Recently I have changed my focus from doing as many exercises in a row as possible (for a single reward) to checking that Ruby knows his job well and fixing heeling precision (he started drifting away from my leg). We’re still working on reducing reinforcers, just in a different way. I’ve been quite good at remembering to work on that it showed in class today. It’s funny how the things I work on tend to improve, while the things I don’t work on do not 😉 Like the about turn (I turn to the left, Ruby circles around me to the right). I haven’t found a good way to signal that. I haven’t actually been trying much, just hoping he would get it on a verbal cue. But he is not a very verbal oriented dog and he has been taught for five years NOT to go behind my back like that, so I will probably need to come up with a good visual cue to let him know it’s now OK to do it. He will do it if I walk slowly, but at normal pace he will sometimes do a front cross instead (and I get it, my body cues totally look like a front cross is coming up).
We also worked on heeling with distractions and I think there was some progress here as well. Really beautiful spiral and perfect focus on heeling around toys even though he knew exactly where they are.
At home we’re working on generalizing his Park cue (a tucked sit) to flat ground which he had a lot of problems with in the beginning, but I think he is starting to get it. He even did it at the training field today, but he’s not ready to start using it as a part of Rally exercises, so for now we’re using Sit.
I just can’t believe how much fun he’s having… he can’t wait for his turn to begin! I need to practice at the field with Java more often and make some video of her, too.
Java turned 5 months old on Sunday and after some persuasion from a friend I made a video to remember this month by. I’m so happy I did. Thank you, Monika!
In the last two weeks Java’s focus on toys has grown exponentially. In just a few days we went from doing a few retrieves at a time in the apartment to going outside and having to hold myself back from throwing a toy too many times because she wanted to go on and on.
We are finishing our puppy class next week and a lot of behaviors on the video were taught as a part of puppy class program, most notably heeling, which I just love 🙂 Some other games were added to teach self-control and of course the start of agility foundations tricks.
Java showing off – pivoting on a pumpkin 🙂
Photo by Mateja Lugarič
Today’s video is more condensed than usual. This step could be broken down into two or three steps.
1) Once Java could do the whole circle smoothly in both directions it was time to move on to next stage, which is actually a beginning of heeling (finding heel position). I stepped to the target as she was pivoting so that she bumped into my leg – click! Position of my feet is important. I step to the side of the target, not the front. That way she lines up with me when she bumps my leg.
2) Next stage would be to replace the high target with something lower like a book or a frisbee, but Java was offering comming into heel position on her own, so we skipped this 🙂
3) Finally, try it without a target. Sometimes she offers circling which is another trick that she learned, but eventually she will learn the difference between circling and pivoting.
Note: I am not competing in obedience so my criteria for heeling position is probably not as strict as ideal position for competition. I want Java’s shoulders to be in line with seams of my pants, not forging ahead nor lagging behind, back straight and roughly perpendicular to my shoulders.
Once Java was offering steps to the side reliably it was time to wait for more than one step before clicking… and then more and more. The goal was to have her do the full circle on her own, with my hands only to show her the direction in which I want her to turn. This took the longest time of all steps because we got “stuck” at some points around the bowl which Java preferred and would not move past. The most important tip for this step is to click while the dog is still moving. I probably clicked her for stopping too many times, that’s how the “sticky” points came about. But we conquered them eventually 🙂
During this step I also removed my feeding hand between clicks which I have kept there during step #3.
Java had a very nice surprise for me today at puppy school: she showed me that she can skip the final stage of teaching pivoting exercise because she already figured out where the exercise is headed. In fact I think she might be wondering why I didn’t let her do it a week ago. I am so happy with my clever and always ready Black Magic 🙂
Pivoting exercise (or perchwork) is great for rear-end awareness if taught using free shaping and is also used to teach a nice heeling position. Here’s how I taught it:
Step 1: At first I clicked for looking at the bowl or interacting with it in any way, then for standing on it with front feet.
Step 2: Once she would stand on the bowl pretty reliably I started clicking any movement of the hind feet (but I still clicked just for getting on the bowl as well).
Step 3: At first I was clicking any steps to the side, but it soon became apparent that she loves the frontal position (12 o’ clock) a bit too much. So I decided to add some value to the opposite position (6 o’clock) and not click when she is in her favorite position anymore… well, sometimes I clicked despite my good intentions 🙂
Another problem was moving my hand. Whenever I pulled it away she seemed to “reset”, so I was thinking perhaps it would be better if I left my hand there but keep it steady as to not lure her into moving hind feet (the idea of this exercise is that the dog moves her hind feet on her own, not because she was lured into such position).
Enjoy! I will post the rest of the steps over next few days.
Oh and she taught me a new game on today’s walk. It goes like this: she walks about 10m ahead of me, stops and looks back. If I crouch or run away from her she will sprint after me having a blast. Then she will go ahead of me again, stop and pointedly look at me like “Run, Rabbit, run!” I just love this girl!