Thursday, March 31, 2011

Shaping Struggles

I was a bad trainer last night. Impatient. Demanding. My dogs are SO smart that sometimes I just expect them to GET IT ALREADY!!!

I have given up on Jun's limp (for now). She's not getting it. I'm getting frustrated. I'm sick of working on the same damn thing over and over. I'm going to let latent learning work it's magic and in a few months we will try it again and she will magically get it! Jun is extremely smart, but she has a mind of her own. She likes to do things her own way and when shaping it seems she'd rather do what SHE thinks would be cool than what she thinks I might want. I think I might need to get over myself a bit and start being more accommodating to what she wants. She also gets stuck in offering the same thing and I have a really hard time raising criteria for her. I've tried experimenting with raising criteria faster and slower and haven't really had much success no matter what.

Since I ditched the limp I decided to try another trick--rolling herself up in a blanket. It's cute, and how hard could it be? Right? Well, apparently, I am incapable of teaching Jun complex tricks that require her to do more than one thing at a time. She knows a roll over and she has a hold, so day one was just holding a cloth in a down. She wanted to stand up as soon as she grabbed the cloth, but we finally got the hold in a down and started building a little duration. Day two, I wanted to add the roll over with the hold. Fail! She would roll over without the cloth, she would stand up and do a spin while holding the cloth, she would hold the cloth for a few seconds in the down, but after she had the cloth in her mouth it was like the roll disappeared from her repertoire. (She actually DID give me ONE perfect roll over while holding the cloth, which I jackpotted her for, and then never did it again). Then I got demanding, and greedy, and crabby, and continued the session WAY to long, because dammit she SHOULD be able to do it. And Jun got goofy and stopped thinking and started throwing the cloth at me to play fetch and licking my face. Ugh.

I am thinking maybe my problem with teaching Jun complex tricks is being too demanding and working too long. Maybe I should have quit after she did it once. Maybe I need to stop jackpotting her as she seems to completely forget what she's been jackpotted for and never do it again. Maybe I need to move in smaller increments. Keep the session to a minute or so and quit as soon as I get a tiny bit of progress. I don't know, but something has to change, because this dog is plenty smart enough to learn anything I want to teach her and more.

Then Elo. Poor Elo. He is much more compatible with my drill sergeant clicker training style, and it unfortunately encourages me to take it too far. He's been doing SO great with cue discrimination. He has 5 cues down with probably over 90% accuracy, so I wanted to add another. Way back when I shaped a "wave" but never put it on cue, so I went back and reshaped this. Only it didn't look quite right. I wanted his paw higher vs. stretched out in front. So I kept going, and going, and going. Poor dog. But he is plenty food motivated, so he will keep trying and trying and trying despite being frustrated. It's really not fair to him though. I need to knock it off.

And Lok. My only "good trainer" moment for the night. I do next to nothing with Lok anymore. He stresses so much and really is perfectly happy to just chill and be his own dog. He tests my patience much more than the other two, so I have to make sure I am in the perfect happy mood to train him and have a concrete plan. Awhile back I had started working on "roll up in a blanket" with him, so we started working on this again. He did great! Got a good hold and did a couple rolls while holding onto the cloth most of the way! We kept it really short and ended while he was still happy.


  1. I always get more pissed off when training my own dogs than other dogs! And when they get stressed it just serves to make more pissed off. I think we just expect more of our own dogs.

    Can Jun do other tricks while holding an object? Like transition between sit-down-stand, or beg...? Or does she know a lay on side position rather than a full rollover? Or maybe a favorite object other than a towel?

  2. Great ideas, Laura! Last night I actually tested to see what she COULD do while holding something. We got stand-sit, sit-stand, sit-down (but she dropped it after lying down, so we'll keep working that one), spin, and beg. She can't do a bow or a roll over while holding something. I am hoping that if we just keep working on tricks while holding things, at some point I'll be able to trick her into doing it. She does sort of know a lay on side, but it's not really on cue. She does pretty well with her dumbbell, so we might work with that too.

  3. It sounds like she's having a harder time holding an object while lowering her head?
    If she was a normal dog I would get her to realize how to multitask while holding something and then in theory it shouldn't be too hard to roll up :)

  4. Yes, now that you mention it, lowering her head does seem to be the common denominator! We will just keep working on it and I will be more patient . . . or try at least!