Monday, March 20, 2017
We did an extra class on Sunday evening as a makeup for missing the first class. This class is actually a beginner class, but there's still value, just working around other dogs. The retriever mix she took a dislike to at the beginning of this session was supposed to be there and I was eager to see if she'd made any headway on look-at-that. Unfortunately they didn't show up.
We did several sessions working on cue discrimination (multiple uses of one prop) and obstacle discrimination (separate behaviors, different props).
Our first session (no video) was working the difference between getting "hands" (two-on) vs. "out" (go around); prop was a small upside-down bucket. Gimme found this very challenging. A big part of the challenge was simply working around strange dogs (3). She'd never gone around a low prop before, so this was it's own challenge. Initially she couldn't even follow my hand luring her around the bucket. I need to slow the luring hand down until I found a speed she could focus on. It took awhile, but we were able to get the "out". Once I engaged her working brain, then we did some work switching between the two behaviors.
Our next session was working the difference between "box" and "out"; prop was a low box (again no video). This again was a new concept, since she'd never gone around a prop she could get in. "Box" is one of her favorite behaviors and the box was big enough she could still manage to get a foot or two in it, while following my luring hand, making this even more challenging. I resorted to tipping the box up on its end to introduce the idea. The next step was tipping the box up on its side. Then I laid it out flat, but stepped in the box to block her from getting in as I lured her around. It took awhile but when she had the concept, then I was able to switch between the two behaviors.
"hands" vs "table" video - This time we were to work on "hands" (2 on) vs. "table" (4 on) for the same prop. Gimme finds this very hard at the best of times. You can see how close the nearest dog was and there were two others working at the same time. I often have to use "wait" to slow her down, so I can reward not-doing. Probably the only issue with teaching a dog to freeshape is their lifelong tendency to tossing behaviors at you when they want another treat, which with Gimme is all the time. Then again, as much as she wants to drive the train all the time, this likely would have been an issue even without her learning freeshaping so young. Teaching her there is value in being still is an ongoing issue. Jo came by and was coaching me. Her first suggestion was for me to have Gimme wait briefly before getting the treat, so she would get rewarded for holding the position (to counteract the stealth foot-on). The next suggestion was to separate the "yes" and the reward, for clarity. The other thing I have to do is to slow down, because I get caught up in Gimme's energy, instead of her responding to mine. When I get all my skills right, she does do better. I am fortunate to have Jo as our instructor, since she has a good eye.
"over" vs "below" video - Again hard work to listen. She gets it right a few times and then starts getting too demanding for treats, so we switch to her self-control-food exercise. Jo thinks she's not exercising self control, but rather giving me the control. I'm not sure what I think about this idea. At some level I think she has to exercise self control to give me control, so perhaps its a moot point. In any case, its been an effective way to slow her (and me?) down and get back to being more thoughtful. Her very next try, she almost does it wrong, but then catches herself and realizes what I said and does it right, for which she got a jackpot. Of course her next rep is wrong and then overall she gets more wrong than right. This (all these exercises) need to be worked on at home when the weather gets better. Since its so hard for her to begin with, I think she needs to be learning these things in a less distracting environment.
"box" vs "table" video - This is just hard work, though I think easier than the cue discrimination exercises we'd been doing. When we work on this at home, I want to first teach these behaviors with some distance, so I get my own movement out of the picture. Jo thinks when I'm making her wait to do a behavior (trying to get her to understand not-doing has value), I should wait for her to offer me eye contact before I reward her with a cue. Her thinking is, since Gimme really wants to work, then having her ask to work with eye contact builds on self control. We haven't done much with eye contact for awhile, so I should probably work on this at home to remind her how the game works.
hold on prop video - The goal was to have the dog hold in/on the prop. Note how many variations Gimme offers. For the first "table" I counted 7 other behaviors - such as, shifting, tap dancing, head bobs, sits, downs, re-positioning herself, head turn... For "box" I counted 6 other behaviors.
hold on prop 2 video - This time we just did the one "box" and I focused on rewarding more stillness. Clearly this will be a work in progress.
This class was a lot of mental work. Also, since the dogs were working all at once instead of taking turns on the floor, it was much more working time than usual. Gimme slept soundly most of the way home, but then was wide awake and ready to be home.