Friday, November 4, 2011

What We're Working On

So, working on Elo's nails has been a huge success so far! We've done maybe 10 sessions, probably an hour of work at the most. I can now clip one nail and he won't even flinch! The first time I actually clipped one, rather than just holding the clippers on it, he was not too happy and I was afraid I had ruined all my work. Unfortunately, if there is a step between almost clipping a nail and clipping one, I couldn't think of it, so it was a bit of a leap. But I did a few easy reps, ended the session and he seemed to have forgiven me in the next session. It's amazing how much easier this is, just by giving him a choice and reinforcing when he made the right one!

Jun is working on paw crossing. I switched her left-to-right paw cross from a hand signal to a foot signal (crossing my legs while standing in the same direction). That was surprisingly easy! Then I wanted to get a paw cross in the other direction. The first one was very easy to free shape, since this is a behavior she does naturally. The second one I was getting nowhere with free shaping, so I am using my foot as a target instead. This came a lot faster and now I'm starting to fade the target. It should work pretty well, because I will have a built in cue for the behavior.

Jun has a follow-up with Dr. Duxbury next week and I am excited to discuss some new behavior mod strategies I have been mulling over/testing. Clonidine has been a complete bust, and I am ready to throw in the towel with counter-conditioning. 

Elo is also working on paw crossing. I've free shaped almost everything with him, but after two weeks I hadn't gotten anywhere with this behavior. Paw crossing is not a behavior that he offers naturally and my clicks were constantly late or I was clicking the wrong thing. I wasn't sure how to break it down small enough and he was offering me big behaviors. All I was getting was a reach forwards with his paw. He is such a good sport--he just keeps trying even though I'm not being at all clear. Finally out of fairness to him I decided to use a target and that took all of 30 seconds to have him crossing his paws. Last night I started working on fading the target, but this has never been a strong point of mine.

I'm also adding a hand signal to Elo's lie down cue. None of my dogs lie down well, (and two don't sit well either). They ignore this cue a lot. I'm not sure why this is, but considering it's an issue with all three I'm assuming that I am screwing it up somehow. My best guess is that I poisoned the cue in the early stages of teaching them--seeing a down as a "command" that my dogs MUST do, I over-faced them too quickly, asked them for these behaviors in too difficult of situations with too few rewards, and I was inconsistent in consequences. Depending on my patience level, I might punish, re-cue, "help," or stand there and do nothing, because, how do you "make" a dog do something it is refusing?? I wasn't too worried about it when it was Lok (he never did like training much) or Jun (she has her "special" issues). But then I noticed that it was a problem with Elo as well, and he is really focused, driven, and biddable with pretty much everything else, and that's when I decided that it must be me. When I cue a lie down, especially in high-distraction or high-stress situations. He will either stand looking at me and do nothing or stand and look away from me and do nothing. I am hoping that re-teaching it on a hand signal and then gradually increasing difficulty level and making it FUN will solve the issue. I am open to any other suggestions about what I may have screwed up here!

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