Sunday, July 18, 2010

Shame On Me

Spending the weekend with Laurie Luck, assisting with her Karen Pryor Academy class, made me feel a bit, shall we say, neglectful of my own dogs' training. There are three canines in the family now, which makes time management (not to mention space management!) a top priority. It seems there is just never enough time in a day to help people train their dogs AND train my own. Shame on me. I raced home from the workshop today and immediately grabbed my clicker and treats and my dogs got to brush up on their skills.

B, as any semi-devoted reader of this blog knows, is my trouble-child with issues pouring out her cute little puggle eyeballs. She also happens to be my star performer; however, if you ain't fast enough, clear enough or precise enough, she'll quit you in a heartbeat. With Bizz, you need a plan before going in. Today, we worked on what I like to call the "Do This Drill". I write behaviors that I know Bizz is good at on a separate piece of paper for each. Then, I shuffle all the papers and randomly pull behaviors out, one at a time but very quickly. Of course, a successful behavior equals click and treat. Each behavior that has to be cued more than once (which should be none, but you'd be surprised when you give this game a try) goes in to a separate pile.  That tells me what behaviors we need to work on. Once we work on them, back in to the main pile they go and we go another round. This game helps increase Bizz's fluency and speed but also helps me work on my mechanical skills too: treat delivery, stance/body language, cue usage, etc. Try it! It's a really fun game!

Next was Sarah's turn. Man oh man. When you're a good dog, you really get the cold-shoulder sometimes. We always joke that Sarah's "reward" for being so well-behaved is that she never actually gets to train! Today we worked on "What's Different?" - a game where I have Sarah leave the room and I introduce a new item in the room that wasn't there before. When she comes back in, I am looking for her to a) acknowledge there's a new item and b) try something with it! My new item: a lemonade powder mix container.  She at first walked around the room sniffing everything and when she got to the lemonade container, I clicked and treated her. Then, I started to slowly click her for doing something with the container. Within 5 minutes, I had Sarah pawing the container with just her front left paw and ignoring everything else in the room. Then, I took her out again and started the game with a new item.

Then there was Kuna. Again: shame on me. This poor boy just learned what the clicker was yesterday and we've had him for 2 weeks now. tsk, tsk, tsk. Last night, we started working on sit. Now he sits beautifully and on cue, in just a day. As a trainer, however, I don't want a dog that defaults to sit. This is just my personal preference, but I want a dog that will only sit when asked (I'm only talking about during training sessions...he can sit whenever he wants to outside of that).  When we're training, I want him to be creative. If he sees that we're training, I want him thinking, "how can I manipulate my environment to get a treat?" I placed a ceramic bowl upside down on the kitchen floor and waited. He sat. I gave no response. He hopped. I gave no response. He looked around with his goofy little puppy head bobbing and barked. Nothing. Then, he looked at the bowl. I clicked and treated. Immediately after he finished eating the treat, he tried the bowl again. Click, treat. I kid you not, I had that boy touching the bowl with his nose within minutes. Is this single behavior going to get me the best behaved dog on the block? No way. But it will get me a dog that thinks. Stay tuned as I start documenting Kuna's progress. He's the first dog in this house that will be clicker trained from the start! And shame on me if I don't get away from this computer and back to training my dogs!


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