Exploits of an Amateur Dog Trainer: Blog Edition: December 2010

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Friday, December 31, 2010

More on the twists on retrieving

Did another twist on retrieving, this time putting his dumbbell and two of his other items that look similar in shape, his big bone and his rope bone. I arranged them so that they were all in a line and oriented the same way. I sent him with a generic "go get it" and didn't point or otherwise indicate which one to get. Did this five times as I was short on time and just wanted to get it in quickly. He'd get a click and treat each time he brings back an object.

He picked out his dumbbell each time. He looked over the items a little and brought back the dumbbell when it was in the middle. When I moved it over to the right, he at first was about to pick up the big bone that had been moved to the middle, but thought again and saw his dumbbell and brought it back.

It is interesting to see this play out, and trying to see how he makes his decision on which one to get. I imagine this time he got the dumbbell because it is the object we use for only retrieving and it probably looked like a familiar task (go out, find, and bring back the dumbbell), so he settled on it.

Will do more with this soon, trying some other twists and seeing what he does.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Changed it up on retrieving - Caused interesting behavior

I changed up the retrieving practice with him. I just threw some of his toys on the bed, had him sit front to me. Then sent him to the objects by saying "go get it" with no indication (i.e. I didn't point, stare, or say the name of an object) and then he picked one out, and repeated until he brought them all back.

The interesting part is in the picking. He milled around over some of the items, switched one for another once - meaning he had one then put that one down to pick up another - and would pass up items in plain sight to go looking in hiding spots for who knows what item he had in mind.

It was really interesting to see and I plan to do this many times again and record the results to see if there's some kind of pattern. I will also note which in which order I touched the items to gather them, in case that may be influencing his decision, and the order in which he brings them back. I'll also note any of the item switching and such he might do.

The items in question:

  • Water drop squeaky toy - blue toy shaped like a drop of water
  • Fire squeaky toy - bright reddish-orange toy that's shaped like a flame
  • Big squeaky bone - red and white big but soft squeaky bone toy
  • Rabbit toy - A small brown rabbit that has fake "hair" on it.
  • A little baseball - small white baseball toy that easily fits in his mouth. Has a bell inside - it's really a "cat toy".
  • Rope bone - a bone-shaped toy made of a rope-like material. Has stringy ends he likes to grab sometimes
  • Nylabone - The good old nylabone chew "toy".

Only cue I'll give is a "go get it" and only feedback he gets is when he presents and object to me (hold it and sit), then I'll cue "give" and then click and treat him. I won't indicate an object and look either at the center of his body, or at some point not centered on the "test area". This let's me keep him in view, but lowers the chance I'll accidentally indicate an item with my looking.

If you're interested in the details of how it went this first time, you can click to view this post about it.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Welcome to the Blog Edition of Exploits of an Amateur Dog Trainer

New ground to mark!

Here, I'll share the adventures and things Wally and I are getting into and hopefully bring some insight about training dogs and sharing what I've learned and observed in working with Wally.

Wally is a 3 1/2 year old Coton de Tulear. He was very fearful, but we managed to get through that and now he's much more happy and free and showing me all his quirks, intelligence, and personality, and I'm loving every minute.

Wally and I have been working together for about two and a half years now. Most of that time was spent getting past his fearful personality, and just now have we both been seeing what he can do well and how he learns.

Wally is the first dog I've ever attempted to work with, and the first dog to ever be a part of my life so the world of dog training and dogs in general is still very new to me. I've learned a lot, but there's much more out there for me to discover. I'm mostly a positive reinforcement type trainer, though I use all aspects of operant and classical conditioning where needed. I especially love using shaping to teach Wally, and it's really opened up his abilities.

Future posts will hopefully be entertaining and informative to read! I hope you enjoy our adventures!

If you want to see the fuller articles about our working together and the things I've learned, you can subscribe to them from the button on the top left corner, view a feed at the bottom of the post, or visit the listing of Exploits of an Amateur Dog Trainer Articles.