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Monday, August 19, 2013

Public Dog (18)

The break week has passed and we were back in class today, in the park. Gimme did really well.  She was well focused from the moment we got out of the car.  I let her walk to the working area using the whole leash, provided she kept it loose.  Once we got to where everyone was gathered, she was ready to get to work.

Most of the class was working on our secondary reinforcers.  They are reinforcers that we have conditioned so we can reward behavior without using food (not to be confused with a reward marker, which is also technically a secondary reinforcer).  Our best one is me saying "woohoo" in a really excited tone.  We are also working on slapping my thigh.  Basically you condition a SR the same way you condition the clicker, being careful to pair with a primary reinforcer at least 80% of the time.

Our task was to do a sequence of three:
  • cue "sit", word marker, food reward
  • cue "touch", word marker, secondary reinforcer
  • cue "down", word marker, food reward
We did this sequence at least three times, and making sure once or more was with one of the instructors observing.  Elizabeth observed us the first time and pointed out that Gimme has shown a lot more excitement upon hearing "woohoo" before and she suggested I pump up my own energy.  I did and it worked well.  She also noticed that I was tending to reach for treats before I said the word marker.

Then we repeated the sequence, again three times, and with an instructor observing, but using another of our secondary reinforcers.   This time I used the thigh slap.  Ursula observed us and noted Gimme wasn't very excited by the thigh slap - I told her we were only in the beginning stage of creating it as an SR.  She also noted that I was reaching to my treat bag too early and suggested I turn it to the side or the back (soooo awkward).  Anyway, we got that right.

For the last exercise they set up two distractions about 30 feet apart and we indivdually got chances to loose leash walk our dogs around the distractions.  We started walking a race track with the dogs on the outside.  Then as they showed they were ready for more intensity, we changed up the pattern to sometimes put the dog on the inside. 

The two distractions were:
  1. Ursula sitting cross-legged on the ground.  At first quietly and then as the dog showed they were ready, doing sweet talk to the dog.
  2. A baby stroller with a lifelike doll in it and a phone playing a crying baby app.  
The goal is again the auto leave-it, just like we did for the person in a wheel chair.  We are teaching the dogs to wait to be released to investigate or go say "hi".   We used body blocking to stop them when they tried to go to the distraction.  When the dog is on the inside, the body blocking basically turns into a small circle until you are again moving around the distraction.

The crying baby stroller distraction was not that hard for Gimme.  I don't recall that she's been around strollers before, she was more intrigued by the weird sound than anything.  So she was driven by curiosity and that wasn't too intense for her.

However, Ursula sitting on the ground level was REEEEEEALLY HARD for Miss Gimme.  She has always adored Urs and having her down at face level was about the highest intensity distraction she has ever experienced.  She was wagging her whole back end so hard at the mere thought of the possibility, I feared we might loose some of her spots.  Once Gimme figured out this was just more of Ursula being naughty, she did a good job mostly ignoring her.

Then Ursula started talking "Hi girlie girl, aren't you the cutest ever".  I thought Gimme was going to split a seam.  She wanted to smother Urs in kisses sooooo bad.  She was able to restrain all of her body, except her tongue.  She'd turn her head about 20 degrees and repeatedly did "air kisses" toward her as we'd pass by the front of Ursula. It really was very funny.

Overall she did great in class and is really learning a lot.  She has interestingly learned to not pee while we are working, though when the need arises, she gets really distracted and will pull to the side.  We did this whole class on the park lawn and she never peed there.  I've gotten really good at reading when she needs to go.  I used to think all her "marking" was just that.  But I do notice in classes and such that she needs to go more often and more urgently, so I think she also has stress pees.  As long as I am tending to her needs for pee breaks, she does really well.  The last time we had class, I twice saw her start to squat and then catch herself and stop without peeing and then just let me know that I needed to take her "over there" so she could do her "business".  I'm really pleased to see this, since it will take some of the angst out of the situation for exterior nosework searches.

Another thing I've realized...  You'll remember at the beginning of the Public Dog classes, Ursula suggested I needed to teach Gimme to not be so familiar in her affections when we are out in public.  The thing to do was the body blocking - i.e. moving slightly into her space when she intruded on mine.  Urs suggested that I make sure to give her plenty of tactile rewards to satisfy her needs, but in a more appropriate way.  So I've basically taught her squishing - standing perpendicular to me and leaning against my legs and I scratch her chest with one hand while petting her side with the other.

Ursula assured me that restricting our PDAs would not affect how Gimme behaved with me at home.  Actually that has not been the case.  I've noticed recently that she no longer insists on giving me hugs and kisses when I am putting on my socks and shoes each morning.  She now brings me toys and tries to engage me in play, but no hugs and kisses.  That made me really sad because I love those moments with her - its something we've done since she was a little bitty puppy.  Fortunately I have learned that if I lean back half laying on the couch and throw my arms open wide, she will come in to hug and kiss me.  Gimme just needs the invitation now.  This hasn't affected our evening cuddles...

After class we went over to visit Mary and Grafton.  We had planned to take the kids to the fort's training area this morning, but they were all closed down.  They haven't gotten to play together for at least a month.  Mary said that Grafton has been mopey for a couple of weeks and she thinks he misses playing with his girlfriend.  Gimme was happy to see her boy and especially thrilled to pointedly ignore him.  She really liked his Kong Wubba, more to keep him from having it than to actually do anything with it.

I'm going to get her one to toss around in the yard.  I figure there is a good chance she won't want the one I buy, in which case Mary and I have worked out a deal.  We'll let her steal Grafton's and then I'll give them the new one.  Who says I'm not smarter than a dog?

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