Wally's Art Lesson 1: Azul means Blue | Exploits of an Amateur Dog Trainer: Blog Edition

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Wally's Art Lesson 1: Azul means Blue

Wally's color training began today and we worked on blue. At this point, the main focus is trying to teach him the name of the color and how to indicate the color.

Of course, I'm using "Azul" which is blue in Spanish. The process is pretty simple at this point:

  1. I show him the blue flashcard and say "azul".
  2. Wally already knows nose-touching and he goes up to the card and pushes it with his nose.
  3. I mark and reward that (using a clicker at this point, though I'll use my voice eventually). 
  4. After doing 1 through 3 for about 20 times as fast as I can to keep him alert and engaged, I start moving the card around so he has to move to get to it.
  5. After doing step 4 about 20 more times, I put the card down somewhere in a not-right-in-front-of-him-but-not-hidden place and say "azul".
  6. Now he has to look around for the thing he's been touching upon hearing "azul". Hopefully, this will further emphasize in his mind what the color looks like, since he has to actually find it to get the reward.
  7. Upon finding it, I accepted any indication that he was deliberately stopping and interacting with the card. I would take a deliberate paw touch, a nose touch, or he can pick it up and bring it to me (which is what he ended up doing after a while). Just brushing his nose past it or stepping on it in passing did NOT get him a reward. 
  8. If he looked lost, I gave no indication of where the card was. If he looked at me for more information, I would calmly re-state "azul" to him. That was the only information he was going to get. He had to find the card on his own.
  9. I did steps 5 through 9 about 20 more times before giving him a reward for working with me and then I let him unwind. He went to sleep in my lap not too long after that and slept for a good 3 hours straight!
  Overall, I think he did really well. Only a few times did he seem to get a little lost, but usually just stating "azul" once or twice more put him on track. He was really engaged and into the training the whole time, giving his full effort. No "side behaviors" or anything like that. This must have really taken a lot of concentration for him. No wonder he crashed out and wanted a nap. 

The reward was a bread ball, his usual favorite. I wanted to make sure he got something he really liked to help him want to keep involved and working. He loves bread and was always moving eagerly to find the card so he could get another prize.

We will probably work this same training plan the next few days before moving on to yellow - and doing it all over. From there, don't quite know what to do to extend this - but by then, six days out, hopefully I will have thought of something. Or gotten a good idea from someone reading this (hint: feel free to suggest ideas!)