Friday, October 30, 2009

What We're Working On

Haven't done a "what we're working on post" in awhile. Probably because it is way too disorganized--it's terrible. This will be a long one . . .

We are working on ZERO obedience and my dogs no longer have any obedience or manners whatsoever. Except recalls. I require a recall. But the lack of manners is getting out of hand, so I'm making more of an effort to work on that. Except with Elo. He will never have any manners, since every time he does something naughty I just laugh. He cracks me up! Last night, I just watched and laughed as he pulled his crate cover into his crate and proceeded to shred it! The only thing he gets yelled at for is when he tries to control the action around him, growling at Jun cause he doesn't like how she's chewing her rawhide. Barking at Lok and Jun if they are playing. That's not cool.

But anyway, we'll start with the easiest first:

He finally has a "lie down" on cue!! We're working on proofing. With Elo, I'm trying something I really wish I would have done with the other dogs, that is, eliminating a stay cue and just teaching duration until released on a down cue. I've recently been exposed to some interesting theory about oppositional behaviors, so I'm doing some experimenting with teaching a release. I've never really "taught" a release before, my dogs have just kind of picked up on it on their own. However, I've realized that my dogs don't really understand a "stay" until they understand a "release" so I've been mulling over the benefits and drawbacks of actually teaching a release as a command. Not sure what I think about that yet. We're also working on proofing a down, that is, teaching "down means lay down wherever you are when I give the cue." That's going well.

Elo is also working on a back stall. He jumps up on cue "up-up" and can balance for a few seconds! We started doing some mat work last night--he picked up on that VERY quickly and it's actually helping him understand a down-stay. Don't know why I didn't start working on it sooner.

Elo knows his name, recalls VERY well (in the house and yard at least), gives up objects in his mouth willingly, and other than that, he is just a little punk. He's my pet dog. He's good at that.

I'm kinda just dabbling with Lok right now. We had been going back to working on a limp for awhile, but ran into some road blocks, so giving that a break. He's got his fetch from the fridge down! Working on proofing a "hold." I should have done a better job with this to begin with--he will hold objects, but he doesn't seem to like to, and he will mouth them. Working on a steady hold for duration. Also working on putting objects INTO my hand on a retreive with a nose target to my hand. I should be working on his "line out." I have the foundation behavior, I just have some kind of mental aversion to training that command. I'm not sure why. Probably because I've had such a hard time with it for a year. I also haven't work ski training at all. It's been raining ALL. MONTH. LONG. so we haven't had much time to go work on the trails. Hmm, what else? That's about it. Doing some proofing on other things. One thing I've noticed lately with Lok, with all the free shaping we've been doing, his frustration tolerance level has gone WAY up!! He will work with me for far longer than before and keep trying, keep offering behavior, whereas before he was more inclined to shut down and give up after a very short time. So, that's been pretty cool!

I've been working on way too much with Jun! We've recently conquered a back stall and a dog catch! We've been working a lot of freestyle and are beginning to get some of the foundational elements that will really benefit us in freestyle next year. We're working on vaults and got our very first back vault the other day! Her flips are starting to look great and just last night she did her very first flip with a throw instead of a take! Her understanding of switching targets is increasing! Our learning in this area has just been exponential lately, which is always really fun!

Jun has no obedience left at all right now, which I guess is bound to happen to when you spend so much time encouraging your dog to jump onto your back!! We free shaped a new trick: crossing her paws, and are working on putting that on cue. I've had the hardest time putting free shaped tricks on cue with her. If she knows we're working on that trick, she will just continually offer it. The usual method of ignoring the behavior if offered spontaneously doesn't seem to work well with her (but it could just be me not knowing what I'm doing). What I've been doing to combat the issue is first, asking for a single instance of the behavior randomly, then going on to other tricks before she has a chance to get into the cycle of repeatedly offering the behavior. And second, have sessions of working on the behavior where I actually mark and reward her for NOT offering the behavior, i.e., for just standing still and giving me eye contact, interspersed with the cued behavior here and there. We're also working on mat work. I'd like to be able to work with each dog individually while the other dogs chill on mats. We started working on a "service dog retreive" the other night too, and I got her picking up objects and holding them near my hand until I took them. That was pretty cool.

So, I guess that's about it. Good times!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lightbulb moment

I've been trying to teach Lok a "line out" (walk to the end of the skijor line, pull it tight, and stand-stay) for ages. I've tried shaping, I've tried luring. Nothing has worked. So finally I decided to try targeting. I put a square of duct tape on the wall and planned to teach Lok to walk to the target and put his nose on it. So, everything was going fine, except that due to other training we've done, Lok kept wanting to target the wall with a paw before targeting it with his nose. I worked on eliminating the paw touch for like three days. I tried clicking only when he touched it with his nose, but he would still occasionally use a paw. And sometimes, he used a paw and then a couple seconds later he used his nose--so do I click that or don't I? In any case, it wasn't working. My timing was off, it was too hard to isolate the behavior I wanted.

Then, it dawned on me! I stopped worrying about the nose touch and started clicking him just for standing in front of the wall with all four feet on the ground. After just a few clicks for that, he got it! And it was one of those "OH! You want me to keep my feet on the ground! Why didn't you just say that in the first place?" moments that are so fun. Then we added the nose touch back in and it's been perfect ever since! I love lightbulb moments!

Friday, October 2, 2009

My Disabled Dog

Though Lok is blind, Jun is deaf and Elo is missing a leg, Lok is the only one of the three I would consider "disabled." And despite the oft-repeated claims on the blind dog sites that a dog's sense of sight is third most important after smell and hearing, Jun has a far easier time making her way through the world and I highly doubt that a pet dog's sense of smell plays an essential role in his or her day to day life (I guess I can't say for sure, since I've never known a dog without a sense of smell). Maybe in the wild a dog without smell or hearing would be at more of a disadvantage, but in the visual world we human's have created, Lok's lack of sight, even though incomplete, affects him profoundly on a daily basis.

Of the three dogs, Lok takes the most patience to deal with. In training obedience, he now has a hard time positioning himself relative to me, it is difficult for him to find heel and front. I need to remember that even though he could easily do these things just a few months ago, it's not his fault that he has a hard time now. Lok has trouble coming in the house, getting into the car, walking in unfamiliar places. He slows me down, and it's frustrating. And sometimes hard to remember that it's not his fault. I'm sure I'm not the only who gets frustrated--it can't be pleasant to run into walls, fences and other stationary objects on a regular basis.

Sometimes I have to give special consideration to the things I do with Lok. I regularly feel my dogs' ribs at meal times, to make sure they are maintaining a healthy weight, and today he jumped when he felt my hands on him--he didn't see me coming. I'll have to remember to talk to him before I touch him. If things are out of place and in the path he knows, I have to remember he can't see them and move them so he doesn't run into them. Once I accidentally hit him in the butt when I was closing a door and he was afraid to go into that room for the next week!

Lok can't play frisbee, flyball or agility, but the things he CAN do are pretty incredible. At the dog park, he can run through a forest of trees and not hit a single one. How he does that, I really have no idea! Lok can get to the river from any other place in the dog park. I know this because I've lost him more than once and he's been at the river soliciting people to throw things for him each time. Lok can chase rollers by sound and catch them clean. Lok can chase a ball by sound--he hears where it lands and runs right to it every single time. Lok can target a square of duct tape on the wall by smell. Lok never runs into anything in the yard and flies up onto the deck with no hesistation. Lok never runs into anything in the house, unless I move something. Lok loves to learn and can do tons of tricks. And by the looks of things, Lok will still be able to ski with me this winter--he has no problem following a trail in the woods!

Anyway, I don't know what the point of all of this is. Except that people sometimes seem to think I have three disabled dogs, and I disagree. I have one disabled dog. The others are just fine. For that matter, Lok is just fine, but he is the only one really impacted by his "disability."

Oh, and P.S., despite the fact that Elo is "mine" in this post, he is still only mine temporarily.