Thursday, March 28, 2013

Reyna update

In case you were wondering what we have been up to....

Levels - still working on lazy leash Level 3. We have passed step two, but I am spending a lot of time on the comeafters because self control is very difficult for Reyna.

CGC - the levels work above is helping with our goal of Reyna earning her CGC before too long. She  is getting better but just gets so excited when she sees people and dogs that she knows

Crate games - We have done some work lately using her mat where I ask her run between me and the mat with somebody she would REALLY like to say hi to standing between us. That has been a lot of fun and is really helping her focus and self control.

Trkman tricks - loving these. I need to watch the video again, but Reyna is doing awesome at the four paws in her food bowl and that is a lot of fun. Plus she is actually catching on to sitting up much quicker than I thought. We don't have much if any duration on either of those but just the fact that she is learning to get herself into hose positions is awesome. Two on two off is going slower only because I don't have a good raised surface to give Reyna a clear definition so we are using a carpet square. That is just a difficult point to start at, so I may put that on hold for now until I find something better to work with. Balancing on a ball with two feet while walking with her back feet is out right now for lack of a good ball, so we substituted the office chair and she stands on it with her front feet and walks around...not bad for a dog who is afraid of things that move!!

Rally/Obedience - just working on engagement in more and more distracting spaces. I have been going to the dog park and using the small dog side if there is nobody there to practice having her focus on me while other dogs play. Yesterday we actually got some short working spurts inside the regular dog area with other dogs around!! Way to go puppy!!! It was a great day where the park had four dogs in it all with very watchful owners and no toy drive dogs. If I am ever playing in a situation I always move us to a corner where I can see the other dogs. Depending on the other dogs I can either  body block as they come up or have Reyna out the toy so she does not become a target. By doing this Reyna's confidence in tugging with other dogs around has shot through the roof compared to where it was, because she doesn't worry about being mugged while she's playing with me.

Nosework - we haven't done anything! I need to order some Anise.

I felt like we have just been playing around and having fun without really going anywhere, but now that I write this out we are actually making small steps towards all our goals...very exciting! And I have to say we are both having a blast. It feels so good when I take her out and about to have people comment on how focused and well behaved and "wow she's only 3?" Instead of "wow she still has a lot of puppy in her" which is code for " your dog is crazy". The other day we were at Lowes and I had a small crowd talking to me with my arms full of treats, toy, leash, purse, and items I was actually buying. I started to walk off and dropped one of the items. A lady started to reach for it, but before she could and with no cue Reyna picked it up and handed it to me....awwws abounded :) Thanks Sue for the levels retrieve!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Punishment in Positive Training

It is impossible to train without some form of negative consequences for the dog failing an exercise in the process. At some point no matter how careful we are to set the dog up for success, the dog is going to make a mistake, or choose the wrong option. Now what?

I am a motivational, marker based, dog trainer. I don't use physical pain as corrections. But that doesn't mean that consequences for mistakes do not factor into my training. People can say, I never punish my dog for getting it wrong, I just don't reward the mistakes. But if you have ever told your child, you do not get dessert because you didn't eat your dinner, or you may not go out and play because you didn't clean your room, you have just withheld a reward for failure to perform. That is a correction in the sense that you are doing it in hopes of decreasing the likelihood that a behavior will continue.

If there are litterally no consequences for getting it wrong, then that means being wrong is just as rewarding as being right. Imagine trying to train a stay if she got the toy every time whether she got up or held her position....I'd rather not.

So the question is really, when there is an error made by the subject in the learning process, what are you going to do about it? If I have learned anything from my 3 years with Reyna it is that I better have a plan for when it goes wrong that is just, if not more, well thought out than when it all goes perfectly.

I think it's relatively easy as a motivational trainer to say...I am not using physical pain to correct issues so I'm all set. But take a look at the following video. Sam has a Level 1 foundation in Sue's training levels, and I needed to teach her to stay out of our playroom while she was staying with us for the weekend. I have layered in a high rate of reinforcement, but watch when she starts to make a mistake. Even a weight shift towards her is enough of a pressure correction to make her back up immediately. Sam is not nearly as sensitive as Reyna, and yet something as "gentle" as taking a step forward sends a very strong message of "that is the wrong choice, back up".

I think as positive trainers, we need to consider the effects that our corrections have on the learning process, just as we would hope a compulsion based trainer would critically look at their methods, to ensure that we are always being fair, taking the dogs body language and emotional state into consideration, and objectively looking at whether or not our methods are humane. And then being willing to change them, for that situation, that dog, or even overall in our training if there is a major problem.

I'm not saying never use pressure (obviously since I use it the video above), but I am saying we need to be deliberate and thoughtful in how we employ even physically pain free corrections. If you have seen Eileen's shock collar video where she displays how negative reinforcement  is used to teach a dog to climb on a platform, I can tell you right now I could do the same thing to Reyna with pressure alone and it would be just as inhumane in my opinion.

Before Reyna I really was oblivious. I thought that since I used a clicker and treats and wouldn't go near a prong, choke, or shock collar I was acting in the best interest of the dog. But by focusing on the methods I was using and not the attitude of the dog sitting in front of me I created a dog who found very little joy in her work.  Here are a couple examples of misused punishment/negative reinforcement and the fallout because of it:

Crate training:
We brought Reyna home at 9 weeks old and the first thing we wanted was for her to sleep through the night in her crate. So I slept next to her crate the first night and if she would whine and I knew she didn't need to potty I would say "hush" and give her a hard stare until she disengaged and laid back down. That is A LOT of pressure especially for a 9 week old puppy. It worked too. We did the same thing to make her stop whining when we were in the yard and she was on the porch. It made her so sensitive to eye contact that by 8 months old if she was dozing and I looked at her she would get up and pace and whine.

Loose leash walking:
When training Reyna to walk on a loose leash I put a leash on her and pulled on it just enough to make her uncomfortable (doesn't take much for a puppy). When she stepped toward me I rewarded. This might have worked fine if I had laid a foundation of  reinforcement for walking next to me, and then walking while dragging the leash, and then some luring into position with the leash on to remind her what a great place being next to me was. I didn't. When I took her to a training group they asked if I ever played with her because she was so uncomfortable on leash.

Proofing behaviors:
I used to use a No Reward Marker pretty often. If I asked for a sit and she offered a down, or just didn't sit I would say "wrong" and turn my back for a few seconds. Again, maybe for a different team this would have worked just fine...My Greyhound in college caught on pretty quick, the boxers I had growing up did. It completely demoralized Reyna. She stopped being shape-able and anything that sounded like a new cue would make her shut down and walk off. I can't tell you how many times she just walked off in a training session.

It took a lot of rethinking, and changing the way I train, to turn our relationship around. Now I try to always have a plan for what will happen when things go well AND when they don't. Also I always consider how the consequences of her miss affect her attitude in training. Does it build drive to try again? and does she exhibit joy when she gets it right or just relief? My goal is always joy!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

My K9 Nose Work Superstar!

Oh excuse me, did I hear you say you had lost something valuable?...and it happens to smell of Birch?

I'm ON it!!!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Allow me to introduce...

Queen Vom Nobelos NW1 "Reyna"


The trial was awesome! If you feel like a long read here is our overall experience. If you just want the quick version scroll to the bottom for times/results.

Newberry Nose Work 1 Trial breakdown...

 We made the long drive to Jacksonville Florida on Friday. We stayed with a good friend Lisa Mallory who was trialing her doberman Kelly on Saturday too and we spent Friday evening just playing with the dogs and trying to relax. That night I realized I had left my score book 7 hours away in Carrollton, GA. Crap. This was not starting well. It turns out I worried for nothing, apparently you don't have to have our membership card or scorebook with you to trial at all, but I spent that evening and the whole way there the next morning stressing about it for nothing. I wish they would make it more well known that you don't Have to have it.

The next morning Lisa and I headed to the trial site with both dogs. It was two hours away and we made it just in time to check in, find out I had worried for nothing about the scorebook, and get settled into our little "camp" site before the walk through. The site was amazing, plenty of shaded parking, huge potty area, plenty of room for everybody.

Then the walk through started. Our group did the walk brought in reverse order of what we would run. Thanks to this blog post  I had a plan in my head for how I would work each area .

There were three vehicles parked at angles facing the main building. I noted that the wind was blowing away from the start line and hoped that wouldn't cause too much trouble. I was thankful we had done a good bit of work in the wind.

This time the wind was blowing toward the start line...awesome. But there was a closed shed with a wooden ramp leading up to it as part of the search area. I crossed my fingers and hoped that if the hide was up there that all of our work on decks, stages, and sheds, wold help her push past that. This was also where I started to get nervous. The area wasn't too big, but it had asphalt, gravel, wooden decking, grass, concrete, vertical surfaces, and a bit of clutter. It was a lot to take in.

Now this was a breath of fresh air. It was like they had copied the gym set up that we practice in. Even the chairs and tables were the same style. Reyna would be totally comfortable in here.

Another nervous one. So. Many. Boxes!  And they were in the shape of a clover. That would make it easy to miss one. I was really going to have to stick with a pattern or risk missing a box.

After the walk though they started running dogs. Each dog would run container and exterior one right after the other and then be done until lunch. Then after lunch we would all run interior and vehicle back to back. I like that much better than the idea of container, break, exterior, break etc.

I was almost dead last. There were 27 dogs running counting an exhibition dog, and I was 25. That made me VERY glad I followed the NKJD blog post and practiced long aging on hides. Reyna does better when the odor has been out for a while actually.

During the down time before our first search I tried to simulate our training environment so about every 45 minutes I would get Reyna out, play a little, run the practice boxes, and then put her away again. The rhythm really helped both of us settle in before the actual searches. I tried to keep Reyna out of the sun, but the on deck locations were pop up tents and Reyna was a bit nervous about the high winds flapping the tents. Turns out she had good reason because one blew over, luckily nobody was there. Other than those short little bursts I tried to just relax in our lawn chairs and enjoy the shade and chat with folks nearby about anything except the specific hides. This was difficult when Lisa came back successful, because I really wanted to ask her how it was, but all we could do is celebrate that her first two hides where over and wait for mine.

I formed my plan for the first two sections, Container I was going to walk Reyna clockwise through the pattern to make sure we didn't miss a box. Exterior I was going to give Reyna 1 minute to do whatever, and then after 1 minute I would do a perimeter walk and then a zig zag to see if we cold pick up odor. I would use the same strategy for the interior and vehicles except that because of the wind on the vehicles, if she hadn't alerted in one minute I would restart her from the opposite side facing the wind.

When it was our turn on deck we paced and played and paced some more

We walked in and Reyna was focused on the boxes. I held her about two feet behind the start line to make sure she didn't cross early. I gave her the cue and we started. She was NOT interested in checking every box. I had to insist she check a couple. We may have wasted time but I would rather waste time checking empty boxes than miss the right one. I shouldn't have worried because about halfway around she got very focused and started pulling faster until she skidded to a stop and did her very clear chin target and paw touch for the box. I called alert and got the YES! We had passed our first NW1 element and actually got a Pronounced!
Time: 38.05 seconds. Place: 10th

Reyna caught odor on the way to the start line thanks to the wind, I held her for a second more to focus myself and remind myself of the plan. She shot off the start line and went straight for the wooden ramp. My heart sank a bit and I just crossed my fingers that if it was there she would work through it. She hopped off the side of the ramp though and started detailing the ground. She gave a double nose tap and froze on the seam where the ramp meets the concrete. I called it and waited that painful millisecond before we got a YES! We whooped it up and practically ran back to the car. We were halfway there so now I just needed to try and relax until after lunch.
Time: 21.81 seconds Place: 10th

During lunch we all celebrated and lamented and got to talk about the searches since the whole group was done. Lisa and Kelly did awesome on the containers. They got it in 12 seconds and the exterior in 29! If I wasn't nervous before (which I was) now I was really nervous! We only had two more to go.

For the second half I pottied Reyna and played a little bit and then gave her a bowl of kibble and some water. I knew she didn't eat much for breakfast and I wanted to make sure she could make it through the day. She wolfed down her kibble and drank a good bit of water and then settled back into her crate. I decided I didn't want to follow the morning pattern of getting her out repeatedly for fear of wearing her out. She was resting really well in her crate so I just put a frozen blanket over the top of the crate to help keep her cool and let her nap. I was very glad to see her relaxing even when dogs and people walked up to chat. I had been worried that she would wear herself out getting excited every time somebody came by.

I really tried to stay relaxed and not think about the fact that when this was all over it was 20 hours of driving and two vacation days from work and it would really be a bummer to miss the last hide. Lisa went first again and was gone for what seamed like forever. She came around the corner with a thumbs up....she had her title!!! I am glad she went first because she warned me there was a long wait between the two searches and suggested I take some water for Reyna which I did and was very thankful for!

There were three holding stations before we got to the interior so I tried to keep a healthy balance of engaging Reyna and then letting her just wander on her line and sniff fence poles etc. When we finally got called in the threshold was at the doorway. I held her back to let her get her bearing and then sent her on. Honestly I was sure it would probably be on the tables or chairs, but Reyna went straight into the middle of the room, between the tables, turned back and hit the far left perimeter and followed it around to the right until we hit a little alcove with a dustpan. She detailed the area for a second and then hit and stuck on the inside of the dustpan. Alert.....YES!!! We were only one away from a title and we received a Pronounced on this hide as well!
Time: 32.84 seconds Place: 12th

There was a long wait before the vehicle and I was glad I had water, I was glad Reyna had a cued relax, and honestly she was so calm, happy and focused during the wait period that all nerves about the vehicle vanished. I felt calm, and connected. She shot off the start line and I started my internal timer. Just the fact that I felt present and relaxed into to count off seconds in my head while maintaining focused on Reyna told me we were in a good place as a team. In a stroke of luck she ran past the vehicles towards the building and I stopped her. She turned to face me and was looking right into the wind. She immediately caught odor and went halfway back towards the start line in between two cars. As she got halfway down the vehicles she whipped back to the right and started detailing the front wheel well and tire. She stuck her nose into one hole in the hub cap, I gave her harness a little tug to see if she would back up or lean forward. She backed up a step and slammed her nose into the next hole over. I called alert and they said "where?". Holding my breath I pointed to the second hole and got a YES!!!!! We threw a party!!!! Reyna almost took my hand off snatching the ball she was so excited. The judge said he like her head snap into odor. I don't remember if I said thank you or just nodded, but this time we ran all the way back to the car. There were cheers and hugs and laughter. We had our NW1 Title and we received a third Pronounced for this search.
Time: 21.90 seconds Place: 4th

Not only was I absolutely thrilled to have the title, I was very pleased with her consistency. We didn't place on any of the elements but she was extremely consistent. We got a lot of great comments from the judges about her drive, attitude, my ability to read her, and our teamwork.

AND....are you ready for this???? Even though we didn't place on a single element her consistency paid off with a FIRST PLACE OVERALL TIME!!!!!

Ahhhhhh!!!!!!! WE WON THE TRIAL!!!!!! I cannot believe that! Our total time for the trial was 1:54.60, averaging less than 30 seconds a hide....Way to go my formerly reactive crazy baby! She also got several comments about her focused and happy attitude. I am so proud of her and us as a team. We have come so far to get here and have so many people to thank for their help, guidance and inspiration.

Thank you all!!!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Nose Work Trial Prep

We will return to our regularly scheduled updates and training note shortly. But for now it is all about Nose Work. Our trial is this weekend and I don't think I would do anything differently in preparation for it.

Reyna is now searching for birch on decks with a happy fluffy tail. The stage still gives her the creeps, but she will search it and alert. We have practiced on leash, off leash, high, low, accessible, inaccesible, windy, rainy, short waits in between, long waits in between, totally blind, timed, box refreshers, hides with people walking through the search area, even had a stranger handle her on a couple hides, cars, trucks, forklifts, brand new odor, old odor, 4-6 hour old hides, tiny room, expansive gyms, playground equipment....I even took her to a nose work tournament this past weekend where I was volunteering and had her just wait in the car for 4 hours while I worked it with dogs and people wandering by the car and then brought her out for two quick hides and then left.

To support our Nosework training we have been working on confidence on weird surfaces, focus in extreme situations (heeling off leash near a stray cat feeding station), long working days where we do non Nosework stuff off and on all day, self control on leash and off, drive building with tug and fetch and more tug, relationship building through play, confidence strength and balance through tricks...

I can't lie, if we don't title I will be disappointed, but I don't think we could have prepared better, and I have enjoyed the last couple months of training and relationship building sooooo much, I wouldn't do a thing differently.

Here's to Saturday!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Fenzi Dog Sports Academy...

Wow...just wow!!!! I can't wait for this to get up and going...Denise Fenzi herself, Hannah Branigan, and my personal hero Sue Ailsby are on the list of instructors WAY cool!!!!!

Also I received the greatest compliment the other day while doing some work in a distracting environment. Somebody said "she is just SO into you". I can't imagine a greater comment!

Week and a half 'til the NW1 trial...

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Adventures with Samantha

Okay I FINALLY have our Reyna and Sam video uploaded. We worked on Relax a lot. I looked back at our old video from last march and its amazing our far we have come even though we haven't been working on it very much.

Sam is Reyna's best friend, she goes out of her mind whenever she sees her, so to have both dogs off leash in the house would be pretty much impossible I thought. My plan for the weekend was just to go back to my old protocol of on leash or in a crate for both dogs.

Once Sam got here though I decided I owed it to both of them to do some training. They rough housed like crazy and started slamming into furniture...what I had we gotten ourselves into???

But instead of crating them I decided to work on thir default behaviors. At the time they had never done anything together that involved much self control at all. So I got out their dinner, each dog with her own bowl and sat on the couch. Sam has a Level 1 foundation so her zen pretty darn good. It took her a few minutes to realize that I was paying for downs, but once she worked it out the two did awesome! And Reyna got to work on her Level 3 relax which is to relax in sight of other dogs playing...might as well start with another dog not playing to break down the behavior! 

By the end of the weekend, both dogs had developed a default calm for indoors and we only crated them at night! 

Which brings me to the next fun thing we needed to work on, Reyna totally losing control whenever I let them out of their crates. It didn't matter what order I let them out, it became a scream fest each time. So again, it was time to implement a protocol. Reyna was doing much better by the end of the weekend, but really could have used Sam there for another week or so to get herself really under control.
Forgive the angle of this video and just keep your eyes on the dogs haha!


Some other things that Sam learned were, to not go into the playroom no matter how tasty the toddler looks, that "mealtime" means no dogs allowed in the dining room until somebody says "floor patrol!" at which point it's a free for all and Penelope's chair is usually the best place to start.

Reyna got to work on self control around another dog and progressed very quickly. Much better than I would have thought. At the start of the weekend we couldn't pet Same without Reyna coming in to push her out of the way. So we working on of few of theses games:

Sam gets pets, Reyna gets chicken
Both dogs stay, then both dogs come to front and get chicken
Both dogs stay and only Sam comes - Reyna gets chicken for holding her stay
Reyna Stay while mommy bounces around and makes crazy noises with Sam - Reyna gets chicken
Reyna plays tug with mommy while Sam tries her best to distract her - Reyna gets chicken

As you can guess after just a day Reyna decided there was an awful lot of value for her in letting Sam get some attention. The joint recall was actually probably hardest because they are both moving together but must remain focused on me and not each other. Very difficult for two playmates. But they did wonderfully. Such good girls!!!!