Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Exercising Self Control and Winning

No we have not sudden conquered all of our self control behaviors...but I have stared in the face of my own temptation and came out successful on the other end.

I am teaching nervous, crazy Reyna to walk on a treadmill. Back in the day I would have just slapped a leash on her and expected her to get over it. But that was three years and a lot of learning ago. So knowing my tendency to want to "help" the learning along I have done all her training sessions without even a collar on to prevent me being able to make her get or stay on the is our timeline, some of these days were up to a week apart...

Day 1 - Clicking and rewarding any interaction with the stationary treadmill. Including frequent breaks away from the treadmill. Reyna was unimpressed.

Day 2 - Take two kinds of treats down and work the treadmill with Susan Garrets crate games in mind...interaction with treadmill equals chicken, take a break and do other stuff earn kibble, back to treadmill, earn chicken. This time she quickly shaped to running and jumping onto the stationary treadmill

Day 3 - Reiterate the awesomeness of the treadmill. This time she is standing on it and I turn it on 1/2mph...she wigs out...bad move. Back to stationary to rebuild confidence. Turn it on again, she bails but comes right back. We take a break and I decide to leave the treadmill running. I try and be very clear with criteria and because of all the chicken in the bank she gets up to walking one foot on the moving treadmill

Day 4 - We quickly get up to two feet walking on the moving treadmill, I try to lure her all the way on, no dice, too much pressure, she walks off. We take a break. I turn the treadmill back off and we spend some time getting on and off the stationary treadmill. Back to moving, she is confidently walking with two front feet and occasionally lifting a back foot. We call it a day.

Day 5 - This time we get up to three feet walking on the treadmill which sounds as weird as it looks. Now we are stuck. We take lots of breaks during each session and repeat the stationary exercise back and forth with consistent results. Stationary she jump right on, moving she settles right in to walking with three feet on one foot off.

Day 6 - She is now walking VERY confidently with those three feet, but she is stretching herself out to do it and I am worried she will hurt something. We stop after 5 reps and just sit and think

Day 7 - Still thinking...Okay She is comfortable jumping on the treadmill while stationary, so I will add a physical cue of a hip tap to ask her to jump on and then maybe I can use that to get her on the treadmill while moving. So we spend most of the session teaching me tapping her hip is cue to jump on the treadmill. No problems. Turn it on, give the cue and she leaps on!!! aannnnddd flops right off the back. Luckily she wasn't phased at all and soon becomes good at jumping on and falling off the back.

Day 8 - Time to think do I teach her to WALK? I try luring as she jumps on, no luck. Hmmm, if she were just wearing a collar I could keep her from going off the back by physically holding the collar...and then I would have betrayed the whole point of this training. Okay now what...

Day 9 - Okay what if I teach her that my hand on her hind end means walk we spend a session shaping that and she catches on quickly.

Day 10 - reiterate the last lesson and then try to add the treadmill into the mix. Hop on hand on the rear, she sits, and then falls off the back. We go back to hand on the rear means walk forward for awhile then back to the treadmill...she sits again and then falls off the back. Call it a day.

Day 11 - Really focus on clicking those back feet for moving. We make quick progress, now she is running across the treadmill perpendicular to the belt and thinks that is AWESOME! *sigh*

Day 12 - Okay now I need her to stop bailing off the side. So I block it with a plastic tub thinking maybe she will get on and stay we are back to three feet walking on the treadmill.

Day 13 - Really thinking hard about that leash and collar at this do I teach her to walk while she is on there....she can walk with three feet but as soon as that fourth foot gets up there she stands stock still and falls off the back.

Day 14 - Okay somebody HAS to have done this before...lo and behold a quick internet search pulls up this gem... why did I not think to check online before??? The big piece we were missing was teaching her to run across the stationary treadmill.

Day 15 -  Spend the session training running across the stationary treadmill. No problems, she loves it. Then I start the motor, nope. Go back to stationary for several reps, then start the motor (remember she is extremely comfortable around the treadmill at this point so I was comfortable raising the criteria in the same session) nope....okay stop and think for a second....put a pile of chicken on the floor at the front of the treadmill and let her get really excited about getting to it and the only way over is across the moving treadmill because I am on one side and the tub is on the other still. She thinks about it for a minute....and then goes!!!! I dump half the bowl of treats on the floor and throw a massive party. Party over, she looks at me, I look at the treadmill, and she runs across it again!!! and then again and again...she has it now! (I felt that because of all the foundation work she could handle the pressure of having the chicken on one side and her on the other, if she had shown any real stress I would have called it immediately and gone back to the stationary belt)

Day 16 - Now she thinks running across the moving treadmill is really do I make her stay on the treadmill? I tried clicking and treating as she got on but she would just run off the front past my treat hand and then turn around for the treat. I tried that with the treat in multiple locations and sizes of treats with the same past then turn for the treat. What is something bigger that will really get her attention? her food bowl...can she walk and eat treats out of her bowl at once? probably not. So I spend some time away from the treadmill teaching her to walk and eat treats out of her bowl at the same time. Then back to the treadmill and.....SHE DID IT!!!! She walked on the treadmill while I held the food bowl in one hand and dropped treats into it with the other!!!!!! YAHOOOOOOOO We did it!!!!!!

The training may have gone much faster if I had watched the video beforehand, but I think it was also a good learning experience for me to have to try and come up with Reyna friendly solutions that would help her understand what I was looking for. I can't tell you what a huge success this is for both of us...for Reyna overcoming her fears and for me keeping Reyna's attitude always ahead of the results I was wanting and getting both in the end!!!!

We still have speed, duration etc to work on, but this had just been an awesome journey these last several weeks.

Thank you Reyna!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Learning to use Fred

I read this post by Denise Fenzi, and began to wonder...would I be able to use Fred effectively with Reyna? I have some serious doubts that I would use him correctly without outside guidance from an instructor. Since reading the article I am trying to take mental note of when Reyna multi tasks and when she clearly needs me to paint a different picture. Here are two examples...

We are playing in the back yard, I am giving her my full attention. We have some small working bursts in between periods of play. Generally just have a good time. I ask for a short heel spurt and let her grab the tug, instead of bringing it right back she prances around with it. Normally I would call her over with my hand held high for her to jump the toy up to my hand. Suddenly I realized, she isn't giving me 100% engagement...why am I putting more effort in?? So when she prances off with he toy I turn and go talk to my husband for several minutes.

By this time Reyna has come back over and is trying to get my attention with the toy. Now when I turn back toward her she shoves the toy at me. We play, I release the tug, she shoves it right back, I throw it she brings it straight back to play. In fact throughout the rest of the play time she remained 100% engaged with me!

Second example was yesterday working on some strength and balance skills. I pushed her just a bit too hard and she checked out. I could have pulled out Fred, but this was not a "oh look a bunny" distraction issue. She was stressed. So we took a break, played, did some easy tricks and games and then went back to it refreshed and made a couple major leaps forward in her understanding.

The difference between the two is the emotion and motivation of the dog. In the first situation Reyna thought playing by herself might be more fun, so I showed her it wasn't. In the second situation Reyna was stressed and telling me she needed a break for a minute to clear her head, and we did.

After those two successes I am feeling a little more courageous, but I still have to be very deliberate and thoughtful with the use of Fred, it is a punisher after all.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Nose Work - Introducing Anise

Here is our first set of hides with Anise. We will be going back and doing LOTS of short easy hides and pairing with Birch, but I just wanted to see from a curiosity standpoint how quickly Anise became important to her. 

Near the end of the session I did a two hide search, one with birch and one with anise. She found birch first only because it was closer, and then immediately and confidently alerted on the anise. 

We are still working on our levels check list but I just stand a break from Nose Work for more than a couple weeks!!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Puppy Picking - Personal Responsibility in Choosing a Dog

I don't know how many of you have seen this Today Show piece from this morning...

I'm going to get on a soapbox for a minute here so forgive me.

I don't care about AKC Registration. Reyna is registered with the AKC, it means nothing except that she has a number and can participate in their activities. Mixed breeds can be registered with the AKC. Somebody left a male Boxer on our doorstep when I was a kid and my parents registered him with the AKC. I appreciate that this registration means we can participate in their sports, but I do not put any intrinsic value in it...they haven't seen Reyna, she could be a horrible example of the breed, she could also be a potential champion sleeping on our living room rug. The registration does not in anyway indicate health, or value, of the dog.

Now when the AKC says that they have inspected a kennel and certify that the kennel meets their standards that's a whole different kettle of fish and they got themselves into the mess this article exposes all on their own.

What I don't like about the way this is presented are statements like "most AKC breeders are probably fine, but...". If a person walks into a breeder's facility, sees the dogs in the condition that those Great Danes where in and then STILL chooses to purchase a puppy, they have made that decision on their own. I don't care if the AKC gave them a giant gold star and announced their awesomeness at every sanctioned event in the country. I believe it is the personal responsibility of every person obtaining a dog from a breeder to:

1) Inform themselves about the breed they are interested in
- What traits are you selecting your breed for
- What health issues are factors in your breed
- What tests and certifications are available to screen dogs of that breed for those health issues
- What are the standards for color, coat type, size
- How should a fit healthy individual from that breed move, look, and behave

2) Look at EVERY dog that breeder has and get proof of up to date screenings for health issues for EVERY dog that breeder has, not just the parents of the litter you're interested in.

3) Meet the dogs, look for the temperament that should be typical of the breed

4) Inspect the facilities yourself - except for key periods of time when puppy's immune systems are at risk, you should be able to see the entire facility.

5) Choose the Breeder NOT the Puppy
- Don't go when you are ready to get a puppy
- If I think "man I would sure like a puppy this week, let me see who has German Shepherds between 8-10 weeks old today" that is a recipe for bad decisions.
- Go when the breeder does NOT have puppies available to take home that day
- Pick your breeder first and then wait for the right litter to be born so you can make a clear decision and not be blinded by puppy cuteness

6) Be ready to PAY
- Good breeders are not "bargains"
- They invest so much into showing, training, competing, obtaining health screenings, upkeep of the facilities and the dogs that the purchase price of the puppy doesn't compare to the costs that went into that carefully planned litter
- Each breed varies in what you can expect to pay but if your budget is $200-$500 you really are better off rescuing, because that is about the level of predictability you can expect from that price point, so why not put your funds towards an ethical rescue organization instead of a breeder who does not raise litters with the future of the breed in mind.

Which brings me to my next point about adopting from a rescue vs. purchasing from a breeder. It's the same thing technically, you are just choosing who to support. People attach the term adopting to rescues and purchasing to breeders but it is the SAME THING. You are writing a check to take home a dog, calling it an adoption fee or a purchase price doesn't change anything. The important thing to consider is who are you choosing to support and why. When I paid the fee to the Greyhound rescue for my dog in college I don't think I was a better person than when I paid the fee to the breeder to bring Reyna home. I had a specific goal for what I needed at that time. I found an organization that met that need that upon inspection was ethical, responsible, held high health standards, and truly cared for their animals, so I wrote them a check and took home the dog.

Some people believe it is unethical to breed dogs and they choose to support a shelter or rescue exclusively. I disagree, but I also have some pretty high expectations for what I consider a "responsible/reputable breeder". I commend the people that save the dogs from death row and are willing to take on the unknowns that come with rescuing. It's not for everybody. I don't think rescuing is always the better option, and I think the same level of scrutiny needs to go into which rescue organization you are going to support as you would for a breeder. 

I just think passing the personal responsibility off on the AKC (i.e. the AKC said they were okay so I don't have to do any research, and now I have a sick puppy so it's the AKCs fault) is passing the buck!

Okay I'm done.