work in new locations. I know I need to also put "roll onto your hip" on cue and to work on more down stays.

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