Object Discrimination 3: The Ball, The Bone, And A Small Change I Made. | Exploits of an Amateur Dog Trainer: Blog Edition

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Object Discrimination 3: The Ball, The Bone, And A Small Change I Made.

El hueso - the bone, object #3


After some time away, we're back to the object discrimination. Sometimes, it's good to have him take some time off from a skill or behavior and then come back to it. He can struggle with something, but even though we don't work on it, he sorts things out and comes back doing better.

First, Let's Revisit the Ball "la pelota"

Before introducing the bone, we worked on the ball (the rabbit is going to be "dropped" for the moment, will explain below). He seemed to get "pelota" very well before, and this time he was picking it up after a few initial attempts to target the new object (I wonder if this means he understands that the object is "new" and is assuming the cue I'm saying belongs to the new thing I put down? Hmm....), he was able to find the ball and target it repeatedly. After some runs with that, I switched positions to keep him from getting to used to the ball being there (i.e. "pelota" would mean go to this spot because the ball is always there - he'd be picking up on the wrong cues from the environment).

When I switched the objects, he sure enough went to the "old" place the ball was. Even then, though, he started catching on to looking for the ball itself. In fact, he looked "lost" because he didn't know where the ball was and it wasn't in the old spot. He did find the ball (it was in the bone's "old" spot) and targeted it forcefully. I could see him thinking, as if he was sorting out conflicting information. He was like, "That looks like 'pelota', but it was over there, but the 'pelota' isn't over there..."

From there, I moved both objects again with the ball on my bed and put the bone to where he would have to pass by it to get to the bed where the ball was. He looked at the bone, but never targeted it. In fact, a few times, he self-corrected and then went to the ball. Seems like he's getting more and more of an idea of what "pelota" looks like. After a few self-corrections, he ignored the bone each time with ease, going straight for the ball. When the ball fell on the floor, he still went right to it.

With each change, I sped up the pace of the exercise. This got him even more into it and more into a back and forth rhythm, which might help him. 


Here is a New Object, Wally

Next, I had him get on his bed and put the ball and bone nearby. I then said "hueso" to represent the bone. Predictably, he went to the ball. When no click came, he started looking around and saw me holding up the bone. He touched it, earning him a click and reward.

I did some more "hueso" and threw in some "pelota" as well. Now that the bone was "in play" he touched it once or twice when I said "pelota", but he quickly went back to the ball. I alternated randomly between the two, sometimes indicating the same object multiple times. This didn't cause any problems! "Hueso" caused him to look around for the bone, while "pelota" had him all but attack his ball. Like before, I sped things up once he looked like he was getting the hang of the two and he kept up well, making no mistakes.  

A Slight Change I Made

Once little thing I did that seemed to make things go much smoother.

I waited until he stopped panting.

Okay, I know that sounds weird, but hear me out. When Wally's excited and eager, often times he starts panting. Nothing unusual there, panting can be a way a dog expresses being relaxed, happy, and eager. When a dog that is panting stops panting and closes his mouth, he's focused in on something. It represents a shift in his mind and is going from "OMG I AM SO HAPPY! GOGOGOGOGO" to "Hmm...what's up?" or "This is interesting...I wonder what's going to happen?", especially if he's otherwise still alert and relaxed. Wally often perks his ears completely forward as well or waves them back and forth, another sign of him seeking information.

When I got this expression, I then gave the next cue. So far, it seems doing this will have him much more aware of what I just cued, instead of just "I HEAR SOUND! GO DO WHAT I DID BEFORE!" I also noticed that when he came back to get his reward and then focus attention on me, I was getting the alert, closed-mouth, ears forward alert look. I wonder if I've come across something to make our communications more effective.


Why "el conejo" is Taking a Break

 The rabbit, "el conejo" is not "in play" for the moment because I'm testing a theory. He seems to have a real hard time with the rabbit. There's a few reasons that popped in my head:

-"hard c" or "k" sounds at the start of cues are hard for him to hear. When I think back, he struggled with "come" but got recall immediately with "here".

-The color is hard to see in my room for whatever reason. I don't know if the brown is too close to the surrounding colors in the room by his vision.

-It's too small for his ability right now. This kind of plays into the thought above, but maybe it's too small for him right now.

Early returns on the success of "hueso" seem to bear out at least one of these. The bone is white(ish) and red, and while red isn't a color dogs see well (or at all), perhaps the "two tone" nature of the object makes it easy for his vision to find. The bone is bigger and has a larger "footprint" on the floor. I know dogs often detect objects by shape/silhouette as much as by color or detail, especially at a distance. Perhaps the "footprint" of the bone is easier for him to pick up as well.

This might also explain why he does well with the ball. It's the biggest object of the three, it's round - maybe a shape he can easily distinguish from the environment as there's not many round things here (never noticed that until now...), it's a soccer ball so white and black - high contrast colors, and it pretty much looks the same from any angle, helping him find it from various orientations.

Not sure if these thoughts have legs, but early returns make it something I'll keep in mind and observe going forward.