New Game Idea: Wally vs Me or Competitive Training | Exploits of an Amateur Dog Trainer: Blog Edition

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New Game Idea: Wally vs Me or Competitive Training

I just got this idea in my head and have started to flesh out how I'd go about it and what the competition would be like. But first, I'll explain what I mean.

Competitive Training?

"Competitive Training" is what I call it because Wally and I will be "competing" for a common high-value resource that we both want. Badly.

If he performs the required behavior correctly, he'll get a piece. If he does, he gets to watch me eat what would have been his piece.

But this won't just be with Ye Olde Bread Balls (at least not this time, and he does love them) but this will be what might be his highest-of-the-high value, the penultimate food prize, the true to-die-for morsel he could ever think of...

Lemon cake.

I have some, and I will use it as the bounty.

Oh and we'll keep score, and I'll post it, just like a baseball box score.

Fun With A Practical Side

I love games and think they are a big help to training dogs. These "competitive training" sessions will help him learn the skills that are the subject of the day and also give him more opportunity to practice them in a highly positive emotional context/environment, which seems to help him learn things very quickly. It will also take some of the edge/frustration of getting a no-reward marker and he'll have to control himself enough to understand the situation, listen for the cue, and then think about what the right behavior is.

Doing this will also allow me to mix up the training sessions for him. I can be more animated and dramatic because I'm not as concerned with picking up the behavior as I am making it all this big deal to him. I'll also do this to up the challenge subtly as I'm now being as big a distraction as anything else and revving up his emotions to higher than usual levels. Oh yes, I plan to get him barking and wagging and jumping up.

Plus, if it's easy, what does he learn?

There's also another practical purpose - the days he "loses" or "barely wins" are areas in which we need to work more on during "formal" training sessions. Gaps/weaknesses in what we've done so far will show up, giving me a better picture of where we are.

Rules of the Game

Here's the rules:

  1. The only "behavioral rule" will be to stay engaged in the game at all times. This won't be a problem, though, unless something unexpected happens and freaks him out. We'll put the game on "pause" if that happens to let him settle down.

  2. Each day, a new skill will be picked and at least 20 trials will be run through but there could be any number at the high end (realistically, probably about 40 at the most - I only have so much lemon cake and can make the pieces only so small!)

  3. Any known context is applicable and can be called upon.

  4. Only reasonably well-known behaviors/cues will be required. For example, asking him to get his dumbbell from a pile of objects is fair game, asking him to get "azul" instead of the "conejo" is not.

  5. A success gets him a treat, a failure means I eat it instead.

And the preliminary schedule of "events", so to speak:

Day 1 - Abres y Cierras (opening and closing doors)
Day 2 - Arriba y Abajo (going up and down stairs)
Day 3 - Vámonos y Pare (going and stopping)
Day 4 - Pelota y Conejo (determining his ball and rabbit)
Day 5 - Azul y Amarillo (the return of the blue and yellow cards or cones)

If I think of more stuff he'll have fun competing against me with, I'll add them in somewhere and the schedule can change.

Oh, and yes, all the cues will be the Spanish words I've been using.

Hopefully, we'll be able to kick this off tomorrow. Also, I hope Wally wins and beats me badly! That would mean he's learned everything very well and in more than just one situation!