Thursday, October 26, 2006

Discrimination & Links in a Chain

I started a new game with Laev tonight. Well, it's not totally new; we did some discrimination work with Kathy Sdao in May. But this was with new objects, and despite my intentions we'd done nothing to continue the original discrimination work we'd started then.

I wanted to try some color discriminations, so I cut two pieces of construction paper and tacked one to the wall. Blue. Then I stood near the paper and Laev and waited. She moved around, happened to turn toward the wall, and I clicked. While she ran after the tossed treat, I recalled that I knew perfectly well I could shape her toward the target, but it was equally valid to tell her what to do for the sake of time, since the lesson here was not in shaping or targeting but in discrimination. So I placed my index finger on the blue rectangle and said, "Touch," and Laev did. I clicked, treated, and waited. Laev immediately went back and touched the blue again. I love quick dogs.

So I moved back a few steps and clicked for touching the blue rectangle on the wall. Laev recognized that I was asking for something new and tossed a few other behaviors at me (down, spin) on her way to the rectangle after chasing down her tossed treat. I ignored those -- I thought -- and clicked for the next nose touch. Laev returned, spun, and touched. Returned, spun, touched. Returned, spun, touched.

Have I mentioned that Laev chains faster than any critter I've known?

I was laughing aloud and trying to decide how important it was to get a clean touch for this. It's not a competition behavior, it's just a discrimination for my own pleasure and practice, but I decided that it was worth doing cleanly anyway. As Laev spun the next time, I held up a finger to attract her attention and gently interrupted. She looked at me, hesitated a second, and then touched. I clicked and treated. Then she snuck over to the rectangle and touched again, looking as if she thought she was testing the limits. "Ha! Betcha I can sneak this in without spinning!" I clicked and treated. She touched again, and from that point we had no more spins.

We did this a few more times, and then I decided to add the cue. I held up the other blue paper and Laev touched it with her nose. (It was, after all, a blue paper rectangle, just like the one she'd been touching.) No click. I withdrew it, waited briefly, and held it up again. Laev turned and touched the paper on the wall about 6 feet away. Click!

We did this for a few minutes, clicking for touches when the cue was offered (I held up the blue rectangle) and not clicking for touches when the cue was not offered (the second rectangle behind my back). Laev was appearing to understand the cue, but she's not solid yet; she goes instantly when the cue is offered, but she doesn't wait if the paper is behind my back.

Enough of that; time to do something else. Sits and downs out of motion -- success! She nailed each one. I'm so proud; sits out of motion were tough for so long. But she can do it completely, even as I continue forward at the same pace, without hand signals, without looking back, without hesitation. Good girl.

Then I took the dumbbell and set Laev in heel position. We tried our first full formal retrieve; we've done only bits and pieces before now. Laev learned to pick up the dumbbell for a click, and then she learned to bring it to my hand, and then I started associating a cue. Separately she's learned to sit (and remain sitting) and to come to front.

"Sit." I threw the dumbbell. Laev watched it but did not move -- I'd quietly hooked a finger through the loop of her martingale to block reinforcement in case she wanted to pursue it, but I never felt pressure. "Good girl. Take it." She ran to the dumbbell, picked it up, and returned. "Good girl!" I clicked before she came fully to front and showered her with praise and treats.

Repeat: "Sit." I threw the dumbbell. It bounced across the rubber matting and landed against the wall underneath two bumping chairs. I treated Laev for waiting quietly. "Take it." She ran across the room, crawled beneath the chairs, took the dumbbell, and ran back to me. I clicked as she was beginning to sit in front. "Whee!" She knows her job! She could put all the pieces together on her own, without additional help in the middle, and she understands how to pick up the dumbbell even though it's hard to reach, even though she had to wait because the sit was in effect. Good girl!

Here's what I learned tonight:
  • Use previously learned cues to build new behavior. It's natural for me to want to shape the new target, but there's nothing wrong with using something she already knows.

  • Use careful treat delivery. In theory I already know this, but I didn't apply it tonight. The first time I saw her offer another behavior on the way back from chasing a thrown treat, I should have started treating immediately beside the target. But I know Laev enjoys chasing her treats, so I allowed her to make mistakes, and I chained something I didn't want.

  • I'm going to need something sturdier than paper rectangles for Laev. Even tacked to a wall and receiving only relatively gentle nose touches, paper is not going to stand up. I'm going to need colored cardboard.

  • A behavior chain is only the sum of its parts. Well, yeah, obviously! but it was neat to see that even though we've practiced only pieces of the final product, it was enough for her to understand the final product.

My plan is to add colors to our discrimination. I don't know how much effort I'll really put into this (shapes, color names, objects?) but it should be fun and it can't hurt anything. :-)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Title Cheat Sheet

Okay, I was prompted that I speak in a lot of industry lingo :-) so here's a cheat sheet for anyone who wants to know what we're about:

Dog Titles & Abbreviations

This obviously isn't all that's out there, but it's a sampling. :-)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Laev has another blog now as well, on the new beta site. Many posts will be duplicated, but others (clicker-specific) will appear only there. Please feel free to visit Laev there as well. :-)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Anybody Feel a Draft?

So Laev has figured out that if she leaps up at the front door, she can operate the thumb latch and push the door open, letting herself inside. This would be merely annoying except winter is starting here, and it's supposed to snow soon. I wonder if I can train her to shut the door behind her.... /grin/

We're Training!

Okay, so I confess, I don't feel ready for the BH. I know, Laev's 18 months old and they're "supposed" to be ready for the BH at 14 months, but.... I don't feel that we are. I would be glad to pass it, not totally confident that it was positively going to happen.

This is primarily for two reasons, and the biggest one is that honor down. Sheesh! Who decided that a dog should lie quietly while someone calls "Come!" and another dog runs to him? While the honoring dog's handler isn't even there facing the dog, a visual reminder that it isn't *her* handler which is recalling her?

And, we're still having trouble with that sit out of motion thing.

Laev's heeling is pretty, but we have to go through the entire pattern twice. That's something like 300-350 paces without R+. That's a long time for that kind of focus from a young dog; I'd rather have the gunshots back in the pattern and only heel once. Let's just do it offleash from the beginning!

But, I don't get to make the rules :-) so we're training for the BH. I took Laev to the car dealership today, while Alena had an oil change, for a little practice in the shop area; she was a little distracted by the sounds of the shop but never stopped working. Left heel position once, I think, and returned when called. I was pleased with that.

Then tonight I did some heeling and sit-out-of-motion with her before classes, and for the first time it looked like she was started to get it. She hesitated a few times, sitting slowly, and a few times she dropped toward a down and caught herself inches above the floor, but she was getting it more often than not. Maybe there's hope!

Then for my recall module, we had only one dog, a service puppy in training who needed work around distractions. Well, we had only one dog, so few distractions -- until I brought out Laev. :-) It was good for both dogs, working around each other, and finally I put Laev on a wall tether and we did recalls away from distractions (me offering free food) with the service puppy.

This was PERFECT for Laevatein. The tether didn't pin her in place, but it prevented her from moving forward if she broke her down while the puppy recalled to his own handler. Then, if she held the down, I could go to her while the puppy was being reinforced and I could reinforce her with lots of treats between her paws.

And it worked! She started holding her down nicely. There might be hope. Maybe. :-)

Very nice service puppy in training. I hope he does well!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

re Shakespeare :-)

Sunday, Shakespeare finished his ARCH title and his L1X. (How embarrassing -- I'd been focusing only on the ARCH and had completely forgotten to track his Level 1 legs toward the L1X! Fortunately someone else earned it on Saturday and that prompted me to review....)

ARCH is a Rally Obedience Championship. As Shakespeare is not going to have a MACH or an OTCH, we were quite happy to get this one.

Laev was to debut in Level 2 the same weekend, but she had the ill grace to come into season and I had to pull her. Next time!


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Why, Yes, My Dog CAN Count

Tonight we wanted to go back and do some simple backaways -- a scenario where the helper taunts the dog with the bite sleeve and finally allows a bite, reinforcing a particular physical and mechanical technique by the dog.

Laev loves this. She thrashed and strained in her collar while the helper teased her -- one pass, a second, and then he cued me on the third and I released her to the bite.

Very nice! We did it again, just the same.

The third time, Laev made little effort to reach the helper on his first and second pass, just a nominal lunge and barking. But on his third pass, she was more than ready for him.

So this dog, who spends her alert time in total berserker mode and rarely touches the ground (, was thinking clearly and rationally to evaluate patterns and make cost-benefit analyses. I have always said that Laev chains faster than any dog I've ever met; the problem is, she often does it when I'm not looking for a chain!

Of course we promptly changed the pattern of our work. :-)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Video up.

I've created a page for some video of Laev. Enjoy. :-)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Video coming! and why smug doesn't pay

I just wanted to say that I have video from the last several sessions of training, and as soon as I get it rendered in a smaller format and compiled from two computers, I'll post. :-)

Today's humiliating learning experience.... Our phone was out, so a worker came to fix it. The phone box isn't far from Laev's kennel, where she was spending a few hours (I couldn't leave her loose in the yard with him and the open gate, and she didn't deserve to be kenneled inside, so she was doing laps in the kennel). Predictably, she barked at him. "Hey! Weird stranger touching our stuff! Hey!"

I walked around the corner. "Thank you, Laev. Good girl. He's allowed to be here."

Oh, hi, Mom. You're here? You're on this one? No problem. I think I'll trot along my fence, then.

I went back inside, feeling a little proud of her and of my training. (First mistake -- never get smug.)

A few minutes later, I put a treat in a Kong and left in it Laev's crate, thinking I'd bring her in from the kennel for a nap in the warmer house. I went outside as the serviceman was walking outside the kennel. Laev ignored him and sat for me to open the gate. I glanced toward the retreating serviceman and decided he was at a safe, non-distracting distance, and I opened it. Laev hopped out and started for the house door as usual. But she glanced over her shoulder at the serviceman.

Something deep in my brain panicked. "Oh, no! She's not paying attention to me!" I don't know why I even reacted; the worst that would have happened was that she would have jumped on him for attention, as I'm confident I could have called her back before she got to the open gate. And I *could* have simply said her name or taken a step toward the house myself; she was only looking. But I reacted unconsciously and leaned suddenly forward for Laev.

She caught my body movement and whipped around, ready for play. Wiggling with glee, she lunged upward and gave me an enormous hug, as many paws on my body as she could manage. I grabbed her -- again, reacting without thinking -- and she flailed with excitement. "We're wrestling! We're wrestling!"

So when the serviceman looked up, he saw a Doberman wrapped around my torso, thrashing and smearing mud. Good one.

I stepped back, disengaged, asked Laev to sit, and released her into the house. Sheesh. You'd think this wouldn't be so difficult for me.