Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Obedience Videos

Fun with obedience in our "middle of nowhere" training spot! Jun is working on heeling with a toy reward. We have not worked with a toy much because she gets very amped up and very forgy, but I love the enthusiasm I get when I work with a toy so I've been trying to do it more often. I thought she did pretty well, especially towards the end!

With Elo I am playing "choose to heel." As you can see, he chooses to heel most of the time. He likes heeling! I've been very informal about his heeling training and haven't even added a verbal cue. His position is pretty good most of the time, but he tends to forge and wrap around me or swing his butt out and walk in a diagonal, so I am capturing and rewarding when he positions himself correctly here. (P.S., Sorry about the inability to stay on camera.)

Inspiration . . . I Haz It

Well that didn't take long. I got a new book. "Reaching the Animal Mind" by Karen Pryor. Mind-blowing. I want to get a fish, or a hamster, and clicker train it! But I don't have time for another pet, so I will have to settle for my dogs. ;-)

I am working with Elo on learning to let me clip his nails without having to hold him down. I figure, if they can teach elephants to present their feet calmly for maintenance, surely my little biddable cattle dog can do it! (If only his nails didn't grow so fast--the book doesn't say how they take care of these animals in the mean time before they are trained.) I started with straight counter-conditioning. Touch a foot; get a treat, hold a foot; get a treat. It was working, but slow going. A verbal marker helped speed things up a bit more and a clicker was even more effective! Criterion--let me touch your foot without pulling away.

Then I tried something from the book. The book described an experiment in which several dogs were asked to cross novel/scary obstacles (e.g., a pile of rope on the ground). Luring with food had the dogs going around the obstacles, shaping with a clicker and food reward produced faster results, but the fastest results came when the behavior of interacting with the obstacle was marked with a cue for the dog's favorite trick! So you were harnessing the value of not only a single food reinforcement, but also the value of a behavior that has a long history of paying off. I tried it with Elo, reinforcing for not pulling his foot away with a "touch" cue (nose target). After just a couple repetitions of this he immediately seemed more comfortable with the entire exercise and progress has been faster since then. And to keep "touch" from getting boring or predictable for him,  I've been interspersing other cues as the reward, and occasionally rewarding only with food.

This concept of reinforcing a behavior with a cue is mind-boggling, and the idea that a cue with a long reinforcement history could be even more reinforcing than a "primary reinforcer" even more so. I'm not totally sure why it works or how it works. But I have now seen it for myself, so apparently it does work.

I don't really have any more solid plans for training than I did last week, but I sure have a lot of new ideas to think about!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Inspiration Needed

I am totally uninspired lately when it comes to training. I haven't been doing much, cause I just have no motivation to do it. I am sick of dog training. I need a plan. I need a goal.

Jun has been a total airhead lately. I mean, that's not unusual for her, but I think she may be slightly worse since she's been on Clonidine. So hard to tell since its effects vary throughout the day. And since she can be an airhead in general. I do not seem to be capable of shaping with this dog. Part of that, I know, is that her marker is visual, and that's distracting for her. She spends a lot of time looking for the "click" and not a lot of time trying to earn it. But that can't possibly be the whole problem. I'm sure I'm screwing it up somehow.

Take for instance the newest "trick" I decided to teach both Jun and Elo. I live by myself and occasionally have a need to use a tape measure, but without anybody to hold the other end it can be a struggle. Enter, dogs! I knew I had them for a reason!! So I decided to teach Jun and Elo to hold the end of a tape measure. We've done probably 4 or 5 sessions on it. Elo has it down perfectly, because Elo thinks about what he is doing. Jun, OTOH is still working on stepping ON the actual tape measure. She will step near it, then when she doesn't get clicked she will immediately get frustrated and start pawing at it or nosing it. Of course, sometimes she manages to step on it and will get clicked for that, but for whatever reason the fact that she's done it right 5 times in a row doesn't mean she will get it the 6th time. Then there was one session where she was brilliant and we worked up to stepping and holding for up to 5 seconds. Of course, the next day she is back to not being able to step on it. WTF? I don't know what I'm doing wrong with her, but lately I cannot seem to teach her anything new. In fact, I can't even remember the last time she learned something new. I think her "bow" is the newest trick she has and for whatever reason she will NOT do it without being lured. A couple sessions, she was brilliant at it. Now, nope.Every new thing I've tried to teach her lately I give up on because she just doesn't get it and I get frustrated. The weird part is, things she already knows she does brilliantly and even improves on. All her obedience is awesome! It's just learning new things that she doesn't seem to be capable of lately. And I am half hoping that (contrary girl that she is) now that this is down in writing she will go and make me eat my words, like she likes to do so much. I wouldn't mind in this situation.

As I mentioned, I am completely uninspired. I am sick of drilling obedience, and my house is really too small for it. I'd like to train tricks, but working with Jun on anything new is just frustrating lately. Last night I decided to teach Jun and Elo to walk on leash together, both on my left side, and ended up with a dog fight (although they did pretty well up until that point). Thankfully since they were both leashed it was easy to break up quick.

I need a book or a video or a seminar or a class. I need an idea of something new I can do with Jun, start to finish, no giving up! Motivate me . . . ready . . go!