Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Griffin: Agility Lesson #2

Griffin and I were finally able to get to another private. It was only...about two months since the last. My intent was 2 weeks in between. But we DID practice between!

What did I find out?

- Griffin got (...I think?) all his contacts. Including the first time. 1/3 were higher than my critera.
- He worked for his toy for part of the lesson. I think it's easier for him to use his toy when there are other dogs around.
- He still is wandering off more than is desirable at times. But about 1/3 of the times it would be when I sent him off to an obstacle and he just went...away.
- Obstacle focus is still lacking. A lot.
- Contact obstacles should be put into sequence.

And what will we work on?
- Recall. I've probably said before... but he doesn't really have a recall. He has a whistle recall. And a verbal recall word. But that "Don't call unless you're sure he will come" thing...has been taken a little too far. If I don't use it...he can't fail to respond. The only problem there... is that I don't have a verbal recall to actually use. Ahem.
- Contact obstacles in sequence. Yesterday we did that for, mostly, the first time. And he was okay for some, on others he was running off and looking for his reinforcer at the end.
- I need to practice with me ahead of Griffin on contacts.
- I need to practice being closer to the contact obstacles.
- Obstacle focus?

And so our training plan?
- More contact work with all the needed variables
- More adventure walks, etc...
- Working with 1-2 obstacles, using toys tossed ahead as the reinforcer. Add in handler distance.
- Recall. Verbal cue. NOW.
- Get back before it's been 2 months. A few weeks would be more idea.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gaining Control?

Griffin is adorable. Exceptionally adorable. He has the opportunity to get a lot of environmental reinforcement because he is so cute doing so. That's not to say he can do whatever he wants... we have rules and I maintain criteria. But it's not always set where it probably should be.

So, in an effort to prepare for our competitive endeavors, we've changed a few things.

- More training in public and various places.
- Increasing the variety of food reinforcers we use.
- Increase toy/play reinforcers
- Adventure walks: Walking even without attention or polite walking. no frenzied pulling etc... we feed and walk when passing people or dogs. Vary the locations every time.
- ONLY letting him off leash if I'm VERY sure he'll stick with. No being pressured by instructors or others.

And after a week, how's it going? Our adventure walks have been great. Today we were able to use a toy as the reinforcer for most of flyball class. The exceptions were food for the resting in between turns and at the beginning of class before I pulled out the toy.

Griffin didn't run away or think about it during flyball. I felt safe enough to let him get the toy and bring it back, rather than only tug from my hand.

So... something we're doing is working. I just wish I knew which pieces were making the biggest impact!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"He needs a job"

This is a companion to "He would be a great agility dog."

I hear this a lot from students, potential students, and various online sources.

Sure, we know that people who work are happier. But are dogs the same as people?

My dogs love to do training and various activities. I'll talk about how well they work. But it's not about a job and it's often easy to identify the pieces that are maintaining the behavior. The treats. The toys. The smells. It's not about an obligation or earning an income.

And then when you go and see the lists of "work" that people make:
- Carrying a backpack (some people say it's not just the effort, but the dog 'knowing' he is working).
- Picking up items around the house
- Therapy dog work
- Carrying things.
- Pulling a sled

And I go "What?" These are all GREAT things for people to do with their dogs, and especially the activities that take time to train! Time with the dog, reinforcement throughout the day! More activity in the dog's life! GREAT stuff.

But if we say it' a 'job', does that change how we view the interaction? How wrong is it to let people think that's how the dog perceives it too? Usually I just smile and don't say much other than "it's good to spend time with your dog."

How do we KNOW the dog is not only getting tired from the physical activity but from 'knowing it is a job'? Do we run an experiment and have four groups, two with packs or sleds and two without? And tell one group of each that they have a job, and don't tell the others? Where do people come up with this stuff?

Really though, how does your dog "know he is working"? And how does that understanding change the effort involved? Are dogs even capable of that much thought? Sure, my dog knows he is doing xyz at the time. But that extra subcategory of "working" or "having a job" is a bit of a stretch to me...

Why can't we just say "he needs more to do" or "He needs more physical and mental exercise" (which all of the above listed items provide...)? Why does this bother me so much?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Treat Pouch Challenges

I'm one of the few clicker enthusiasts who doesn't like targeting. I use it, yes. Sometimes I teach it. But it's not my favorite thing. My other secret? I don't like treat pouches.

The snap open-close ones? If I leave it open, the treats spill when I run or bend over. If I leave it closed, my fingers get torn up as I stick my hand it to get treats. And the waist belt annoys me.* Do I put it over my sweatshirt or under? Over my coat or under? The little plastic clip is great, I fell in love with my treat pouch when I was able to get it on my back pocket with the clip. I could easily take the pouch off and throw it or leave it somewhere. I could move it depending on what we were training. The few inches lower made it much easier to efficiently get out treats. But they break very easily. I'm probably on my tenth one now.

The small treat pouches with the drawstrings? I'll always remember that 4-H show when Blaze was a puppy. I ran around and all my treats bounced out. I then had to go back around and pick up the treats out of the dirt floor. Blaze helped me with that. It was unfortunate and probably didn't help our score. They don't hold a lot of treats, it's hard to get my hand in there, and that string part always is in the way.

Nail apron types? The sections are great for different types of reinforcers or toys or cameras. The pockets are large. But this also means it's great for the dog to see that "why yes, she does have reinforcers with her today!" and it makes people look at you odd. And they spill. Especially when you take it off to put it in your car. Washability is amazing though.

So, I use my coat pocket and pants pockets and shirt pockets. I try to buy clothing with pockets. Especially large pockets. Small pockets are worthless. You can't fit much in there and it takes forever to get a reinforcer out with two fingers. I just take a lot of stops at my car or other re-fill station. And I'm careful to empty pockets before washing my clothes.

*There has been more than one day where the belt was very useful as a regular belt on a day where I had forgotten to take a belt to work. I was very thankful to have it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Book 9: Through a Dog's Eyes

I'm breaking the 'rules of blogging' by doing so many of them. But they're accumulating faster than I'm putting them up. It's time to get it over with! I still have a few more. But three is enough for today....

This is a really interesting book in many ways. The author runs a service dog program and has a ton of dog knowledge. The book looks at various dog topics and has a training section at the very end. There are chapters on dog senses, training, domestication, etc. And a lot about her program and how it started. Those stories are exceptionally amazing and definitely could (and should!) be a book of their own.

It was very encouraging to see someone involved with a service dog program to be so supportive of positive dog training. She very plainly stated that was how the program now operates and she wrote many vocal comments against punishment in training.

Despite citing many journal articles and good sources, there were many places where it just seemed like there was not a complete understanding of the topic or the ‘sciency-ness’ of things. Some studies she used to support her ideas, weren’t all that convincing once I thought about. The writing style had quite a few editing errors that made me have to re-read sections. There were two words she used, adding “ology” at the end and it wasn’t for any words that typically have ology at the end. Babyology? Not a real word.

That said, it wasn’t horrible, but it’s not something I will likely be citing or referencing to. I don’t know that it’s the best book for a non person to read to learn about dogs either. However, I DO hope she writes a book specifically about her service dog program and those stories. Those were the best parts of the book.

Book 8: Successful Obedience Handling

There’s a serious problem with this book: It's not very memorable. Every 12-14 months I’m surprised to find the library has a copy. I’m really excited, I get it sent the nearest branch. I read half of it. And then I realize that I’ve read it before. I’ve probably read it four years now.

It’s great but boring, detailed, lots of practical advice for beginners and even those wanting to be sure everything is well understood. It’s easier to read than the AKC obedience rules (though you should read those too…!).

The formatting drives me crazy. There is a main column on each page, and a sidebar. The sidebar will take a sentence and put it in bold. And it’s irritating, didn’t I just read that? Why yes, I did.

I haven’t found it valuable enough to get my own copy. We’ll see how I feel in 14 months when I read it again….

Book 7: Adventures with Ari

I read this book by Kathryn Miles last month. It’s one of the many “books about someone and his/her dog and the adventures of being a dog owner.” But it’s different in a few ways, and it was nice to have a variation on that somewhat repetitive theme.

Miles writes about adopting her dog and everything they experience in the first year. That means…it doesn’t have a sad ending! The other difference is instead of writing specifically about dogs at all times, she writes about spending time with her dog while exploring nature. Many of the pieces are not directly about dogs, but about various nature topics, decomposition and communication and all sorts of things.

The other nice change is that when they inevitably go to training class, it’s a very competent professional, an advocate for positive reinforcement, and it was not painful to read. When I heard some mentions about training, I seriously considered putting the book down. After reading a few other books like this over the years, I didn’t want to read it again. But, like I said, it was interesting to see a novice dog owner ending up with a good professional. And it was a very realistic description of her understanding of the classes and lessons and reliability (and not) of the experience.

My only complaints, there were some editing errors. I don’t know that I’d read it again or that it’s highly recommended, but definitely one of the better “stories about my dog” that I have read, and I used to read a lot of those!

It also made me really think about how people with their first dog are experiencing all the silly things that dogs do.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Griffin in Beginner Agility Class IV: The Teeter

We left really early...and so, we stopped for walks. A new part of our week is going to be Adventure Walks. We just walk and walk and walk in new places. And I reinforce attention if I happen to get any. The only rule is I don't allow marking.

First time around: Barely any glances my way.
second: Some more looks. He gave me a leaf and we played with it. He carried a stick for a while.
Third: Lots of attention and several places we stopped to play. We ended up in front of a building with a few steps... I'd send him up. Ask for a Down! And then release to play. It was bitey-growly cute. And adorable. He was so wound up!
It was a lot of fun other than the rain part.

And we got to class, just in time. But no one was there. So I drove past a few times... and it ended up that yes, we did have class....

Tonight we only worked on the teeter. Griffin is great at the teeter. Goldens are supposedly notorious for teeter problems, I keep hearing this. But both of mine are great with it. Luna is afraid, but, she's afraid of everything.

We started with it low and gradually raised it. Initially our instructor gave us a hard time about running it... so I stopped Griffin a few times. And that was cute. But we were told we could run. And apparently our instructor was impressed with how Griffin runs and waits and runs.

Between our turns... we did some heeling like usual. And some stays. We tugged with the bear. And we tugged with the frisbee! And the tugging was GREAT. He wanted MORE MORE MORE of it. His outs were poor. We used a toy as a reinforcer for our last set of teeters and it was great.

I think part of his high interest in toys was that I wore a scarf. And he REALLY WANTED to tug it. But he knew to leave it alone.

At the end of class while waiting for a turn, we went around and sticky touched lots of things. Number cones. Standards. Dogwalk base. Tunnel. Jump bars.

And we played 1-2-3 RUN TUG.

No off leash work...so I don't know how that would have gone. But the shelties were always about 30' directly from the end of the teeter and he didn't think about visiting them. The other dog in class was a challenge at first, but by the end of class we could sit 15' from where she was working.

What do we need to work on? More time around different dogs. More recalls in varied locations. More being adorable. No...he has that one mastered!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Using a lot of treats

When we use food in training, it can be hard to figure out exactly how to do all the work without making our dogs overweight or filling up a small dog at the start of class. We spent quite a while talking about this in class last night.

- For at home training of behaviors, easy behaviors, maintaining behaviors, use kibble.
- If your dog food comes in smaller sized pieces, use those!
- Get a different brand/kind of dog food (fish!) to use as 'training treats'. More balanced nutrition than other treats, but still different and exciting.
- Measure out food and use that for training.

And with other actual treats...
- Use something lower calories, and cut it very small.
- With many dogs, mixing these things in with kibble can make the boring dog food all the more exciting.
- Use licking treats (canned food, low fat cream cheese, etc)

Other thoughts:
- Develop and utilize other non food reinforcers
- Plan and use food for the things you really need to work on.

I'm sure there are more food tips to list!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Griffin Flyball: 1

This isn't really session one, we've had informal, less organized practice times. But yesterday was the very official, intended-organized, serious-working, super-focused practiced time.

It's set up so teams come and work for the hour, no formal instruction, but helpers around to help problem solve and everyone is definitely expected to be responsible for employing good training skills without a lot of supervision.

THIS is cool because it means I get to work Griffin. I did have to run and get a bagel for him.. I gave all my cheese to a student in the previous class.

After the not so great agility practice last week, I was especially careful. We did restrained recalls where needed for dogs, right near the working lane, and then we just moved over a few feet to start calling the dogs over the jumps to start that back chaining process. We'd work the dogs for just a few reps and switch off.

Griffin was really great. One time after he got his reinforcer he ran off... to the back. And pushed open the HEAVY door. And left. It's a fenced potty yard, so he wasn't in danger, but he was very reinforced for his escape.

His next turn. I didn't want to let him loose. We thought about other options. And blocked off the lane so he couldn't go anywhere. So he pushed down the barriers and then ran off to the back door. So we sat out.

Box-working time for a while. One dog was having his first time on the box and very quickly he was giving his 2o2o. And then we added a go-around pole in front of it. And now he's going around the pole, into a 2o2o and coming back.

None of us are experienced at flyball, we're relying on reading and the instruction of our workshop presenter a couple months ago. But...we were all impressed with what we saw! Griffin wasn't quite as amazing as that dog. But he was working well and stayed engaged with me.

We did another session with the jumps, and he was good for his restrained recalls. I could tell he wouldn't leave...so we let him off leash and not only was he doing really well but he was turning towards me at the end and responding to all the cues he should.

He did well... for next week I need to NOT LET HIM GO unless I'm SURE he'll stay with me. No silly barrier blockades. I should try more tugging. And use a higher ROR initially. He went from lunging and wanting to chase the other dog to lying while the dog ran 5' away... but it will be several weeks before we can start parallel recalls.

And to our decisions... I NEED TO DECIDE TODAY. And I don't know what to do!

Hallows or Horcruxes?

Megan and I were talking when I made the comparison. I guess the situation isn't quite that dire.

Or even a completely correct comparison.

But, it's not too far off either. I don't like having to make decisions. And we're at a point where I need to make decisions about what to do with Griffin and how we spend our time and how we spend our money and how to prioritize and set goals.

Our decision will impact our work schedule. It will impact my school schedule. It will impact how I schedule lessons. It will impact our travel and seminar plans and our event priorities for the next year.

And I need to decide one way or the other, and I'll have to do everything I can to make the choice and goal to ultimately work.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Training sessions that don't go well

When things don't go well...there's one good option.


Griffin and I stopped at a pet store for some training on our way home from morning lessons. He refused all the treats I had but was fairly calm, so we hung out in the back for a while. But he still wasn't eating. So we got up and left.

It was really annoying to have to go home without training. And without getting behaviors. And to have driven so far and set up that time specifically to work with him.

But, we weren't going to get the behaviors we wanted. So we went home.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Clicker Training? Marker Training? The difference?

Earlier this week, someone posted this on several lists. The poster wondered if there was a difference and if so, what is that difference.

I haven't read all of the replies, but, I did get through quite a few. The general consensus was that clicker training is about using any sort of marker-noise to indicate that reinforcement is coming.

And it's hard, because, technically, theoretically, in a perfect world, it really is the same sort of thing. Use any marker to indicate reinforcement is coming. Gradually increase criteria.

But, realistically, I've found that people using verbal markers typically are doing something quite different from the typical clicker training.

Common themes:
-- These people often do not also use clickers.
-- The marker is NOT always followed by food. Usually, yes, and during training sessions, mostly. The trainer at hand does not always notice this. I've found myself doing the same thing with my verbal markers.
-- Many of the people using this...cite that you can't use a clicker in the ring/etc...and so verbal markers are better. Completely missing the point that 'the ring' is not the place to do this sort of training. Have a different type of marker for that. Please. The point of the clicker is NOT to take it in the ring.
-- People using verbal markers often do not have good, clear, training plans ...using approximations to reach the final goal.
-- Most do not 'get' clicker training.

I've had this come up in classes a lot, people who have been training for a while, know quite a bit, and are sure using a verbal marker is just as good as a clicker. And it can be.

If we use it the same way.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Management, Training, If we mess up...

Lately I've been using these three categories with clients/students/when working on my training plans.

It can get overwhelming with everything we need to do and can to do in any sort of scenario, and especially when dealing with problem behaviors.

I'm hoping that if we keep using these three categories...clients will start to think through it on their own. We'll see.


We need to prevent the behavior from happening. How can we change your home set up? Your schedule? How can we change the set up in class so that we have success?

This would be crating your dog when visitors are coming, walking at off hours, and using food magnet transports at agility class.


This is where we're addressing the behavior and training an alternate response, an incompatible behavior, and changing the emotional response. This is the important part, but it's not typically successful without the others parts! Until the training happens, we need to be dilligent with the management.

And if we mess up:

This category needs a better name. Does anyone have a one-word name?

We have a plan in place for if the behaivor occurs. Puppies will mouth the owners. Sometimes we aren't good and the dog starts to bark out the window. Or pull on the leash. And if students (and myself!) don't have a plan in place, we won't be able to respond as quickly and efficiently as otherwise possible. The goal is that we NEVER have to use this category, but, we do need this part, just in case.

I'm off to a lesson and definitely see how we'll be using all three categories with the anxious-reactive dog.

** If anyone knows where I got this format....please let me know...!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Luna and the Thundershirt

I bought one to give to the shelter, we have a lot of beagles that are not happy about storms. But now storm season is over for a while and I want to hang onto it until spring...I'm afraid it would get lost in the depths of "stuff" there. And the package was cool so I opened it. And then I tried it on Luna. And then I decided to try it in public.

Griffin thought it was so cool for Luna to wear a tug.

We went to walk around a town on the way to agility last week. Halfway through the walk, her tail came up. She was scanning less. But she was still jumpy about people and whuffed at someone 45-60' away. We turned and went the other way.

The next day, I took her to a different place that she had also never been to. Same number of people. And same behavior.

So...the thundershirt didn't make much of a difference at this point of time. She looks a bit silly in it, she's so hairy but is actually a small dog underneath.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Griffin in Beginner Agility Class III

One word for tonight? Bad.

Good parts:
- He tugged! I offered his disc four times and each time he went right for it and tugged. I cued the out and gave him food each time. And we tugged again. He was less enthusiastic on the last one, so we'll stop a bit sooner. Next week, I'll try to bring it out more than once. This week I'll see about tugging in various places.
- The heeling! BEAUTIFUL attention and movement with me. He was adorable!
- First working minutes. When we had our first turn, he was great while I talked to the instructor. We did mini formal recalls, relaxed downs, and some tricks. He was attentive and going NOWHERE but with me.
- All running was FAST.

He was annoying when we arrived ( a few minutes late.> Garrr!). Next week I'll arrive 5-10 early and do training to get better walking to/from the building. We can definitely be working on this at home and at work.

As soon as we were inside, he was turning to me and ready to work. We did our own things for a while, when it was our turn with the dogwalk, we did two reps and then talked about placement of reinforcer (I'd left our food toss item at home).

And then we worked more with heeling and fronts. We were on the other side of the barn and...Griffin caught scent of ...something. He was REALLY interested. So, unsurprisingly, he ran off during our next turn to go visit the smelly spot. (and someone was standing there with a sheltie....) After two tries, I clipped on the leash. While waiting for our next turn, we heeled over the smelly area, did smell-leave-smell-leave practice, and lots of reinforcement for leaving it. Un

Next turn? Again. He went out. We tried that twice with just the tunnel. It WAS really cool to see that I talked to him and was able to send him 8-10', full speed ahead, he was definitely seeking out the tunnel on his own without extra motion from me. He ran off and visited the sheltie-less lady. Very happy about her.

And that was our night. We'll be doing more public visits, esp in busy areas, and lots of reps.

I'm sad that I let Griffin repeat the incorrect running off thing so many times. I should just keep the leash on when I'm in doubt! Don't be fooled into taking it off!

I was told to use less food and less from my hand. In past 'tests' Griffin has performed equally as well with the food in my pocket rather than my hand. But I know it can be sloppy training!

The way classes balance

It's interesting how classes go. Usually there's a nice balance of skill level and need, both with owners and dogs. But right now it's not like that.

Everyone is at a completely different level. Dogs. And owners. And they all have very different needs. There are more than reasonable frenzied dogs.

One of the classes settles in and everyone works well, and it's really quite impressive the skill level of the very young dogs after such a short period of time. But on the other hand...one of the classes is just chaos. I'm definitely re-working the plan for what we're doing next week.

It's been another week of things not going quite as well as it seems everything should be. But then I hear stories about other training classes and I think, well, at least it's going better thant that. And then I hear about brilliant classes and brilliant trainers. And I think "we should be doing better. I should be more competent!" And then I hear not so great stories again.

Does anyone want to fund my fabulous studies on pet dog training? One thing I want to know now is what do the owners REALLY need. Five years from now, what cues will they be using? Everyone THINKS they want sit and stay and down and heel and come and leave it and and and and and. But really, do most average pet dog homes use all of these things? Would we be better with even fewer behaviors trained to a very high fluency? Or do some of these choices shape how people interact with their dogs forever? Will a dog that is trained to lie down, use the down cue more often throughout life? Or not?

I changed topic. Hmm.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Transport (Agility Right From the Start)

It was interesting that something on my priority training list with Griffin was a main feature of a lesson last night. The owner was in agility class and had done a lot of classes before elsewhere. The dog was great with equipment supposedly, but lacked focus. So... despite being in an agility class...we spent more of our time working on the set up and the 'what to do at the end of the sequence.'.

I introduced a "food transport". End of the sequence? Reinforce. And then little nibble-licks all the way to the start of the next. No chance for the dog to practice wandering off. Some learning that great things happen for sticking with the handler.

I'm sure they didn't have as much fun with the "agility" part of class... but hopefully they'll be seeing the progress desired soon.

Griffin is great about transports. It's something I had done a little with unintentionally, but the sessions at expo and in the book helped me to be more proficient. That period of time from when the dog gets the reinforcer to when he's set up for the next rep is SO important and undervalued!

In group class with Griffin, I do transports to set him up for the next rep, either food or collar, but mostly food. I think it distressed our instructor a bit because even for incorrect reps Griffin was getting a little lick-nibble of his treats. Yes...we reinforced the incorrect behavior a little tiny bit. But more importantly, I can set him up for the next rep without loosing him.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Book 6: Canine Physical Therapy

Dr Debbie Gross Saunders wrote this book. She's known for her numerous articles in CleanRun and some of the other great things she's produced for dog enthusiasts.

This is something I got from the school library to read/flip through. It's not the most entertaining thing to read, but definitely full of information.

My first impression with the book is that it may be getting outdated. It was published in 2002 but a lot has changed since then. Some spelling/wording errors were a bit distracting from the content.

The biggest surprise is that I don't know why there aren't more people offering this type of service for dogs recovering from surgeries, dogs with specific structural problems, and as a preventative measure.

This book definitely made me feel like I should be doing a lot more for my dogs (....ahem.... off to read/watch some of her other materials!) both preventative and to help improve/retain mobility/quality of life with the older dog.

I would pass this on to what types of people...? Anyone who can borrow a copy...or who has interest in this type of work. It's not the best thing for entertainment reading or education reading. There is definitely a need for a good understanding of anatomy first.
Favorite part? The case studies were great. I also really appreciated the way the book was laid out.
Least favorite part: It seems a bit outdated. Some of the information differed from more recent things she has written, there were some exercises that I hadn't heard of before. I don't know if they've just fallen out of favor, if better things have been developed, or why the change.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Training Buddy!


Someone who moved here recently...and I met a few months ago... lives VERY CLOSE to me. I'll have someone to train with! Hopefully often!

I promise thundershirts and books later....

Reinforcer Terminology

Has anyone else noticed that people use different words to describe food reinforcers?

Treats: This is what I usually say. I try to say "reinforcer" when talking about everything in general, but when we're talking about a specific activity and the owner is using food... "treat." Or I'm specific "Feed a piece of the cheese".

Cookies: This is one I've heard forever but I don't like to use. Maybe it's because I can't bring myself to put hamburger and tuna into the same category as chocolate chip cookies. I also think this has more of a negative connotation in some ways... yes we all like cookies... but the term also means "don't eat more than one or two..." [I personally don't follow that rule!] and "it's not the most healthy thing to eat." In reality a lot of the dog treats we use are health or at least not unhealthy.

Snacks: This is one a 4-H'er used... "Do I give him snacks?!" And it took me a moment to realize he was talking about his treats. Everyone knows snacks are important and they can be healthy or unhealthy... so maybe it's a better term?

Candy: This is a new one for me... the student was also a bit worried about feeding her dog, getting small enough reinforcers,and using a high rate of reinforcement. Not a term I will often be using but it did let me understand more about how she's feeling about reinforcement.

How else do people talk about treats?

I have stories about Thundershirts, placement of reinforcer, manners minder and agility, and multiple books I finished reading.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Griffin in Beginner Agility Class II

Week 2!

Training since last week: We'd only worked away from home twice, but we did work outside the house many times this week. We didn't work on stays while other dogs play. I intended to... and then...it just didn't happen.

Class This Week:
Entering the building:
VERY wild getting out of the car and into the building. He wouldn't eat outside the car so I did a collar transport into the building. He did start working right away.
Targeting: We started off with some targeting. Griffin was great. The first two times he touched the lid he was sniffing...but it looked like a sticky target and he did release from smelling when released. The third and fourth time he held until I released. I was told to feed the treat at the target location. As picky as I am about placement of reinforcer, I don't know that I ever do with targets. Probably because I remove the target after the click or release? So, do I leave it out after the release or do I put it back out just to feed? And then remove before presenting again?
A Frame Contacts: CPE Height, 4 times. All correct. He was SO enthusiastic about going towards it. Once he started and I called him back (he'd gone one stride) and he DID flip back to me but I sent him immediately. At PosiDog I toss the reinforcer ahead, but we can't do that in the dirt at class... so he's arcing back towards me.
Dogwalk Contacts: We tried one at full height, and like I suspected, he jumped from just before the contact. But he DID run the first plank and the top without trotting, he only trotted a step or two at the top of the down plank. The instructor put it to about 2', and then set the table next to the end, we had Griffin get on the table and then run down the end. Clicking for "feet in yellow". I tried to feed ahead, but again, hard without being able to toss. Griffin, being a well trained dog, did an auto down every single time with the table. I did reinforce those. After about 8 reps we stopped...but ended up doing 2-3 more sessions of ~8 reps. However, Griffin was almost always trotting at the end. I asked about that..and was told we were reinforcing him for going to the end. I agree with that...but as he was trotting, we are ALSO reinforcing him for trotting. Right? And as he goes back to running.... his pace will change, his striding, and this part of training might fall apart. Or am I worrying too much?
Finishes: We demo'd a left finish... the instructor apparently hadn't seen dogs do it like Griffin (we trained with a pivot box). I elected to not work on a right-side-set-up-in-heel-position. I can just get him set on the left and ask for him to stay.

Other comments:
-- Much less smelling than last week. He would "Leave it" or respond to name to move away 9/10 times. Not quite good enough, but improved from last week, I was confident in calling him.
-- Beautiful heeling!
-- Less barking. There was a little during a stay and just after entering.
-- GREAT teamwork. I was very comfortable letting him offleash. He was NOT going to leave me. I didn't feel that my reinforcers were that high value, but he did understand he was to be working with me. He really loved getting the chance to be on the equipment. I wish we were doing some sequencing.

What we need to work on:
- While waiting for our turn, we did some 2o2o on a plank at that end of the building. He did not hold it twice out of about 20 times... he didn't even try.
- Sit stays with duration
- Stimulus control from a front position to finish. He needs to actually let me say the word before moving.
- More recalls. Just in case.
- Working out in public. (Yesterday at the park we couldn't get out of the parking lot!!! He was so worked up!).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Reward if Found: Lost Hamburger

Before I left for work yesterday, I threw all my stuff in my bag. I put a hamburger into a baggie. And I put that in my pocket. And I ran around the house a little more, getting keys and library books and turning off lights.

And as I went to the car... no hamburger in my pocket. I went back through the house and I could NOT FIND IT.

I'm really afraid that I will find it.... in a few weeks.

A dog that needs a home. He is really good at leg weaving. Somehow that trick has not let him find an adopter in his 2+ years at the shelter. He is not the most athletic dog, but he does try.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Griffin Scent Articles

We played lesson #3 of scent articles.

A few days ago at #2, Griffin was great. I set out the metal ring. he brought it back. I tossed food out of sight. While he was eating it, I set out the ring again. At one point, he was under a table getting a treat and I said "Findit!" and he closed his mouth and started sniffing for it!

Horray! And then I set out two..one scented, one carefully moved without actually touching it. "FindIt!" And he would sometimes bring one, sometimes other. It seemed like it was more often the scented one.

He definitely learned "FindIt" was about the scent. But he was not going for "The Scent of Kristen" but "The Scent of Metal Rings."

How well trained.

Thanks to Megan, today we set out a variety of items and each rep would set out a new scented item. Sometimes we would put out new unscented items. Sometimes an un-scented item would become scented in a future repetition.

And what happened?

- He 10/12 responses was correct.
- He once retrieved a boot that was several feet from the pile. It was wrong, but I didn't count it as an error.
- Luna stole one of my unscented items.
- Blaze stole an unscented item.
- Griffin did equally well if it was a "new item and scented" and "has been out and was just scented."

We'll do a few more sessions like this and probably present scent in another way or two before going back to a real pile.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Griffin and his Contact Behavior

Yesterday during training we used the A Frame early on and were told he was missing the contacts. I didn't think he was on those reps...for the most part, he's been reliable and I make more errors than he does.

The first part of this video is of a session from last spring. I have a ton more like it. Great job. And then a miss. He has about 10% misses. But when I go back... while it wasn't meeting MY criteria, he DID hit the yellow.

The second part is from our training session yesterday. It was not pretty.

And now I have a lot of variables to work through. Why was he missing on one side more than the other? Why does it look bad even when he does hit it?

- Placement of reinforcer. Typically I toss food ahead. This keeps him looking and moving ahead rather than towards me like he did in this second session. When I did use a toy...the tosses were poor (high rather than flat and out).
- Placement of our clicker-helpers. On the L side, she was almost straight out. On the very last rep, she moved to the side and he did hit it (though high). He DOES need to be able to hit it with high value reinforcers ahead. But we have not yet trained for this. On the R side, our helper was beside to the camera (very far lateral).
- Placement of walls. I've noticed before that if he has a wide space ahead he will be more likely to miss or give a poor response. If there's something 20' ish out, he'll be more likely to collect and hit properly.
- Tired. This was at the end of a 1.5 hour session. While he was not working the whole time, during "breaks" we were doing tricks or reinforcing for settling. He did go to the car for 15 minutes RIGHT before this session.
- Lack of practice. Maybe we need more history of reinforcment?
- My position. I took advantage of helpers and instead of clicking like I usually do, I tried to be looking ahead and just running. This changes the picture for him.
- Timing of click and reinforcer. This is a hard behavior because the reinfrocer needs to be out before they get too close to the bottom... but I can't toss at all until after the click. And everything happens so fast and it's hard to predict if he will be hitting it or not.

Training is hard! There are so many variables!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Distraction Training (More agility for Griffin)

Today we met with friends to do some training.

Griffin was better than expected in some ways but he really wanted to sniff EVERYTHING.

We know that people are going to be a huge distraction for him (more so than dogs!). So...we trained for it. Initially our helper (one of his FAVORITE people in the world) stood near a jump standard for a few reps, then started slowly walking and moving. This is the second training session.

Once in the previous session he made an error and went towards her but came away on his own. And then one other time, she ran towards the tunnel as he went over the first jump...so he went into the jump as cued!

I wish we could do this training every day!

Distractions are a HUGE challenge for so many dog owners, whether with competition training or basic pet training. We try to emphasize in our pet classes how to gradually add distractions. It's not just something we talk about! And it's surprising to me how quickly owners can be walking their dogs while biscuits and toys are thrown or recall the dogs through a group of noisy kids.

Luna got to do a few minutes... I warmed her up over the jump (boring). And then we did a few A-Frames. I was VERY happy with how she did. But. I have a few questions.
- She hasn't done agility class and barely anything else in 1.5 years. How was she able to retain it so well? During that time we've maybe done 25 contacts on the teeter at home. Look at how she holds position! While I run past! She's not done that before!
- Why didn't she run off? She came when I called. She followed me.
- She ignored the other dogs. After a few reps over it, I realized the other dogs were right behind the camera, about 10' further. She didn't look at them! She IGNORED them! One of them she's played with well and at other times played VERY inappropriately with...and fought through a door. I've not felt safe taking her to group class (or had the time...). But maybe she's not the trouble maker I thought she was?
- She's so cute. And she weaved four poles. It's been forever...and while she had a few years of classes, I didn't expect her behaviors to be this strong.

Later on we did a race-to-reward session with weave poles for Griffin, and A-Frame work that caused problems and needs its own post, and more of the distraction work.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Griffin in Beginner Agility Class

Griffin needs group classes. No one has group classes on Wednesday. We looked around. And found almost nothing. Those we did find were higher level agility classes and a manners class that started a few weeks ago in a small building. Griffin is a good dog, but a very small room would make me nervous. We need some personal space.

We were able to find a very beginners agility class to attend!

And how did it go?

Good parts:
- Many periods of fabulous attention.
- NO running off.
- VERY engaged and working with me.
- Offering behaviors seconds after entering.
- Redirect attention to me when other dogs bark
- Great running contacts!
- FABULOUS leash walking!

Not so good parts and the corresponding training plans:
- Could not watch another dog tug. A demo dog would tug and play and Griffin got very agitated. We left the ring and then the building. After leaving he was very soon attentive.
Our plan: Work on improving stays while I do high movement activities. Then incorporate stays while Luna is working with me and ideally playing with me.
- VERY scent oriented. He wanted to smell everything. He was able to very easily be redirected with a collar transport (like in -Agility Right from the Start-, super light touch). But not with response to name or leave it/off. More walks in public will help with this. Yes, our Leave It needs work but the actual problem was about attention more than response to that cue. Training Plan: A few leave it sessions and a few walks in public with high value reinforcers.
- Food refusal. For part of the class he was being selective about what to take. I'd taken two types of cheese, One pieces of sausage (~30 reinforcements-worth), and a bunch of kibble. It was a brand new bag of kibble and a new kind. I wouldn't normally have taken kibble, but before we left home I had used a few pieces and he took it so rough he bruised my finger...and he's NEVER rough with food! Training Plan: My job is to bring high value reinforcers. The walks in public will help decrease his initial stress/arousal in new places.
- Time until attentive. We skipped the first activity (tunnel), I didn't feel like he would stick with me after coming out. Even though he was offering 2o2o and tricks right when we entered, he was on the edge of his ability to focus. And in fact, I didn't let him off leash until the very last activity of the night. Training Plan: Those trips out in public.....

Or goal is to do a trial at the end of December. That’s eight weeks. Can we do it?

Canine Good Citizen Rule Change

As of today, body harness (not front clip harnesses) may be used in CGC testing.

Evaluators ALSO may state that a particular piece of equipment that is allowed by the CGC rules, may NOT be used in his/her classes and testing.

It's great to see some changes to the program to make it more "user friendly."

You can read the whole two pages (of big type!) here.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

New terms

I learned something new today!

Sometimes we get a stimulus-response-consequence that becomes very strong. And if food is available earlier in the sequence, the learner will still complete the behavior before eating.

My best dog example: Griffin and his dumbbell.

Griffin knows that click means get your treat right now. That has been well established since he was 9 weeks old.
Griffin has learned to hold his dumbbell no matter what, until I have him release it.
If I click and then present food, he will not take it if the dumbbell is in his mouth. I have to remove the dumbbell for him to take his food.

[Okay...maybe that's not the best example...since he has been proofed with food?)

And this is somewhat related to the "Protestant Ethic Effect" Our animal will work for food even when food is freely available.

This would be when our dog isn't eating his food, but if we use the same type of food, right there, for training, he will eat in that context. Griffin sometimes does this too.

Blaze has a variation: His food toys.

When I fill the food toys, sometimes the kibbles drop all over the floor. Blaze really likes food but he ignores these falling pieces. He's barking and jumping and excited. I set down the toy and he starts to bat it around and eat all of the food that falls out.

[[ Now the interesting part is there aren't a lot of mentions with either term online... otherwise I would link to official definitions!]]

What are some more examples?

Shelter dogs that need a home!