Our RallyFrEe practice last week went well. Gimme had more focus than I’ve seen for the last few sessions, though it didn’t last long. For the last session I worked briefly on a few behaviors which seem to have fallen apart lately. Candy and I talked at length later and I realized what I thought was happening wasn’t the case at all. I hadn't realized the source because it occurred close in time to a period of false pregnancy and medication change, both of which affect focus.
In short, I thought I'd taught Gimme "thru" means pass from "heel" or "side" through my legs (front to back) and turn to end on the other side (like one pass of a figure 8). She also knows "left" and "right" meaning to pass from whichever side she's on, through my legs (front to back) and return to the original side (a leg circle). We also have "under" which means to come from behind me between my legs and stop there.
It seems as I've tried to reduce the amount of center of gravity (CG) shift (which indicated which way to turn) she's become confused. Apparently she didn't learn what I thought. Lately she does "left" or "right" in response to "thru". In "left" or "right" I stand with my CG over the leg I want her to circle and just point with my toe/foot with the other leg to create the gap. And when this doesn’t' work, sometimes she will try to "under", passing through, turning 180 degrees and coming up under from behind. It was this solution which helped me realize what was going on. These three behaviors have big similarities. My only answer was to return to weight shifting and then remove it more gradually. But I know her well enough to know how fixated she can get on what SHE thinks the real cue is. So I posed the question on the MDSA workshop list.
Susan suggested I video several reps of each of these commands, with and without the weight shift, and look carefully at the replay for what my hips, hands, arms, shoulders, head and eyes are doing, as well as the lower body weight shift. She suggested I think about whether I could change/exaggerate another physical cue. Unfortunately this won’t work since RallyFrEe focuses on getting behaviors on verbal cues, so any noticeable physical cue is points off.
Gimme always has difficulty with verbals. Teaching her behaviors is easy peasy. Getting them on a verbal cue can be hard on a legendary scale.
Ilona seconded the video idea and added she thinks it is largely a proofing and stimulus control issue. She gave me a lot of ideas for how to approach this – starting with going back to the basic behavior and being very careful about the order of cues as I reattach the verbal cue. She also proposed an idea I hadn’t heard (or hadn’t understood). It is, after the verbal is solid, then you start proofing toward stimulus control by giving the old unintended physical cue and if Gimme does the behavior she gets no reward… she only gets rewarded for doing the behavior following the verbal cue.
I was also thinking how some behaviors seem to go on a verbal cue so easy. But in considering it further, I realized there are physical cues which are part of those behaviors. In Parkour Gimme will do "hands" and "table", but needs me to indicate which prop we are using. She at least understands to use the verbal to determine which behavior will be paid for. On the other hand "box", she doesn't need an indication from me, other than proximity. Of course, the presence of an in-able prop is a cue in itself.
I did create the videos. I have to say up front they aren't pretty. We haven't trained in the yard for nine months, so she was very distracted. She's essentially out of the habit of paying attention in the yard which we need to work through again. The ground is rough under the straw I just mowed, so I am clumsy. Behaviors with physical cues video The first video is what the behaviors should look like. I don't usually have to use my hands, but she was very distracted.
The second video is when I'm trying to remove the physical cues. She actually gets it right several times, but in viewing the video I can see she is cuing off of other body movements. Without physical cues video The first time my step to the side cues her which side to go to as I appear to shift my CG. The second one I started from a clean position and then she did "under". The third one she starts "behind" (CCW circle) then checks out to distractions. I edited out a bit of moving around to get her back to work. The next one seems to be right, but I think she cued off my hand movement as I smoothed my shirt. Another big check out and then I had her working for a few more. After this edit/break she did one right, which may have been cued by a bit of head/shoulder movement. The next couple are right, probably due to pattern training. Then when I switch to "right", she gives me two "thru" (AND I CLICKED! - bad trainer!). We did a couple "right" correctly, then I switched to "left" and got the same "thru" offerings, followed by a few correct.
Clearly we have some work to do and I plan to start with first getting the behaviors fast and correct with physical cues, making sure when I reattach the cues to get the order correct, then gradually remove physical cues.
Another suggestion from Ilona was to make it clearer to Gimme by cuing “thru-side” and “thru-heel”. This could tell Gimme exactly what I want after executing the “thru”. Asking her to move “to the other side” is a bit conceptual, but giving a position cue gives her all the information she needs.
It was interesting to read this suggestion, since I’d been thinking about it, but was "resistant" to doing it, probably because someone I train with has these long multi-word cues for simple behaviors and its a bit crazy making. As I was considering my resistance, I realize I have no problem giving her paired cues for dog-front-cross, which are "switch-to-side" and "switch-to-heel". I even thought I could cue "switch-to-center", which now is just "center". Sometimes its a little slow, so perhaps adding "switch-to" would make it clearer for her.
I did a short test of these three options, along with a couple other ideas.
♥ “thru-side” worked perfectly the first time and every time, with zero body cues
♥ “thru-heel” worked perfectly the first time-every time, zero body cues
♥ “switch-to-center” didn’t work, resulted in a switch to "heel" or "side"
♥ from center “switch-to-heel” resulted in a circle
♥ from center “switch-to-side” also resulted in a circle
♥ from center “heel” and “side” she moved directly to the correct position
♥ from heel and side “center” she moved directly to the correct position
While I can’t really explain her choices in trying to sort out what to do for the 3rd through 5th options, it doesn’t matter. We have working cues for those options. I’m just happy to have a good solution to our problem. I didn’t do any tests related to "left" and "right" leg circles, which we haven’t trained much in the last couple of months. I decided to leave them alone, since I think they may be a little confused for her right now, due to the confusion over the "thru" behaviors.
Another realization from watching the videos. Recently I've been reading a trainer's suggestions about how she teaches attention. She does it both cued and offered, going back and forth between them. Her cue for attention is "ready". Before I start with her approach, I’ve been trying to think of what cue I would use, since I already use "readeeeeee" before her nosework release from the start line - where she doesn't look at me - and I didn't want to create a conflict. And yet I saw in the video in the yard, when I said "ready" she gave me attention right away. I realize it may be contextual, being at nosework with my hand in her harness, or I say them different enough so they don’t sound the same to her. To me they are the same because they are spelled the same, to Gimme they are different.
Lucky girl, she gets to sleep through all my theoretical ponderings. For her its all fun and games.