Thursday, August 18, 2005

Level 1 -- and 2! Er, sort of.

My 8:00 didn't show tonight, so I killed some time in the training building sweeping, straightening the interlocking mats, etc., and finally I gave up and went to get Laev. Might as well get some training in, right?

I'd printed Sue Ailsby's Training Levels earlier in the day. I've mentioned before that I was certain Laev could pass Level 1 with little difficulty; it's pretty simple. But I had never proven it, so tonight we did it.

No problem. Well, Laev was a little pushy about the "zen," and wanted to reach for my hand, but that's because I've rarely asked her to back off my hand; usually I'm luring her into a new behavior. But after a few "warm ups" she did just fine. ;-)

So, on to Level 2. I kinda figured this would kick our butt -- we haven't even practiced most of what's in Level 2, focusing on other things. But what the heck, why not try to do it?

(I know the spirit of the Levels testing is to do it straight through with no mistakes. We did have mistakes, but considering I didn't train for much of this, I think it does say something about what we have done, and we can always ace it later.)

Come: " the dog comes from 40’ away with no more than two cues (voice, body language, or hand signal)." Hey, no sweat. Laev will recall from ~100' with someone holding her while I walk away, and she'll recally nearly 40' (the length of my training building) away from someone offering free dog biscuits. Yeppers, I felt pretty good about this one. And indeed, she didn't disappoint me.

Crate. I don't have a crate in the training building, so I let this one slide. We do practice it a couple of times a day, though, so I felt a little justified.

Distance: "dog goes around a pole from a distance of 2' with no more than two cues." Okay, this one we'd never practiced. The closest we'd ever come was my clicking Laev for entering a hula hoop on the ground a few feet away from me. But I set a chair out in front of us and gestured for Laev to go out, figuring I could then lean and call her around the other side of the chair.

First try! She went out a few feet, turned to look at me, I called her and she came back on the other side. Click and treat. Whoa! A click for something to do with the chair...? I didn't want to get credit for just a fluke, so I tried it again. This time Laev went out, turned, jumped on the chair, looked at me, and then came back when called. But she went out and jumped on the far side of the chair, so I guess it's okay. ;-)

Down. No sweat.

Down Stay. 20' away. I've never, ever gone this far yet. And indeed, Laev indicates very quickly that our current limit is 10'. So I take a few minutes to walk 10', return and treat, walk away, return and treat, sneak away further.... And then we do 20'. And then we do it again. Yippee! She does not hold still very well at all, but I saw the light bulb go on and she just glued her little self to the mat. Good girl.

Go To Mat: "from 5' away." I was feeling pretty good about this one, as I'd discovered almost completely by accident a few days ago that Laev knows this in the house. I haven't spent a lot of time working on it formally, but apparently the informal latent learning was enough. So I tossed out one of the carpet squares the group classes use to start the mat behavior and wave her in its general direction.

My mistake. Laev didn't recognize the carpet square as a dog bed at all, and instead she wandered around and then went over and poked the chair hopefully. :-) I waited until she drifted near the mat, clicked, and threw a treat across the room. She came back to the mat -- click, throw a treat across the room. Repeat. Laev stands firmly on the mat. I call her to me and send her again. She goes, but with the little cheat of turning back to face me hopefully just before the mat. It takes a couple of tries before she puts herself right on the square.

The Levels book didn't specify that she had to down on the mat, so I guess we eventually passed. She does down on the mat in the house.

Handling. Ears, tail and feet. Minimal struggling. Pass.

Homework. The handler has to describe the four legs of operant conditioning and actual scientific definitions of "reinforcement" and "punishment." Hey, I used to give others written tests on this subject.

Leash Manners: "handler stands in one spot while the dog keeps the leash loose for one minute with one distraction. Handler may use cues but may NOT cue the dog to Watch or to Heel, or to Sit, Down, or Stand or Stay. The intent of the exercise is that the dog’s default behaviour for one minute is to keep the leash loose."

Aw, stink.

I knew this would kill us. We'd have a decent chance with movement, but standing still. Laev does NOT stand still.

Still, I leashed her and tried it, watching the wall clock. She did hit the end of the leash as she wandered in boredom, but she never really dragged at it. If I'd been holding a cup of water in my leash hand, she would have sloshed it once, but not badly. We cheated a little toward the end, when I realized I was standing too near the trash can and she sniffed happily at it instead of thinking about wandering. We didn't have a real outside distraction, because I was alone.

Sit. No food, no clicker. No problem.

Sit Stay. Another 20' stay. The only time we've ever done this was about 5 minutes ago, with the Down Stay.

But it only took Laev one mistake, and then her brain connected that this was basically the same thing we'd done a little while ago. I actually went further than 20' and did a formal return around her, twice (while treating as I walked around). Good girl!

Stand. Hand and verbal cue, no problem.

Stand Stay. Yeah, right. Have I mentioned that Laev doesn't stand still? She can hold a sit or a down if asked, for a short time, but standing?

Still, she did it, for probably the first time. I secretly suspect she was getting tired, but I'm not going to let that stand in our way. ;-)

Target. This was a little tricky; I've done palm touches with Laev, which is how I taught stand, but she'd never seen a target stick before. I pulled one off the wall and held it so that just the very, very tip stuck out of my hand, lest she want to bite it and tug. Click for the first inquisitive sniff. Throw treat. Repeat. Ease stick slowly out of hand, withhold a couple of clicks for sniffing the length instead of the tip, and voila! a puppy who touches the end of the stick (end on, quite forcefully) for a click.

Trick. Do we have any cute simple tricks? She knows that "get in the puppy storage unit" means run from the kitchen to her crate in the bedroom, but tricks? I dunno. I probably could have taught her one right then, but I think she was starting to tire mentally and besides, it was already late. So we skipped this one.

Watch. Oh, we've done quite a bit of eye contact. It's going to be crucial later, so we're making it darned reinforcing now. No problem.

Zen: "the dog stays off a treat in the handler’s hand for 5 seconds and off a treat on couch or chair for 10 seconds. No more than two cues for each behaviour, handler cannot guard the treat to keep it safe. Intent is to present the treat at nose level."

We'd just done the hand for Level 1, so that wasn't much trouble. I pulled up a chair and set a dog biscuit on it, telling Laev to wait. I stepped back and hoped.

Her default behavior in the kitchen is to see something she wants and lie down on one hip; I made darned sure as a tiny puppy that jumping up at counters was never, ever rewarded and alternate behaviors paid big. But on a chair seat? Would it generalize?

Well, she didn't lie down, but she did back up and sit. I counted the 10 seconds and then tossed the biscuit across the room for her to chase. Yippee!

So that was Level 2. Rough, unpolished, but way better than I would have guessed. We'll clean it up and keep going.

There's an APDT Rally trial next month; I think I'll enter both dogs. Shakespeare hasn't done Rally in over a year and needs to finish his Level 2 title (no relation to the Training Levels program), and I've been thinking since before Laev was born that an APDT Rally trial would be the perfect first outing for a young'un. We won't expect much, but at least it will be a happy ring experience.


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Connie said...

Well, this was neat to read. My puppy cant do most of that stuff. I should print out the levels and test him... Nah. He just hit that stage where he is ignoring everything I say. I bought some liver, and made some liver treats, so hopefully I will gain his attention with those. ;)

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