Thursday, June 01, 2006

Thinking Dogs :-)

Saturday, while practicing the hold and bark before the gates in the blind, Laev was experimenting. She really wanted those gates to open! and she knows she's supposed to offer behavior to make reinforcement happen. So in front of the gates she kept barking intensely, as we want, but also shifted positions from sit to down to sit, angling right, angling left, creeping right, creeping left, down, sit....

"Oh, no!" I can hear some cry. "She's not learned reliable behavior!"

To the contrary, she's in the process of learning very reliable behavior. She's asking questions -- is this part of it? is this? will this help me? how about this? -- and getting answers. We were simply careful to open the gates or give bites only when she was sitting directly in front of the helper and barking strongly.

That was Saturday. On Monday, the variability was gone. She had her answer -- sit in the center and bark your brains out! -- and there was no reason to try anything else. If anything, she'll be *more* reliable in the future.

I am keeping data on our hold and bark training. So far it's interesting to see that the leather collar actually stops her at the gates more reliably and with less pressure than the prong. That is contrary to everything the club has seen, but I attribute it to the fact that the prong is a stimulation tool and it makes her *more* determined to reach the sleeve, not less. The leather, on the other hand, is just a physical block and she has no reason to get jazzed about fighting it.

By the last rep Monday night, I didn't use any line pressure at all to stop her at the gate. So the light bulb is flickering, even if it's not on yet. :-)

I don't like where we are with outs, however. Laev is very much in conflict about the outs, wanting to hang onto the sleeve. I want to do more trades, dead sleeve for live, but Randy worries that this will teach her to release the sleeve too quickly. (I don't really understand this -- a quick fast out off the tug does not cause mouthiness while she plays with me -- but I'm not the expert.

Randy says not to worry, that we can always clean up the outs later -- which is true, if I am relying on using compulsion. But I'm trying to be smart enough and plan ahead enough that I won't be. :-)

Someone else pointed out that I might be asking her to hold the sleeve for too long before outing her; I'll try shortening the holds and see if that makes a difference.

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