She wasn't totally off, just took her longer than usual to get focused. It probably didn't help that Tor had a run-amuck moment and went blazing past us (about ten feet away) a couple times. She likes him and has walked with him... so it shouldn't have been too stressful for her. There's also a new dog in class that has a growly way of "talking" and that may be uncomfortable to her. His owner uses a fair amount of corrections (though a lot less than when I first met him and encouraged him to call Ursula). He's not that reliable yet, so we made sure to set up away from him.
We started working in the tennis court with our dropped leashes and just did parallel (lines 15 feet apart) walking 20 feet, doing a behavior and then returning to our station for treats. Gimme did okay at this, she just lacked really solid focus or her usual precision. After we went out on the grass and I was further away from the others (in particular the instructors), when she did a really good bit of LLW, I rewarded her with PB. After that I had a lot more focus and she did some really lovely things. And, I didn't use the PB all the time, just for the best efforts.
That leads to something I've been planning to talk about. Ursula thinks that sometimes peanut butter raises Gimme's arousal level. We've had this talk before and basically Elizabeth's answer was to never use it. Obviously that's not going to happen. At the time I sewed some loops of elastic in my treat pouch so I could have a peanut butter filled film canister, to dip my finger in and give Gimme stealth PB. I did that for several weeks and never had any problems with Gimme becoming too aroused.
Recently this came up again and I was very frustrated, because it was sounding like Gimme could never have peanut butter and this was coming from Ursula, who's opinion I have a lot more respect for. I had a long talk with Ursula after class and we realized we weren't communicating well. Ursula doesn't think I should let her lick it off the Go Toob. She thinks that Gimme gets a more aroused that way because she doesn't know when its going to end. Which explains why there was no issue when we were doing stealth PB, because it was a blob off my finger and that's it, plus no licking.
Ursula also thinks I shouldn't give it to her when she is already aroused or overly excited. I mentioned teaching Gimme to behave better about getting treats (no jumping up, no putting her feet up on things to get closer to the treats, etc). Ursula doesn't think that will help, that arousal is the issue, not behavior. After our talk, I thought it through and decided to continue with that plan anyway. My thinking is that once she is more clear (requiring consistency from me) about how to behave to get the treats she's earned... if she can't keep four on the floor, then she's too excited/aroused for PB and gets her regular treats.
So I've been doing two things.
- I've been working on stimulus control with her target stick. This is an ongoing project that I work on for awhile and then get bored with it and slack off. Now what I'm doing is using that to teach Gimme how to win PB. I stand next to the table where there is both the Go Toob and a dish of regular treats. When Gimme does her best work I reach for the PB. But, if her feet come off the ground - the PB stays put and she gets other treats. This has proven very challenging for her. She's working at it, but its still really hard and she's still sorting out the rules for how to make the PB come to Gimme's lips.
- I'm also using peanut butter more in training, not less. I'm using it as much as I can for differential style reinforcement. When she puts forth a superior effort, I want to give her a super reward. I notice once I get a really good effort that I reward with PB, the quality of all the efforts that follows goes up quite a bit.