Exploits of an Amateur Dog Trainer: Blog Edition: September 2011

Translate To Your Language

Friday, September 30, 2011

Spanish For Wally: Adentro y Afuera

It's been a while since I've tried a new Spanish word to teach Wally. I decided to look up "inside" in Spanish, and the word that popped up is "adentro". Outside popped up "afuera"

With how often I call him to come inside and go outside, these might be words he picks up quickly.

The way I'll likely teach is pretty much the same I taught "inside" and "outside". I say the word and then use a hand signal to direct him in or out.

This time, though, I will try to take it to the step I never bothered with for "inside", "outside" - teaching him that each means a certain thing. For example, coming from outside to in the house is only "adentro". If I say "afuera", and he comes in, that's not right. I don't let him in.

And of course, the reverse - "afuera" is going from in the house to outside. If I say "adentro" then he can't move. If he does - he doesn't go out.

This is will be an interesting twist. I'm not sure why I didn't try it for "inside" and "outside". I couldn't tell you. Maybe I didn't think of it at the time, and then just figured to let it go.

But this time (once I learn how to say the words consistently myself) we'll go all the way with it, or at least try it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wally Rendered In Pencil

I did not do these drawings. A talent named Canyx did it. She drew other dogs as well, all of them well done.

She captured Wally perfectly.

Here's the images.

Monday, September 26, 2011

"All-Positive Monday" 24: Beginnings of Roll Over

Sounds funny, but Wally doesn't know how to do "roll over", perhaps one of the quintessential tricks for every dog. It's not something Wally seemed to enjoy even trying, let alone starting to learn.

Then, not long ago, he started flipping partly over on his own during our daily morning play sessions. He would get all wound up and excited like he always does, and then suddenly, flip! He was on his side. So seeing this, I rewarded it with a treat immediately and started trying to coax it out of him again.

It took a while, but he started to get the idea of what I was trying to lure him to do, and when he did, I gave him a treat. Then I wanted him to get more upside down and on his back so he can get used to the feeling and how to control his body to better perform the flips.

He's getting the hang of it a lot better, and he readily will go on a flip, and even will do so on his own now if I hold out on him, like during shaping.

I do still do the luring-type actions, especially during play to continue encouraging him to work with his body overturned like that. He doesn't mind it at all and is very excited just like all the rest of the time during play! In fact, I can really mess with him and scratch him on the back of his head and he's trying to get me and just having tons of fun.

I have some pictures of the luring part of a play session.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Walk Like A Human...

Lately, I've gotten into getting Wally to walk (and sometimes he'll hop...) while standing on his back paws. He's pretty much mastered just standing on his back paws. He will keep standing and standing, keeping himself balanced and focusing intently. He even will bark or stretch out his paws.

So, to take this further, or at least try to, we've started with walking on his back paws. He has some capacity for it, but he gets uncertain around objects or trying to turn corners. He'll go back down on all fours and look around, and then get back up, but by then, he's all out of position and often standing in front of me. We can use that (and we will!) but that's not what we're working on.

For now, I'm using a bit of luring, both to get him up to a standing position and mostly giving him a point to focus on (the treat) as he walks forward. Hopefully, this will help him learn how to find his balance while walking forward and take his mind off the surroundings.

The hopping comes in if I walk too fast for him to keep up on by walking. It looks funny (it freaks my mom out!) to see him hop. Not really ready for that yet, but I do still reward it, especially if he keeps it going and keeps up with me. Plus, it's not his fault if I walk too fast!

That's one thing that's in progress. Still trying to teach him to "read", which is something I need to get back to.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why I Like Teaching Via Games

When I do training with Wally, I always want to make up some kind of game to play to teach him whatever it is, or at least keep things moving fast and him excited all during training.

I find this helps us during training in the following ways:

  • He learns what we did much faster. I've read a few reasons for this that I'll get into later.
  • It keeps him from feeling uncertain if he makes a mistake. This helps him keep his mind engaged on trying to win the game instead of worrying about if I'm upset or if he's confused.
  • It builds a positive emotional association with training. Of course, this helps with all training in general. Whenever I grab the clicker, he's already excited and alert. 
  •  It keeps training interesting for ME. Hey, I'm important too. The more I want to train, the more I'll train, which means the more things he'll have an opportunity to learn.
  • It lets me test his progress in a lighthearted way. If he's winning easily, it's a skill he's either learned or at least it's time to up the challenge. 
  • And lastly, in keeping with the challenge point, increasing the challenge just means I've made the game harder. It's less of a shock than a whole new set-up scenario he has to re-figure out before trying to solve the problem.

Perhaps the most interesting and hardest to see of these is the first point, he learns faster. Of course, it's no big secret that play can enhance learning. We use play to teach human children. The whole industry of "edutainment" games and TV shows follows this idea. Play in and of itself is learning-in-process. From social skills to learning about rules and what is or isn't acceptable in groups, and so on. Much of the same is true in dogs, really. And probably in any social mammal.

But another reason is possibly the emotional connection, at least in dogs. It is said that dogs have heightened emotions and energy during play, making anything learned have a stronger imprint, so to speak, on the mind. While this is true in the negative sense, such as with intense fear or pain, it also works on the positive side.

In addition, games often engage the dog's prey drive, which makes it close to hunting-type behavior. Dogs will always remember how to get food. That's just instinctive. Tapping into this always helps. If "hunting" equals closing doors or stopping on a dime and laying down, then they'll do it and remember it.

So, in addition to being pure fun, I like games to help tap into his emotional state and use more of those instincts of his to teach him whatever I would like him to learn.

Has anyone else noticed a strong success when teaching their dogs by using games?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Opening and Closing the Door II

Tapped out on new things to try with Wally this week, I decided to see if he knew how to open and close the door...with me being on the other side of the door. It sounds silly, but this is a big change. Usually I'm already through the door.

Sure enough, he got mixed up. He wasn't sure what to do. I put a small opening in the door, like I usually do for him to open it, gave him the "abres" cue, and he closed the door! He did the wrong thing out of his confusion. Same thing for telling him "cierras" to close the door.

So we have a new thing to work on soon. I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier. Another thing to try is doors that open from different sides. The bathroom door opens from a different position so he has to figure that out. Again, seems silly to us, but to a dog, it's a big deal.

I think I know how I'm going to do it, and, as usual, will try to make a game out of it - or at least keep it moving fast and exciting.

Other than that, we've been rained out most of the week and he's been in no real mood to do much of anything, and neither have I, really. He did do some catching on one rainy day when it wasn't so bad, but once the pouring rain came, he and I both just wanted to get back inside as soon as possible. And once inside, he just wanted to dry off and get warm and I was pretty much in the same mindset.

At least now, we have something new indoors to try.

Monday, September 5, 2011

"All-Positive Monday 23" - Day of Games

Today, instead of trying to teach him something new, it was just a day of playing lots of different games with him, and having some fun.

First game as letting him try to "hunt" and "kill" some "prey". I put a treat in my hand and held it closed while moving it around on the floor. He had to find my hand (sometimes I would hide it under something, or use my non-treat hand as a decoy scent by holding the treat in it for just a second) and then he had to "catch" it by putting a paw on it.

I moved my hand around quickly in erratic movements, sometimes freezing for a couple seconds, then start moving again or let him pounce and move at the last instant so he didn't get it. To add to the excitement, I pulled on his paws a little. That really got him going! He really really wanted to get my hand now, and then I'd put it on his back and hold on and he would try to get it off. He even stood on his back legs and put his front paws around my arm! That earned him a treat right there.

I did the same thing, except this time with a piece of rawhide. He's getting the hang of it by now and he's slapping at it with his front paws, making contact more often. When he earned the "kill" he got to chew on it for about 30 seconds.

Next up was some fun with the ball. We did some catching, but also some retrieving and having him look for the ball. To do the last part, I distracted him with his reward for getting the ball, and tossed the ball while he wasn't looking. I'd then say "Pelota! Dónde está pelota?" Getting him to look around for the ball. I didn't point the ball out to him, he had to find it - and when he did, he got a nice batch of treats for his efforts.

Since we were already outside, we revisited the Station-to-Station game we made up for teaching "go around". It's been a while since we last played it, so I was wondering if he remembered - and he did. We had a lot of fun with it. I think he really enjoyed the running too, not often he gets to run.

By this time, it was time for his dinner and a well-deserved nap after all that fun! He didn't want to quit, but with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, he was definitely tiring. He laid himself out and is sleeping soundly as I type.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Spanish For Wally: "Bueno" or "Bien"

Of all the words I've taught him so far, I don't know why it didn't dawn on me to tell him he did well! I mean, of all the things...something as basic as "good dog" or similar escaped me...D'oh.

So I'm on the way to rectifying such an oversight.

Next Spanish word he's going to be introduced to is "bien" which means "good" in the sense of describing something as good (like good food) as opposed to how something was done (like good fetch).

The question is..which? Well, it doesn't really matter to him (he doesn't know what meanings to words are anyway. I could tell him "grass" for all he cares) but it would help me remember. I think I'll go with "Bien" because I'm describing the thing he just did, though "Bueno" sorta rolls off the tongue. Argh. I might just teach both!

The method, no matter which I pick, will be the same as when I taught him "good boy" or what the click from the clicker means. I will just say the word (say, "bueno") and then give him a treat. That's it. Then when I use it in the "real world", I'll say "bueno" and then give him a treat. I know he has it when I can say "bueno" and he immediately looks for the treat to appear.

It's been a while since I've taught him a new Spanish word, so this will be fun.