Day 18: No Behavior Is Ever Trained

I have decided it’s time that pups and I got back to basics in our training. Back to doing core Recallers games, back to maintaining and upping the criteria in Rally Obedience, back to doing more self-control, just plain old basic stuff. It might not be fancy, but it really has a great impact on the big picture and right now it feels good to do basic stuff.

So this morning I focused on dogs touching my leg during heeling which meant I was clicking almost every step. I had to click this often for Java because she tries to offer all sorts of stuff since I taught her to go backwards around me (she looooves that trick!) and I wanted to make sure that she understood what we’re focusing on. I didn’t want to create a chain of move away from my leg – move close to my leg – slide her butt behind my leg (the start of going backwards around me) – correct position – click – treat. I wanted her to be in correct position 90% of the time. That went well. Then we did heeling over kibble on the floor and I noticed that after I deliver a treat she glances toward the floor (to check if the kibble is still there, no doubt) then she looks up. So I started clicking before she looked down which pretty much meant I was clicking and treating continuously while we were walking over kibble. She stopped trying to look down pretty quickly. Of course we didn’t get much duration yet, I’m saving this for the evening session 😉

For Ruby I also had to click very often because he developed a habit of walking 10-20cm away from my leg, which is not so bad in itself, but it seems to me like he’s moving further and further away with each Rally Obedience class and I would like to stop the trend. So today the criteria was that he had to touch my leg while heeling. Not too bad, but not good enough that I would add distractions to the picture, so instead of walking over kibble I had a different distraction exercise for him: I put him in a down and did recall to front with an empty food bowl near his path. That went good, so next time I filled the bowl with kibble. This is similar to one of Recallers exercises that he knows well, so I didn’t expect him to try to eat the kibble, but in RO class he sometimes veered toward the bowl instead of coming to me in a straight line. I am sure he would come directly to me if I used his recall word, but I never use that unless I intend to reward him really really well, and in RO I don’t plan to have a party after recall, so I was using an informal recall to get him to come to me. Now I need to teach him to come in straight line on this cue. Bowl of kibble didn’t even get a glance from him (I also had kibble, so my rewards were no better than what was on the ground). Very pleased. 🙂 Now I need to find the minimal situation in which he will fail.

Another problem that creeped into our training since we started doing RO was randomly getting up from a sit. Ever since Ruby was a puppy, Sit meant “sit there until I release you” and it worked really well once I proofed it. I only used one release word “OK” and he was listening for that. I could shout out “Orange” or run around, or throw his favorite ball, or throw a ball and let Java chase it and he would maintain that sit until I said OK. But with Rally Obedience exercises I didn’t always say “OK” before I gave next cue. Of course giving the next cue releases him from Sit so he can do what I cued, but apparently this has thoroughly confused him because he will now release on all sorts of things that were never meant as release, even just plain movement. Need to work on that release criteria more. This will be fun 🙂

In one of the videos for the Recallers 5.0 Susan Garrett said that no behavior is ever trained. It’s either improving or it’s deteriorating. So true. I should have this framed on my wall!


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10 thoughts on “Day 18: No Behavior Is Ever Trained

  1. It’s so true… This evening I met with a friend who ha to prepare for her obedience debut and we trained together in a different place, with, different distraction and so on. We had a really good training session, with focus on different exercises and a lot of play in between… Except that she has started to show a new (and undesired) behaviour doing one of her favourite exercise, the “send to square”: I send her to the “box” -no problem, wow i love going there- I say “stop” and she stops immediately and in a correct position, then I ask for a down (a simple thing that has never bothered me) and she starts moving forward, she targets the outline box string with both front paws, she wags her tail and only then goes down…Ok, I guess that the best strategy is not giving any exercise for granted, even the one on which you rely most!
    Now, I just have to take that famous step back… 🙂

    • Huh that was unexpected! Very interesting. Well at least you found out in training so you were able to experiment with it and now you can make a plan to fix it 🙂 What are you going to do?

  2. I just wrote a blog post comparing writing a novel to dog training and how you have to have a strong foundation in both before you can get anywhere. I also have just started Recallers 5.0 because of your recommendation. I have two whippets and am trying to read all I can about training whippets in agility.

    • Hi Kelly! I would love to read you blog post, but there is no link to your blog…? So cool that you joined Recallers 🙂 Make sure to keep all the games exciting for your whips, it can be sometimes too easy to teach them self-control. Have you started training in agility yet or are you trying to familiarize yourself first before diving in?

      • Hi Andreja,

        The post is for a group blog and is scheduled to be released on Thursday. I’ll post it to my Facebook page.

        My older dog, Zoe, is in her fourth agility class now. She loves it! My younger dog, Zephyr, is only 9 months old and will start agility soon. We have also started Fly ball classes with them, but they each lack a tug drive. I’m hoping Recallers will help!

        • Cool, I’m looking forward to reading it 🙂 Recallers has a very active Tugging section, yes. I don’t know about it too much though because I find those methods a bit boring. I prefer to build drive for tugging through Two toy games and rewarding tugging by throwing the tug a lot…

  3. MaryHope Schoenfeld

    Two questions — or maybe one question & one comment:
    When Ruby looks at or veers toward the food bowl during his recall, but then completes the recall, do you reward him? If so, how do you communicate that the looking or veering are undesirable? A smaller reward for the less-perfect efforts, & bigger rewards/jackpots for the better ones?
    My agility instructor feels that the name of the next obstacle can be used as a release word in releasing the dog from a stopped contact position or pause table. After working through the proofing of the release word in foundation training (“you will hold the position till you hear the word ‘break’, not the word ‘grapefruit’ or ‘doorknob’ or ‘window'”), i really feel that releasing without the specifically-trained release word does muddy the water of understanding. So i sympathize with Ruby’s confusion!

    • So far I have rewarded him even if he veered off I think… I’m not sure. It happened once or twice during class and I didn’t have a plan. My plan now will be to try to make him fail (not just slightly veer toward it, but really go with intent of eating the treats). If that happens I will beat him to it and cover the bowl. Because of his training history one failure should make it clear that this choice does not earn a reward. I want one failure because I want a contrast between the wanted and the unwanted. After that we will work on the same setup and I will reward according to how he will come – if he comes straight he gets a jackpot, if he veers slightly just a small reward and if he would veer significantly toward the bowl I would either go to cover it up or there would be a NRM + no reward.

      Yeah, releasing with several release words can definitely cause problems… we’ll see what will happen once I proof it again. Will it stick or will it fall apart again?

      • Penny

        In my hurry to read your comments when I should be working I read : “My plan now will be to try to make him fail (not just slightly veer toward it, but really go with intent of eating the treats). If that happens I will beat him”

        And I thought, hang on, this doesn’t sound like Andreja!

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