Exploits of an Amateur Dog Trainer: Blog Edition: 2012

Translate To Your Language

Monday, December 24, 2012

Learning The Blue Boundary

In an effort to give him a landmark between the hall and the kitchen, I used some blue electrical tape and put it at the entry to the kitchen.

The goal was to have him stay behind the blue line, as that would keep him from the kitchen. The line would serve as the new landmark for him, since the floor is uniform in color now.

The trick was, and still is, getting him used to look down to find something not food or toy related. He has never had to look down to find information, so to speak, before.

That became step one, getting him to see and be interested in the line. Shaping this would be on the difficult side since he probably is not aware that there's something of interest there to him. His paws can't detect it since he's not stepping on it, and he is going to be drawn to the throw rug, since that is an easier object for him to see and feel, let alone grab with his teeth and pull at with his paws. He feels he could interact with it to offer behaviors on it.

So I turned to targeting. I pointed at the blue line and asked him to paw it. This was still difficult because he wasn't used to "pawing at nothing". I wasn't pointing to an object or to anything he's used to looking at or noticing. He's like "paw...what?!", then he pawed my hand. That wasn't it. I kept pointing and asking for the behavior.

He did paw the blue line almost like "what...that...blue stuff?" Yes, Wally. That "blue stuff".

Treating took place on the line. I put the reward directly on the line. That way, he HAD to look at it to get the treat. This would be the start of getting him interested in that blue line on the ground.

After a little bit of that, I went back to shaping. Of course, started trying pawing everything BUT the blue line. Then finally, I saw him look at the line while looking around for something to paw. He snapped his head up as if in surprise at getting the marker. He took the reward (again placing the
treat on the line itself), and was looking around like "okay...so what was I doing to get the food?"

When the nose pointed at the blue line (where the nose points, the eyes are probably looking), I marked him again and put the reward on the line.

We repeated that a few times before I got the behavior that would make a good place to stop. He started holding his paw out over the line.

He was becoming aware of it! He wasn't sure how to interact with that line, but he stretched out his paw like he was trying to feel for it. That got him a reward. He did it again. I marked that and give him a nice jackpot and ended the session. After letting him know how proud of him I was and giving him an all over rubbing, I took him to his spot in my room so he could get some water and rest. I wanted him to think about it and let his mind stew on it (latent learning), so that, hopefully, we'd have some progress the next time.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Everything Fine, Wally Gets Some Seizure Meds

Wally's bloodwork and other physical checkups were just fine. So the seizures are considered idiopathic and he got some medicine (phenobaribitol) that, hopefully, will help control the episodes.

So far, nothing seems to be adversely affecting him in terms of side effects, but I'm watching him like a hawk in lots of areas and seeing if there's any drop off in any of his mental and physical activity. He's resting peacefully as well.

Hopefully, this good start is a sign of things to come as we continues on the medicine. Just wanted to give a quick update.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Doing Battle With Seizures

Wally has been having issues for some time now and he's going in for bloodwork in the morning. He's been having seizures and attempts to control it have been mixed in effect, so he's going to go in to see if a cause can be identified and all that.

Sigh, something else to have to be concerned about, but hopefully it will be something that is "easy" to deal with and not an indication of something severely wrong in his mind or body.

Fortunately, the seizures are over quickly and he's back to normal rather quickly. His personality or ability to learn and understand have not been affected, which is probably another good sign - or at least I hope it is.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Doing Battle With Sandy

Wally has had to endure Sandy all day today since he has to go out and such. However, he's been a trooper and actually seeming to enjoy it. The last time we've been through tropical, Wally could not stand the wind and the sound of the trees blowing, and was noticeably worried. During windy thunderstorms, much of the same, though that might be the thunder more than the wind.

This time, though, he's been his usual self inside and acting like it's just a normal day. No impact on his eating or resting at all, and he's done his business every time, showing no anxiety about being in the elements. I'm glad to see this, especially as it might be going strong for another day.

Of course, we've been doing what training we can indoors, but mostly it's been drying him off and trying to keep him warm. That's the one thing that's really surprising with this storm, the fact it's more like a coastal storm and merged with a winter-type storm, making it a cold day complete with bone-chilling rain and a real wind chill.

Overall, though, it's been about as good as you could expect. Still got some ways to go yet, but definitely could have been far worse.

Most important is that Wally has been more than fine and is happy and well.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

All-Positive Monday 32 - Manipulating Objects: Opening a Bag

I figured I'd try something, trying to get him to do something with an object.

In this case, I wanted him to figure out how to open up a bag that has been twisted closed (no ties or knots) and see if he can unwrap it to get a treat out without biting through the bag or otherwise tearing it.

Interestingly enough, he didn't even try to rip the bag. It was as though he just followed the scent down through the bag, trying to move the bag out of the way to get to the goodies inside.

I captured this on video. It is embedded below.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Nightmare of a Night, Literally

I don't know what his nightmare was about, but whatever it was, it gripped him hard.

Poor dog was thrashing around, not just the twitching paws but his body flailing around, growling, biting at the air, it was intense. Took several minutes just to wake him from it, and when he did, he wasn't aware of anything in terms of where he was or who I was - even growling at me while I was holding him.

He settled down a little bit and started to recognize where he was and who I was, but he was still terrified. I set him down and gave him some room as he was panting very hard and visibly shaken up. He started looking at me as I moved, but he still didn't want to get up. When he did, he wanted to go hide in his other spot in my room.

Whatever it was scared him so much he had peed on himself and he had an accident trying to get outside. Still scared and skittish, but moving around and following me a bit. I took him out for some air and to let him just clear his head. The walk eventually started settling him down and he got back to his usual self more.

While outside, just wanted him to get back to his usual self and we played some and such. He started relaxing and shaking his body (calming signal, usually a "whew, that was intense" or "glad that's over" type signal) and quickly started coming around to himself again.

I hope he doesn't have to go through that again, though I guess if it happens again, I know what to do to help him out of it and settle his mind.

Scary Moment With a Harmless Cause

Just got a scare not long ago - thought something was going majorly wrong with Wally. He was thrashing about, freaking out, never seen him do anything like that before.

I was thinking he was choking on something, maybe sneaked and ate something or something had gotten in his throat and couldn't get it out, and any number of things.

I got him still enough so that he wouldn't hurt himself with all that thrashing and looked in his mouth. Turns out it was nothing more than a strand or two of his hair had gotten inside his mouth and it was a longer piece so it must have tickled his throat and was triggering some reflex and serious frustration in trying to get it out.

Never before seen him do anything like that! All these years of having long hair everywhere and nothing like that happened and now it does. Scared me out of my mind.

Suffice to say that I got the scissors out and trimmed that hair down and will do so from now on. Every time I give him a bath or a good brushing, I will be checking the length of that hair around his muzzle and jaws. 

Ugh - don't scare me like that, Wally!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

All-Positive Monday 31 - Wally The Cornerback

With football season in full swing, and Raiders bandana attached to his collar, I thought it would be fun to have Wally "play cornerback" and try to "cover" me as I run. The goal, of course, is for him to stay near me no matter which way I move and turn and, like a wide receiver, I could go in various patterns.

He would get a click and treat if he's within a certain distance of me within a certain amount of time, say a few seconds. If not, we just line up and try it again.

The game is an attempt to teach him to watch me and keep his attention on me in a more fun and lively way. I figure this would get him psyched up and eager since it's like a game of chase to him (and in a way, it is) while also getting some treats along the way. It'll also be some exercise for the both of us. 

Is this all-positive? I think, overall, it is. Sure, he might not get a treat each time, especially early on, but he's going to be having fun the whole time. I won't be giving any corrections/redirecting/no-reward markers - none of that, we just keep the game going.

Also, I'll keep it simpler in the beginning, as per usual. Make it easier for him to earn the reward so he can get an idea of what the objective is.

Friday, October 5, 2012

English for Wally - Pondering Prepositions and Adverbs

Getting back to attempting to use a sort of canine programming language to communicate with him in a new way, I've been considering how to teach him "adverbs" (i.e. how to do something) and "prepositions" (i.e. where to perform an action). I'm thinking "adverbs" would be the most difficult to teach him. Can a dog learn how to perform a behavior in the sense of walking quickly or speaking quietly or even loudly? And then, can a dog learn to do so on cue?

Sure, dogs have louder and softer volumes on their voices. Sometimes Wally whines loudly and sometimes it's softer. Same for his barks and other sounds. Thing is - that's driven by his internal emotional state. If he's really excited or driven for something, he'll bark louder. If he's really hungry, he'll whine louder, but if he's more uncertain or wanting attention for something else - the whines are different.

Emotions aren't logically determined, though, which is what he'll be doing when I'm cuing this and teaching it beforehand. That is where the challenge will be - getting him to purposefully do something differently and then teaching him that's what got him the prize. For example, if I do speaking softly (something like "Wally - Speak - Quietly") how will I be able to communicate to him that the quietly part is what got him rewarded? That's the challenge in "adverbs".

"Prepositions" are probably going to be a bit easier. Where to do something is more obvious to see at work and for the dog to pick up on. Obedience training incorporates this. Heeling, finish, front are examples. Teaching things like laying on a mat is using "prepositions" (the object is the "where" in this case - Lie where? On the mat.) I realize it's not prepositions in strict human language terms (technically, I'm teaching the location, the preposition is "on" in the prior example), but it works for this, especially since dogs don't know anyway.

So Wally already has some exposure to "prepositions", though some, like "front" will take on new meanings - making him have to parse the difference between "Front" (come and sit in front position) and "Get - Ball - Front" (get the ball that's in front position). What also gets interesting as that some will be relative to me and some relative to him. "Front" is relative to me. "Back" would be relative to him (go back/behind you and...).

The other challenge will be getting him to freaking wait and listen for the whole instruction! He's going to hear "get" and be like "okay, I see something, I'll get it!" and just grab something. Going to need patience.

Will be pretty fun and interesting to try, though! Maybe he'll surprise me and catch quick. He caught on to the whistle quicker than I thought.

Monday, October 1, 2012

All-Positive Monday 30 - Left and Right

Today, I decided to revisit left and right, maybe this time, we'll have better luck in getting this skill down!

To start, I will have two identical objects placed to the left and right of Wally with him sitting front. I'll signal with my arm outstretched as well as voice cue, the ever so creative choices of "Left" and "Right" (I know, such a stroke of artistic genius, right?).

This will set him up to succeed in a lot of ways. He can follow the arm to get a clue to the direction. He has a target on the ground that looks very different from the environment, and there's the voice cue he can use if he wants to pick up on that.

Using a target also gets him into the idea that he's supposed to go until he "hits something" or is given another instruction. The first time I tried this, he went as far as my arm stretched and that's it (because I treated him from the hand there - taught him a bad concept).

I am still giving him the treats, but I'm marking him when he gets to the target (eventually, I'll put the treats ON the targets). That should help him get the concept down.

After each attempt, he has to come back to front position. This resets him and lets him get used to the movement of going left and right. This is opposed to him maybe facing left and then turning around to go right.

The session went well. As he continued to succeed, I mixed up the timing of when I gave the next signal. This helps practice focus and patience to wait for the signal, especially as he gets excited and wants to go for the next target.

Out on walks, we should be able to try something similar. We can either use the targets or pick an object like a street light and position him so that he can go left or right on the signal to the object.

Eventually, we will go with this on retrieves. I'll throw the dumbbell left or right and signal and use the "left" and "right" cues and arm signals to have him go get the dumbbell. Also planned is working the same exercise above with the targets, but with me at a distance from him. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

"All-Positive Monday 29" - Back it up, Wally!

Today was a mix of some P.E. for Wally as well as an All-Positive day.

I wanted to revisit his rear-end awareness, something that had gotten lost over the months amidst all the other things that we've been working on.

He already has some idea of how to back up, i.e. walking backwards. To begin, I get him warmed up a bit with just requiring a few steps. I think mark (I use a clicker) and reward him and start again. I try to keep everything as flowing and fast-moving as possible to keep him highly engaged and making it seem more fun.

After the warm-ups and seeing that he still remembers how to do the behavior, I keep each trial lasting longer. I want more steps out of him. As usual, each success is greeted with the reward marker and a treat. At this point, I'm going to start increasing the challenge further in some way.

For today, I wanted to work on speed. He's going to be moving all kinds of ways trying to keep himself going backwards - fine for now. I want to work on just one thing at a time. Using speed should help him get used to moving his back legs more quickly and make him more able to control them.

Marking and rewarding is different as I don't really want to stop the action. As he is moving backwards and keeping pace with me moving forward at him, The rewards are coming, all in stride if at all possible. At the most, a one or two second break so he can chew it if he needs be (which means I need to make them smaller so he can just suck them down without getting choked).

It was funny watching him curve around as his back legs just kept moving him in reverse but no idea how to keep going straight! That's something I'll be having to work on in the future. Another further step would be to have him do so just on cue. I could say "back up!" and he just starts walking backwards.

But those are goals off in the distance and difficult for me to figure how to do in a completely positive way (though shaping figures to be a big part - may not be completely positive, but that's a very large component). Guess I should have called this 'segment' "Mostly-Positive Monday"!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rainy Day For Whistle Training

wally ready for lunch
Wally waiting to get his lunch after a rainy day of training.

A rainy, windy day hit us today, but, for us, that means another day for training the whistle in new conditions. We've not worked on this in other weather conditions, not to mention contending with the "I'm soaking wet so I want to run and play and be hyper!" mindset that always happens when he's wet.

He did a pretty good job in the beginning, still able to follow the whistle and concentrate, though sometimes the rain was a distraction. I don't know if it was the sound of the rain hitting everything along with some mild wind gusts or if it was just being in the rain in general.

The rain got heavier as well while we were out and that really made things tough on us both. I was having a harder time getting him to respond, even when he was just waiting for the recall whistle. I had to lower the frequency of the whistle to get him to respond. He did, however, perform the behavior and with lots of energy.

Giving treats became a challenge, too. He did eat his soggy pieces of bread for treats - but what was left in my pocket was not very pleasant! Nothing worse than soggy bread in your dripping wet hand. Ugh.

Overall, I think it was a good, albeit short, session. It wasn't long until we both wanted out of the rain!

Monday, September 10, 2012

The "Four Corners" Game - Trying To Teach Whistle Recalls

Tonight, we worked more with the whistle and doing whistle recalls. I wanted to work more at distance to get him used to it. I also wanted to start letting the whistle be the only signal as much as possible, though I know I'll still need to help him with the meaning using one of already known cues.

Even with that, though, I made a change.

To play the game, we went to the black top in the neighborhood field/playground,  and started I would go from corner to corner, calling him with the whistle. He had to come to front, sit, stay put while I went to the next corner, and then call him again with the whistle.

At first, I let him get all his 'business' done so that wouldn't be pressing on his mind. Then I went into some 'warm up' with the whistle recall at short distances. Gave him a little sniffing break and then played the game.

Did another short warm up again and then went into it.  For the first round, I used a snap of my fingers as I did the third tweet (the whistle call is three short tweets). I praised him and went to the next corner. Kept this up for a couple trips around the black top, then gave him another break to walk around and such.

When time for the second round, this time it was just the whistle. I would do nothing else. This was sort of like a "quiz". I would give the whistles and that's it. He had to remember what to do. When he started coming to me, I would praise and encourage him (to start), and then that stopped. Soon, the game went like this: I go to corner, give the whistle, he comes front and sits, I praise and move to the next corner. The only sounds I made were the whistle and the 'good boy' (which he knows as much as a verbal reward marker as much as just praise - kinda rolled up in one I suppose). It let's him know he's doing it right, so he gets feedback while keeping him in a focused frame of mind.

After a few trips around the black top, I ended the session and had some play time with him. He did pretty well, and I think we both felt like we made progress. And, of course, we both enjoyed the play time! :)

Given how it went this time, I think we'll keep playing this game. It's like a variation of the "Station-to-Station" game we played to work on "go around", and it seems we might be on our way to similar success with the "Four Corners" game.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Whistle Wally, Day 2

Another day of working with the whistle and the learning curve is there for the both of us to be sure!

I'm still trying to make my signals consistent so that he can have a clear signal to pick up on. Meanwhile, he's still get used to the concept that he won't hear my voice give the signal and that he can't just key off my body or movement to get 'hints' on what to do.

That said, I did give the voice cues in an effort to teach him what the whistle sound means. That seemed to work before, but tonight, it seemed to regress a bit. After getting some mixed results and starting to see a few signs he was getting confused and uncertain, I decided to try another strategy.

Since I have a hand signal for staying while walking with me (he stops while I keep moving) and for the 'front' (where he comes from where he is to sit directly in front of me), I decided to throw those while giving the end of the whistle signal. So the stay-while-walking signal get tossed out while the long signal tweet is going on and the signal for 'front' comes just before I stop the third short tweet.

This seemed to make more sense to him and he started to respond more quickly and more sharply. He didn't look confused either and I saw that eagerness in him pick up again. While this might have been something of a set back, it's things that let us find more ways to communicate and work together so he can have success again.

One behavior that's still strong is the 'stay' while he's going after something. I did it twice, got him all hyped up and send up to go 'chase' something (there wasn't anything, but he went out and was searching for something and sniffing and all that), and then I gave the 'stay' whistle, and he stopped and looked at me. Great! Then I took the chance to bring him back with hand signal + whistle strategy and he came back nicely. Maybe we're on to something on which we can build on.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wally and the Whistle

It's been a while, but Wally and I are still working together and the next thing we'll try out is whistle training. It's been something I've wanted to try for a while and we're going to give it a shot.

It just came today and I was hoping it came with instructions on how to get started with it on your dog. No, just telling me stuff like "don't start beyond 6 months" (about 4 1/2 years too late for that!) and pushing on his butt to make him sit (something I wouldn't do since I can capture/shape).

So we're going at it on our own and maybe finding some websites on the topic (which has been more difficult than I expected).

Until then, I'll be going with the standard "teach a new cue" rules. New information first, then the currently known cue, then rewarding the behavior. Then keep that up until he has the new association. I don't know if that's the 'correct' way in regards to teaching the whistle, but, we'll find out over time.

Of course, I had to blow it at least once to see how (or if) he'd react. The instructions did suggest using the second setting at first. So I put it on that and gave it a blow. Wally immediately looked over at me with a very alert look, just staring at me like "What was that?! I never heard you make that sound before!" So it looks like I have the frequency I want to start with.

This should be interesting.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

From Throwing to...Folding?!

That's what happened when I was shaping Wally tonight before bed and he tried to "throw" the rug.

After rewarding his attempts to grab and pick up the rug, I decided to hold out on him and see what he would do. He tried the grabbing again a few times, tried some other behaviors, and then kinda starting thinking (he stood there just staring with his tail wagging). He went away a bit and then came back and just grabbed the rug and tried his hardest to throw it.

I gave him a big jackpot, a rub love, and lots of praise for that effort. He looked really proud too like he did something grand!

This is something I will definitely have to try to build on going forward. I wonder if he can indeed learn how to intentionally fold something in half?!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

PE for Wally 7 - Throwing A Ball

A video this time of me getting Wally to do his throwing. He's pretty good with the ball...not so much with the Post-it Note! Still, I thought it was pretty cute and not that bad.

I'm still thinking of ways to try to hone this. Throwing at a target. Maybe trying to throw it into a bowl, box, basket, etc. Throwing it to me. Things like that. Not quite sure how to go about "explaining" it to him with shaping, but it's mulling around in the brain.

That Time of Year Again...

...The Fourth of July and nearby days (and probably all of July and August really).

That means fireworks and that is one of the few outright fearful events left, largely because of how infrequently encountered they are. Literally, just once a year. No way to do much classical conditioning to reverse that association and nowhere near enough for habituation. So we go through this every year. Poor Wally.

This year, I used some pieces of grilled steak and sausages - really top-value stuff for him. I took him out and on a usual route we walk. Sure enough firework sounds were going off, some sounding like a mortar just fired off. I bet to him it did sound like a war zone.

Each time he looked at a sound, I marked and give him a bit of the reward. Pretty much using the "Look at That!" game mentioned in Control Unleashed to help him. Of course, ideally, I'd do this constantly but this is something that's pretty much random and may or may not happen on our walks now that the Fourth itself has passed. It's just a matter of if there's any "leftover" fireworks being used. When they are, I use this and, of course, have good value treats that can "cut through" his fearful energies (which will keep him taking the treats instead of the fearfulness shutting off his appetite as well as not being able to focus by sight of the treat, but the scent can capture him).

For the most part, it went pretty well. He was still very nervous and showed all the signs (tail looks like it got cut off, lower height, skittish, choppy steps instead of his usually 'strut' or 'bouncy' steps, constantly scanning around obsessively), but he kept taking the treats and the scent did indeed capture his attention. He gulped them down like he had to eat-and-run (another sign of being very nervous), but he kept eating them and they did help him focus more on me and what I was doing.

Overall, he really held it together well, considering what was happening around him. He stayed close to good position and stayed near me. He did his business, even if it took him some distance away from me, and he never completely "zoned out" on me. It was just harder to grab his attention.

Luckily, it's only once a year and he's overall a more confident dog and that we've built some trust up over the years, so he believes I'll protect him and he sticks close by when he gets scared. Much better than him trying to bolt and risking choking himself, that's for sure!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Wally!

Today is Wally's 5th birthday. Can't believe he's that old, guess time really does fly!

He had a special lunch today with some of his favorite foods and he'll get some desert after dinner (like a bit of a doughnut or something that's safe for him to eat).

He'll also get the day completely "off" from training, just lots of fun and games today. Of course, he's enjoying that a lot!

He got a new dog bowl as a birthday present - a nice ceramic bowl that's colorful and much better than his tiny bowl. He also got some treats, a couple beef jerky sticks, and a new ball.

I hope the rest of his day goes nice and easy for him.

This summer will also be the 4th year he's been in my care. Can't believe it's been that long there either!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

PE For Wally 6 - Working Through Zoomies

Like probably every dog, Wally gets those seeming sudden, out-of-nowhere bursts of energy we sometimes call "zoomies". When this happens for Wally, he blazes around, just running and running.

So I thought - maybe there's some way we can use this time for something other than him just doing...whatever it is dogs do when they get zoomies.

When he gets like this, I tell him something to do. For example, he's having zoomies, I throw his ball somewhere and tell him "Find your ball! Donde esta pelota?!"

Once it gets through to him, he's running around trying to find his ball (it looks crazy too. You'd think he'd slow down. Ha! No.) So he's darting around, and I'm repeating the task. Eventually, he does find it and then he shakes the heck out of the ball and charges back to me.

So I start him going running around again. I pull his hair a little and stuff and he's charging around again. Then I throw the ball and repeat the instruction.

Then I mix it up. I might ask for a recall while moving in a different spot. So he has to find me and follow my voice. I'll mix up a go-around the pole of the basketball hoop or a tree trunk. Then maybe finding the ball again. And so on.

After about five minutes of that, he's slowing down, but I'm keeping it going. Then maybe 5-10 minutes later, he's moving decidedly slower and then it's time to call it.

The look on his face is like he just had tons of fun, almost like a look of relief maybe. One more thing we can do outside, and now at least when these zoomies happen, there's something we can do with them.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

PE for Wally 5 - Sprints

With the warming weather (borderline to downright hot), we were able to get out for some more PE outdoors. This time, I wanted to see his speed.

I used trees and a utility box in the ground as landmarks for the start and finish. Unfortunately, I don't know how much distance it is, but I estimated by "counting" steps, and, yes, I measured my foot.

Anyway, I counted the steps and estimated the distance. The first distance was 724 1/2 inches, about 20 yards. The second one was about 14 yards, 514 1/2 inches.

I had him in a stay while I got my phone on stopwatch mode and went to the end point. I then called him and started the clock. When he got to me, either sitting front or jumping up to "tap" (more like slam) my legs, I stopped the clock.

He ran the first distance in 8.2 seconds and the second in 4.2 seconds.

Now, the first distance, he curved because it was on a hill and he took some funky arc to get to me, so that ate into time. He actually ran farther, much like how the outside of a track is a farther distance from start to finish.

The second was flat terrain and he ran right at me, so perhaps it's more accurate.

Converting it into a 40 yard dash time, I estimate it at 10.5 seconds. I don't know if that's fast or slow for a Coton or a dog of his size in general. I put this into a conversion calculator on a website to get the speed in miles per hour, and it checks in at just under 7 mph (6.95). Again, don't know if that's a good speed for his size/breed.

He certainly had fun though. He LOVES to run and especially at full speed like that.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wally's First Look At New House

With our house now re-built and all new, I took Wally over to start getting him acclimated. Turns out, though, he didn't need any acclimation at all. he was waggy-tailed and wide-eyed about the new house, looking like he just won a million raw steak bones!

He was excited from the start, remembering the neighborhood and probably picking up the familiar scents from the dogs there. He remembered instantly where his spots where and all that. Then once inside the house, he went from room to room (even though they are empty right now) as if he was also looking over his newly built house.

He remembered the basement. He knew where his crate was (he looked for it) and remembered the layout of everything, and with it familiar, he was very happy. He remembered how to open and close the doors, doing so with enthusiasm.

The only thing he didn't like at first was the new carpet. The smell of it was probably very different and that concerned him a little. But with just a little coaxing, he started exploring upstairs and walking around just as happily as he did before once he realized it, too, was the same as before.

He even remembered to sit on the porch like before, even though we haven't done that in months since we haven't been living there all this time.

The "dividers" on the floor are gone so that's one thing he didn't see and remember - staying out of the kitchen. He didn't have has landmark for that so that's one thing we'll have to work on. Probably will use some throw rugs to help give him a spot he can refer to for where the boundary line is.

It was so fun to see him acting like this. I took him for a walk in our usual route before we left. If I had more time, I would have run and played with him.

The grand adventure wore him out. Once he settled down, he was knocked out cold in his crate, snoring loudly and probably dreaming.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Wally's First Exposure To Weave Polls

Wally got his first taste of what an agility dog has to do. Of course, I would start with the hardest obstacle on the course (unknowingly, I swear!)

And, needless to say, Wally was less-than-pleased about seeing these "big white things" moving around while I was putting them together. I got some PVC poles that can angle and connect/disconnect easily to put in how many poles you want.

Of course, I'm not going to make it super easy at first, but not overly hard. And I got my clicker and some top-end treats (leftover fish sticks and fries in this case) at the ready. I started with four poles to try to show him what the weave was and how to move through the poles. They aren't angled at this point and we're going slow.

I'm making sure he's entering properly, which was a big part of the session today. Also emphasized was that he had to go between every pole.

After he started to get the idea. I decided to move back down to two poles, which would take just one weave to go through.

At this stage, I'm going to start with the shaping of it eventually, but for now, I just want him to get comfortable going through the poles and getting any apprehension of them out of his system. Sometimes I bump the supports with my feet (learning process for me too), and sometimes that startles him, but I have him just get over it. I don't accept any hesitation between the poles, he has to just go and forget about it.

So definitely a work in progress, but that was expected. Overall, he did pretty well for his first exposure and seems to have the idea of how to do a weave motion. I know he cares about the position of things relative to him, and I hope I can leverage that. Hopefully, the position of the pole can be information to him that he can read on the fly to guide him through the movement.

I also have some ideas to try teaching him the muscle memory of the motion (something else I know about him is that I have to show him his body can do what I ask him to do - it was how I got him to FINALLY flip over on his back and go up and down stairs some years back). This should also help him feel more positive about it if I can teach it as a game/during our walks outside of the poles.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wally Vs Foam 20-sided Die

I bought Wally a 20-sided die to play with. After all, his person is a RPG fan and used to play AD&D in his school days.

So, of course, he had to have this big 20-sider when I saw it and for a reasonable price.

It arrived today and I introduced it to Wally. He took to it immediately (probably because it looks like a ball at first...and being purple doesn't hurt - easy for him to see), but then he realized it doesn't roll like a ball, but he can put his paws on it and stuff and it moves funny. He really liked it then.

His dreams of being a canine GM have to start somewhere.
Enter - Wally vs 20-side die. Hope you enjoy the video. Forgive the less-than-expert quality, please.

He picked it up on his own just from playing around with it. He might be a natural die roller dog.

Monday, February 20, 2012

All-Positive Monday 28 - El Zorro (The Fox)

For this Monday, we worked on a new object and a new Spanish word. The object is his fox toy and the word is, "zorro", which means "fox" in Spanish.

However, there seems to be something about this word that Wally does not like at all because he just looks at me like I'm crazy. He won't go to the toy, or if he does, he looks around a bit and sits. This is really, really interesting because it's the first time he's ever had this type of response since he (and I) have started learning some Spanish words. It was as though he was hitting "dislike! dislike!"

I wonder what he is thinking. I wouldn't imagine someone in his past used "zorro" for anything. Perhaps he can't hear the "z" sound? It's certainly the first "z" word I've used, perhaps he's not used to picking it up.

Well, I used "fox" for now, and he didn't mind that word. Crazy dog. Oh, Wally - don't think I've forgotten about "zorro".

With a word he actually "likes", we were able to get some exercises in with the fox toy. We did a lot of playing with it and I'd throw it and say "Get the fox!" (note to self: learn how to say "get the..." in Spanish) and he was all excited and stuff.

I probably said "fox" about 100 times today, I'm tired of hearing it. Don't even want to type it right now! Oh the sacrifices.

Have your fun now, Wally, because soon we'll be doing some three object discrimination.

Once you get over your dislike of "zorro".

Monday, February 6, 2012

"All Positive Monday 27" - Heel position

Been a while for an All-Positive Monday entry, but today I decided to try to build heel position with this approach.

What I did was click and treat (mark and reward) whenever Wally was in heel position. I gave no cues or anything of that nature. When he reached heel, he got the reward, even if he seemed as though he was going to go too far.

Being the food-monger that he is and of course the "click" is burned into his head, he immediately looked up for the treat. After that, he stayed in the position, aligning himself closer and closer each time, and looking up at me in the process.

The key on my end, other than the timing - which is a constant thing to look out for - is delivering the treat in a good spot. I don't want him to hop up, but I also want to make sure he's eating in heel position. In other words, I want him to be where the treat is delivered and that also to be heel position.

This paints the picture fully for him. I believe if I keep this up, he'll get the position down and he will be better able to maintain it on his own. With it being no cues from me and almost a "shaping on the move" exercise, I'm hoping those same shaping-esque principles 'click' (no pun intended) as well.

The eye contact might be a nice little side effect. The concept behind the phrase "feed the position" is that how and where the reward is actually taken and consumed by the dog also imparts information to the dog. The click explains the behavior, the delivery and consumption of the reward explains the location. Judging by past attempts to adhere to this makes it ring true for Wally it seems. Refining front happened with the help of "feed the position". The treat always came directly down and center from me. If he was off to the side or otherwise not aligned, I would not let go of the reward. In fact, it was out of his reach (and he already learned that raising up to get it made it go away completely so he keeps down on the ground).

The first run through shows promise and even after I stopped the training session and released him for some sniff/fun time, he continued walking in heel position. Very promising indeed.

Granted, in the interest of disclosure, Wally is not "completely green" in heeling. We have worked on this in various forms ("keep up"/"slow down" was the first way with heel being the correct spot - we just never "formally" named it "heel" or worked it until later). Still, we are far from masters at it, so this hopefully will continue to help us build the skill.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Wally Still Remembers, and Loves, Home

Went by the house today to take care of stuff and brought Wally along, figuring he'd enjoy the chance to sniff the old grass and stuff.

Boy did he ever. He immediately wanted to go sit on the porch that I've taught him to do so many times. And then I took him to the fields we ran on and practiced our ball catching and looooong distance recall and retrieving and he was just so intense. Charging at me like he loves to do when I call for a front from 90 feet away and just seeing how BIG his eyes were - like he just got done eating 50 raw steaks. He would literally jump up from the sit when I cued finish like we used to practice when doing this.

He was having so much fun and so excited. He remembered all his pee-mail spots and was checking out the grounds and re-marking his spots. So funny he remembered them all like we came there yesterday.

Was so great to see him cutting loose and giving me his full speed outside since there's OPEN GRASS to actually run around on. For a small dog, he needs a lot of space now because of all the walking and running he's done. He eats up ground almost like he's big and two strides and he's through the strips of grass around here.

It was amazing that he remembered all our tricks and stuff we did. Our route, where he sniffs and pees, that we usually stop at the mail box to get the mail. The go-arounds too. He remembered how he can go around the light posts. It's been months since we did it, and he called it up through all that excitement.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Object Discrimination 6 - Ball (Pelota) and Star (Estrella)

Getting back into the groove with object discrimination and it's a review process for now, assuming he still remembered anything from when we tried this last. Of course, I don't have all the old objects (though he still has the bone) - so that brings up a new object I bought for him, his fuzzy star-shaped toy.

He loves that toy, so that's always a plus. For the ball, I'm using one of the balls we were using to practice catching with.

I put the ball and star on the ground and said "pelota". Of course, he had no idea so I kept saying it, ready to give him a click and treat when he touched the ball. He eventually touched the ball and got the reward. I kept doing it, and he went consistently straight to the ball and we were getting into a rhythm.

Then I moved the ball and the star and tried it again. Didn't go so well. He went to the star again, but after not rewarding that, he looked around for something else to touch/grab. He didn't appear to see the ball, or perhaps he didn't think he was supposed to get it.

So I picked the star up and cued "pelota" again. He still was at something of a loss, but then eventually touched the ball for the reward. After repeating it with just the ball done a few times to get him going to the ball directly, I put the star back down. He looked at the star but went away from it to touch the ball. Good.

Did a few of those and then gave him a little break before introducing "estrella", the star. Having been going away from the star, it was harder to now get him to go TO the star. So I picked it up for a few seconds, then put the star down while saying "estrella". He went up to the star and that got him rewarded. I said "estrella" again and he went back to the star.

I didn't put the ball back in, but played a game of fetch with the star, but said "estrella" as he went after it and brought it back. I rewarded when he brought it back to me. Did that for about ten minutes then called it a session.

At least we got some progress going and maybe it will "re-activate" that info in his brain. Of course, if he forgot it all - well, we are still on the right foot...er...paw.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mom Gets In On The Action

My mom was making Wally do some of the stuff I had him do, and caught a video of her getting Wally to walk/hop on his back legs. Hope you enjoy them!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

PE For Wally 4: Balancing And Walking With a Ball

Alrighty then, back to training. This is what I'm talking about.

While still trying to get all the stuff we had or at least something similar, there is still that medicine ball - it survived. So might as well use it.

So that was the idea for this. I wanted him to put his front paws on the ball and walk. Of course, he looks at me like I'm some psycho alien dog. "How do you come up with this stuff to make me do?" kind of look.

But, all resistance is cast aside when a bread ball or a piece of ham enters the picture. Food is king in his world.

With that, I put the ball in front of him. Since I choose shaping first and foremost I wait to see what he'll do with it. Well, he remembers the times I had him pushing the ball and that's what he started doing. That nose kept hitting the ball, moving it around. When that didn't work, he put his paw on it. Oh, that's progress (pawgress?) so he got a click and treat. He did it again - okay, I'll give you one for that too. No, not the third time.

So, reluctantly, I went to a bit of luring. I held the food high over the ball. That was all the help he was getting, he had to figure out how to get it. If he tried to go around the ball, the food disappeared. After a few tries of that, he saw going around was not a winning strategy.

After a bit, he put one paw on the ball and tried to lean on it. The ball moved, and he backed up, but I gave him the food anyway for the effort (it's a step in the right direction). He tried the going around thing again, but then he put his front paw again. He did keep it on the ball and was leaning on it.

I waited and he finally put the other paw on the ball. That got him more food. Now we're getting somewhere. At this point, the lure went away. He knows he can make his body do it. So now it's time for him to...just do it.

After some thinking (he was like, "what's up with that?") he put his paws on the ball. That made the food appear, BUT not get it. He was like "now what?"

I didn't say anything, just held the food up there. If he got off the ball, the food disappeared. He learned quick not to do that - so he started whining. Like THAT would work. I just turned away with the food in the same spot, so he put an end to that. He then gathered up his nerve and reached up for the food by standing up. His back legs were standing and his front paws were on the ball. YES! I quickly all but threw the food in his mouth.

But now I want duration. I want him to walk after all. So once he figured out how to get the food, I held out a bit to delay the reward and get him used to standing in that pose. Then gave him the treat.

Next step was the walking. This was interesting. I moved the food further away. He looked at it like it was evil for moving. I left it at this distance and he looked at me. I just turned away again and left him to figure it out. He started moving the ball with his paws - that got rewarded. Now we're cooking. He kept it up and took a step with his back legs. Another reward.

Now that he did it twice - I moved the food farther away. He slipped off the ball - and the food went away. Tough. Get back on that ball and figure it out.

He popped back up on the ball (that part he's figured out already) and tried again. He took a step, but I want more steps. I moved the food to trigger that "get back here" mode in him and he took more steps. Shoved the reward in his mouth.

Now he had to do it with no lure at all. Instead, I used my hand as a target and called for "touch" on my hand. He had to walk with the ball to touch my hand. When he did, I got a reward out of my pocket. A couple of those, and then I called it a session. As usual, he was jumping up and down and acting like he conquered the world!

I don't know about the world, but at least you're a step closer to conquering walking with a ball. I will try to capture some photos of this or maybe even a *gasp* video (maybe - I'm an amateur dog trainer, not amateur video producer!)