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.


  1. AnonymousMay 11, 2013

    Elizabeth! You rock! I love your examples and your care about it. Yes, it is punishment and I'm so glad you said that explicitly. I actually prefer the practice of "Fred" that you describe here. (It's more like Leslie McDevitt's GMAB.) Theatrics are probably not necessary for many dogs, and I suspect from personal experience that they can get pretty reinforcing for some people.

    Reyna's lucky. Brava.

    1. Thanks Eileen! That really means a lot! I can say that when Denise talks about how people will misuse Fred, without conscious effort that would be me. It makes me sick to think about how much pressure I put on Reyna as a 9 wk old puppy, I used pressure as a negative reinforcement, and "no reward" marker like they were going out of style. Which is why three years later I am extremely cautious with the use of punishment, I never want to mistakenly head back down that road!