Saturday, October 27, 2012

Speaking of rewards...

I changed Reyna's Nose Work reward.

I know, I know... I had awesome drive and enthusiasm, her focused response was coming along nicely, she was working very well with why change?

The main reason is safety and predictability.

With her ball I would do my best to control the flight path, but once it impacted with the source all bets were off it could go anywhere. If Reyna caught it right away no big deal, but if she missed or tipped it she could send it flying in any direction. This was especially a problem doing indoor hides and hides near parking lots or roads.

Inside the ball could (and would) go crashing into stuff with Reyna skidding across the wood floor in hot pursuit....not very safe for our possessions, herself, or anybody who happened to be in the house at the time. But even more dangerous was outdoors. As we have started going to busier locations that have more foot and vehicular traffic I have had to be very careful, often just handing her the ball. This is okay from time to time, but I don't want her to learn that the busier the location the more boring the reward. I also don't want a wreck because her ball went flying into traffic. You may say just stay farther away from roads, but you should never underestimate how far a chuck-it ball can travel when it's being pursued by a crazed German Shepherd.


Enter the tug

Why the tug? Why not a ball on a string if she is so obsessed with her ball?

Because she loves her tugs, not as much as the ball, but nothing compares to "orange ball" except  for "other orange ball". She tugs well, works for them, and has a long history of being rewarded in training with her tugs. She has also played lots of "find it" games with them before we knew about Nose Work. And the best part doesn't bounce.

So how do you switch rewards like that? Slowly.

The first hide I just wanted to see what she would do if I switched cold...she locked on odor, I threw the tug right into her face....she didn't even flinch, she actually stared harder as if to say "you can't distract me with that tug, if I wait long enough the ball WILL appear".

So then we went back to the start...

Out came the boxes and we started off with two or three hides with the box open so she could self reward. Two or three with the box closed to build up some drive for it, and then quickly moved to odor in the boxes and throwing the toy. Her willingness to accept the tug as a reward quickly shot up as she realized it was the same game.

Then we moved to area searches outside. After I threw the tug she would still hang on odor for just a second before snatching at the tug, so we did several quick, fast and easy hides. I would throw the odor tin across the yard and then let her go. Or I'd very elaborately place it down while she was watching and then walk back and release her.

It only took 3-4 sessions over the course of one day to have her fully engaged with the new reward.

For the next several days we would still start with her first hide being paired, in a box, or a cabinet, or a drawer so she could snatch the tug out of the container and then we'd move on to me rewarding for the rest of the hides.

Now she can go out cold and shoots after the tug. I'll try and get a video of good thing I didn't anticipate is that she is MORE focused on the odor now because the tug is less distracting....I can wave the tug in front of her face or flop it around her head right before a search but she just stays staring forward waiting for the "Go Find" cue.

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