Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Training a dog is not difficult..."

"Training a dog is not difficult...just don't make any mistakes"- Guy Penning

One of the many great things I wrote down over the week. Another favorite... "I assure you, when he is clicker trained, he will do it."

Such confidence!

And training a dog really isn't that difficult..... but it's a learning process and unfortunately we can't just "start over" with the dog. That said, there are very few things I would do differently with Griffin if I were to start over. We would do more toy playing and more time training. And a few minor changes. But I'm quite happy with what he's doing and the very small amount of repairing behaviors that I've had to do.

Everything last week fits in so well with what we currently do. I still have two days of notes to type up and then onto compiling related pieces together. I have specific parts to share on the backwards walking, use of training tools, scent articles, and fading the clicker.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Seminar Day 9: The end!

The morning talk was spent on good retrieves and position exercises and platform use. Some bitework.

And then after lunch, we did heeling (backwards walking). Which deserves it's own write up sometime soon. Essentially, the handler moves backwards, the dog moves to maintain a front. It teaches the dog about position (straight, eyes on handler, move with handler) so that when you rotate to heel position you get SO many fewer errors and a much stronger behavior. This is something I'm obsessive about. I have pictures of me doing this with Griffin on our way home when I first got him. He's very good.

I worked him in the afternoon and was told to not just do lines, but also serpentines. Initially he wavered a bit when I'd change direction, but soon he was following well. I also was instructed on how to break him out to play more often to keep his arousal level higher and enthusiasm higher. I had to learn more about playing well.

We did sessions with the Cannonball ball launcher, when I introduced it a few days ago and started using it for his go outs, his line started wavering and his speed slowed in anticipation. I was instructed on how to do more play with the ball before loading it to get him moving. But he's still moving more vertically than other dogs (who do flat out fast runs). I know he can do it...but I don't know that I've seen it for toys, only for animals. But, the more we work with toys, the better he will get.

And in the afternoon, we did one last bitework session. Griffin and I just did toy play, working on alternating between two toys. He's pretty good at that, he thinks it's a proofing exercise and that if he tugs well on the one he has (whether it's more or less preferred) he will be cued for the other one. I was instructed to do more running, changes of direction and talking. As well as letting him mis when he reaches for it. The first time I mis-timed and he got it. I was a bit worried about his poor landing when that happened....supposedly he will get better with practice, but I don't know that I want to take that risk....so we'll do our mis-grabs in another way.

Then the seminar was over. I taught a reactive dog class. Let my dog run a bit after class. And went home. I'm ready to jump in my car right now and head back.... but its over.... Now I just need to finish typing up my notes.... reorganize them a bit better....and send those notes to the presenters. There was a bit of a joke all week when attendees would ask if a book or DVD was available.... "Kristen's writing a book!"

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Seminar Day 8: Focus on Foundation

This weekend is a bit different than the rest of the week. Before, there were a lot of people who were quite experienced, had higher level dogs, and who were utilizing other tools back at home. This weekend, everyone is very committed to positive training, but also mostly very, very beginners.

This is allowing me to see how beginning training is started, again and again and again. It's really great and I'm getting more notes out of it every time.

A few quick notes on that:
  • Heeling is started with backwards heeling (like I do). Horray! It IS a great training plan!
  • Pivot box is also used...but with much more care and precision once to the heeling stage. (handler standing further forward to get the right heel position, handler going forward or back around it, always starting with the left leg).
  • There are a lot of cool training aids that I didn't know about. Ball droppers and magnet balls. And apparently they aren't that hard to fade...you just have to get really good behavior first.
  • A variation of Susan Garrett's 'Crate Games' is used.... created separately and independently (These guys don't even much of Karen Pryor....they know of her and that others who do lessons with them like her.... but...wow. Look how far clicker training has come!)
I can't believe today is the last day. I don't want it to end! 9 days does seem like a crazy long time for a seminar, but it's allowed me to meet so many people, see so many dogs, and have a very different experience than the typical seminar. Normally, you're just getting into the pattern, just getting to know everyone, just starting to get a good understanding. And it's over.

One of the things that I really liked about KPA was that over the course of the four weekend workshops, we got to know each other, get into a pattern, and see each other so many times. This weekend was a lot like that. I was able to learn and learn and learn. And as I saw new people come in, I got to hear how the information is presented to the beginners again and again. And I got to fine-tune my notes and understanding.

As impractical as a long long seminar is for so many people, it provides a completely different experience than a shorter seminar and especially if it's not someone you have regular or easy access to, you get a much more solid foundation understanding of the methods.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Seminar Day 7: Puppies and Focus

Today was a lot of "more of the same" but we had a new group of attendees. We had a group of people who train agility together in another part of the state. They were concerned about their dogs lack of tug/play as well as focus challenges.

For the tug and play, the sessions focused on reinforcing the dog for picking up the item (not the bring back!). And using the higher value reinforcers to reinforce the best performances, rather than pulling out the favorite toys only when the dogs are doing poorly or aren't interested in other things offered. For the dogs that would tug a tiny bit, we would click for a smaller tiny bit and then release the toy. Wanting too much from the dogs was a common theme of the week.

To address the focus challenges, we did some exercises similar to Susan Garrett's crate games. Opening the crate and clicking and feeding the dog for staying in. And then more clicking and feeding for the dog focusing on the owner as the dog was called out. If the dog responded incorrectly or wandered off....silently taken back to the crate. After a number of reps, the dogs were taken outside for a short walk break. We saw FAST change in the dogs.... coming back inside after the walks, they were much, much more focused.

It was intriguing to see some of that group comment they had not previously realized exactly what a high rate of reinforcement really was.

In the evening, we had a guest-taught puppy class. We did a handler hide and call the puppy game. A walking game. Platform/mat training. And play. Puppies are cute. The people had a unique experience. I got to see how much their training is used for puppies compared to the adult sport dogs. Much of the VERY VERY same stuff. It's all important.

Watching the puppies and enthusiasm made several of the auditing/observing group comment we want puppies. We decided that we'll be getting puppies in the spring, two years from now. Hah. We'll see if I'm ready then.

I left my notes at the building....but...I'll be back there early tomorrow.

My favorite note from yesterday.... the translation/description of Griffin's tail wagging problem... "Waggering" It makes me laugh every time.

Seminar Day 6

Lots and lots of obedience. Beautiful stuff. We trained it or talked about many of the exercises.

We saw 4+ be able to, essentially, do scent articles in 2-3 sessions. It was -amazing-. We heard the presenters talk about how they do the signal exercise...and not just do it, but as well as possible. We worked on Griffin holding still (and I have video from one session!).

Playing with the item. Fun silly retrieves. And then letting the dog watch while it's hidden. Dog finds it and reinforce. A session or two of this. And then a few reps of hiding and then one of dog watching you place it in a pile. And out of the 4 dogs I saw....I only saw ONE error when they got to the pile step. ONE error. Megan.....let's see you get back to this with your dog!

We did some talking about DOR. And how to get -the- ideal and speediest retrieve pick up. We did things to work on enthusiasm and maintaining behavior.

It was really great, again. I don't want this event to end! But I can't wait to see how we're doing in a few weeks after doing so much more work!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Griffin at CD Prep Class II and more

I had to do some human things and so we stayed home from the seminar today. But we did make it to class!

Some things I learned:
1) I appreciate the air conditioning we normally work in. My dog is not used to working in the heat. I am not used to working in the heat. We will have to address that. Separate from the training.
2) Being around "very good training" for periods of time can have a drastic impact on behavior. We did a lot of sidepass type exercises and I couldn't do it...no mirrors and no helper. There was NO way to tell if my dog was parallel other than looking myself. And I knew that if I looked, it would distort things for my dog.
3) I need to work on tag jingling noises. we talk about this a lot for our reactive dog classes. It was VERY surprising when I saw Griffin going into alert when he heard car keys. We'll use that as a distraction. But also work on it being an attention cue.
4) Be better prepared for the class format. I brought Griffin in a bit early to warm up (we did heeling for a tug, tossed back. It was ---beautiful----!) And then the class was talking for 10+ minutes. I should have crated him during that time.
5) My dog doesn't lure. I taught him a food magnet/food transport for food moving parallel to the ground. But when we were to do a lured tuck sit exercise...I just couldn't do it. He thought I was proofing his stand.
6) I need to practice following instructions. we were doing pace changes...and I didn't always do what the instructor asked. I kinda...forgot. I always did SOMETHING when she said SOMETHING. But those things did not match.
7) I don't make a good student. I need more practice. I had a hard time following someone else's training plan, especially not knowing where it would be going and not understanding all the parts. I don't like that!

We got home and just settled into work.....and got a call that we would be doing extra scent work. It's a good opportunity to practice with professionals watching, so we jumped back in the car and drove out past where we had just been. We had fun, worked a lot of different dogs, and my dog did well. He worked despite a lot of people present. He have no false alerts and always found the correct odor. He DID try to wander off more than once and gave some happy tail wags to the people watching. I was told this is not good and indicates a lack of attention. We also talked about Griffin's tendency to retrieve the odor container if it's possible to do so. The advice we received was to use the scent wall to do more practice in a set up where retrieving is not possible. We want to make our alert have a higher history of reinforcement than retrieving the item.

I'm exhausted. Giant scary storms tonight. A day of working Griffin tomorrow and then teaching a few classes. As tiring as this can be.....I wish it would never end!! We still have four days, which is longer than most seminars.....yet as it's more than half over, I'm starting to feel sad!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Seminar Day 3, 4: More obedience

Day 3:
My car makes noises. About 2 miles from the facility. A mile later, I'm at the exit and stop at a gas station. I look under the car...and parts are dragging on the ground. Important parts. I debate going the last mile. End up having AAA take it home....I call and beg someone to come pick us up. It works perfectly as there was an emergency run to the store to get untouched wood dowels for a scenting exercise!

We do some shopping (literally running through the store!), and then hurry back...quickly cutting up the dowels. The morning is spent on some scent article training. I was happy to see their method...it's VERY similar to things I've recommended before....but with a few more steps. In the afternoon, there was a combination of obedience and bitework.

Today, we started with obedience (some more article training) and positions/signal exercise, stays, and a few other things. And I had a working spot!

Our first session... Griffin and I did some walking, lots of reinforcement for attention on the first step forward (we were doing that as a demo in class the night before...yay). This would change to backwards walking (me, moving away) when he lost focus. I had trouble with that, I wanted to maintain my front criteria but that piece was NOT about the front behavior. We did some stays, lots of little movement away and back, but specifically watching his tail for stillness and that his eyes were on me. I had some training on being slow with my reinforcement delivery. We did some nice playing, he switched well to the toy and hten played with one of the presenters... I was really surprised that Griffin did that without any initial greeting/enthusiasm...I thought he would be too distracted!

Our next session: The start of their articles...I'm going to hold of on more until he's better with his other scent work, but I liked that the session was on creating interest wtih play retrieves (not using the final object) and then fake hiding the item (dog watches while it's placed just out of sight).

Our last session: More stays. Outside! The stand was VERY hard, his tail would not stop moving. We talked about doing smaller sessions, breaking him out, not recueing the position (it was reinforcing). I was also told the Stand For Exam is ridiculous....apparently they don't have an exercise like it!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Seminar Day 2: Ball launcher, more work

In the morning, we introduced dogs to a specific ball launching product.... this one specifically, "The Cannonball." The presenters use it a lot.... not just for working and sport dogs, but also with pet dog clients! The actual product is fabulous, durable, high quality, the timing of the remote is great. Anything tennisball size works (chuck its!).

With several of the dogs, we used it for go outs. For the dogs working on the go part, we did a bit of introduction training and as soon as they would readily watch the box, we would set it up facing away from the dog, 50+ feet out... the dog would run to it, and before the dog slows down, the ball would pop out, away, and the dog would run faster to go get it. For dogs working on the behavior at the end of the go out (sit), we would have the dogs go to their target, sit, and then the ball would be launched back to the handler.

One of THE most interesting things was working with a dog where we did the above. It was decided that more reinforcement earlier on could be even more beneficial, so the Cannonball was set up by the sit plate, facing the wall...the ball would come out, hit the wall and bounce off. The dog really wanted to help himself to it.....

So we took the dog and launcher to the center of the room....and waited for the dog to look at it so we could launch the ball. The dog. would. not. look. We did NOT get a lot of reps. The handler tried using her visual mark she uses to signal go outs. She tried turning the dogs head, she tried tapping at the unit. The dog saw it as a training/proofing set up and refused to look, despite really wanting the toy. But at the wall? The dog tried to get it out. What ws the difference? The go out being less proofed (still in the early training stages)? Handler proximity? Unintentional cues?

It did make me realize it's good I've taught my dog to look away at things in the environment, on cue, and that I need to work on getting that behavior stronger and on better stimulus control.

The afternoon was spent working dogs, everyone getting another turn or two. Mostly it was more bite work. Two dogs on the self control and working while quiet (returning to a crate as soon as they make a noise). I definitely appreciate working on that skill as soon as it develops! It was fun to see the participants get more settled in, more comfortable with where they are and the set up and what we're doing. Some of the group is heading home, some are staying a few more days, and some are going to be staying the whole week. We have a few new dogs joining in today for the week of clinics (or part of the week). I can't wait to work Griffin tomorrow!

Two more points of interest:
- An emphasis on the right dog.... making it easier, more likely to succeed. Not that people should be replacing their pets or shouldn't work with the dog they have, even with less suitability.... but that putting in that early effort of the right dog, for those who are very very serious.... is just as worthwhile as putting in all the training time later. There was also talk about how hard this can be! Many of the people attending ended up having conversations at some point about how it's hard because the R+ crew won't just be replacing dogs, for most of us, these are (rightfully so,) our pets...but its all the harder in competitive circles --because-- we don't have as many dogs to work with.
- How great everyone is.... everyone is SO nice to each other and helping and all teamwork like and it's just great. A lot of the dogs need extra space and only one dog is working at a time, everyone is careful about this and polite and extra cautious and taking turns to run dogs in the back potty yard or when working inside. It's great!
- And despite a whole day of seminar...... teaching classes last night was still great. A bit hard because there were people watching, and some with video cameras... but I was able to focus and teach and the dogs did VERY well.
- Motivation: I'm waking up before my alarm and wanting to get up sooner (yet recognizing I really should sleep more). It's so great to be tired and sleep well and want to get up to train. It's dumb that this morning, when I have an extra hour....it's pouring rain and storming. We've done some work inside but I want to go OUT.... I was hoping to swim dogs so they would be tired all day! Being around people who are competing at high levels and taking their training very seriously is very good. I need to find more experiences like this.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Seminar Day 1!

SO exhausted. And only day one ....of nine.

We talked about tracking and how to put down non visible articles and how to not do silly mistakes.
And we talked about whistle recalls and getting the behavior and making it easy for the dogs. We talked about dogs that want to bark while working. We talked about retrieves (I missed that part, but got a nice summary!). And how to be consistent in training (and how people are not). We talked about shaping. We talked about object interaction. We talked about cues. Position of reinforcer. And I left my notes at the building....

Off early to watch some tracking..... and today we're using COOL TRAINING TOOLS. A fancy fancy fancy ball launcher... I can't wait to see how it works with Griffin's contact behavior!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Seminar Time:

It's a -very- unique seminar-week for the next 9 days! Two instructors from Belgium. That specialize in bite work type sports. Clicker!

There are participants and auditors from all over attending. Really really far. Someone from South America.... lots of people from the west coast.... not so many local people. It's really going to be an interesting week/weekend with many clickerly-sport people coming together. I'm especially excited for all of the obedience parts!

During two of the weekdays I'll be working Griffin... haven't decided exactly what I want to work on. Yet.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Griffin at CD Prep Class

We had our first night of class. The instructor is very experienced with competition obedience and obviously loved to teach.

Griffin and I were bad students, we had missed our exit and arrived 15 minutes late. Not a good start!

We did some heeling, the exercises mostly had a lot of luring to prevent the dog from making errors. I'll be practicing my treat transport (from _Agility Right From the Start_) so that we can get through these exercises better.

The class does two sets of stays every week. He did well with the distraction elements and surprisingly well with the duration (I was going back to feed often). He did roll on the down right before I returned. It was cute and horrible at the same time.

For the recall, we worked on dog attention before being called, some of the variations were treats tossed to the dog, away from the dog, and the handler creeping away. This was really hard for both of us.... the tossing of treats without a solid marker started in a bad habit of eyeing the treat hand. I'll have to establish a good verbal marker before next week so this doesn't get as messy...the one I was trying to use didn't work very well.

We did a set of stay challenges, leash pulling and dropped treats. Both are things we've done before and Griffin was very cute performing well. We'll have to re-visit the treat dropping exercise.... I think it was different with me sitting on the floor rather than standing like usual. I'm always conflicted on the leash pulling exercise...I want my dog responsive to slight leash pressure for our walking, but it's a good challenge.

Our first goal for next week will be to be on time.... our second goal is increased focus. He wasn't horrible, but there was more external interest than I had expected. If we can get there a bit early we'll be better prepared and settled and hopefully can work in more toy play than we did tonight.

Earlier in the day, at training group, we did stand for exams (more prance than I'd like...with NO ONE else nearby), CGC style greetings (he was playing helper dog and was PERFECT!), and restrained recalls to front (perfect).

Other things I noted: His kick back stand has gotten a bit sloppy. His relaxed down needs to be on cue.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

More Retrieve Thoughts

Formal retrieves can be hard to train. It was one of the things we talked about at the weekend clinics.

How do we get the kids to train reliable retrieves, in a short period of time? The advisors didn't have too much luck training retrieve and really wanted/needed more resources. At state fair last year, many of the kids who were in an obedience level needing a retrieve....didn't have one. I saw people outside the ring, one adult instructing the kid to put the dumbbell into the dogs mouth and just hold the muzzle shut.

I'm a bit puzzled as to why there is so much struggle with retrieves when there are so many resources available. Videos. Books. Websites. Dozens of different training plans. Many are easily accessible through the internet and youtube. There are others that can be purchased. Some are designed for individual use, others are designed for instructors.

I suppose I should be compiling the things I would recommend and put together the other bits and pieces to get everything together so people can find it easily and so the advisors can have a good resource for these resources?

Griffin's formal retrieve is almost right where I want it. We have just another piece or two to work on. Luna.....has been started and I didn't finish. Blaze...I started his 7+ years ago. I was so careful to avoid him mouthing or not-releasing that we've taking it really, really slow. At 10, we have no intention of ever actually needing it...I should be adventurous and keep working. More retrieve thoughts, links, and videos coming soon.

And did I say that Griffin's retrieve is very cute?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Traveling, Teaching, Training

On Saturday I did a morning training clinic at Jefferson County Fairgrounds and then a fun show for 4-H'ers in the area. Most came with slip collars, a few with head halters, all were pulling on their dogs. Our obedience sessions focused on getting movement together, seeing precise behaviors, and starting our stays. Our showmanship was on the basics of handling. The fun show had to be modified to acommodate the very beginners in their own class.

And yesterday, we went down to Warren County to do another 4-H clinic. This one was much easier (3 people teaching 10 kids instead of 1 person:10 kids), and we had a better teaching outline. The area has a very successful dog program, it was interesting to see how the kids interacted with each other and their dogs. We worked on super precise behaviors, teamwork, and breaking things down into super tiny pieces.

I took the advanced kids off to work on the retrieves... taking items (...we had to resort to "bad training" to get this...treats in a paper towel, clicking for teeth on the paper towel. One dog progressed to regular paper), sticky touches, moving towards items (dowel sticks). Griffin helped with a demo on what the next stage would be....I think I scared some of the kids and advisors with his enthusiasm....their dogs were calm and controlled and effort was made to keep the dogs that way. Griffin was literally bouncing off the walls. But he worked well. And then we talked about the lagging problem these kids were facing in the off leash heeling portions. We problem solved, came up with a few solutions, and it came down to that the kids were chattering at the dogs during heeling in training. We practiced 2-3 steps of silent heeling, then reinforcing.

I left half an hour early to help with a leash reactivity class (one dog making SUPER progress and the others progressing on great-average), flyball with Griffin (great stays, tugging, and some box turns...he had refused to last week).

And then home for dinner and sleeping.

It's great to do the traveling for the clinics and to help out all of the kids, advisors, and parents. We also learn a ton about what works (and doesn't) in dog programs. It's really quite something and a great way to gather information about how we can improve our clinics and our work with our club. It helps with programming at the state level. What I took away from this weekend: While there are state level contacts available to advisors/instructors, they don't all know it/use it. There could be a benefit to a state-available curriculum...there was one in the past but it's not currently being used/distributed. We need to start the "advanced" skills earlier on. We need more teaching and training tutorials for the higher level skills. We need more support for the advisors and instructors, especially on the kid-adult interaction portions.

The thing that really stands out about 4-H and how it's different than many/most youth programs, is that you have a variety of ages in the same group. 8-18yo kids... in some cases, younger members. And yet, you can have older kids with less experience, younger kids who are far more experienced, and your instructors and advisors need the capability to interact and teach appropriate wtih this wide age range.

Now off to prepare for our two 4 day dog camps, just a month away, and a day that I'm teaching at an animal day camp.....

Friday, May 13, 2011


I do some pet sitting for a few family friends. And, for whatever reason, most of them have very elderly pets. It's always interesting to see these dogs with decreasing mobility and recognize that they're just a few years older than Blaze.

This week I've exchanged a few emails with a dog professional we met a couple years ago. The person had sent us to a veterinary behaviorist and was very helpful because of that.

I'd somewhat forgotten how many undesirable behaviors Blaze had and how difficult it had been to stop some of those. And I'd forgotten all the poor advice that other people gave us!

I'm very glad that there are so many more options for people to get appropriate help now. And that it's much easier to get the right information and that quality information is so much more readily available.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Determining Appropriate Learning Environment for Students

Types of class, group or private, type of instruction.... there are a lot of ways to modify the learning experience for students.

Types of class: Typically, people know what they want when they're signing up for classes, and often this is the right option for the student. Agility. Puppy Class. Basic Manners. Sometimes it is not. It's important to find out the goals of the student and what they are most wanting to learn or modify to be sure the class is a good match for reaching those goals It's also important for the instructor to have a referral network in place for situations where a type of class is not offered. Family with a young puppy wanting some training? We direct them to puppy class. Family with 9 month old puppy, wanting to get into puppy socialization class? They go to basic manners, the puppy is aged out of basic manners class.

Group v Private: Some students do better with smaller group sizes, some do well in a larger group. Group classes are typically less expensive for the student, the X number of weeks helps the student to commit to class for a period of time, and the social aspects can be enjoyed. But group classes are not always appropriate for situations where there is a lot of individual help needed, such as behavior problem solving or home management challenges. Some learning styles do better with a private lesson and the complete attention of the instructor.

Teaching Style: Instructors set out classes and lessons in different ways. All good instructors should be able to modify their teaching style for a variety of learners, but not all instructors are the best option for all students. It's important to see how a student learns well, and how they do not. We need to be setting up sessions that are just as great for the humans as they are for the dogs. Some people need notes in writing. Some need to see things in action. Some have to practice. Some need more feedback, and some need just a start and can go along.

And so not only do we need to consider all these pieces (and more) when talking with students and potential students, but we have to efficiently filter them into the right environment for most success. This week I'm re-thinking how we're doing some of this and how we may need to modify our current process so that we can better help students.


Me? I like group classes. I like just blending in and not having to come up with my specific goals and problem areas. It's great to work around other dogs and people and to see how other people teach classes and how the students respond in those environments. But it's hard to commit to group classes (x weeks in a row, at the same time) or to find one where we will be learning enough/getting enough out of the class for our money and time's worth (...typically an hour some drive!). So, recognizing the importance of value (time and money!), for the last few years we have mostly done private lessons only for obedience and agility. Our specific problems and challenge areas are addressed. The instructors give us feedback and we have their complete attention. I go home with things to work on and after we have accomplished those pieces, we go back to class. In group classes, I would sometimes not do my homework. Meaning less progress in class. Meaning less learning for our money and time.

It's a challenge to work things out just right!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More Stays

We did more stay training and discussion yesterday.

We did a few variations, primarily another person doing the feeding (that took a bit of separate training). We talked about stillness being reinforced in daily life. We talked about an anticipating-stiff-waiting stay vs. a relaxed stay and when one is better than the other.

And I had two people, separately, comment that I spend way more time reinforcing my dogs for motion, esp if I'm talking between sessions. - My- impression was that I'm asking for behaviors, reinforcing those, asking for stillness, reinforcing that, and sometimes releasing from stillness.

Now the challenge is, I'll think about it and won't be doing the usual. So...we'll see.

Despite Griffin's poor stays for duration, he as good stays for distraction, he offers stays (all types!), and understands he should stay when distractions are presented.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Reinforcing Students

I came across this list of "good job" phrases. Not all of them are applicable, but it's important to remember there is more than the "Very Good!" "Excellent!" "Nice!" and "Great!" that I typically use.

One thing I've noticed in the last few weeks is that I need to be more careful about my reinforcement for humans for response to dog errors.

There are points in training where the dog makes an error...and the human has to respond in some way. Not reinforcing. Starting over. Moving to re-set. And some people have a hard time with that. They reinforce for the error, they give the dog a look before reseting. They pause and flounder for a moment trying to remember what to do.

If I don't explain the exercise well, or what the focus (TAG) point is, to these people it seems like I'm giving a "Nice!" or "Great!" for the dog making a mistake. When really....my timing and intention is for their response to the error!

Now I'm trying to say "Correct!" or "Good on your part!" to try to more carefully direct the reinforcement/marker words to the human end of things.

Factors for Adding Another Dog: Age

It's always surprising to me that so many people are interested in adding another dog to their family when there already is a young dog or puppy in the family.

Often, this comes about as the family thinks the dog really would love companionship (and often they would.... but...sometimes families ask about this when the current dog does -not- like other dogs!). And that can be true. But.... a second dog is not a good babysitter for the current dog.

One of the things I bring up, besides the time, money, energy, etc.... is to consider age. A one year old and a puppy. A two year old and a puppy. A six month old and a puppy. All will result in, ten years from now, having two senior dogs. Multiple senior dogs can be emotionally and financially draining.

When Blaze was three, I got Luna. He seemed to be very much an adult. And impossible to train.... I desperately wanted a dog who could (and would) do things. Now, looking back, I can't believe all of the things I taught him in that time period and everything he learned to do in three short years.

When Luna was four (and Blaze seven), I got Griffin. The four years is a better age gap, and again, she seemed fairly proficient at that point.

Griffin is now three. There is -no- way I'm ready for another dog, and likely won't be for several years. In comparison to what Luna and Blaze were doing at this point, Griffin seems to have no training! I recognize that he's more proficient at what he knows, that he has a higher level of precision than they ever will.... but it's just odd to think about.

Last year I did some board and training with golden puppies and while they sure made Griffin seem grown up, I do -not- want another puppy of my own for a long time!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fixing prancy feet on the stand for exam

This has been a very frustrating thing. For months* we've systematically been working on having the person come closer and closer. Some days we start with the person close and work on being still for petting. We work on waving things around. We work on staying still while pushed.

And...Griffin still likes to prance back and forth on his front feet. Occasionally a little step forward. But lots of shifting weight and the feet coming off the ground.

Last week we were given a recommendation to teach a stacked stand position instead of just his kicked back stand. Which is great, and I should do. But not something I'm looking forward to.

But THEN someone had a really amazing, simple idea. Raise Griffin's back feet off the ground. Putting more weight on the front end. Reducing his probability of prancing. So we can get in LOTS of reps of no prancing. And gradually reduce the height of the item/s. I especially love this solution as the set up reduces the probability of any prancing. I didn't like our previous plans because he still was able to prance at times, still was able to practice it at times.

We did our first session last night. In about 10-15 reps, we were able to get to the full stand for exam and a bit more touching. He thought about moving once but his feet -never- came off the ground!

*Granted, this was only about 5-10 minutes per week....but still.....

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Demos for Boy Scouts

On Saturday the dogs and I went to do some demonstration/activities for a boy scout event. We had groups of kids rotating throughout the morning. The hardest part was the 30 minute time limit!

I'd debated for a few weeks on the activities to do. We started with a quick mechanical skill practice (food into a cup, one at a time, then adding in the click then food in the cup, then seeing a behavior, click, food in the cup).

We discussed targeting and it's applications. And then did a targeting activity with Griffin. Nose to hand. Click. Feed. It was perfect because we could use 3 kids, one for the hand, one for the click, one for feeding. After 5 or so reps, we rotated, and did that a number of times.

Next, we listed all the fun sport/hobby things to do with dogs that we could think of and all the serious work. And then we picked a behavior to train and talked about how to break it down. Most groups picked retrieve and jumping..... we spent about 5 minutes on each, making a training plan, running through steps, and switching roles. Griffin thought it was great.

And we ended with questions and some showing off with tricks. For me, it was most exciting that we had several people talk about training their cats. And we talked to one kid who does carting with his goat through 4-H.

It was a perfect day, I hope we get to do more of these!