We've been working on something new during our walks on the fort. After watching the Ken Ramirez DVD set on other reinforcers, I've been working on a new one with Gimme. The idea is that you teach a simple behavior the dog likes, then always reward strongly after it. Over time the behavior itself will become reinforcing. After awhile you can use it as a secondary reinforcer without following with the primary. Of course, you want to maintain the value by continuing to pair with a primary 80% of the time.
I've been wanting one I could use between exercises in obedience and specifically one which includes tactile contact, something Gimme craves. When we are walking she often comes in close and bumps my hand to suggest I might want to give her a treat. Now I'm getting her to get into heel position and I curve my hand along her cheek and give her a little scratch along her jawline before the treat. At first she was really confused by what I wanted. Its certainly not that she doesn't like touch - she's the most tactile dog I've ever known. I think it was just so unfamiliar to her in this context and I was changing the rules. So I made it easy and helped her get it right, then gave her a treat and let her go play.
We've worked on this for the last three walks. Today I was able to simply hold my hand where it would be if she were in position and it only took a moment for her to figure out how to get the scratch and the treat. I'll keep this up for a long time to build in a big reward history before I ever try it without the primary pairing.
I have a video from February 6th (I have a bunch I want to get caught up with sharing). I give you fair warning this is warts-and-all.
In this run Gimme flew off the dog walk - something she rarely does. Its never my intention to yell "no", but some things are still a reflex. You'll notice her pretending I'm not there right after I yell - don't see how anyone could say yelling doesn't bother dogs. Also, it was very bad of me to blame her when I dropped the connection to talk to Blynn. You can see how she again pretends I'm not there after the sharp tone and scolding to "settle down". You'll see when she does come back she has to be reassured with a loving that I didn't really mean to be so unfair. Video is brutal. I clearly need to have her come do a sit-wait while we talk - which I can then reward. Anyway, I got her back, we did the dog walk over and it was perfect.
She did a very long segment of the course and nicely, but then we got a bail from the teeter. Did it again and then she
was flawless, with the exception of a couple distracted moments because of the dog behind the glass doors. You'll note this time when I stopped to talk to Blynn I let Gimme nibble treats from my hand the whole time. From there we went to rerun the whole course and she did a very nice job, until being distracted by the dog behind the glass again. Still it was a big improvement. Sadly the video cuts off the end.
I don't have video for the second session. But my blog from that date says she did a bunch of jump avoiding of the tire and then other jumps. I concluded that the fly off of the dog walk might have irritated her back, so we abandoned the course and ended with some tricks. Later that night I noted a warm spot on her back, so did some energy work and planned a visit with Tonya.