Classes have been getting increasingly frustrating over the last three weeks. By the end of class tonight I was certain I'd broken her indication for good. She was so frustrated and she was pawing worse than ever, having a hard time settling in. Poor kid – she was just so confused. This is in large part because of the recent focus on containers, with lots of boxes which we weren’t ready for.
She has a long history of having fun shredding boxes. So they get her really excited, just by being there. Then you add odor, which also has a long history of excitement attached... and she's just mighty revved up. We weren't ready to focus on containers and I didn't have an adequate plan for when they showed up in class.
I tried to manage the issue, but that was just confusing to Gimme. I tried doing some extra training outside class to work with boxes, but that only confused her more and got us both frustrated.
Candy and I have talked about it and have concluded that I need to have the behavior solid before I bring in boxes, the ultimate in distraction factor. I've tried working on it since we talked and Gimme just seemed to get more and more frustrated. So the container part of class tonight was pretty awful.
Fortunately we ended class with a multiple room search. Joyce put a single box in each of four kennel rooms, with the doors propped open. Rooms 2 and 4 had odor in their boxes. We were to walk down the hall and see whether the dogs were interested in going in any of the rooms. Noting how you could tell from their behavior which rooms had odor and which didn't (getting ready for clear rooms in NW3).
Gimme did EXACTLY what I thought she would. She'd sniff at the clear rooms, without entering and veer slightly away, pointedly ignoring the rooms with odor. This is exactly what she does with a line of sheds at Home Depot. She walks down the line and veers away from any that have odor, every time. As with sheds, when I walked her to the door of one she veered away from, she goes in and goes straight to odor. I made a joke about her being a contrarian. In reality Gimme just loves the hunting more than the finding, so she sometimes tries to make the search last.
Anyway, I was thinking about her indicator on the way home and pondering what I could do to make it clear to her. I've been focused on teaching her that the "paw" cue means paw & hold, not pawing. Initially that was working well and I was already seeing a bleed over of more moderate paw action in searches. That is, until recently when we started doing all the container searches. Once frustration kicked in, her pawing went into overdrive - especially tonight.
So then it occurred to me that she knows to paw and hold on my hand... so why not add odor to that particular picture and build up from there. So I got one tin of each odor and worked them one-by-one. I held a tin in my hand and extended it to her. Naturally she sniffed and then I cued "paw". I started by just recuing "paw" each time she put it down, while giving her a continual stream of treats for holding it there.
Then I used the same technique to add in a nose-touch along with the paw-hold. By the end of three tins and 45 treats, Gimme would put her paw up and hold it there and then bump-bump-bump... clearly showing me where it was... and she'd get a rapid string of treats. She was so happy to know exactly what I wanted and I was thrilled at how fast she picked it up. It was honestly a beautiful thing to see.
Next step is to set up hides and then as she finds them, I'll move my fist in and let her paw-hold with nose-bumps... gradually transferring it to the hide itself. If tonight's little session is any indication - this should go quickly.
Cross any body parts you can spare.