Exploits of an Amateur Dog Trainer: Blog Edition: December 2012

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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.