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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Say Your Prayers

Last night I sat down with Kirby and we began working on the trick 'Say Your Prayers'. The end goal is for the dog to put both paws on your arm/leg/bed/table and lower his head below his paws to give him kind of a 'praying' stance.

This video originated at like 7:30 minutes long, but about thirty seconds into it, Josh came home so Kirby barks and I begin talking to Josh and not paying attention, plus I look even more like a heifer when I'm talking, so I cut out the first half. But this is the first time we've sat down to work on this trick specifically. Kirby put one paw up on my arm almost immediately so it was easy to progress into both if I helped him shift is weight a little bit.

For our first session with this trick, I think it went well. We ended further along than I'd anticipated. However, I notice here something that I struggle with consistantly regardless of which dog I'm working with.

Setting clear criteria.

We begin with one paw and he quick progresses to two paws on my arm, which is fabulous. But we come to a point where he goes back to one paw and that's where my criteria grays because I'm still so thrilled with one paw, even though he's already begun doing two paws. I still don't understand when I need to make the criteria more difficult and not reward until I get just that. Do I reward one paw when he's already on to two? *shrug* I figured since this was the first round that I could let it go.

It is something that I battle with every time I train, though. When it seems like its taking too long or getting too hard for the dog, my criteria will change mid session as I try and think of something different to work towards. I know I need to give it more time and give the dog more than enough chances to figure it out.

Patience, grasshopper.

And no, I have no idea what's on TV. I think it was E! maybe.  I realize that I look at it once and a while, but it's not because I'm trying to watch TV while I train. I know somebody is just jonsing to point out that I shouldn't be watching TV while I'm shaping!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Starting Over

I do this.
I get my mind set on something; a project, a craft. I feel like I cannot continue to move forward in life until I give this new 'thing' a try for myself. Need me to be more specific?  Crocheting, painting, woodworking, grooming techniques, sewing dog coats, ways to organize my home, a book, cooking, dog training...  I even gave chain mail a try. You know, where you meticulously and tediously link tiny jump rings together until they turn into something like a bracelet or... a vest?

I put my heart and soul into this 'thing'. Some things stick, some things end up getting kicked to the curb. (The chain mail?  Yeah, WTF was I thinking?) Some things I discover I'm great at and some it turns out I really really suck at it.

I love working with my dogs. But there are times when I fear that I just flat out suck at it. I've been somehow involved with some type of canine training since I was a teenager. But I began with correctional training, you see, and while the switch itself was not difficult, trying to keep up with 'today's' positive training methods has become frustrating and confusing for me. I follow many other positive training blogs and there always seems to be one aspect somewhere where they all disagree with each other. For someone like me who grabs onto a piece of information and clings to it trying to make it a reality, it can become increasingly disheartening when things that finally begin to make sense start to fight each other. What I learned yesterday may not jive with what I learned today.  And while my jumping from 'thing' to 'thing' occasionally makes this easier, my mind has officially become clogged with contradicting information and I've come to a training block. Stalemate.

Do this, don't do this. What is right and what is wrong?  Well that's the problem. There is no standard right or wrong when it comes to dog training.  You have to make your training decisions based on the dog you're working with. Which is obvious, I mean I know you didn't come here hoping to learn that. And it's not brand new to me either, but what I have discovered is that I need to remind myself what my end goal actually is. Should you aspire to make your dog look like the dog in that awesome Youtube video?  The thought is great, but no.

It's time for me to start over. My poor dogs!  One day I'm asking this, the next I'm asking that. One day I want to work on this, the next I want to work on something completely different because what I worked on yesterday didn't work.

Well f*cking give it a second, Emily!

Okay, just wanted to get that off my chest. I mentioned that I'm not a dog trainer, right?  Don't do what I do, because it's probably wrong!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Yeah, I'm so not a dog trainer

I'm also not a very consistent blogger, apparently.
(August?  Really?)

I continue to entertain myself and my dogs with clicker and shape training. Sometimes I work each dog every day, sometimes I work with one dog a day, sometimes I don't pick up a clicker for a week or two. There was a time not long ago where I was convinced that there was no way that I could get sick of this. But it turns out that I went from a clicker training high to burnt out in shockingly little time.

I had to reevaluate what exactly I wanted to get from this before I could continue because impatience and frustration come much quicker when I'm burnt out then they do when I'm in a good training state of mind.

During this time, however, I learned some important things about each of my dogs.

Frankie struggles hard with switching into 'brain mode'. She's impulsive and easily aroused and extremely toy driven. She acts first and thinks about it later. Asking her to sit in the quiet and use her brain takes a long transition period before we can really get to work. I sit down on the floor with my trusty clicker in one hand and some treats in the other and settle in to see what happens. She gets this odd, calm look on her face and lays down directly in front of me... and settles in to see what happens. It's like we get stuck at this impasse for a bit.

Kirby is by far the most fun to work with. I try not to play favorites, but he's just so game to get to work and he'll do just about anything. As long as I keep a step ahead of him, he could probably be taught anything.

Jake took some time to get the hang of it. But once he figured out what I was looking for, he's eager and fun to work with. I've curbed his hoover vacuum style of sucking up treats by tossing them out to the side, which apparently I should have been doing all along?  Jake's latest project is learning crawl into suitcase. At this point, he's making the decision to get his body into the open suitcase and sit. I'd like him to lay down, but he thinks he's going to miss something so we haven't quite gotten there.

Maggie is no longer afraid of the sound of the clicker. I work dogs alone and put the rest of the pack away when I'm working and when Maggie is locked behind the office door, she can hear the clicker as I work Kirby or Jake or Frankie and she growls and paws at the carpet because she knows what's going on now and she wants in on the action!  No real tricks yet... But we're progressing.

I stopped using the clicker with the cat for the time being. *shrug*  He doesn't seem any worse for wear.

The reason I was motivated to jump back onto the blog is because of my newest foster dog, Bindi. She's a deaf double merle Australian Shepherd, appx 6yo and about 36lbs. She's very smart, but not motivated by much as far as food or toys. She's not a big fan of the crate so we dusted off Susan Garrett's 'Crate Games' DVD and voila. Here I am.

I'll have some interesting stuff like photos and videos later. But it's like 11pm now and I need to sleep.
Good to be back!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Kirby Bow

I sat down with Kirby last night with my clicker and bait bag. I didn't have a goal in mind, I just wanted to start dinking around and seeing what he would offer.

We started with a belly crawl. That was fun, but seemed uninteresting at the time. At one point his butt remained in the air briefly while he was on his way to a down and it sparked the 'bow' work. That and Laura's explaination of 'Be a Table Top' sounds like soooo much fun!

Kirby picked this up pretty quickly. I apologize for the camera angle. I'm not so much the videographer...

And sorry about the cat constantly walking across the screen. That Orange Dude just does what he wants.

I did begin adding the command here, but I don't know if I'm supposed to yet or not. This is not even close to solid yet, so maybe I need to wait longer?  *shrug*

Two things that I noticed that I need to work on:
*Not being so quick to pull the trigger- I notice that I click when his ass comes all the way down. Whoops.
*Sometimes my 'YES' marker word jumps in there along with the click. That might take some time to cure.

Share your thoughts!

ps~ If you ever hear me 'growling' at Kirby when I'm 'YESing' him (as in this video after the paw), it's because he likes it. It's weird and it's hard to explain. Kirby seems to react better to men and men's deeper, husky voices then he does to most female voices. This has been questioned both at disc comps and in agility class. He runs better for my male agility instructor, and he plays frisbee better with my non-frisbee playing hubby when they 'growl' at him. And I was told that the person who adopted Kirby from the rescue previously was a male. He likes being spoken to roughly. If you don't like or approve of my growling at my dog, don't watch his videos. Thank you and have a nice day.  :o)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Never Get Bored!

I am never going to get bored with this trick training!  It's simply not possible!  I've got 4 dogs and a cat at home, and there are different things to teach each one of them. Here's what they have been working on this week.

Kirby: "Fetching a beer from fridge'.
We began with having Kirby target a tug toy that is hanging from the fridge handle. I've also been asking him to pick up empty soda cans to get familiar with the material of the can. I do wonder how he will fit a full one though. Can coolie maybe?  Or bottles with the coolie on it?  Not sure, haven't gotten that far yet. I certainly don't want him getting hurt and will scrap the trick if the cans become a safety hazard.

Maggie: 'Clicker Comfort'.
I have no goals with Maggie yet except to get her comfortable with the clicker sound. She is offering downs and sits though!

Jake: 'Spins, Targeting & Belly Crawling'.
Jake is the most fun to work with, possibility-wise, but also the most frustrating. Frustrating because for one, he has one of those mammoth-vacuum-Labrador mouths, so every time I offer him a treat, he is inhaling with a super wide open mouth. So 75% of the time he misses the treat (it falls out of the gaping hole of course!) and the treat will roll under something and then his attention is lost until he finds the food. And for two, he's already got an arsenal of tricks that he knows so if I attempt to shape something, he's launching through the entire arsenal thinking that one of the tricks is going to get him what he wants.  Usually it looks like this; sit-laydown-play dead-launch into a couple of vertical jumps-sit pretty-left paw-right paw-left paw-sit-playdead-verticle jump, all the while whining and barking.
We've begun working on his treat taking. I'm holding the treats in my hand until he nicely nibbles them from my hand, which gets a click and another treat.  We also started trying the above 3 tricks!  He will spin counter clockwise with little luring, but he seems determined not to turn clockwise. He did it twice with some serious luring, but it has me thinking maybe it's uncomfortable him to do so.

Frankie: I haven't tried anything with her yet. But think I will use her to work more Frisbee tricks, like dog catch without a disc, hoop, etc. All can be done using a clicker.

Sylvester: 'Sit, Stand, Laydown'.
Syl seems to enjoy the clicker training!  Probably mostly because of the food involved. Syl is very greedy. He's got a nice sit, but I think it's a fluke. He won't sit on command unless he knows I have food. Fluke. I can lure a stand and a down, but haven't put any words to it yet.

I wonder if I should try clicker training Red...

Clicker Maggie

A couple of years ago, I dropped my clicker. Not literally, but figuratively. I absolutely love the click/treat method of training, but I hate dealing with the clicker itself. I'm not skilled in the multi-tasking department anyways, and trying to click on time, dealing with my bait bag and treats, keeping the leash under control, etc got to be a little much.  So I took the theory and I replaced my clicker with the word 'YES'.

The marker word works well in most situations for us. It keeps confusion to a minimum and the dogs know it. All of them have been introduced to a clicker and all of them except for Maggie have a good foundation in it's meaning.

Maggie has always been noise reactive. If you set your coffee mug down on the table too hard, she runs for cover. She doesn't appreciate cans opening or people suddenly farting near her. I've made attempts with Maggie on the clicker before, but quickly stopped after seeing the world of terror it sent her in to.

My recently renewed interest in trick training had me trying again. I didn't think to get the first couple-minute session recorded and I should have. It would have shown you what I meant. I first tried clicking and then tossing a very high value treat out for her. But she didn't see the treat because she was already hightailing it in another direction. I called her back and gave her a few treats to show her what I had, then began clicking as she was just taking the treat. She spooked a couple of times, but her Corgi stomach won out over the fear and she stayed with me. We called it quits on a good note and Red and I took her for a walk.

After the walk, we came back to it. I did record this one! You can see in the beginning she's kind of hiding behind the chair. She knows I have food and she wants it.
After I watched the playback, I can see I'm not clicking nearly as fast as I should be. About halfway through when I feel good about her association of clicker and food, I start waiting for her to offer something. On one hand it's a little heartbreaking to see her become stressed enough that she thinks about simply running away. But on the other hand, she's so cute and so determined to stay!  I'm incredibly proud of her for being so brave for me. You can see her actively making decisions throughout the process.

I wait for a couple of sits, then I begin waiting for the down. Check it out and critique what you think I should change or tell me what I'm doing right. Cuz I'm not always certain!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Kookamunga Kitty Weed

Hey, the cat has to have some fun too!

Enter, the Kookamunga Kitty Weed. I mean catnip.

His reactions are varied. Sometimes he gets the zoomies, sometimes he rolls around on it and acts like an idiot, and sometimes he just eats it.

On this particular day, he choose to go the idiot route.