Thursday, January 12, 2012

Targets are not Cues

Or at least, that is the conclusion I have come to. Elo's cross paws trick is . . . sigh. This is why I never use targets. He is brilliant with the target there. I first tried to fade it by imagining the target was a cue and using cue-switching protocol, i.e., cue "cross" wait a couple seconds, then present the target. This was a decided failure. Elo now thinks the cue "cross" means "your target will be presented in a couple seconds" and does nothing but wait, or stomp his paw randomly if I make him wait too long. So I went to the "gradually make the target smaller" strategy with duct tape. We can get down to a 1cm target, and the behavior falls apart after that. I don't think Elo gets the "crossing" part of the behavior at all. If he slides over too far so the target is not in position anymore, he will just hit it with any old paw. So then I thought, well, he's done so many hundreds of repetitions of this behavior, the muscle memory has got to be there by now. I'll just wait for him to offer it. He has never once offered it. And the fact that I couldn't shape it was how we ended up in this targeting mess to begin with. I've tried clicking right before he hits the target, instead of when he hits the target, hoping he would start to understand that it was the crossing movement I was looking for. No dice. Training a simple behavior should NOT be this difficult. So . . . I am open to suggestions. Otherwise I think I'll keep working on the "making the target smaller" strategy. Maybe if I can get him working on a target that is a tiny speck I'll be able to take it away and still get the behavior.

Jun's goals are going ok. Her balance trick is coming along now that I finally decided what my criteria are. Scent articles and directed retrieves, not so much. I've decided I hate working on these skills. It's the resetting/sit in heel between. Jun hates it so I hate it. So we dispensed with the resetting and we're just working the skills informally. It's better, but I still have a negative CER to the whole exercise. She's actually improved quite a bit on the directed retrieve after I put a new cue on it. I hope it's allowed in competition. I'm sending her with a touch cue on her flank. The hand signal I was using was very confusing to her, since she had to look back at me for it after she had marked the article I wanted and often that resulted in her trying to take a different article. And I'd stop her, and she would get confused and shut down. So instead, we started practicing just marking and driving to the article, using a toy straight in front of her. We used some opposition-reflex, holding her back, to get some speed and enthusiasm. I put my hand to the side of her head to encourage her to focus straight in front and send her with a tap when she is looking in the right direction. It's been working out fabulously! And now I am bored with it. I need to practice in a bigger space. Maybe I will practice in the basement with frisbees tonight, since the yard is too icy to play outside.

Quick Professor Update
Such a great puppy! I just love him! Too bad the dogs don't feel the same. I feel bad that he has to be in the bathroom or crated basically 23 hours a day. But luckily he sleeps a lot so I don't think he minds too much. I've never had a dog who likes to sleep in before. I get up at 5 to work out and have been late, cause I have to cheerlead Prof out of his crate. He would sleep until 11 if I let him! Training is going ok. I have figured out that if I am doing an actual training session with food he knows I have, I have to keep it super short, especially if I am asking for control behaviors. He just gets so crazy around food. With the food bowl out, we have gotten a 4-second sit, barely. But I can spring a random sit on him with no food and we have gotten to 7 seconds! I have started working on his vibrating collar, just trying to associate the vibration with food. So far no indication that he is catching on despite about 50 reps last night, but he takes awhile to catch on to things, so I'm not worried. I am thinking about experimenting with using it as a marker. See if he can understand that concept. Training possibilities would explode!


  1. Ok, how about instead of making it smaller you push it further away. So he's still aiming at it but can't hit it. Then you can make it smaller again but it's less in the picture already.

    I rarely do formal set ups, even now.
    Usually the hand signal for directed retrieves is people doing the mark and then pushing out with thier hand. Really you can't hold the mark anyway so it should work ok for her. I'm not sure if you'd be able to touch her in CDSP or not (can deaf dogs do UKC?).

  2. I have tried moving the target away--he just reaches further. Maybe I need to move it slower. Don't people normally use a verbal cue for the directed retrieve or is it done on a hand signal? I'm guessing CDSP would approve the modification. Why not? It's just a cue like any old hand signal or verbal. I'm not sure about deaf dogs in other venues. I think they can do UKC, but I haven't read the rules lately.

  3. Well in AKC you can either give a mark as the exact same time you give your verbal cue to get it (can move that hand forward then in a sweeping motion), or you can mark it with a steady hand and while keeping that hand still give a verbal immediately after. So Jun could easily do the first method with the cue just being the hand going out. While the dog is supposed to look where directed it's not really a holding your mark type of thing that you can do when setting up for the go outs. Really even in the 2nd way of sending the dog you have less then a second to give a verbal or you could be NQed. So your modification touch would have to be very quick.

    As for Elo, if he's reaching further that's ok since he's still crossing. But at some point it'll get far enough away where he can't reach it without hopping over with his chest (which I think all dogs try) and then you can work on the criteria of just moving that one leg only.

  4. I tried moving the target further again tonight. Modified the click timing. Instead of clicking when the paw hit the target, I waited half a second. This way, I was not accidentally clicking when he started to reach over with his right paw but ended up scooting over and hitting it with his left. I think the lack of a click for doing that might have started to clarify things for him! We'll keep playing with it!

    You'll have to show me the mark and send. I had though i'd seen people hold the mark out longer than a second, but maybe I just wasn't paying attention. Or maybe it was in practice.

  5. Yay for Elo!!

    Well it's supposed to only be a second but in the A classes judges are more lenient. Most utility videos on youtube do a nice job of giving the static example but not too many do the moving hand signal. In will hold it longer in practice sometimes to proof him not going until I tell him.