Exploits of an Amateur Dog Trainer: Blog Edition: January 2011

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Carrying: Practical Applications I

Time to put some practical connections to the rest of his everyday life with the carrying. Pretty soon, perhaps even before he goes out tonight, he is going to have to use his rope bone as a "ticket" of sorts to get to do things.

Hopefully, this will make the connection even stronger and he can see that this isn't just a behavior he needs once in a while, but something he can always do. It would go towards the generalization process with the behavior as well, as the situation will always change.

I should also introduce it into our shaping games, so he can offer picking it up and holding it more often, another way to further entrench the behavior into his mindset.

Hopefully, this will help him also be more likely to carry other objects. I know he can physically do it, it's just a matter of getting him to overcome the fact the object might not be familiar or have his preferred texture or be a certain size or weight (assuming it's not too heavy to carry of course).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

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Monday, January 24, 2011

A Fun Job for Wally?

Lately, I've been wanting him to carry things in his mouth. I'm not sure what got me started on this kick, but it just popped into my head. Since he already knows "take it" I figured I'd see what he'd do if I had him take it and then just start walking. Would he carry it? Would he put it down then follow? Would he just stand there like "uh, what do I do with this?"

Much to my pleasure, he kept it in his mouth and followed, trotting beside me like it was nothing...for a while. He would then drop it and then keep walking like that was right. Whenever he did that, I would have him go get it (he knows that as well) and then carry it again. I would take it from him (cue him to "give") and then let him do his bathroom business, give it back to him and have him carry again.

When we get to the park where we play, I'd cue the give again and then we'd have fun with the toy. Once the play time was over, I'd give him the toy again and he had to carry it until we get back home, and most times, I take a more roundabout route (not just go back where we came). Again, if he gave me his signal that he needs/wants to go potty (he looks at me if we're walking) I'd have him give me the toy, then he can do his business.

If he dropped the toy, he has to get it, even if he needs to go. The toy is his "ticket" to the "bathroom" as well as continuing the walk and any play time.

Doesn't stop there. Once we get near home, I'll ask him to "go porch" and the charges towards the front porch, sits and puts his toy down and waits for me. I'll rub him on the head and open the door. He has to get his toy and hold it before I let him in.

Basically, the toy in his mouth is the ticket for everything else, even going down to get his dinner. I call it a fun job because he's enjoying it. His tail is all up and he's prancing along happily. He's excited and it really seems like something he wants to do. He's getting better as well.

Sometimes I wonder if some of the dropping is his mouth getting tired. Can a dog's mouth get tired and does it happen from just holding something? Seems strange at first, but it could be, especially for his heavier toy. May have to work up to it just like I'd have to work up to carry heavy boxes.

Will be interesting if he gets more into picking up his toys when he wants something after doing this over time. He has taken things he's learned before and run with it in other ways, putting his twists on it. Wonder what, if anything, he'll do with this.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sudden Interest in Physical Play

Don't know if he's just 'growing into' his adult dog personality or if there's something I've done that's gotten him suddenly interested in nipping and mouthing and shaking and tearing and tugging and jumping all high on me! I'm not complaining about it in the least, as I'm relishing this enthusiastic play, but it just seems so sudden that he's become this way. Being a bichon-family dog, it's possible he's just now "becoming a dog" as they are know to mature slowly mentally, perhaps because of their long life spans. Cotons are often noted for this, and they life on average of 17 years, so it's a plausible theory.

Usually, he's into a lot of game of chase or fetching, but anything physical was like foreign to him. But now, if I pull his hair or grab him on his belly or his paws and it's an invitation to his game. He'll jump straight into a play bow (or even go to his "playing field" on my bed and play bow and slap his paws) and he'll chase and pounce on and anything I make move, including my hands! It's a joy to see him have that much fun. The roughness isn't enjoyed by his toys, though! His bone that he got for Christmas Eve had a hole in it by the 26th, and another on the 28th. His raindrop squeaky was broken in as he always liked playing with it, but now it's got a small tear in it. So far, his big soccer ball, his rabbit squeaky, and his flame squeaky toy have survived unscathed.

He'll even go on his back and let me rub his belly while I tease him with his rabbit skin (which was been slightly wounded, but is holding up very well). He makes little grrrrrrr sounds if I tickle his paws, and he'll flip over and jump up on me and try to push me down. If I let him, he'll be on top of me, licking me furiously. He really goes crazy if I scratch the back of his neck while he's on his back, he'll be trying hard to get my hands, but I keep moving and he can't get them and he's laughing and play growling trying to get grab my hands.

Even when he mouths, he's gentle (although those nips feel like pin pricks - dang those sharp front teeth!), but if he gets a hold of that big bone or the rabbit skin, he's shaking it with purpose. If it was alive, it probably wouldn't be after that. :)

He can't seem to get enough either - even after all of that, I ask him to get off the bed - which he does easily - and then he's laughing and jumping up wanting more play. If we take it outside, he's running around fast, chasing and shaking, and being super excited - just loving every minute. After we're done with that, he's still wanting more, even though he's panting hard and I can see him slowing down or missing the toy just a bit more.

Tugging happens now, though that's something we're still working on. That seems to be the one bit of physical play that's getting left behind. He'll pull, but, especially at first, he's hesitant and not pulling with his full force, but after a few "good boy"s and maybe some treats, he's grabbing and pulling with more gusto. Just need to get him going from the start.

One thing I did do was praise and encourage any of his play motions he makes. I urge on his chasing and pouncing and let him play with the object or chew it before having to give it back (often he all but throws it back so I can make it move around again) and let him try to grab and pull his toys out of my hand for treats, encouraging him to let himself go and getting him eager and driven for getting the toy again.

It's just wonderful seeing him expand his playing and being much more carefree and excited about life in general.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Another Attempt At Object Discrimination

Well, the first attempt at this didn't go so well. I had tried to get him to distinguish between a photo of Dora and Kai-lan, but it ended up not going good at all. At first, I thought I was making progress, but when trying it again, he was clearly confused and frustrated.

At the time, I wondered if it was something with the photos - maybe he couldn't see the colors or the paper was too shiny, or maybe the images were too small and the dog's lack of visual acuity (they don't see stuff in sharp detail like humans do) might have been issues. So this time I'm going to try it with actual physical objects.

One of the objects will be his little baseball. The other will be his yellow rubber bone (I guess it's rubber anyway).

I'll start by drilling the names of the objects to him and click and treating when he touches it. Of course, I'll start with one object at a time. Not sure at this point how many repetitions at a time I'll do but it will probably be quite a few and hopefully several times a day. Really drill it in but keep it fun and lighthearted with good treats (read: bread).

Hopefully, this time if I'm more methodical about it, we'll make better progress.

With the new clicker I'm using (much louder, and it's a button clicker so my timing is much better), we'll be able to make a better connection as well.