I’ll get to Rally obedience in a minute, but first I need to alert you to another source of excellent (and free!) information on dog training: the SPARCS conference this weekend. They offer completely free live video streaming. I missed it last year; I don’t intend to miss it this time! The themes are:
Friday: Aggression and Conflict
Saturday: Temperament and Personality
Sunday: Science in Training
Here’s what I think we need to train according to the weaknesses exposed by Sunday’s Rally Obedience class:
- Get a reliable and pretty much error-free performance of all RO I exercises when I don’t have food in my hands and I don’t have the treat pouch on. Ruby is pretty forgiving of training without the treat pouch (in agility this is the sign that the real fun is about to begin!), but before I try to improve performance of several exercises without a treat pouch I first need to be sure that he can do them well in isolation.
- First with treats coming from my pockets
- Then mixing with rewarding from a food bowl
- Try it in different environments
- Which brings me to the question of when will I reward. I don’t like to always reward after the exercise is finished because I think Ruby will learn the patterns of exercises (example of an exercise: heeling, recall to front, sit, go around me into heel position, get a cookie) and the intermediate behaviors will loose their value because he will know for a fact that he only gets a cookie after going around me. This is a behavior chain so one could also argue that every next cue will reinforce the behavior before it and therefore there is no need to reward variably. I don’t know… I’m sure there is excellent information out there about whether always rewarding at the end will hurt the chain, I just need to do some research.
- Keep heeling with eye contact even when there is food on the ground (on the first pass!)
- For myself: remember to say Sit after recall, not Down! 🙂
- It would be nice to find a way to straighten his downs when there is a bowl of food present. I played around with a platform in the living room and of course that’s no issue. But even on the ground it won’t be a problem at home I think… Only at the club. No idea there yet.
- Also his recall could be straighter 😉 Need to refresh recalling by a bowl of food!
- Sending him around my back while there is a tempting bowl to my right.
- Maybe teach him to walk toward me without jumping up 😉 Not really a priority right now as I don’t think that exercise is a part of RO I
And a video of the second part of RO for those who didn’t get tired of it last time (same course, 2nd try):
Notes to self:
- Keep rewarding from the hand until there is a really good behavior to reward. Use send to bowl as a jackpot, not as a random reward.
- Engage him for the whole session just as if he would be a highly distractible dog. It breeds excitement and focus which breeds speed.
A short update on Java: she is having short walks on leash and light tricks training at home, making sure we are not unduly stressing her wrist. I am currently gathering veterinary opinions on how to proceed. I expect we will know more about her mysterious swelling in a week or two and then we will also decide how to treat it.