In last week's Public Dog class, I was told by both instructors not to use peanut butter to reward Gimme for an especially good effort. Their reasoning was that they saw tension, thought it got her too amped up and she needs to be calm to work. That is not consistent with my observation of Gimme and I've always given her PB for her best efforts. Yet, during that class, between our turns I rewarded her with peanut butter for being calm on her matt and she did not get aroused from it. I have worked with Gimme from time to time about still having a working brain even in the face of her Kong ball filled with peanut butter.
I think they saw the body tense in excitement and both just assumed she would go over the top. Possibly they are remembering the couple of weeks when she couldn't calm down in class and are blaming it on the go toob. Given how fast it resolved when I stopped reinforcing the overwrought behavior - I think it was more an unintentionally rewarded behavior. I never really talked that much with Ursula about what I was doing/thinking, so she may not know all the other things that played into the issue. Of course she tenses up in excitement when she sees her favorite PB coming - that doesn't mean she will get over the top.
So I decided to do a little test and modified my treat bag with 2 strips of elastic to hold a open film canister (filled with peanut butter, what else) upright and in the right hand corner. During the first class I got kind of mixed-bag results.
Gimme learned that if she is really subtle, Mom won't notice when she gets her nose in there and helps herself. She has a long-standing habit of nose-bumping the side pouch that holds the go toob and I mostly ignor her bumps. So when I wasn't fully paying attention to what she was bumping, she just eased her nose in the edge of the bag and quietly licked up some PB. Since she could get the PB without getting her whole snout in the bag and just using her tongue, she was able to help herself for who knows how long. Sneaky little girl.
Our exercises included a couple of tiny Rally courses. Gimme was the only one who could do all the exercises as they are intended. I did discover her heeling has deteriorated a lot and I think I know why - so have some work to do resolve that. Using the PB in that way was fine for when we were working exercises. She was eager to work and putting forth a ton of effort. She even got through a potentially troublesome spot when another class dog "swore" at her (lunged and barked at her) - she was inclined to respond, but readily turned back to me and working. And she didn't hold onto it either... she sensibly kept an eye on that dog when we were near it, but wasn't on high-alert and readily working.
However, when I wanted her to chill on her matt while we waited our turn, the PB in the bag worked against us. Since she never knew when it would be cheese or PB, she was more alert than I want her to be for chilling. In that context, she ended up being a bit whiny.
One time Gimme gave me some decent chill and I gave her a glob of PB from the go toob... then she was calm for awhile. So perhaps in that case, more IS more. My thinking is that when she gets a bunch of PB, she is satisfied for awhile and it has a calming affect. She always spends a bit of time licking her leg (I think to get the PB all down and not remaining stuck to the inside of her mouth). However, when she only gets a little bit, it leaves her wanting more and she tries to figure out ways to get it. So, I need to effectively use that difference for what attitude I want in a particular moment. At the second class I found I could consciously use the difference to my advantage and it worked quite well. One thing I had to make clear to her is that when she is in chill position - she has to stay there to keep the go toob coming toward her.
In that class we focused on Secondary Reinforcers and I overheard Urs telling a student that you could condition anything the dog likes to do as a reinforcement. Gimme is a very kissy face girl... so after hearing that, I decided her newest SR is "love me". I hold my arm in butler position and she puts her paws up and gives me a kiss. Took me 3 seconds to get her up there and then all I had to do was get my face in range. To condition this SR, we were to cue it and then reward with a treat, ten times in a row. I thought Gimme was going to split a seam - being invited in, getting to kiss her Mom and then getting a treat! Well that's almost more than a little girl can take, doncha know. By halfway through she was getting so excited, that she'd give a little hop and I was getting a vigorous bump with my kiss. Not enough to hurt, but noticeable.
So now I already have three SRs... and they want us to bring a toy next time so we can condition that as an SR too. I just have to decide which toy to bring.
Gimme and I are taking off to Vancouver in a couple of hours for a nosework seminar on Inaccessible Hides. So, gotta git packing... but first let me close this with some pictures.
Gimme and I got out to the fort for a walk and got caught in a rain squall, which didn't last too long. One of her favorite activities when we walk there alone is hunting for mouse holes and then digging in them. She'll be cruising along and all the sudden her head whips around and she darts off for a hole which subsequently gets the treatment. She hasn't caught a mouse this way, but is nonetheless determined. Naturally she gets very dirty doing so. I'm sure this is an indication of what a fabulous Barn Hunt dog she will be when we are able to get to a workshop.