Object Discrimination 2: Learning the Rabbit | Exploits of an Amateur Dog Trainer: Blog Edition

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Object Discrimination 2: Learning the Rabbit

El conejo, the first object

Just like with the starting off with the colors, the first thing we need to do is work on him learning what the rabbit is in terms of the cue for it. I want to start with one object at a time at first to help him start the idea in his head.

Up Close and Personal

First, the rabbit is placed close to him. I wait until he noses it naturally and mark and reward him (using a high value treat as always, this time his favorite bear treats from Petco). Once he is going quickly and immediately to the rabbit, it's time to put the name to it, "conejo". As you can see, I decided to chop of the "el" part for the sake of simplicity - both for me and him (I'm not a native Spanish speaker after all!).

Before he goes to tap the rabbit with his nose, I say "conejo" and then mark and reward him when he touches it. After some repetitions with that, I have him wait until I say the word for him to go ahead and touch the rabbit. This helps me feel like he's getting the connection between "conejo" and the behavior explained to him instead of just nose-touching the rabbit with me babbling something in the background. It's the start of cue-then-behavior-then-reward sequence I always want to start building when doing a new behavior.

With this looking good, time to move the rabbit around.

Touch It Up High, Down Low, All Around

Now I want him to get touch the rabbit, when I say "conejo", with the rabbit in different positions. Just to further explain that it doesn't matter. Same process as with the color cards, and with a more "3-D-ish" object, it probably looks different to him from the various angles, especially when changing height, so I want him to get to know the rabbit and the fact "conejo" still means the same object, from different vantage points and perspectives.

Actually, this confuses him a bit. At first, he kept looking at the floor for the rabbit, not realizing at first that it has been moved. This is the kind of thing I'm talking about - and want to avoid. He started to assume the position of the rabbit and the rabbit won't always be down there at his paws. Maybe it will be up on a step, on my bed, poking out from under a towel, etc. I don't want him to think that "conejo" means "look for the rabbit on the floor", but just "rabbit" and he should just look around for it. If the rabbit is on a pillow, and he's looking all over the floor, he'll never find it! Look up at eye level and above, too, Wally!

Adding a Bit of Distance

Finally, I wanted to put a little distance between him, me, and the rabbit. I won't always be holding it and always up close to him. It may be off in the distance somewhere, and he needs to begin getting used to that too. Also helps keep my hand out of the mental picture of "conejo".

The distance was just a couple feet at first and the requirement is still to just touch the rabbit. If he does bring it back to me like a retrieve, that's more than fine. He'll get marked and rewarded just the same and I'll toss the rabbit away a little ways and carry on.

He definitely is getting better at looking around now. He is still focusing on the floor a bit too much, but at least with some distance, he's keeping his head up as well to find it, helping him locate the rabbit faster. All the while, he's getting faster about reacting to the cue "conejo" and keeping up with the effort and enthusiasm.

We ran through this for about ten minutes and about thirty minutes or so in total. I think we had a successful first day. Hopefully tomorrow, I'll get to introduce "la pelota" to him, which will be his soccer ball.

Oh, I switch from "bola" to "pelota" because I think "pelota" fits better as it means ball completely in the sense of "a round thing you play with" (yes, paraphrasing!) while "bola" meant anything from the sense like "crystal ball" to "have a ball" (i.e. a good time).

No, it doesn't matter to Wally, but begrudge the human half of this partnership an occasional favor, por favor!