And another attempt at Open

We attempted Open again at the herding club trial.  Overall I'm fairly pleased.

Lance heeled pretty attentively.  His eyes weren't on me the whole time but I felt he was actually paying attention to me the entire time.  His slow time was excellent and even in the fast he actually gave me a bit of eye contact rather then just tearing off ahead.

Figure 8 was superb.  I went to the right for the first time and I think this really helped keep his attention and prevented the crash into my leg we always get when we go to the left first.  He actually held even a proper heel position pretty well the entire time.

Lance came on the recall and sent on the retrieve over high even though he wasn't completely looking at me when I called/sent him. 

His fronts on the retrieves were much closer and he seemed more confident.

I didn't have to bargain with Lance during the set ups for each exercise.  He came into heel position (well his slightly forged version) nicely without any second cues or needed side steps.  Even on the initial set up for the heeling he looked into my eyes expectantly at the start!

His finishes actually looked much better today then they usually do in the ring.  Not forging quite so much.

Things to work on:
Maintaining heel position.  I knew that the work I've been doing on fixing Lance's forging wouldn't transfer over to this trial so I wasn't surprised that he forged the entire time.

Fronts and finishes.  Again I knew our recent work wouldn't transfer to this trial.

Paying attention to me at the start of all exercises.  Lance did really well through the first 3-4 exercises but by the last 2-3 wasn't giving me eye contact on the start.

His drop wasn't as fast as he normally is.  I was also afraid Lance was going to do a fly by since he wasn't looking at me on the come after the drop.  But instead he just sat really crooked in front!

Getting faster retrieves in the ring.  Lance flies after his dumbbell in practice but in the ring he is noticeably slower.  Usually he still runs out fast and then trots back, but today he trotted in both directions.  Not bad and not something I'm really going to worry about but it would be nice if he were more confident on his retrieving in the ring.

Not leaving me when the steward takes away my dumbbell!  Every show Lance likes to follow the steward on their way out and each time I have to call him back to me.  At least this time he came back on my second call and didn't get too far.  Walking backwards to the broad jump helps him focus on me as well since they always put that damn broad jump right in front of the ring exit!

And everything about the broad jump.  Wow it was not good today.  Very very close to cutting the corner on the broad jump.  I'm still throwing treats ahead every single time (every time!) in practice so I'm not sure if I need a new strategy.  His front was also extremely crooked.

And the glorious stays.  Lance lied down on the sit about 20 seconds into it.  Unfortunately I'm kicking myself since I should have told the judge we weren't ready.  Lance wasn't looking at me at all during the set up and I'm pretty sure that he only half saw or heard me tell him stay.  I have no clue if it would have made a difference or not considering our past failures at it, but I didn't give him a good chance.  It just didn't pop into my head or all that I could simply say no when the judge asks if we're ready!

Final Breakdown:
Heel Free/Figure 8:   3.5pts off
Drop on Recall:         .5pt
Retrieve on Flat:        1pt
Retrieve over High:    .5pt
Broad Jump:               .5pt
Long Sit:                    NQ
Long Down:               0

Total:     NQ (with a 194)


Disappointment and stuff to think about

Tonight Vito had a new agility class with the focus being on contacts.  It's only a 2 week class but I really wanted to get some feed back on his running contacts for the dog walk and a-frame and learn what the next is.  Plus I have no clue what I want to do on the teeter but right now he has a verbal "stop" cue and does a 4 feet on.

My group started with the teeter.  Fellow classmate Patty yelled at me for babysitting him too much and told me to work my way out of the picture (thank you Patty!).  I realized that I haven't distanced myself form his performance at all yet and slapped myself on the forehead for not doing so sooner.  Vito surprised me in that he actually knew what to do without me blocking his path and even did so without me verbally cuing him to stop!  I'm not sure when Mr. Kamikaze grew up and stopped trying to fly over the top or abruptly slam to a stop and almost somersault, but apparently he did it without me knowing!  I asked the instructor if she thought Vito should continue his 4 feet on rule or switch to a 2o2o and she basically just said not to mess with it if his 4 on rule is working and is fast, check and check.

The dog walk was next but I'm going to save that story for the end and go to the a-frame.  I was hoping to get some feed back on what my exact criteria should should be for Vito.  I've read Silvia Trkman's FAQ about a billion times but she doesn't say that much about the a-frame.  It seems as though she does all the work on the dog walk plank and then it just transfers over to the a-frame with only a little bit of back chaining on a lowered plank.  But Silvia also points outs that you don't want it to transfer too well as if the dog is going too low on the a-frame it's going to stress his joints and likely lead to the dog starting to jump in order to avoid that.  But this is where I am confused since I am not sure what to reward with Vito and what not to.  The only thing I'm for sure on is that I want 2 strides on the downside, which I'm pretty sure is agreed on by all!  For the most part Vito does do this and it looks good except when the a-frame is too low and Vito flies over the top and practically does a handstand as he lands in the yellow! 
Well tonight I used treats on a target a couple feet out when sending Vito and he seemed to do good.  The first one was an iffy one that I wish the instructor had seen.  He definitely did two strides on the downside and hit plenty in the yellow, but it was one of those confusing ones for me since it looked completely different from the dog walk.   The second one the instructor did see and this one looked beautiful. 

Now we return to the dog walk.  I put out a toy Vito hadn't seen before about 12ft out and send him across as I sprint the length with him.  Vito flies.  Completely misses the entire contact even as he is at least a good foot above the yellow.  Bad.  I send him again and Vito soars.  Very bad.  I put him on just the down side of the dog walk and send him. Big jump.  I get yelled at.  Now Vito hasn't missed his contact yet since, well I can't even remember when but never since we've done full height.  He hasn't even done so much as a little pounce as he has had very close to 100% success in class and open ring time.  This was Vito's only second time at this particular facility, but the first time about 2 weeks ago he did really well.  I was crushed.

A big discussion followed.  Basically I was told that Vito should be switched to a 2o2o on the dogwalk.  Even if I have a really nice dog walk the adrenaline of being at a trial is going to be hard to train through.  But the main reason she, and every body else, pushed the 2o2o was because he is too fast.  Vito sprinted the dog walk so so fast that I think I saw some dropped jaws.  And honestly his dog walk today was faster then I had ever seen it.  People don't think I'll be able to keep up with him and have any chance of directing him where to go.  I was asked why I needed a running contact with him, especially since he could be trained to have a really fast 2o2o with his level of confidence.  I was crushed.  I've spent months training his beautiful running contact and not only did his performance suck, but I am being told that I shouldn't/can't do it with this dog.

After the discussion the instructor asked if I had a less valued target so she could see what I see in his running contacts.  I put down the lower valued object (treats) and Vito performed perfectly.  And then we did it again with the treats and he was perfect once more.

I've thought about it a lot in the 3 hours since class and I think I'm going to stick with his running contacts.  Vito's a baby dog and is no where near ready to trial so I have time.  He's going to need a lot more proofing with high valued objects, be introduced to turning after the dog walk, independence from me running straight with him, and distance on the obstacles following it.  But I have time and I think it's just a training issue.  Yes it's going to be extremely hard to keep up with him, but if I have those other things in place I won't need to.  I went to Silvia's website again and found this great quote:

"Just because it’s easier to handle a dog if we’re well ahead, it’s not our goal to slow down a dog enough for us to be well ahead of him all the time, is it? Yeap, just as I don’t stop a dog after a straight tunnel, I don’t stop a dog after dog-walk, but can still handle a sequence after it. If I don’t, it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with running contact method, but that there is something wrong with either my handling after it or training a dog to respond to that handling. So yes, handling a difficult sequence when a dog is coming there with full speed as opposed to from a stop is more difficult. But my goal is not to make things easy, but to make them as fast and fluent as I can."

So there it is.  And don't tell me I can't do it.  

In other related news, Vito had his obstacle focus back today!  The past 3 weeks Vito has been really handler focused and hasn't been driving towards the obstacles like he used to.  He even stopped his cute little scream that he always let out at as I released him from the start of a sequence.  It's made it really hard to practice our rear crosses.  But tonight it was back with a vengeance! (and of course got the little dude in trouble with his dogwalk!)


How to: Teach your dog a boundary cue

As a request  from Ninso, this post is how to teach your dog a boundary cue or a way to keep your dog's in (or out) of any area.  I use the word "wait" but have a completely different definition of it then most people.  My "wait" means the dogs can do whatever they want, they just can't move forward across whatever boundary I set.  This is absolutely not a stay as the dogs are encouraged to move all they want, just not forward!  The easiest "waits" are those with a visual boundary, like a doorway, gate or change in surface, or a height difference like from the car to the ground.  But once the dog is advanced I start using it anytime I don't want the dog moving forward like on walk if I want to tie my shoes or even my agility start line as Lance can stand, sit, or down but I don't want him going forward.

In some contexts I never use the word wait as I want it to be automatic every single time.  So if I want my dog to wait in the lounge I will tell them verbally, but with the backyard gate I never use a word as I want them to automatically wait every single time without cue from me.  This also implies that I must remember this rule and ALWAYS release my dog through the gate.  Every time we leave the house the dogs automatically wait while I go out the gate, without word from me, and remain doing so until i release with an "ok!"  If I stop saying "ok" to allow them through every time then soon the automatic wait would disappear.

Here is how I teach a boundary cue:

1.  Start at a threshold or someplace where there is a very clear boundary that the dog can actually notice.  Differences in height makes this much easier such as a step down to the living room or garage.  The smaller the space the easier as you can easily guard a doorway but will have a harder time using the entire front yard vs. street.  If your dog does not know how to patient while you open a door, then start at a threshold with no door or start with the door already open!

2.  With your dog's attention on you and good treats in hand, step across that boundary and immediately pivot in front of your dog so that your dog is on one side and you on the other.  This should have been easy, so immediately click and toss a treat behind your dog so he has to run away from you to go get it.  Click again while he is still in the other room and hasn't yet raced back to you and throw that treat someplace else.  Throwing the treats encourages your dog to move around and shows him that you are not wanting a formal stay.  Repeat this a few times just to give your dog the idea that the good stuff happens in the other room.  You should still be right across the boundary so your dog should have zero interest in trying to squeeze by you.

3.  Now start moving away from that boundary line, just a few steps, but keep clicking and throwing treats before your dog gets to the boundary.  You simply want to introduce your movement into the picture but are making this extremely easy for your dog to do.

4.  Start delaying the click.  You are still very close to the line, less then 5ft, but you aren't going to be constantly chucking treats into the other room.  This is where your dog is going to start to experiment and will likely cross the threshold.  I then body block the dog back across the line by walking into them.  If you want to you can use your no reward marker, but remember you can't get upset since your dog doesn't yet know what you want.  Just think of yourself as a hockey goalie and your job is to prevent the dog from going forward.  As SOON as your dog starts to think of moving forward, lean your body in to counter act.  Still click and toss the treat behind him for not crossing across the boundary.

If your dog does not seem to be getting the boundary line, find a way to make it more obvious.  A broom lying across the floor, a line of books, anything that can make a clear visual mark will help.

5.  If this is a boundary you eventually want your dog to be invited in, release your dog with an "ok!" (or whatever word you use) and invite him in with your body language.  I usually don't give a treat at this point since I want to be rewarding the actual waiting on the other side rather then the freedom from it.

6.  Once your dog is doing pretty well at this short distance and easy boundary, you can start to add a cue.  I say "wait" and then my hand signal is my index finger held straight up at the heavens.  Since this is a duration behavior you can occasionally repeat it, but I try to avoid that since eventually my dogs do 20 minutes plus waits and I want the responsibility to lie on them without the added reminders.

7.  Make it harder!  Work on the 3 D's: distance, duration, and distractions.  Remember to only work on one thing at a time so if you are starting to drop treats across the boundary, remain very close and reward often.  At any time the dog goes across the boundary, body block him back over.  But if the dog is screws up twice in a row then you need to make things easier.

Here are distractions I work on:  food dropping, playing with another dog, training another dog, dogs walking by, people walking by, and the door bell.   And of course I slowly add in distance to being out of sight and time until about 20 minutes. 

8.  Generalize.  If you have only been practicing from the kitchen to the living room, then take this cue on the road!  Work it in different rooms, at the pet store, outside on walks, your front yard (use a long rope for safety) etc.  Be prepared that with each new location you will need to restart from step 1, although training should progress quickly.

Also try to do it randomly without any of the normal context.  Can you get your dog to suddenly wait while you are carrying up laundry from the basement?

Places I regularly use my boundary cue:  front door, yard gate, my office cubicle, kitchen (out while I prepare food!), car door, lounge at work (no door), stair way at my parent's house, and the training rings at the obedience club if I forget to bring something in the ring.

It takes awhile for some dogs to get that this is not a stay command.  Almost every dog very quickly gets the concept of observing a boundary, but those dogs who have had a lot of previous training on stays have a hard time of realizing that they can move during this.  I feel that tossing the treats gets this message across clearer then anything else.  If you feel that your dog will have a hard time learning the stay vs wait part, then try spending more time on the very early steps and avoid clicking when he stops at the boundary line or you will be reinforcing the habit of hanging out at that line.

If you want them to wait every single time, then I find it easiest to not ever use a cue.  But think hard where you really want it EVERY single time.  Even if I am in a hurry I do not let my dogs go out of the gate until I verbally release them and will put them back if they were to try.  I don't tell them to "wait" at the gate, it's just become a part of their life rules that the gate means do not cross unless invited. 

There will be sometimes that you want the dog to remain in the area while you are there.  I don't use the wait cue for this but treat it similar.  I just patiently keep calling the dog back whenever he approaches the boundary and will body block if I need to.  Just don't get in the habit of calling your dog back and treating right away as the smart ones will figure out that they can make you give them a treat by crossing the boundary!

One of my biggest pet peeves is people telling their dog "stay" when it's really not what they want or what they expect the dog to do.  If you go to work and are shouting "stay!" as you close the door behind you, then congratulations you just taught your dog that getting up is fine as soon as you are out of sight.  Unless of course you really want, and will reinforce your dog for staying in one spot for 8 hours!  When I tell my dogs to stay I expect them to freeze up in that position and not move until released.  I am very careful that I must always enforce it no matter what I am doing.  The nice thing about a boundary cue is that even if you just want your dog to not follow you while you go out the door, the door can do all the enforcing for you.  Your dog can't possibly break his "wait" if a door is between him and the other room/outside!

Update Note on taking this outside:
Some people have wondered if the same technique can be used to teach dogs to remain in their yard.  My answer is yes, but with very heavy warnings not to.  No matter how well trained your dog is you should never leave your dog unattended and loose in an unfenced yard (and even a fenced yard can be dangerous).  There are also many who would warn to not even leave your dog loose with you there; I am fine with "loose" dogs with supervision but want an impeccable recall even with distractions and am aware that there is always a risk.

The training is basically the same but as a prerequisite you need a very very good recall and
some type of visual boundary for your dog.  Your dog cannot see the property lines that we make so you will need to put up flags at first or some other very easy to see cue.  Keep your dog on a long line throughout and my first training would be to walk the perimeter with my dog and occasionally step across the boundary asking my dog to wait.  When the dog starts stopping on his own as you go across without him, start adding in purposeful distractions such as thrown toys, balls, people, and dogs.  The next criteria you need to work on (still with your dog on a long line) is to stay in the yard yourself and call him whenever he gets close to the boundary line.  I might use a warning cue such as "easy" or even "wait" when the dog gets close and before I call him so that he can learn to stop all on his own.


Discriminating Cues - part 4

I recently had a project (part 1, 2, 3) where I was working on both dogs' ability to touch a target with their nose or paw on verbal cue only.  As I updated last week both Lance and Vito have a 100% rate (on most days) with the target now and I am pretty much bored with it except for some occasional transfer of their cues to different objects.  Well for Christmas I ordered myself some old back issues of Clean Run Magazine and picked a few in the Linda Mecklenburg's series on her handling system (which is still way over my head but I'm getting there!).  How excited was I when I just finished the November 2008 issue and found an article dealing on this very topic of discrimination learning!  Pamela Reid neatly summarizes several studies dealing with discrimination tasks and I found several great ideas that I wish I knew a couple weeks ago during my project.  Here is a further summary of the summary:

1.  Errorless learning is the way to go, especially if you are teaching your dog to only ever choose one response.  So if you only want your dog to retrieve a bottle of dr. pepper and never the can of coke you would first start out with making the bottle a very exciting object and then slowly add in the boring can to your training.  You could even start out with the can being super tiny while the bottle is slathered with peanut butter, but the goal is to have the dog's choice be so easy to start with that he never even thinks about there being a second option.  In a discrimination study with pigeons trial and error learning produced 2000+ mistakes and errorless learning produced about 25 mistakes in shorter learning time.

This point didn't really seem to apply to my experiment since I want the dogs to have multiple ways of interacting with the target.  But it is a good point to keep in mind when teaching other behaviors, perhaps like teaching scent articles?!

2.  If the dog eventually has to choose between multiple behaviors it is best to alternate the two behaviors in each session.  A study looked at  3 options of teaching a discrimination task 1)training one behavior to proficiency and then start to train the other 2)train one behavior per session but alternate behaviors each day 3)alternate the two behaviors each session.  While all options worked, #3 worked faster since switching between cues forced the animal to pay attention to the differences.

To recap what I did was first teach the nosing of target, then taught pawing the target, then spent a session where I did both behaviors but not mixed yet, and then finally started asking for them randomly in each session.  The article didn't really go in depth into the options so I'm not sure if the options imply that the dog already knows the basic behavior.  I am sure the dog would have to know how to retrieve before discriminating between names of objects to retrieve.  But I am not sure if teaching a dog how to paw an object and then teaching him how to nose an object would be what they are describing in their first choice of the 3 options.   So I may have done a combination of option 1 and 3 or could have just done 3.   

3. Make the discrimination easier first.  Animals can learn both an easy discrimination task AND the hard one faster then animals who just were taught the hard one.  Make sure though that when making the task easier that the animal still has to pay attention to the actual relevant feature and isn't focusing on something different instead.  For example, if the dog was supposed to discriminate between two shapes make sure that he can't also do the task by instead focusing on color, texture, size, etc. 

I feel like this is the most relevant when you are teaching the dog to always pick one object in a discrimination task.  However this may also have been what Arwen was getting at when she suggested that I teach pawing to one target (like a post it note) and nosing to another target.  Then when putting the behaviors together in one session, start with the respective targets at a distance and gradually move them closer until they overlap. 

4.  Make each choice have it's own reward!  Nosing the object might get cheese and pawing it might get a piece of hot dog.  This actually had a huge effect on learning since when the dog hears "whack it" he now thinks of hot dog and that makes it easier for him to choose.

Now this point is what I really needed to do! I can't quite grasp HOW it makes it easier for the dog but I'm guessing it has something to do with classical conditioning!

5.  Give the dog time to think about his mistake.  In the can vs bottle discrimination example you could remove the correct choice of "bottle" if the dog chose the can instead. This allows the dog to see what choice didn't earn him a reward.

Since my project involved multiple behaviors with only one object this point isn't quite as helpful as if I had multiple objects and one behavior.  However I did get much better results when I put the target behind my back after each attempt instead of allowing the dog to correct themself/guess the other behavior right away.  I felt that the consequence of having to wait also made it more important that the dog get it right on the first try.

Anyways, I learned a lot from this short article and really wished I had it when I first started out teaching the nose vs paw task to my dogs.


Mid January Training Plans

It's been almost 2 weeks since I posted on my current training plans for working with the dogs at home.  So here's the update.

1. Touch vs Whack- I updated earlier that Lance was the first to reach 100% in a training session!  Vito followed closely behind.  I've done a tiny bit of generalizing with Lance on a new object (round container of nuts on its side) and percentage went waayy down.  Lance thought the goal was the kick the container so it rolled along the floor.  I have not tried it yet with Vito.

2. Fronts and Finishes- Wow, it's amazing how quickly Lance is getting the correct concept of heel position on a finish.  His left finish is accurate 4 out of 5 times and I am making sure to reward him in the correct spot so he even scootches his butt back a bit if he's off.  His right finish is a bit slower to come around so I'm still rewarding less then accurate tries and using the placement of the treat after I click to get him to scootch back.

Vito isn't that much improved since the last update.  He still steps on my foot somewhere between 1-2 out of every 5 left finishes.  Vito is being very cautious now and his finish is much slower.  I am hoping that the speed and snazziness of it will return as he understand exactly what we're doing.  Vito's fronts are much improved as he rarely steps on my foot anymore.

3. Praying-  I really haven't done a lot of this trick recently.  When I have Lance is getting good at understanding that I want his butt to the floor.  Vito no longer needs me standing behind him to prevent him from standing but we are still working on the duration he will hold his head down between his paws.  Of course in Vito's style the trick is morphing into a trick in flexability as he likes to start it the farthest away from the couch he can be and still get his paws on it!

4. Various Tricks- Ok, not so much.  The only work I did was to get Lance understanding the foot signal for "cross" and he's doing a pretty good job of it.  Lance still defaults to his "pose" trick though if I don't act fast enough.  I didn't do much of this with Vito but did discover he can think more if I hold one hand lightly under his collar so he is less likey to shift his other paw when the first paw goes on top.  He's an odd cookie.

5.  Random Stays- Lance is still stressed but not nearly as much.  He also has only broken 1 stay in the very beginning of this experiment.  The good treats are still coming quite frequently.  Vito LOVES this game and always stays even when I only tell Lance to do so in hopes of getting some good stuff as well.

The new biweekly plans!:

1. Finishes- Continuing accuracy for Lance and not stepping on my feet for Vito.

2. Random Stays- try to do one out of context stay each day.

3. Go Outs- I think I'm going to change Lance's go out for obedience into a paw touch on the wall.  I have previously done a little with sending him to a target but after doing a ton of reading on the Ring Tested group list, the paw touch seems like the better choice.  I have already experimented with teaching Lance the "spread em" trick and have taught Lance to run to a wall, put both front feet on it, and stay while I pat him down.  But I stopped it when my instructor said it might be bad for Lance's corgi shoulders to slam into a wall.  So now my challenge will be to get Lance to calmly put one paw on the wall (a "whack it!") oh and do everything else associated with a proper go out :)

Vito will now be participating in this training too!

4. Tricks- When I have time the trick list will include touch vs whack, praying, limping, hugging a toy, and retrieving a hot dog.

Best friends!


Rally at Land O' Lakes Dog Show!

Lance entered Rally Excellent today at the big dog show.  I have stopped by the show in the past to see all the conformation dogs and great vendors, but have not competed there.  I decided that this would not be a good show to do actual obedience in, way too many distractions for little Lance, but rally might be ok.

Well his score was good, a 99, but this was not Lance's best performance.  Lance was just charging to go and really did not want to heel.  He wasn't sniffy and didn't seem distracted by the crowd or anything, but Lance was really wanting to move fast and did not appreciate being reigned in!  Right off the bat Lance sprinted off the line when I took my first step (actually video evidence shows that he left on the what I think was my mouth just starting to open!) and since the moving stand exercise was 3 steps from the start that put us in trouble.  I immediately took a step back and got Lance into position before going forward to the sign and having him hold his stand.  I think the judge could have technically taken 3pts off for this first exercise since I kind've redid it, but she only took 1pt off.  I asked her about it after the awards and she said that I did it so fast and it was before I started the moving stand exercise that she felt it was more an out of position then a redo.  Nice judge :)

On both jumps and after the fast time he needed a stern "Lance!" to reel him back in.  He was just nuts and was totally forging the entire time.  I don't know what got into the little corgi but I'm thinking I need to change my warmup for him.  I'm still used to the Lance lagging when he gets distracted so I tend to focus on more active exercises and getting his body moving when maybe Lance now needs some calming focus exercises. 

Well this was our third leg so now Lance has his Rally Excellent title!  I'm still not sure if I will go for his RAE but I am now offically registered for APDT Rallly and will enter the trial in February if I'm not working.

Oh, and I also got to see Vito's littermate at the trial!  We ended up crating right next to Henry who had his debut in Rally Novice today!  Henry did very well too!  I was sad to see how small Vito was next to Henry.  Vito clocks in at a petite 29.5lbs with no meat on him at all and Henry is 45lbs looking like a proper toller.  It was cute to see how much their faces look alike though!


And the winner is...Nose vs Paw Touches, part 3

Lance wins!  Today marked the first day that Lance got 100% on his paw vs nose target discrimination.  (Part 1, Part 2)  Previously both dogs had been hovering close to the 100% mark but always managed to screw up once or twice.  Today's test involved random switches between the two behaviors and at one point I tried to trick both dogs by doing 3 "touches" in a row and then asking for "whack it."  Both dogs passed the trick, but Vito failed another switch a couple trials later.  So Lance is the winner :)

I am still not willing to bet with real money that either Lance or Vito could get it right the first try, but I think that's true about most tricks that I train.  Overall I am confident that both dogs have a really good understanding of the verbal discriminations.

Step 4 (5?6?10?) in this project will be trying their new cues out on brand new objects.  What good is their behaviors if they can only do it on a target?!  My goal is to go into Hearing and Service Dogs of MN and have them test their behaviors on an actual handicapped push plate.  Well at least with Vito, Lance might need a stool :)

Here's the sore loser.

I don't think he has any idea of what he's doing.

Oh and as far as I know only one of you guys have tried this discrimination with your own dogs.  Check out The House of Misfit Dogs where Ninso tries this with her foster Elo.  She adds the brilliant idea of quitting her session if Elo gets the first one right.  This is done in order to prevent the dog from learning to offer what was just previously rewarded and make the transitions easier in the future.

Update: go to part 4


Lance's NADAC Trial!

We start off the new year with a bang!  Lance attended his first NADAC trial, 3rd day of agility overall, on Sunday.  I only entered him in novice jumpers and tunnelers to avoid any contacts or weaving until I'm satisified with his contact performance.  We waited all day but had a blast!

I am so pleased with how we did!  Both courses had multiple crosses which Lance read nicely and he ran fast too!  We made 4.9yps in jumpers and 5.5 in tunnelers :)  I was especially pleased on the opening of our tunnelers run as Lance sped by me and kept going without any looking back or hesitation!  We are getting some really nice obstacle focus on the corgi.


Thoughts on Stays

I forgot to mention in the last post that I am also working on completely random stays around the house.  Since Lance has been stressing at the group stays in trials I haven't found a way to replicate his errors yet.  He passes almost any proof I throw his way with ease and even training in different locations hasn't gotten Lance to break.  But I was thinking about it and while I was reading through my Ring Tested yahoo group there was an amazing post by Linda Koutsky on stays.  I read this post awhile ago on how Linda never uses the word stay and so is forced to look at every broken sit/down her dogs do in everyday life.  She makes the training anything but formal and does it constantly throughout the day, teaching her dogs that sit means sit regardless of the context.  I personally love the idea of never using the word "stay" but don't think I'll make that switch anytime soon since I just don't think I'm that good of a trainer.  I just know I would forget that the word sit means do so until released and would constantly forget to release my dog.  So for now I will continue to use the unnecessary stay word.  But anyways, it was a wonderful article and I believe was originally posted in Front and Finish magazine in Sept/Oct 2008.

I read the article about a month or two ago but just recently thought of how it applied to Lance.  I already have my dogs do random sits, downs, rollovers, etc. without the context of a training session, treat bag or any seen treats.  When my dogs heard a cue they respond almost immediately and basically know that even if they didn't see me get a treat out they are likely going to get one.  And while I don't treat every single time, I do try to reward almost all of these random ones.  Oh and of course I ask for commands in other contexts such as occasionally making them sit/whatever to play tug, go out the door, etc.  But I have never asked for a formal stay randomly.  Sure I make the dogs do their "wait" (my very informal, just don't cross whatever boundary I set) multiple times a day like when the door bell rings, before crossing the gate in the yard, out of the car, remaining in a room at work while I do chores, etc.  But never the formal stay where I enforce the position they were left in.  All stays are done in the context of a training session.  I may not have my treat pouch on me, but the dogs are always already in "working mode" and this is when I have been setting up Lance's proofs.  And this is when Lance takes every challenge I throw at him.

Light bulb suddenly went on a couple days ago as I came to this realization.  And now my goal is do several stays per day that seem to come out of nowhere.  I'm watching tv, call over to Lance to "sit, stay" and then completely ignore him while I remain watching tv.  Or I'm taking a shower and call Lance to "come, sit, stay" and resume my shower.  Repeat in as many different scenarios as I can come up with.  And what have I come up with?  One dog who is highly confused and stressed.  So far Lance has only broke once, but I have gotten lots of tongue flicks, yawning, and one stressed doggy.

I am rewarding lots, and with the jackpot rewards of various lunch meats that I have hidden before the start of my shower, tv episode, etc.  My goal in doing this is for Lance to learn how to hold a position even when stressed, and to learn that stays produce extra good treats.  In the same way that his eyes' light up when he hears a random cue, I want him to be in a state of glee when he does a random stay.  We're working very slowly with treats coming around every 30seconds.  As a side note I reward during the stay, not the release so the treats are while he is still staying and are not a cue that he is to get up.

At some point I will also add in Lance doing a full random sit stay without treats followed by the down stay (or vice versa).  I think Lance has been breaking the down during trials and not the sit simply because it is second.  He is stressed on the sit but manages to hold it until I come back.  But even though I praise Lance and try to tell him what a great dog he's been, Lance doesn't get any real reward and maybe he thinks that he's wrong which is just devastating to Lance.  When I then leave him on the down Lance stands up almost immediately as all that stress accumulates and he just doesn't know what to do.  So at some point I will need to address doing 2 stays in a row without feedback.

Any thoughts?  Or anybody want to join me in this new goal?  Oh and thanks for the comments on the last post about actually being interested in my training sessions :)


Current Training Plans

I've decided that in 2010 and I'm going to post more often on my little training sessions with the dogs.  Not because I think any readers care to read about it, but I think doing so will help me keep on track with my training.  No more slacking!  So here is this weeks (months?) priority list:

1. Touch vs Whack- Still working on having them discriminate between verbal cues for nose touch vs paw.  Both dogs can near 100% some sessions but then get in crazy guessing where they just swear I must really want a paw (Vito) or nose (Lance).

2. Fronts and Finishes- Vito is getting much better about not stepping on my feet as he pivots to heel.  He is however doing it in almost a 2 step motion as he pivots to my side and then very quickly scootches back into proper position.  It's not exactly 2 distinct steps as there is no pause, but the backing up looks odd.  I have no clue if this would be points off or not so I will have to ask my instructors when classes resume for the new year.

I am also reworking f&f's with Lance now.  Mainly his finishes as it is not uncommon for Lance to end up in a forged position by a good 4inches or so.  Since Lance is my first dog when I started training him I really had no clue where proper heel position was.  I did most of his training before ever joining a class and thus have ended up with this forged finish (and really forged heeling in general).  Not all the time, but a decent amount.  Once I discovered where proper  heel really was I just never made it a goal of mine to fix Lance's position.  I didn't really care too much since I didn't know how far I was going to go with his obedience work.  But now
I've decided that I DO really like training for obedience and maybe I will try to shoot for a UDX or even an OTCH with him some day.  So back to reworking his basics!

3. Praying-  This is the current trick that I am really focusing on.  You can see it in the December portion of our recap video, but there is still a long ways to go.  I started having both dogs "pray" from a stand position but then decided that looked too weird so now I"m going back and asking them to do it from a beg position.  Vito needs me standing behind him right now for support or he reverts back to his stand.  Lance is doing a modified prayer as I didn't think he could put his head in between his stubby paws.  So Lance's job is to just rest his head on the couch.

4. Other Random tricks that I occasionally practice (rarely) if I have any remaining kibble left-
Retrieving a hot dog- we've been working on getting a good hold of a frozen hot dog.  Recently started to put the hot dog on the floor.

Limping- Vito is working on it with his front right paw.  He currently rests his paw on mine as we walk and we've progressed to about 5 steps.  Lance is starting over with his front right paw (already does front left) and we're just on step 1 of keeping that paw in the air.

Cross and Pose- I am redoing this work with Vito as he doesn't have a hold where one paw remains over the other paw.  Plus on the "cross" (right over left) Vito loves to shift his left paw sideways as he moves the right paw over it.  Lance is working on getting a foot signal for cross as he already knows the foot signal for pose.

Hugging a toy- (holding a toy with paws while in a beg). This is just with Lance right now and the current goal is to get Lance to press his two paws together over the object; I am using a very thin toy.  Lance still likes to spike the toy down and doesn't fully understand this concept.  I have thought about starting this work with a pole but so far have been too lazy to go find a pole.

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Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.- Roger Caras

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