"All-Positive Monday" VI: Go, Pick Up, And Carry | Exploits of an Amateur Dog Trainer: Blog Edition

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"All-Positive Monday" VI: Go, Pick Up, And Carry

Some of the things Wally picked up today. Not pictured is a credit card and a roll of tape. Only usual one is his dumbbell.

As planned, Wally and I worked on picking up and carrying various items that he normally doesn't get to interact with. He did some carrying with the items as well. Overall, Wally did much better than expected, considering he normally resists carrying or taking things he's not used to working with. That set a good tone for the rest of the day, and it seemed to be a very good success!

The start of the training was getting him to pick up the object. He had to figure out how to get the object and a lot of times it slid around as he was trying to get his mouth around it. A couple times he looked back at me when he couldn't get it, to which I encouraged him to "get it!" in an upbeat voice and that got him going again, especially after a few successes and getting bread balls for a reward.

The hardest items for him were the thinner ones, the credit card and the thin remote control. He had a hard time getting his teeth low enough to grasp it and pick it up. After a few tries, however, he was able to do it pretty well, seeming to remember how he succeeded the last time. The stuffed Catbert was also hard for him because of the weight and how awkward it was for him to hold. He failed on one item because of weight. This one was a thicker remote. If he lifted it off the ground at all, he got a click and treat and I put that item out of play.

After working the pick up for some repetitions, I added in the carrying part of the training. I worked it as a bit of retrieving, since bringing the object back is really the carrying behavior anyway. Kept the distance short, about 3 or 4 feet, and cued him to go get it. I took the opportunity to introduce a bit of a hand target for bringing it back. Perhaps someday down the line, it will become something of an environmental cue so that someone can hold out their hand, and he'd bring the object to the hand.

Sometimes, I would also throw the objects up on the bed (we practiced this in my bedroom) so he had to hold it while jumping down. Distance was still short, but just a new "obstacle" to deal with. He did this just fine.

We went through all of this with each of the objects, rotating them and giving him breaks in-between.

For the evening walk, I used the dumbbell only since this was going to be something he's not done before. I wanted to use a very familiar and positive object to him for this.

What he had to do was carry the dumbbell all walk long. He could only put it down during the "potty breaks" and then he could drop it, do his business, sniff around a few more seconds, then get the dumbbell and continue the walk. Most of this was in the beginning of the walk so the vast majority was with no break at all.

He also had to do all the things he normally does during our walks: staying in heel position unless directed otherwise, stopping and sitting at street corners (while continuing to hold the dumbbell), and follow any directions like wait, left, right, etc.

And, as fate would have it, the cosmic 20-sided die rolled up some distractions for us, and these would also be dog distractions. One was a ever-so-tiny puppy that was ridiculously cute that Wally wanted to greet. I directed him to stay in position and praised him as he walked past the cute critter. There would also be another dog distraction I'll get to in a bit.

As the walk continued, we got to about the halfway point. At this point, he got another "potty break" and then we did some retrieving. This is where the other dog distraction happened. Another ridiculously cute puppy was being walked and this start barked at Wally. Wally wanted to go over but he didn't break his position (he was in front position as he just finished a retrieve). To Wally's credit, he wasn't nearly as focused on the dog as he usually is. He got many rewards for continuing to "work" and focus on his task pretty well.

At the end, I think he was getting tired - perhaps physically more than mentally, or maybe some of both - as he was starting to let the dumbbell drop - and it wasn't like he just put it down. I cued him to get it encouragingly and just ignored the drops.

Overall, he did an excellent job and it was the most "work" he's done, especially with carrying. He gave a good effort the whole time, and I was quite proud of him. He got a big reward when his job was done (bringing the dumbbell back to my room and lying on his spot), and a nice meaty bonus in his dinner!