Titles Achieved to date...

Monumental A to Z High On Liberty

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Copier Pictures

I've already sent off the 4 best pictures from the 9/11 photo shoot.  I had to tidy the office before taking pictures, so it looks better than any time in the last five years.  Of course now I'm sneezing my head off from stirring up all that dust. 

Gimme was very good about getting into position and sitting there waiting through all my picture taking nonsense.  She really does have an excellent sit-wait.  In the first picture, Gimme is patiently waiting after I pushed the button for the copier to take the picture of her cute little tushy...

In the second picture, she is clearly impatient to see the final results and is actually watching the paper come out of the copier.

Afterward I spread her pictures out on the floor and let her look at them.  She spent quite awhile examining them, before tearing a couple to shreds.  I should have gotten pictures of her doing that.

There's another picture I would have loved to get, but needed someone to take the picture... I didn't want to risk Gimme breaking her stay and jumping off to get to me since its a long way down.  I may get that picture some day, simply because Gimme is so photogenic and it would be a cool shot.  But obviously not until I have another set of hands to take the picture so I can make sure she stays safe.

I have a great Halloween costume idea for her, but was too busy with other things to get it done.  Maybe next year.

We've only done a little training in the last couple days since I was fighting a cold and needed to work some extra rest into my days.  The second session with the target stick went really well, so I attached the cue.  Next time I'll start working on the exercise that I learned from Ursula.  I'll try to videotape it.

We have a working slot in a freestyle seminar next weekend.  I have been so focused on the fruit project that I wasn't even thinking about it and now here it is almost upon us and I really haven't taught her any of the behaviors I wanted to have ready. 

So, I'm also using free shaping to teach Gimme to back away from me.  The hardest part seems to be getting her to understand that I want her to go straight away from me.  On the hardwood floor, I lined up with the strips and started by clicking any time she kept one foot between the strips, then two and finally three.  Still, I'm not sure she is getting the idea and it was kinda frustrating for her.  So I'm going to lay down two strips of duct tape to form a corridor for her.  Then as she gets the idea I can cut away at the edges making the tape narrower and narrower to fade it. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Private Lesson & Target Stick

I wanted to do one of the exercises we did in our private lesson, but needed to attach the cue to the target stick behavior first.  Silly me, I thought Gimme would remember how to do her target stick behavior, even if we haven't done it for at least six months.  Whereas Gimme thought it was really nice of me to bring a stick in for her to chew on. 

So I quickly dropped the idea of attaching a cue to the biting-the-stick behavior.  I basically had to free-shape it from the start.  By the time we finished she was doing really nice nose touches on the end.  So if she does that again next time from the start, I will attach a cue to it.


We started with some discussions, based on some questions I had been thinking about. 

Q1a.  Are we complicating the wait-for-the-cue process by using her two default behaviors (sit and down) in the mixed sets?   When we did so much work on her relaxation protocol in classes, the down turned into a second default.
  • Maybe we shouldn't use them in the mixed sets for wait for the cue training.  Its possible we'd get better stimulus control, but lose them as default behaviors.
  • However, just because they are defaults, doesn't mean we shouldn't expect some level of stimulus control, we just may not get all four elements.
  • If I cue sit or down, she only gets click/treat/reward if she does what I cued.
  • If she offers either default I don't have to click/treat it, but could do so randomly.  I can also reward in other ways.
  • If she offers a default in place of the behavior I cued, no reward.
Q1b.  (based on the last question) What are the four elements for stimulus control?
  • If I cue X, you do X
  • If I cue X, you don't do Z (or others)
  • If I cue Z (or others), you don't do X
  • If I don't cue X, you don't do X (doesn't apply to defaults or naturally occurring behaviors)
Q2.  Are there times when we should change the training order for the last three of the six stages of learning?
  • Yes, there are times when we would.  Actually the last four stages are what makes up stimulus control. 
  • Those last four are usually on a circular cycle where they are each being taught over and over, or in random order, as understanding and difficulty of behavior increase.  Its important to specify, that when I say random here... that doesn't mean within one training session.  It merely means that between different sessions, these don't have to be in a specific order.
  • Different behaviors have a different logical order for teaching.
  • Plus, some dogs do better with a different order.  For instance, a dog as smart and active as Gimme will be bored with most duration work, so it works better to teach her distraction and/or distance first.  Then the duration develops along the way without boring her.
  • And, which "stage" you are working on may depend on the environment in which you are working at any given moment.  IE. What I train and expect in the living room will be different than what I can train and expect in a parking lot.  I would be more likely to train for distance or duration in a familiar environment, while distraction is present in a strange environment, so initially that is what you are training for.
Q3.  In classes we discovered that stopping after 5 good repetitions gave us the best results. Am I doing too many reps at a time and is that undermining the process?
  • Probably yes – even though the sessions are still relatively short, 3-5 minutes, there may be too many reps in a set.  It's better to focus on repetitions rather than time.
  • We did a plan for this private lesson, where for the most part, after 5 reps we'd break off that set and let Gimme relax and refresh.  Then after a minute come back for another set. In this way Gimme was able to stay with us for a session that lasted 30 minutes, even despite the distraction of a new location (never been in that room before), despite her knowing that nosework was happening elsewhere in the building, despite the brain intensive nature of some of the work and despite the fact of her being in season.  Woohoo Gimme…
Q4.  Does Gimme know the behaviors (peach and orange), does she simply believe she should do whatever prop she is looking at, or is it still a listening skills issue?
  • We didn't really address this issue in depth, rather went into training and working on listening skills.  We initially found she couldn't do a number of well known behaviors, as well as the two fruit behaviors, in that distracting environment, so we had to show her that it still applied there too.  Then she did much better.
  • When we set up a different chair (folding no less), after just a moment of attaching the cue to that chair, Gimme went right to work, if slowly, so she does know the cue.  Initially the quality was lower, nose under instead of head under.  Then as the lesson progressed she went back to putting her whole head under the chair.
In other blog entries I'll talk more about the exercises we did.  There is much to do and it has become quite a fascinating process.  Gimme always keeps me on my toes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nosework Graduate (6/1)

Tonight was the last of the six weeks of nosework class.  All of us that were there got this cool bumper sticker for our graduation.

We had some different finds again tonight.  Now that Gimme is further into season, you can see the effect it has on her ability to focus.  We actually had a private lesson upstairs before class (more later) and she spent a lot of time trying to convince Ursula and I that we were in the wrong part of the building.  Since we were working on distraction regarding the fruit behaviors, it worked out perfectly as a built in distraction.

She was pretty funny going up the metal grate stairs, which I'm sure were uncomfortable on her feeties.  On the way back down she was very careful to make sure that at least her front feet were stepping on the 2" wide solid metal strip on the leading edge of the stairs.

Each week Nosework has gotten steadily more difficult and all the dogs are doing a great job.  Our buddy Grafton is so methodical and really takes his time.  We were discussing whether him being timid about things, actually works to his advantage, since he started out taking his time (unlike someone we know who is all gang busters in her approach).  Pete, our BC friend did really well, he's also methodical in his searches.  The other BC (who's name I can't remember) is more like Gimme; they both find all the searches just fine, but tend to be much more "busy" in the way they do it.

The blind dog is out for awhile.  She'd had surgery for cataracts and then developed glaucoma.  Apparently they've discovered that the glaucoma is giving her considerable pain, so there is surgery in her future.  She's a great nosework dog and I hope we'll see her come back soon.

Monday night we joined rally class in Tacoma.   Its the same class we'd taken before, but they won't be starting another class until January.  So they said we could do a walk-in for the last two nights.  Gimme did very well and I was quite pleased.  Being away and then coming back like this made it very clear how much progress she is making, which is sometimes not as evident in the day to day of things.  Between her first and second run-through she showed good improvement too. 

Maybe after the next set of classes we can start looking for a really small show... then again, maybe I'm being overly ambitious.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

All Fruits Look The Same

I thought I might try something different today and got results that cause me to question whether Gimme actually knows the cues for peach (head under chair) and orange (sit on perch) as individual behaviors or whether she has a different understanding.

I set both of them up and tried randomly cueing between those two and sit and down.  The first issue was where I was standing and whichever I cued she went to the closest one.  Once I moved to where I was an equal distance from them she was giving me both of them. 

For a bit I thought she just wasn't in listening mode.  When she gave a wrong answer, I turned and walked a few steps away, as far as needed to get her to abandon the incorrect behavior.  But as the session went on - her responses to sit and down got more and more correct.  Still the peach and orange behaviors were really variable.  I thought for awhile that she was simply giving me the one of those two that she did last.  However, as I closely watched her, it became clear that she was giving me the one that she was looking at when I gave the cue.

This makes me wonder... is it still a listening skills issue or does she not know those two cues.  Is it possible she believes those two cues both mean interact with whichever prop is present, so that when two props are there she takes the cue to mean interact with the prop that is in her line of vision.  I just don't know the answer and Gimme isn't talking.

I had already scheduled a private lesson with Ursula for before our nosework class this coming Wednesday.  So am not going to train these two in the meantime.  Ursula says she has another listening skills exercise that will help Gimme to understand when she should and when she should not be offering behaviors.  I'll send her an email and let her know about what I saw today and we can perhaps add that to the session.

This has been an intriguing training process.  At times its very frustrating, but I know in the end it will be very valuable.  I know Gimme is a canine genius, but there is clearly a hump of understanding that we aren't getting past.  I wonder if her being so super smart isn't a bit of a liability in this situation.  I've always said no one ever needs help training a dumb dog and obviously the opposite is also true.  Clearly I need to raise my game - sure am thankful to have Ursula to train with.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Free Shaping a Silly Trick

There's a contest for a picture of a dog sitting in the most unusual place.  Has to be safe and the dog has to get up there by themselves.  The prize is a book I want from Australia, that I wouldn't be likely to pay for.

So knowing Gimme loves to free-shape, I decided to set her on it.  My goal is a picture of her sitting on the copier while its cranking out a picture of her lovely tushy.  It took 22 treats to get her to get into a chair and from there to the copier stand and then on top of the copier and sitting.  Then I turned it on and off a couple times while giving her treats to get her used to the noises.  Even did a copy while she was sitting on it. She wasn't bothered in the least.  At one point she looked down at the copier bed in the cutest way - if I can catch that moment on film its a sure thing.

Naturally she found that so rewarding that as soon as I was done she leaped from the floor to the top of the copier, just in case I wanted to give her more treats.  I'll have to get that picture and then never reward that behavior again!  Its going to take longer to clean up around the copier so the picture has an uncluttered background that it took to get her up there.  Have I mentioned that she is part monkey?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Not Sure Who's Winning

Peach - head under a chair
We just did another session.

While Gimme's listening is improving (her accuracy in actually giving me what I asked for is up quite a bit from before our private lesson), she is still unwilling to give up offering.  I want to give her more cues to do things and earn rewards, but she won't stop offering long enough for me to get in a cue.  The idea of stop-do-nothing is just not in her plan of action.  With her its all about a plan of ACTION.  We got four shorter extinction bursts, but they were still there - two to five minutes each.

Upon Ursula's suggestion I tried clicking any time she was still for even the tiniest moment.  And for a couple of minutes I thought I was getting somewhere, until I realized what little Miss Smarty Pants was doing.  Every time after getting a treat, she was returning to exactly where she was when I last clicked.  She was trying to turn it into a free-shaping game.  I probably wouldn't have caught on, except one time she happened to be under the table when I clicked, so when she returned to that spot under the table, it was pretty obvious what she was up to.  

Makes me wonder if I should put free shaping on some kind of cue.  Maybe that would make it clearer to her when we are and when we aren't playing that game.  She loves free-shaping with a passion and I'm happy to do it with her, but we need to get over this hump in understanding as well.

While I'm fiddling with some projects tonight, I'm going to try something with her.  I'm going to put a bowl of treats where I can reach to it on the kitchen counter, so its not where I am and thus not an obvious cue for training time.  Then occasionally will give her a cue and if she does it, she'll get click/treat. 

I can also give her the occasional click/treat when she isn't doing anything.  That doesn't happen very often if I'm up and about, she's either trying to work me or laying on the couch waiting and watching for an opportunity to start working me.  (good Lord, I think I just described a Border Collie!)  If she thinks I'm working on a project, she may settle in a bit more.

She's a pistol...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Nosework (5/1)

As is my usual Wednesday plan, we got in two short training sessions between accounts.  The first one was behind Shopko, where we practiced some heeling and sit stays.  The heeling went well, but she's still popping up out of those sits.  I just need to work the plan on that more consistently.  I was pretty pleased with her sit stay, once I set appropriate criteria.  The other thing we need to work on with stays is her holding position when I return.  We had that, but haven't been working this enough and lost it.  In the next session we worked on pretty much the same thing.

Gimme is getting on board with the new plan of not doing the check-in clicks.  I give her about 3 minutes of walking around after my first account and a little less after the second account.  When I think she should be satisfied/comfortable with her environment, then I cue "ready" which only means "time to work".  I've noticed if she really is ready, she moves into heel.  Smarty pants.

When we got home we did a couple sessions with her fruit stuff.  Since we have class later I didn't work the two fruit cues that I'm trying to get stimulus control of.  That I feel is a little brain taxing right now.  Later when she's done that process a few times and "gets" it, then it shouldn't be so hard.

Melon - push cube with nose
Today she went back to skiing across the room on it and a lot of foot action.  For the most part I ignored those and only click/treat for nose pushes.  She got jackpots for the best pushes.  By the end of the session, she was really doing some nice pushes.  I think this behavior will start to come together soon. 

Apple - back into a box, back feet only
She was certainly enthusiastic about this.  I've decided that I have to fix the box.  The sides are too soft and when she hits them with her foot, they fold over.  So its not clear to me when that is "back feet in the box" and when it isn't.  Thus, I'm sure I'm not consistent with my clicking.  If it isn't clear to me, it can't be clear to her either.  As much as she loves to back her feet into/onto things, we should be further along on this.  Sooooo, I'm going to modify the box to reinforce the sides with thin plywood.  Then her foot will be in or out and nothing in between.  I think that will make a big difference.

BTW Gimme is so funny when she gets frustrated with my obtuse refusal to click what she thinks is surely a clickable moment.  If all else fails, turn and bite the box.

Nosework class
As always it was fun.  Since Gimme just came in season, she had to wear drawers and wasn't too pleased about it.  During her first run I could see she was very distracted by them.  She still found her hides in good time though.  During her second and third runs she paid no more attention to them.  Please do not construe this as any suggestion that she was cooperative about having them put on her - she is not!  I'm sure they offend her fashion sense, though they are nicely patriotic in red-white-blue stripes.

Tonight's challenge was having the hide in things other than boxes.  During the first run they were set up around the perimeter of the room.  During the second and third runs they were clustered in piles.  For the third run, one of the treats was hidden in a crack in the floor and the instructor tried to use treats that blended in.  Also there was a cone with a treat under it, where the dog could smell it through the hole in the top, but not get to it unless they knocked the cone over.

Gimme continues to show great enthusiasm.  I hope she moderates it a bit and develops some patience as the finds get harder to detect.  I believe she will.  She's pretty funny when she's pinging off in one direction and suddenly catches the scent and then skids to a stop to turn and get back to the source. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Last Class with Mr. Dinosaur

Tonight was the last class of the CGC class and not surprisingly, none of the students felt they were ready for a shot at getting their CGC. 

Also tonight the instructor forbade me to use the clicker in class.  So I asked if I'd be able to use it in the rally class and he said "no, no clicker, I hate clickers".  So I just said that I wouldn't be joining the rally class and he said, very loudly, "good!"  This exchange took place in front of the whole class, while we were heeling as a group - I thought he was very unprofessional. 
In any case, thus ends the quandary about whether I will take any of his rally classes.  Chip's next rally class won't be until January.  I may have to check with another local instructor and see if she is still holding classes.  I could also see if there are other classes where Chip holds his classes that might work for us.  Gimme really needs to work around other dogs.
I am considering approaching the recreation director and offering a different dog training program.  My friend Chris and I are discussing the best way to present the idea.  I wouldn't do it until after the first of the year.
Tonight all the dogs seemed worse (except Gimme who excelled).  The poor little Sheltie that is so afraid of the other dogs really lost it time and time again.  His owner said last week that he thought he was better, but admitted the dog was still afraid.  Hopefully tonight's experience will give him reason to contact Ursula.
For the graduation party, I made up little doggie goodie packages, including a business card directing them to where You Can Get Something For Nothing.  The card gave them the address for our new training blog that is geared toward pet owners.  I've been working to put all my dog training handouts on line and am about half done.  I'd taken each one and broken it into smaller chunks and added examples and detail.  I'm also hoping people will ask questions and I can answer those and give advice.  Plus, Gimme has been expressing her thoughts throughout.  As you know, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink.  I listen to these students and they really drank the koolaid.  Hopefully they will go to my blog and learn something. 
In all your copious spare time, you are certainly welcome to peruse the Gimme A Break From Mean Training blog.  I welcome your comments.
Gimme hopes I find another class to go to, she likes all the peanut butter and other cookies.  BTW she is coming into season as we speak about a month early.  I hope that doesn't mess us up for the freestyle seminar we signed up for. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

E.Bursting Away

Peach - head under a chair
I started with a session of peach.  Gimme did well enough for the first couple of cues, but then went into doing her own thing, which got a big fat nothing from me.  So then we had another extinction burst.  The first time was 8 minutes, then 5, then 1.  That's a huge improvement over what she did Saturday evening where it was a solid 24 minutes.

At one point she was headed toward the chair when I said "sit" and just a moment before getting there, registered what I said and turned to sit instead.  I thought that showed she is developing some understanding of this new criteria.  Good girl Gimme...

She's lessened the insistent tone of her burst, while adding two new features:
  • She apparently wondered if opening a crate door and going in to lay down might restore me to my prior functionality.  She pulls the door open with her paw and walks in - never saw her do that before.  She did it once each with the two different crates in the living room.
  • She also tried more barking, but not at me.  She'd sit or stand in front of me, turn her face about 60-90 degrees away from me and bark several times really loudly.  Meanwhile she has her eyes cranked toward me, so she was watching for my response, but not facing me.  Another thing she's never done before.  Apparently she thought I might be offended by her barking at me.  She does get funny ideas.  
I also decided that when she does a peach that is better quality, with her head (not just the nose) under the chair, that she'll get a jackpot of two pieces of peanut butter toast.  Decided that close to the end of the session, so it's too soon to see if I got results.  Also noticed that if I cue peach and she only gives me nose-under, if I wait she'll offer head under.  Tells me that the concept is in her brain.  She's a peach, eh...

Orange - sit on a small perch
Gimme continues to believe that backing on or side-stepping on is a better option... she does that about 75% of the time.  This went well, we got three short bursts, a 4 minute and two at 2 minutes. 

Her clarity in responding to "sit" and "down" dropped off a little during this session, but overall it was still an improvement over a few days ago.  I may have confused her by also working on the limited hold of her down during this session. 

Her new offering for the burst this time was, naturally, very clever:
  • She discovered that when you jump on and immediately off the perch while kicking it with your back feet, it'll tip over.  The first two times I righted the perch.  Then decided that she might be getting some reinforcement from me fixing the perch.  So then I didn't and she still jumped on it, actually from the other side and when she kicked off, that kick pushed the perch right side up.  Given how unstable the perch is when she does this, I'm amazed she'd do it more than once... no one ever said she lacked confidence.
Her eyes are bright and she clearly wants to train-train-train.  She'd do it much of the day if she could.  Even this mentally challenging stuff, she's eager to get to it.  She'd like to train a LOT more, but I am trying to stop before she gets confused or mentally fatigued. 

Later, just to keep her happy, I may do a short session on some simple behavior.  She is the Empress of the Cosmos, doncha know.  Its my duty as her human to accede to her wishes...

Sunday, October 16, 2011


You may have noticed I put a gadget in our blog that shows the number of views.  I am proud to announce we have just passed four thousand views.  Thank you to everyone who has so faithfully followed our journey.

Carla & Gimme

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Peach Extinction Burst

As I said I would, I did a training session using peanut butter to increase the value of the peach behavior.  I made some toast, put PB on it and then cut it to crouton sizes, making 20 pieces.  I had cheese and steak bits for anything else I wanted to reward.

Gimme quickly decided that peach was THE behavior of the century.  I spent a little time refining it and asking for better peaches.  Sometimes she only puts her nose under and other times her whole head goes under, the whole head is what I want.  I didn't want to belabor the point though, since I think my click timing is part of the problem. 

When I had 6 toast treats left, I started asking for other behaviors.  That is when the extinction burst for peach happened.  Twenty-four minutes later... 

I defined the extinction burst as finished when she was no longer:
  • offering any form of peach
  • walking around the peach chair
  • sitting as demand
  • barking
  • whining
  • cooing
  • talking
  • screaming
  • putting her paws on the table to see if there was any toast left
  • nose bumping my hand
  • stomping her paws around the room
  • pouncing on the couch
  • sitting at heel
  • mouthing my hand
  • licking my fingers
  • trying to steal leftover toast
  • whomping into a down
  • stomping her feet while down
  • anything designed to get my attention
Needless to say, that was one impressive extinction burst.  Too bad I didn't get that on tape.

Once it was done, she didn't offer me the peach behavior except when I cued it.  I did have to help her the first two times, but after that, she was right on it.  A surprising side benefit, suddenly the sit responses tightened up a lot as well.  I'm sure we'll go through this again, but right now I'm leaving her to percolate on what just happened.  I'm sure she thinks there is something seriously wrong with her person.

Private Lesson

Our lesson didn't turn out quite as expected, since Ursula got distracted by late arriving guests and forgot to bring her dogs.  So, she gave me a free lesson on the "wait for the cue" issue we've been struggling with.  Remember, this is the third stage of learning - the one referred to as true obedience.  Ursula sees it very much as a listening skill, one that very smart and very confident dogs often have difficulty with.

We first discussed what the consequences should be for a wrong response.  I knew I didnt' want to give a no-reward-marker because of the overall behavior suppressing affect of NRMs.  Still I wasn't clear on what to do that wouldn't be an NRM.  Ursula said to just calmly walk away until Gimme gives up the behavior and joins me, then turn back and give her a new chance to be right by repeating the cue.

Something Gimme had been doing and I'd been rewarding was - I'd say "sit", she'd give me a down (her new favorite behavior) and I'd wait, then she'd ponder and say, "hmmmm that's not getting a treat, now what did she say, oh yeah it was 'sit', I'll do that".  By rewarding that, she is still getting rewarded for a) not listening, b) not giving me what I asked for and c) poor latency.  So from now on I'll do the turn and walk away until she joins me - which will make it clearer and won't reward stuff I don't want.

Ursula suggested that I sometimes play a listening game with Gimme -- in particular when she is not in training mode.  I can give her a cue for a behavior she knows well without any other prompting (i.e. not saying her name to get her attention first) and then if she does it, say "good" and give her a treat, petting or some other reward.  I won't use a clicker since that gets her in training mode and I can't have the treats on or near me.  So, if I want to reward with a treat, I can repeat "good" on the way to where there are some treats.  BTW we are using "good" specifically because it is not our click-word (ours is "yes"), so if my timing is bad, I'm under no obligation to pay up.  For instance, I told her sit and when I said "good" she had started to lay down.  I didn't want to reward that so she got nothing and it wasn't a case of breaking the click=reward bargain.  (obviously you won't muddy the water with this approach for a dog that was a clicker novice)

Then the second thing we worked on was to get Gimme to give me a behavior only when I cue for it.  Ursula suggested that I might get better results if I tried the extinction approach, with a bit of the mixed sets.  I had worried about using extinction, since I didn't want to risk weakening the behavior.  In reality, using extinction won't weaken the behavior.  The moment she stops offering the behavior, then I'll cue it and she'll get rewarded for it.  At that time, its essentially on a variable schedule of reward, which makes the strongest behaviors of all.  Well duh...

We tried this with her orange behavior (get on a box and sit) and it worked well.  We were starting to get some good results.  We tried it with peach (head under a chair) and it didn't work as well.  Although Gimme clearly knows peach, she doesn't seem to be that fond of it.  I think that's because its not a particularly active behavior, which is Gimme's preference.  So before we work on that again, I'm going to train the behavior and raise its value by using Gimme's favorite reward.  You know the one - peanut butter. 

So that's some work cut out for us in the next few weeks.  Ursula agreed with me that Gimme has difficulty with this because its not on her agenda.  Gimme's agenda is "its all about Gimme-me-me-me".  We talked a bit about this, because Urs wanted to be clear that we aren't talking about dominance stuff - which she and I both agree has nothing to do with dogs. 

Rather, its about giving up control, which has to do with all species.  A dog that wasn't clicker trained or lacked confidence won't have as much of an issue because they've never really had any control, so there isn't much to give up.  THAT certainly doesn't describe Gimme.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Nosework (4/1)

We got in two short training sessions between my accounts.  The first one was behind Shopko and when I went out to get her, I didn't realize the big 18-wheeler had just pulled in.  So sure enough, just as we walked by (about 40 feet away), he released his air brakes and Gimme and I were both startled by the loud hiss.  Her bounce back was nearly instantaneous (probably 1 second).  Gotta love that!  He released the air three more times while we were working there, the second time she looked, third time flicked an ear and fourth time no detectable notice.

In that and the next session we were working on Gimme's understanding of heel.  For awhile now I've been unable to convince her that we can take more than two steps of heeling  (we used to be able to go quite a distance).  We've also developed a problem of her popping up out of her sit the instant after the click.  It FINALLY occurred to me that I'm doing all the clicking on the halt/sit, so she doesn't see the value in heeling itself.  And of course, I knew the answer for the sitting was rapid fire clicking/treating before she can get up out of that sit, I just needed to do it. 

So our first little session started with the rapid fire and she very quickly figured out to stay planted.  Then I ended that session with clicking for the moving part of heeling.  Seemed to be going beautifully.  You can imagine my surprise when I came out after my second account to discover Gimme had since decided that there was no automatic sit with halt.  You can just never be sure if what you taught them is what they learned, eh.  At first I thought I just didn't have her attention, but then realized she was stopping with a stand in perfect heel position and just waiting for me to get on with the business of moving.  So I had to go back to cuing the sits each time and within 4 treats they were coming automatic again.  Then went on with clicking the halt/sit and moving randomly. 

Again, it seemed to be going beautifully.  Ya gotta wonder what she's gonna think up for tomorrow.  I sure wish I had a better resource locally for obedience instead of having to figure this out by myself each time.  Ursula says Gimme is the kind of dog who will require me to become a better trainer.

In nosework class tonight, Gimme was back to her usual focused self (the instructor even commented on it).  She did a great job.  All the dogs are progressing so nicely.  Our buddy Grafton is getting more confidence all the time about poking his nose into things; he's more methodical than Gimme.  The blind dog is gaining more confidence and drive all the time.  We had an interesting discussion about things her person could do to help her be safer, especially with her faster and more persistent searching.

Tonight the instructor introduced hides that weren't all in boxes and a threshold hide right inside the door.  That hide was in a box, but most of the others were in weird places.  On the leg of a room divider, on the leg of a chair knocked over on its side, on the under seat support of another chair on its side, on the wheel base of a mop bucket, on the base of a cone and on a 2x4 nailed about 3 feet up on the wall. 

It took each of the dogs a minute or so to realize they should check out something besides just boxes.  But once they did it was interesting to watch them light up as they discovered new possibilities.  The 2x4 on the wall was the last challenge and it was interesting to see how each dog worked through it.  Gimme got it fairly quickly once she slowed down enough in that area to catch the scent.  Can't help but think her recent find of a 2.5 pound roast on the counter gave her an edge. 

I've started introducing her nosework search cue "where-zit".  I wanted it to be distinctly different from the cue I've used in tracking, which is "track-on".  She also wears a different color of harness; blue for nosework and pink for tracking.  We've already committed to another six weeks of classes and were told tonight to expect to start vehicle searches on the second night of that six weeks.  There is an ORT after the first of the year and a nosework test relatively close to us in June of next year.

Nosework is loads of fun and I highly recommend it to anyone who can find a decent instructor.  I've been going early and watching about half of the class before us.  Gimme wants me to add that she recommends it too.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mr. Dinosaur's Class 5

Our day was pretty quiet.  We did get a 1.5 mile walk, but otherwise just hung out most of the day.  Gimme had a little tummy issue, having stole groceries off the counter last night (2.5 pounds of meat).  Nothing bad, just too much at one time.

She did well in class; she gets better each week.  Gimme has about five minutes of working brain at a time and then needs about 10 minutes of crate time (w/peanut butter) to recharge.  Given how distracting that environment is and how stressed all the other dogs are, I'm completely satisfied with how she is doing. 
Sadly the lady with the black mini poodle came back, hopefully she will still call Ursula some day.  I passed another card to a white haired guy with a fearful Sheltie, saying "when you want to work on her fear issues, call this lady - she's the best".  He replied that, "oh she's doing much better in class now".  To which I said that she might be behaving better, but you've only suppressed her fearful expression, she's still fearful.  He admitted that, yes, she is still fearful, just behaving better.  So hopefully he too will contact Ursula some day. 
Leading these horses to water - can't make 'em drink.
I have to say, attending these classes and seeing how stressed these dogs are is like a church revival meeting for my dedication to reward based training.  My heart aches for each and every one of them.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Busy All Day

Gimme and I had a very busy day. After church a bunch of friends came out and had a little petting fest with our girl. As always we had a good time and I'm blessed to have good dog friends that are willing to work with her every week.

From there we drove to Auburn and spent some time at an ASCA agility trial. The first time in the building she got to sit outside the elite ring watching the dogs and eating peanut butter. She did a nice job remaining calm the whole time. She'd watch the dogs and then when they were coming in our direction, she'd turn to me and say "mo peanut butter please".

The novice ring was running when we came in the second time, so we stayed away from the rings and spent a bunch of time getting petted and trained by my agility friends. The big moment was when a family of four came and their daughter asked to pet the Cutest Puppy on the Planet. So I hooked my thumb in her collar and we both petted her. Then her brother joined us in the petting, then dad and then mom. Gimme almost split a seam she was wiggling so much; she was wiggling so hard I worried she might wriggle right out of her skin. She's never experienced nine hands petting her at once and I think it gave her a whole new perspective on the possibilities of people. Of course, she's always loved people, but this took it up to a whole new level. We hung around for awhile and then she got another break in the car.

The third time in the building we couldn't get a good place to sit and watch the other elite class.  The only spot available put us in a direct line with the start and first two jumps. So we moved further back from the rail and that put us on the other side of the aisle. Gimme could see what she needed without the potential of distracting dogs in the ring. We also had the experience of three dogs passing down the aisle and right in front of her. She handled it all very well.

From there I went to my parents' house where we were having a family get together because my Aunt Anita was visiting from Missouri. Before heading home, Gimme got out to sniff, snoop and seriously cramp my nephew's style. Every time he'd move to find a secluded spot for some "quality time" with his girlfriend, in no time Gimme was there. Who knew she could do such a great job as the fun police, though I'm sure she thinks of herself more as the activities director type.  The girlfriend isn't a dog lover, so I think he should dump her anyway.

On the way home we stopped at Home Depot and Gimme got even more petting and some training from the dog savvy employees.  One woman she saw for the first time two weeks ago, who had insisted she sit for treats, was there - Gimme saw her and trotted over and sat right in front of her.  She also got petted from other customers. She's back to not jumping up on people… and instead looks around going, "hey, mo hands, mo puppy petters please". It seems she thinks the function of people in her universe has been altered for the better.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Nosework (3/1) & The Project - Day 19+

Its been a full week.

About half an hour after my last entry, I got the beginnings of a migraine.  Its still with me, though milder.  I was unable to sleep Tuesday.  Finally about 5:30 a.m. after a long hot bath, I was drugged enough and relaxed enough try again.  Michael chose that exact time to get up and leave a pee trail from one end of the house to the other!  Having pulled all the carpet, it didn't take long to clean up, yet enough to get me wide awake.  I spent most of Wednesday taking drugs and laying around.  Around noon fell asleep, but 90 minutes was all Gimme could stand.  She thinks that since entertaining her makes her feel good, it should do the same for me.   Got up, had lunch, took more drugs, played tug for awhile and even had a training session on apple.

Apple - back into a box, back feet only
I discovered toward the end of the session that Gimme does better about backing in if I'm careful how I treat her.  If I throw the treat too far, then she turns and approaches the box head on - which means either walking through or turning and side stepping in.  If I drop the treat between us, then she only takes a step or so forward and so just backs into the box.  I'll do that each time for the next few sessions and see if we can get backing in more solid.

That night in nosework class, Gimme couldn't get focused during her first two runs, flitting around the room and having a devil of a time finding her hides.  I'm sure being cooped up all day was the reason.  Her buddy Grafton was the best overall that night; though all the dogs are improving.  By her third session, she was back in the swing.  We had three piles of boxes and the food was in one of the lower boxes, so the upper boxes were in the way.  Gimme and Grafton found their goodies in equal time, but Gimme excelled in getting to hers.  Grafton is a little timid about pushing into the boxes, whereas Gimme was more than happy to pounce on the pile and scatter them in all directions.

Thursday I ended up working my Wednesday stores and when I got done decided to get Gimme and me out to the fort for a walk.  She was very quiet until we got on Rainier headed out there and then she fussed up a storm.  Even though the rescue remedy has been wonderful for everything else (and since), she was just fit to be tied.  I don't know what sets her off.  I think she may have a little homing pigeon in her and somehow senses when we are approaching that area of the county.  I'm going to try some different routes, but the last mile has to be on the same road.  I'm thinking in the future when she starts in as we are going out there, if she doesn't settle fairly soon, then I'm just going to turn and head home.  Even if it does take forever to get there, I can't help but think the behavior is still being rewarded.

Since it took so long to get there, by the time we walked and were heading home it was getting dark.  I rounded the corner and just barely had time to slam on my breaks, there were cars scattered every which way and just at the last moment I swerved to miss the cause of this mayhem.  Myself and another lady managed to catch the fattest Pug I've ever seen - wider than he was tall.  Since I had crates in the car, I took him.  Went to the nearest well lit home and after about an hour was able to figure out where he belonged and drive him home.  The owner was a piece of work.  He was more interested in making excuses for how Bob got out, than expressing appreciation for the efforts of those of us who saved his dog's life and for my bringing him home.  Some people!  Bob was just very lucky that he stopped traffic when he did, since minutes after I stopped it was pitch black and no one could have seen him in time to stop.

Thursday and Friday I did some parking lot sessions.  I'm revising how I'm doing that.  Gimme gets about a minute to look around and satisfy herself about the environment, then I'm pushing her more to get to work.  Basically if she doesn't turn her attention to me, I just keep moving her around, so that she doesn't have time to look around.  I think the behavior is too self-reinforcing.  Naturally this requires me to accurately assess why she is looking around.  If she has a real reason to be distracted that would be a different matter.  If not, my plan is to interrupt the self-reinforcing aspect.

On the way home Friday we stopped by Home Depot to pick up something I needed.  Took Gimme in for her usual cookies.  She'd been doing so well with LLW that I didn't put her EasyWalk harness on her - 30 seconds after getting in the door we returned to the car to correct that oversight.  HD is a great place and we get some nice training in.  Plus, as luck would have it, they have some of the most dog savvy employees at my store.  If they aren't busy, they are more than happy to work with her.  She always gets lots of attention and is finally getting used to the bizarre concept that some people actually don't want to pet her.  She turns her nose up and walks jauntily by when she realizes its one of those really aberrant types.  She's just sure they need medical attention.

Peach - head under a chair
Friday after work I did another training session.  Gimme is having a real difficulty getting the idea of waiting for the cue (stage three of learning).  My thinking is either I'm doing something wrong or I'm doing something wrong.  When I cue Gimme, its like she isn't really listening to me because she's only right about which behavior to give me out of the four I'm using (peach, sit, down, touch) about 60% of the time, whereas her accuracy is around 95% any other time.  I swear she gets it in her head which one comes next (I'm working hard to keep it random) and then doesn't listen to what I'm actually saying.  I've emailed Ursula and we may add this to our upcoming private lesson.  She says that Gimme is just the type of girl she would expect this kind of problem and that she needs to improve her "listening skills".  She mentioned having the same difficulty with two of her seven dogs.  I re-checked my notes to see how to work on this part.  I'd been doing a combination of extending the cue and the mixed sets.  So I'm going to try clicking for waiting and see if that makes it clearer for her.  And if not, we'll add it to our private lesson next week.

Gimme was less focused today in agility practice.  So I'm making the same changes.  She gets a few minutes to snoop around while I set up the exercise, then if she isn't ready to work I put her on leash and do the drill of moving her around, so that she doesn't have time to look or snoop around.  Again I think the snooping is just too self-reinforcing, so I want to interrupt the self-reinforcing aspect.  After I did that, she got right down to work and did some really good stuff.

I did some yard work today, pushing through the remaining migraine.  What should have taken an hour, took twice as long with Gimme's "help".  I've been unable to convince her that its not really helpful when she runs off with my tools, the weed eater line (while balling it up into a big knotted mess), and the big pieces of ivy I've been cutting down.  She says she only does it to air them out.  I maintain that since the ivy, the tools and the weed eater line have all been outside all along, they don't actually need airing out.  She remains unconvinced.

Orange - sit on a small perch
Since this is her other behavior we're trying to get waiting for the cue, did this today.  I selected this because its a little harder behavior than peach, so thought she might not leap right to it as readily.  I started clicking for her not doing anything and at first thought it was working... but as we got into it, she went back to "not listening".  She'd wait for me to give her a cue, but then about half the time give me some behavior other than the one I asked for.  If I waited, then she'd give me the right one.  So clearly this isn't going to be the magic fix.  I did notice that when I did a rapid succession of cues in tertiary reinforcement style... then she gives me the right behavior almost every time.  Curious thing and I'll be interested to see what Ursula says about it.  When Gimme gets frustrated she gives me a nice bark fest.

Afterward I tried easy stuff.  We got out the brick and did some "get in" (counter clockwise forehand pivot).  Gimme didn't seem convinced that I wanted her front feet on it and kept backing on.  I wonder if that's a carry over from apple or if its because of our playing with two small platforms for a stand.  The other thing, once I got her doing it was that when I say the cue as she is doing the behavior trying to get this on cue, she breaks off the behavior.  After I was done training it suddenly occurred to me why.  I have always used "get it" for a tossed treat and now "get in" for this.  They sound so much alike, no wonder she is having problems.  Smack my forehead!!!

BTW at one point she started pushing the brick (octagonal 7" diameter board) around the floor with her nose.  So I expect that next time we do melon, she'll be the push master queen...

I really want to use the "get in" for the forehand pivot because its in my head and the first thing that comes out of my mouth for that behavior.  So will leave it alone for awhile and have a few sessions of just using "yours" for the tossed treats.  Add to that all the times I'll use that when tossing her treats for resets, it should switch pretty quickly.  Then in a few weeks will come back to this and see if she's able to accept the new meaning for the cue.  It'll be a challenge and we'll just see.  She's pretty smart, so I think she will.  If not, I'll make the cue an elongated "innnnn" and then later start putting "get" in front of it.  You know I'll let you know how it goes.

We also did some work with our single stand platform, ala Michele Pouliet.  I need to go back and watch the video again to get clear in my head about how to teach it before I go any further.

You know, it occurs to me that she has so many behaviors that are well on their way.  I think as soon as we get past the hump of "wait for the cue", she is really going to take off in her understanding.  Training my little genius is such a fun adventure.

Well, drugs are wearing off, so must be time for the next dose and I'm sure I hear the couch calling me.

Melon - push cube with nose
Grape - dead bug (on back, feet in the air)
Not trained. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Little Bootie Queen

This is easily the funniest dog on the planet. 

You may remember early reports of how much Gimme likes to admire herself in mirrors.  Then there is the whole photo essay I did of her admiring the pretty puppy in the mirror at the end of the bed in my parent's motor home.  Of course, she didn't miss any opportunity to admire herself in the mirrors in her early rally classes. 

Tonight, I decided to break out our stand platforms and play with them for a few minutes.  One of the problems I've had is accurately seeing what she is doing with her back feet so I'd know when to click.  I have three narrow tall mirrors I bought, planning to find a way to put them together into one larger mirror.  Not having done that yet, I just got one out and laid it on its side near where I needed to see.

Gimme ran right up to pose in front of it.  She was noticeably dismayed that the damn thing was too short for her to pose and admire herself!  She'd pose, look at it and only see her feet/legs.  Then her head would go down to look in it, trying to figure out what was wrong with it.  Then she'd start over with posing.  She did that five times before giving up with a big theatrical sigh.  She is so put upon.

It was too too damn funny and I'm sure my description doesn't do it justice. 

Still in Class & The Project - Day 18

Yesterday was kind of a quiet day overall.  It was a bad day for whining, so I decided to pick up and try Rescue Remedy.  I've also done what I said I would, to block Gimme's view outside the car.  So far it seems to be going well.  I'm still doing the thing of stopping the car if there is active whining.  Once or twice of that and then she settles in for the rest of the drive.  Not sure at this point whether its the Rescue Remedy or blocking her view that is helping, but either or both is fine with me.  What an interesting process this has been - especially since I can't figure out any consistent pattern.
After work today, we went through all our fruit training... Gimme was happy as a clam.  I think she'd like to do all of them almost every day.  Today she was quite barky.  The only-on-cue part really frustrates her.  She was also throwing other behaviors at me that weren't part of the fruit grouping, so that seems different.  As soon as I get the last strip of carpet pulled up then we'll be able to train more consistently again - since its raining almost every day now, we absolutely have to have an indoor space.
Melon - push cube with nose
We started with this and boyoh was she giving me some really good pushes.  She was rolling or pushing the cube about 2 feet most of the time.  Occasionally she'd get her feet into it, but I just ignored that.  She tends to get it pushed up against something and that definitely brings the feet into play.
Peach - head under a chair
I just did the white chair and was waiting out her insistence on doing it on her terms.  That's where the barking started.  She seemed to be getting the idea of waiting for the cue by the end of 20 treats.
Grape - dead bug (on back, feet in the air)
Gimme doesn't really like doing this on the hardwood floor.  I got some once I threw the comforter on the floor, but by then she was already frustrated.  I think I'll back up and encourage her to do this on a spare couch cushion or other soft surface.  Its still every bit as cute, when she stops barking at me long enough to do it.
Apple - back into a box, back feet only
This was the first time I didn't use the leash and it went really well.  She only stepped through twice.  Did about 25% sidestep and mostly backing in.  She has decided now that she can put one foot in and then have the other resting on the edge (smashing the edge is more like it) and that I should just accept that.  Not!  That really pushed her barking button.
Orange - get onto a small perch with all four feet
This went well as before.  She still hasn't made the connection that she only gets clicked for it when I cue it, so more barking.  She was quite the little jabberwocky today, but she was having fun telling me off.
When I got to class Mr. Dinosaur said he needed to talk to me.  He "reminded" me that I'm not his employee (duh) and that as such I can't give instruction or help the other students (because of insurance concerns).  Seems he didn't know I gave that other lady a card.  I think he is referring to when I was talking to the owners of the fearful Sheltie who is barking any time other dogs get too close.  It was a continuation of a conversation that started outside about 45 minutes before class.
The lady with the black poodle wasn't in class tonight.  I don't know if that is just coincidence or if she has decided not to come back.  Hope she goes to Ursula.  The GSD in the prong collar is getting more aggressive acting and tried to fight with another dog.  His owner got special instruction after class so basically he's on 10" of leash and a constantly tight prong collar.  That should do wonders for his disposition.  Two more dogs are in prong collars that weren't last week.  One is the dog that whines all the way through class, which he still does even with the new way of correcting him.  After class two students were telling the Dinosaur that he really knows his dogs and how amazed they are at how much calmer their dogs are in their new collars (prong).  I resisted the urge to run over, throw myself down on the floor and do the grape.
The Dinosaur made it a point to tell the class how much he hates clicker training.  That is, of course, right after Gimme did some of her best work in the class.  The next time we heeled I went right back to clicking and heard an audible sigh from him.  Oh darn.  For me and mine, the clicker stays.
For Gimme's part, she did better tonight - with moments of sheer brilliance.  Working in the alcove for much of class is a big improvement.  The office we'd been using was occupied, so we couldn't use it, but still did well.  Gimme is sound asleep as we speak.

Monday, October 3, 2011

'Nother Trial to Watch & The Project - Day 17

Thursday we walked on the fort's training areas. That may be our last walk there for several weeks as they close off the training areas for hunters. We almost didn't go, since it had been raining all morning and I didn't have gear in the car for a long walk in the rain. Guess its time to get out my winter wear. Fortunately we had a nice sun break for our walk. We didn't do any training on Thursday.

Friday, we went for a drive after work and Gimme is back to being whiny. Her behavior remains inconsistent and unpredictable. Sometimes she is really bad, other times she is really good and the rest somewhere in between. Overall, I do think the behavior is reducing. I am going to screen off the back of the car as I do find that sometimes she seems to be doing really well and then seems to see something and suddenly is whiny again. I never would have thought of doing that, but Victoria Stillwell uses it to great effectiveness on It's Me or the Dog.

Since we couldn't use the fort Saturday, we went to a USDAA agility trial near where my folks live. Stayed there about 90 minutes. It was good to watch agility again - didn't realize how much I missed it. Gimme did pretty good overall. She was showing some good self control around all the people and the dogs going by. However, dogs running on course was a bit much for her. So when I brought her back in the second time, I brought lots of peanut butter and she got to watch and eat PB. She did much better that way. She was clearly noticing the moving dogs, but more interested in the PB. Toward the end of that 20 minute session, I was able to let her watch the dogs when they were on the far side of the course and then just give her PB when the got in the 1/3 of the course closest to where we sat. She was able to keep in her thinking brain throughout. I was happy with that.

After that we went to my parents' and despite my prayers for rain, it was dry enough to mow. So that's what I did. I figure I walked 3 miles behind that mower. Ordinarily it isn't that bad but it was just wet enough that the driving wheels were slipping, so I did a lot more pushing of that heavy thing than usual. That left me really tired and sore.

Thus Sunday I didn't do much of anything. About mid-afternoon I finally got in gear. Took Gimme down to Capitol Lake for a walk. I've decided not to do that walk for awhile. I notice Gimme spends the whole time scanning the horizon for dogs. Our worst loose leash walking happens there. This is particularly noticeable after seeing how much better she does at the show and trial. She tends to have her focus out-there somewhere and we need to practice having it closer to where we are. I think that site just promotes the wrong thing for her. 

It very much like what I've seen with fearful dogs working in distracting places. One Tervuren I worked with was a complete angel at a trial or show. She acted so normal (only showing the most subtle of calming signals) that it was hard to believe that she was a real basket case. Anywhere else and her hyper-alert fearful behaviors were in full swing. When a dog is faced with a lot of what scares them, all their behavior tends to be suppressed. In that case, its like they are trying not to attract attention to themselves. I've seen similar behavior in anxious dogs at seminars when a dog or person leaves the area and then comes back, an anxious dog will react about them all over again. There's a technical name for this, its called Sudden Environmental Change.

In Gimme's case, she certainly isn't fearful or anxious. But she does tend to be hyper-vigilant in watching for dogs. When she only has to watch in one direction, like at Capitol Lake, then she can really obsess about watching ahead of us for the first sign of a dog. Whereas at shows/trials, they are everywhere, so since she can't watch in every direction, she ends up more settled. Anyway, that's my theory and I'm sticking with it.

So will probably do more shows/trials and leave Capitol Lake walks off our itinerary for awhile (though I could walk the boardwalk, since there are seldom dogs there). I could go down to the park on one side and just sit with her, clicking/treating for attention. There is a place that I think would be suitable for that and so I may try that.

Another reason to not go there is that people are S-T-U-U-U-P-I-D.... What part of the picture of someone with a dog moving well off the side of the trail with their dog and giving it a constant stream of treats as you approach in the opposite direction is an indicator that you should bring your friendly dog up to them, saying, "she's a puppy and loves to play" or "she's friendly and wants to say hello". The idiot gene is alive and well... Good grief!

Peach - head under a chair
We did a short session of this Sunday afternoon. First with the white plastic chair and then with my kitchen chair - 15 treats each. You may remember that last time, Gimme didn't think the cue applied to a different chair. This time Gimme got into this so fast and did so well. She started right off doing better than we ended with the last time. What a good example of latent learning.

Apple - back into a box, back feet only
Orange - get onto a small perch with all four feet
Grape - dead bug (on back, feet in the air)
Melon - push cube with nose

Not trained today.