Sunday, November 20, 2011

Halfway through the online class

Photo by Megan!
Unfortunately we're halfway through the online class we signed up for a few months ago.

The sections we've done so far are Play, Impulse Control, Shaping, and half of Heeling.

Play:  I always know I need to play more with my dogs, especially during training.  The class really made our weakest points stay out and six weeks later, we're still working to develop those areas... it's really the things haunting the rest of our training.  Griffin wants to/enjoys playing on his own and does not "drive" back to me, even when other reinforcers are available.  I'm really trying to repair this skill area!

Impulse Control:  The activities are things I've done with my own dogs, but not student dogs. Since this section, we've started doing these things in some of my classes. For motivated/skilled handlers, they're great activities...I don't know enough to teach this to less skilled handlers.  Again, we found huge weak areas in our training and things that I need to work on with Griffin. The two primary activities were a variation of the Susan Garrett "Its Your Choice."  and a release-to-bowl activity, similar-but-not to the "Race to Reward" in my most favorite agility training book (Agility Right From the Start). The problem was not the run to the bowl, but getting Griffin to run to me from near the bowl, getting the enthusiasm and speed even with the potential reinforcer behind him.   I've been using a lot of these activities in his training since then. We did one very memorable and great training sessions we did Go Outs, working up to someone "outside the ring" offering food, patting the ground, holding food.  And Griffin was great.  Some of the videos in this session were absolutely brilliant and things I wish everyone could see. Remarkable stimulus control, remarkable self control, and really, really 'clean' responses.   I really really hope I can get Griffin half-close to that!

Shaping:  I've done enough shaping before that this wasn't super hard... but incorporating play WAS very challenging.  And I discovered that I just haven't done enough shaping with him. I need to schedule more shaping into our weekly training plans.

Heeling:  Very similar to how I trained Griffin.  And as I commented on the class page, learning about this heeling a few years ago was really a changing point in my training.   Refining of shaping. Selecting ways that the "final" picture would be nothing like the training steps until you were ready....  so that you are not reinforcing "incorrect" responses as part of the training.    It's really good to see the others in the group learn the heeling. I'm doing a bit of repair work and introducing right side heeling.    One of the details I've noticed again recently is head position. Many dogs have a head-turned-to-handler position, especially clickerly dogs. Griffin's head is only slightly turned in, though it is pointing up.  When he's stopped he always puts his head straight, but pointing up.  

Overall Class Notes:
This is really great. I think it's a wonderful foundation class and it would be good for so many of my enthusiast students/friends.  It seems kind of simple that there's only a few assignments for each two week period, but, really, it allows you to focus a lot on those things and really spend your time there.  I'm often wishing I had more time in between.   If another, more advanced, class is offered, I definitely will be interested! I really, really wish we had semi-local people with a similar training style and more opportunities to learn this type of clicker training.


Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

Really cool! What does she use the bowl on the floor for? I can picture usage for it to reward the dog when you don't want forward motion towards you, like on the drop on recall or signals, but can't picture it in normal training.

Do you think the walking backwards technique of heeling helps with getting rid of that wrapped head position and thus forging?

Kristen said...

Bowl: Everything. Working on speed and enthusiasm and self control. I've done some before because I saw the Norwegians do it at Expo. and THEY use the bowl exercise on each of their 20-some "foundation skills" before EVER putting chains together. It's a distraction you can control, making it a great way to introduce distractions in the dog's environment as a cue to be working with the handler.

As this is a foundation class...we didn't get to using it with "everything" in the context of the class, but I sure have been using it that way!

Backwards and Head: "It depends" on the handler's criteria and how well they stick to it. I believe it made a difference for us because I never reinforced that curled head. ... whereas that tends to start developing when we're first reinforcing attention. Here, I never had to shape attention, it was all about body position and enthusiasm. With careful placement of's a very different behavior. Is my dog still watching me? YES. Is his head up? YES but he is SO parallel and it's just hilarious to watch his head straighten on the halts. When he was very very young he would then lean towards me and look up and over his left shoulder (while still and moving!).

As far as forging...I think this training method helps with forging because your criteria is black and white. Dog is in heel position or NOT. In a normal shaping process you would have reinforced a hundred to a thousand repetitions of heel that were NOT perfect. Between the pivot box and the backwards the time your dog is heeling... you have your criteria and can stick with it.

Does that help a bit?

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

Thanks. I guess I always have the bowl on the floor at home since I train with dinner but now I'll have to start in other places!

The backwards heeling I find so interesting! I'll have to see if I can find videos of dogs first learning it.

Kristen said...

Is the bowl your container of treats or something you release the dogs to? (I've used it both ways, but starting with Griffin, a lot more release to the bowl).

Backwards walking... there's an article on Fanny Gott's blog page about how she does it. The way I did it and the way the seminar presenters from Belgium did it was different... Scandanavia does it with the dog beside you but facing backwards dogs in "heel" position in terms of the part of his body lined up to you. I do it with dog centered in front...this helps get a good , close, straight, tight front. I've intended to do a video forever.... just...haven't...gotten there yet.....

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

I've done both but mainly with just the container of food that I don't release to until the very end. But I've gathered from what you're working on that it's refilled and released to often.

I've read Fanny's article, but now I'm more confused about your heeling. If you worked with Griffin centered in front, how does that transfer to him learning all about heel position before you turn around? I can get how it teaches attention and the dog how to move it's body around to maintain A position, but yet it's not THE position.

Kristen said...

Yes, we do frequent sends to the bowl.

Griffin learned: Head up, be straight, move with me, move close. He learned position from the pivoting exercises and then merging the two, being extra diligent about maintaining criteria. How many dogs have I trained this way? Only a handful. Next time around, I will definitely be trying more of the backwards-at-side... the article and materials were not available 3 years ago when I was working off of the 2 hour expo presentation and making my own slight modifications.

My observation is that areas that do not have front position use the backwards-at-your-side, and those who have to teach a front do the centered. Early, I tried to do at-side-backwards...but Griffin was super confused between that and then working on front we merged the two exercises. There are supposedly dogs who are able to learn both.

In the "Choose to Heel" book/DVD/whatever I believe that a backwards-next-to position is used.

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

Thanks Kristen. That's really interesting! It make sense that the front/side could be confusing to the dog.