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!