Monday, March 2, 2015
I didn't get this written sooner because we went to a seminar all weekend and I had lots of things to do before we left at the crack of dawn.
We practiced at DaPaws Wednesday night and it went really well. Gimme had a lot of fun and out of our 30 minute session, we got over 20 minutes working. We started with the perimeter walk. Then worked for awhile practicing all kinds of behaviors. Then I let Gimme take a break of a couple minutes. Then we worked some more. Chris showed up and I let Gimme take a break to visit. Then we ended with a couple minutes of work with Chris there, showing off some new moves we've been working on. Gimme loves her, but we really need to get past having to stop when she shows up, so at some point I need to get Chris to help me by being our distraction of the day.
RallyFrEe class last Thursday was all about proofing distractions. When I came in, Kathy told me to take Gimme directly to her crate without our usual perimeter walk. I was kinda panicked because I know how important it is for Gimme to acclimate to the building each time if I want focus from her.
Kathy talked to us about the day's focus - dealing with distractions. Our exercise was a line of four wads of paper towels, set up as if they were a prop weave exercise. I didn't really think Gimme would be very distracted by them - boy was I wrong. The points she made during discussion were:
* how important it is to have a start-work cue
* how important it is to have an end-work cue
* the best way to deal with distractions is to teach the dog
to view the distraction as a cue to look at you
So we each had to tell her what our start-work and end-work cues are. Start-work for Gimme is "setup". This is simply a behavior where she sits in heel position with rapt attention. I even have her do it before right side heeling - starting with her "setup" on the left, then move to the right "side" to begin. I do this because I don't want her to default to a sit in "side" position, since we'll never need it there and on the times when I do, I can give her a verbal cue. I don't really have an end-work cue, so have decided to use "all done".
After the discussion Kathy let us do our perimeter walk for 2½ minutes, provided we didn't include the area of the distraction exercise in the walk. Gimme is getting faster and faster at turning her attention to me in the perimeter walks. The first time I did it at DaPaws it took 15 minutes, now Gimme is working me with offered attention in under 2 minutes. Our first time at Pawsabilities where we take RallyFrEe classes was about 10 minutes and now she's usually done well before we've gone halfway around the room. She doesn't seem to need as much time, but she still needs some.
Then we did exercises working around the distractions in ever increasing difficulty. Kathy says if you do this with enough different things, over time the dog will view the distractions as a cue to look to you for reward. The exercises in order were:
1 -- Start with the start-work cue, then walk the dog by the distraction with enough
distance so the dog couldn’t get to the distraction. If the dog stopped to look,
we stopped with them and moved on when they were ready. We let the dogs
look and sniff toward the distraction and click/treat for any offered attention.
Finish with the end-work cue.
2 -- Start with the start-work cue, then cue “heel” and walk the dog somewhat
toward the distraction, still with enough distance so the dog can’t get to it.
If the dog stops working, i.e. leaves heel position, then gently move away
(no leash correction) and restart. Dogs can look, but need to stay with us.
We click/treat for heeling, aiming to get a steady stream of treats. Finish
with the end-work cue.
3 -- Start with the start-work cue, then cue “heel” and walk the dog closer to the
distraction, but still with enough distance so the dog can’t get to it. If the
dog stops working, i.e. leaves heel position, then gently move away (no
leash correction) and restart. Dogs got clicked for staying in heel position
and maintaining attention. Finish with the end-work cue.
4 -- Start with the start-work cue, then cue “heel” and walk the dog ever closer to
the distraction. Move away if you need to and click treat for staying in heel
position and maintaining attention. Finish with the end-work cue.
Gimme did very well with all of them, though she was quite intrigued with the paper towel balls at first. Who knew? By the end of the fourth exercise Gimme was able to heel right over the distraction without looking at it. This was much more than the other dogs were able to do. Gimme figures out distraction training very quickly. During this class her tail was wagging the whole time, so she was having fun and I clearly had the right level of incrementation. It was always like this in our classes with Ursula, she had to wrack her brain to come up with new distractions because Gimme had figured out the drill and you couldn't suck her in with the same thing a second time. This worked nicely, so I plan to start including distraction training in our sessions at the tennis courts and at DaPaws. I think Gimme will enjoy the challenge.
Then Kathy helped each of us with one thing we wanted to focus on. I elected to work on Gimme's right "side" heeling. This week we introduced stopping in position with me. At first Kathy had me stop, click immediately (before Gimme could get out of position) and then toss the treat. After several repetitions of this, she had me stop, click for stopping, treat in position, then click for her staying there and toss this treat. We also did some instances of leaving Gimme in a "wait" walking two steps and calling her into "side". Initially she was clicked and the treat tossed, then we went to the variation of click/treat in position followed by a click in position and tossed treat. The idea is to keep this a very fun game, so Gimme really wants to be in "side" because the game could begin at any moment.
Kathy is talking about moving this class to Sunday mornings. I hope she doesn't for a bunch of reasons. We'd still continue with her, but it would be a big inconvenience and suck a lot of extra time out of our week. Cross your fingers...