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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!