Wednesday, August 24, 2011

One Piece At a Time

It's so easy to end up working on multiple things at once.   It's hard to set criteria and stick to it.   Here are a few examples from this week:

1.  Sit AND Take Treats Gently:  I saw this more than once.  Dog owners want the behavior and the dog to be gently taking the treat. If the dog is jumping up or rough, they pull the treat back and then slowly lower it while saying "eaaasy."   Yes, if we give a dog a treat when he's taking it roughly we reinforce the roughness....  that said, we can't be working on our sits, downs, etc AND taking treats gently.  

So?  We stop and work on taking treats gently. We talk about placing the treat into the dog's mouth, rather than letting him come up to take it. We talk about how to hold the treats.  We talk about other options, like tossing, dropping, putting it in a bowl, or holding the treat in a flat hand ("like feeding a horse").    

Then we can go back to our sit/down/etc training....and use the "alternative feeding methods" of dropping, tossing, placing on the floor, so that the dog cannot practice improper treat taking AND we can work on the behavior/s we need.

2. Come AND Sit:  Another one we see often.   Dog runs to the owner! Horray, past the distractions!   And then the dog is asked to Sit.   The dog gets distracted at that point or doesn't comply and wanders off.  Not only do we have a that sit problem.... but we didn't reinforce the brilliant recall.

We work on the running to the owner part of the recall, without an end behavior.  We do consider that by placing the treats right at the human's heels or between his/her feet, the dog is extra close.

Separately, we repair the Sit and teach the dog to auto sit in front of the human.   Toss a treat away. Your dog eats it and comes back. Ask for a Sit. Dog sits. You toss the treat away. Dog eats it...comes back...repeat.  Soon the dog is automatically sitting on the return.  Only after lots of practice in many places do we put it all together.

Dog comes. Gets a treat. Sit. Gets a treat.  And we start the repetition over.  When all has gone well...we start to feed less on the come and still maintain the treat for the sit.  

3. Stand AND Stay AND New Reinforcer AND New Handler:  This one is all my doing. Today at training, some of the others had a Really Great Idea for training Griffin's stand stay.   I wasn't all for it, but it probably wouldn't hurt either. I decided to let them try it....  that way if it was a disaster, the errors would at least be associated with someone else, rather than me.  

His current favorite reinforcer is "Friend with a treat bowl, running away".   We've used this some on his scent work, but especially for his Drop on Recall and some heeling. The person is behind Griffin a ways. He does the behavior. I mark and send him to the person....the person runs off. Griffin catches up and is fed little treat bits until I come and drag the unwilling dog away from his best friend.   He loves this because it's "Friend+Food+Chase+Lots of Food Pieces".  

During his Stand training...he had a new handler, his high level food person reinforcer-thing, and it just didn't go well. He actually wouldn't even stand for the new handler. He was SO excited and worked up that he would sit and down and bounce and bark.   I laughed.   We quickly gave up on that.  

If we were to do it...I would handle him with his running person. I would have his new handler work on quiet/less exciting reinforcers.  And then we would put it all together.

Griffin was -so- happy.  He's adorable when he works and his enthusiasm is very amusing. Part of it is him, part of it is that he's a golden, and part of it is our criteria for enthusiasm.

That said...we only train one part at a time... enthusiasm is one of our primary pieces.... speed.   Precision is much later. That's another story.

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