Friday, March 4, 2011

The Best Class Yet

I don't know if it was because I had an almost normal amount of sleep for the first time in 10 days or if the information from vet conference was finally seeping into my head, or if it was just luck, but class last night was great.

All the dogs made measurable improvement within the hour. All the choices I made were effective, all the dog students were happy, all the human students had a great time.

The night started with a head halter fitting. We picked a color and a size and I shaped the puppy to put her muzzle into the loop. Horray! Less than two minutes! And then while the puppy had a break, the owner was able to practice putting a head halter on a fake dog. Then I did another shaping session with the puppy and the owner had a turn. The team will work all week on putting-it-on-for-treats and putting it on before meals. Next week we'll start walking with it and maybe putting the leash on it too.

In both the 7:00 and 8:00 classes, we started with walking like usual. Some dogs were working on the squirrel game. Some were introducing walking with the "backwards walking" activity. Another was doing pace changes. Puppies were attentive and happy.

We then worked on recalls, while I helped one team, the others worked on reinforcing "more relaxed" behaviors. We talked about what those would be and how we would have to be using a high rate of reinforcment due to the excitement of one dog running. The humans were so good on this. Most of the dogs didn't even stand up. It was amazing. This happened in both classes!

And the recall dogs were great. While we didn't directly talk about "how to train a perfect recall" at vet conference... the things discussed did helped me be very concise and good at pointing out the most important parts to students. We talked about rate of reinforcement, value of reinforcer, and building a solid foundation. Look for more on this another day!

One class had time to do leave it, some dogs were on the first step, others were a few steps into it. Most were wanting to put the cue to it now, so we talked about whether or not we wanted "leave it" to mean "Sniff my hand and back away" or not. As usual, I told my students, "If you want that, I'm okay with it. It's up to you! Personally, I don't want my dog to nose touch my sandwich before backing away, especially if he just did that on a walk to a dead squirrel!"

And then in both classes, we worked on polite greetings. One dog was held by me, getting fed treats and learning it's okay to be with a stranger. And the owners would go to each station and stand at a target, while the dog owners reinforced their dogs for appropriate behaviors.

We talked a little about how to work on greetings at home and then wrapped up for the night.

Usually I walk out thinking about the things that could go better. Exercises I could teach better, places I could be more tag-gy. Exercises I should train differently. Dogs that weren't progressing. Dogs I needed to find ways to lower stress.

But last night was next to perfect.

1 comment:

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

That is fantastic! You have very lucky students