The night before we went to DaPaws for training, mostly with the intent of repairing the negative association. I set up a bunch of signs next to agility equipment, but never really used them. I brought Gimme in and we did our acclimatization walk. She seemed to get ready to work faster than before, which I thought was a good sign. However, when I removed the leash, she tended to drift away. She wasn't leaving me, but she wasn't connected either.
I could have put her back on leash, but I wanted her to make the choice to work with me. So I just walked around and click/treat whenever she was close. At times she walked a few steps with me and then would forge well ahead and disconnect, so I turned 90-180 degrees and walked away. Again c/t whenever she was close. I was not seeing improvement, so I pulled a chair out into the arena and sat down and waited - Give Me A Break style (GMAB, from "Control Unleashed). At times Gimme came up to me wanting attention. In GMAB, the idea is to wait for the dog to offer a default behavior (assuming they have one) to ask for interaction. I didn't sense Gimme was really ready to work, so I just gave her some attention. In the course of petting her, she might sit, at which point I got up with her and did some light training with a high rate of reinforcement.
Any time she disconnected, I returned to my chair and waited. At one point she didn't come to me for several minutes and when I looked around to see where she was, she was just standing behind me, not doing anything. Clearly she was confused. I realized it was because I had sort of pushed her away when she wanted to put her paws on my shoulders for hugs-attention. I had a good shirt on and was trying not to get it covered in black dirt. Obviously she had taken it personally, thinking I didn't want to interact with her. So I encouraged her to come around and drape herself across my lap for attention. After this, we got in some more training, until Chris came in. Then I had to wait for Gimme's attention to return, we trained briefly and headed out ourselves.
I really wasn't impressed with this session. There were some good moments, but we spent 75% of the time disconnected. I pretty much figured it is going to take awhile to undo the poor association. Time will tell.
The next morning was RallyFrEe class and as before, its been good. Most interesting was to see Gimme ready to work and offering attention almost from the first moment we walked in the building. This has not been the case before. I wonder if its a result of the session the night before. It could also be the new flower essence remedy Gimme is taking - which she'd been on for a week. Usually we walk around the long way to where our crate was situated before she offers attention consistently. This time it was consistent from 15 feet inside the door.
We warmed up on our "can" prop while waiting for class to start. The first two exercises were about focused heeling, not heads up healing, just making sure to interrupt any time the dog checked out. I mostly train alone and its easy to let bad habits creep in, so Kathy has a LOT of work to do with me. Once I got my handling and timing correct, Gimme improved rapidly. I may try some of this when we go to DaPaws next week. Done right, it'll have a high rate of reinforcement, so should work well.
Then we did a short course of some turn transitions. It should have been easy for us, but right before it was our turn, three people with large active dogs walked by our training area. Gimme got really stuck on them - which is consistent with her SEC (sudden environmental change). Kathy was very patient in helping me help Gimme work through it. By the time we were done with the exercise, she was back in work mode.
The last part of class was to pick a free choice behavior we wanted to work on. I selected "cane", which is where Gimme circles around a cane I am holding. I want to do it as a three-part figure-8, and I want it from either side, so I need her to understand to turn away from me. I had it in my head she would be able to understand to turn away from me to go around the cane, much like the old turn-away cues popular in agility many years ago. I started with the side we needed for our recent RFE video entry and she has been unable to understand the other direction, so I was stumped.
Kathy took a completely different approach to teaching it and broke it down MUCH further than I did. I take a lot of pride in my ability to break things down to tiny increments, but Kathy really broke it down much more than I thought of. She also started with the idea of teaching Gimme to go around a free standing cane and then to name each direction separately. We talked about what I was thinking about the agility turn-away cue and she pointed out there was likely a lot of supporting body language which made it easier in the agility context, whereas we want to eliminate body cues as much as possible.
Gimme understood running out and around it very quickly. She's done similar things in agility send work and we've also worked on "cone" in the house (run out and around something) with direction being relative to me. If she's coming from "heel" position, she goes clockwise and if from "side" position, she goes counter-clockwise. So Gimme had a great time doing this, since it was similar to stuff she's done before and she could easily be right and get rewarded. Then we started naming the behavior as she was doing it. Its "cane" if she turns left around it (counter-clockwise) and "orbit" if she turns right around it (clockwise).
Once this association is strong, then I'll start setting her up to go from me and turn away from me to "cane" or "orbit". The idea is to start with me facing at an angle. This sets her up to make the right choice.
I really like the way Kathy broke it down. Its very different from what I had in mind and I'm sure it'll work. Another thing Kathy did during this part of our session was to lock the outside door, which comes right into the training area we use for class. We were close to the end of class and she wanted Gimme and me to work through this off leash and not have to worry about someone walking in while we were working. I can't help but love her thoughtfulness.
So I'm going to finish making our free-standing cane tomorrow, so Gimme and I can get to work on this. I'm also going to make something Kathy suggested to stabilize our "can", since Gimme sometimes gives it a little kick when she dismounts.
Coming soon "Gimme's Cow".