Sei’s Second Class

Sei had his second class today! Basic pet obedience.

This one went MUCH better than Friday’s class. The instructor was solid, the instruction was reasonable, and the class was well managed.

Sei started out a little overwhelmed at all the barking when class started, but quickly settled in and stayed engaged with me pretty much the whole class. I was shocked! Perrin wouldn’t have stayed engaged that consistently for that duration, and he has a lot more practice and maturity on him. I certainly wasn’t expecting it from Sei! I was able to find a place near a back exit, so we could run outside if things got too overwhelming for him (we only needed one pee break exit!). Sei was able to play tug with me at appropriate moments, and was able to take food the whole time. He just laid down and chilled out with me, practiced hand touches or worked on following my finger while we waited between exercises. He worked interchangeably for kibble, liver, peanut butter and chicken/cream cheese puree, although he did make it clear that the pb was his favourite.

The dogs barking continued to make him unsure when it happened, so we I worked on pairing a dog barking with an enormous amount of peanut butter. This is something I can work on at home, as Perrin sometimes alert barks when the neighbours’ dogs get going.

He met a few new people, which he enjoyed, and another puppy who was quite over the top. I got backed into a corner by them and had to wait a moment to make my exit. Sei completely ignored the crazy puppy at first, then when it calmed down, he initiated a VERY adult greeting. Again, shocked. When the room filled up with people waiting for our class, the energy level came way, way up (lots of dogs barking, whining, screaming and jumping around) and Sei got a bit over aroused (play bowing and barking at another puppy). He was able to quickly come back down again when we got some distance from the other dogs.

I do wish that the training building had a better entry set up. There is quite the bottle neck from the door to the waiting room, with several blind corners. I just picked Sei up and walked him in to avoid any unpleasant surprises coming around corners, and that worked for me (I got flack from someone about it, but whatever. Not their dog). Next time I will wait until class is just about to start to go in. There isn’t any downside to being a minute or two late, but lots of downside to getting trapped in a corner with a bunch of highly aroused dogs who may or may not be reactive.

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Reframing the Question

Sei and I have been working on free stacks in an ultra casual way since he came home. They have not been something we are making much progress on. At first, I was getting a LOT of sitting (really the only thing that had a reinforcement history at the time). I quit working on them for a while, and moved onto other things, one of which was learning how to effectively lure, for other classes.

Both the original way I learned free stacking, and the method taught in the local class we are taking are fairly similar in practice. Hold food out in front of the dog’s nose, quickly take it a short distance from their face, and reward stillness. Well, this was very contradictory to all of the work I had JUST done on teaching Sei to drive into a lure. I could see that it was really confusing to him: “Before I was getting rewarded for driving into your hand with food in it, but now that isn’t working and I can’t see any difference in what we are doing, so why don’t you want the same thing?” To make matters worse, I realized I was using the food to lure Sei to a stand when he sat, and then expected him to leave it alone the next second once he was standing. Not good.

I tried changing how I held the food: if I hold my hand like THIS, drive into it; if I hold my hand like THAT, stay away from it. Turns out, I am not consistent enough to do this in daily training. I may need to simply lure him away from something in day to day life (say, an oven mitt on the floor), and in that split second moment, I have no idea what I am doing with my hand.

This was starting to frustrate me. Why can’t I follow these simple steps that work for many people who follow this method, and get the same results? And I realized I was asking the wrong question.

How would I teach this behaviour (at this stage, it is really just a stand stay) if I didn’t know how it was typically taught? What methods work best for me? For Sei?

For the last two questions, I can unequivocally take anything that resembles luring off of the table. One of my biggest issues with luring is that I can’t seem to split behaviours when I lure. Not sure why, other people have no problems with it, but somewhere in my brain “theory does not compute!” And that is definitely going on here. Things I am currently lumping together:

  • Standing rather than sitting or laying down
  • Standing still rather than moving
  • Standing in a particular relationship to my body positioning (perpendicular to me)
  • Standing with his head in a particular direction (to my right rather than my left)
  • Looking forwards (rather than up or down)
  • Looking straight ahead (rather than at me or at something else)

Okay, thats definitely a problem!

So, here is a guess at a training plan to maximize shaping and clarity. We will see how it works:

  • Taking a cue from the luring for making a functional hand cue in the ring, shape eye contact on a specific hand gesture (in this case, a finger held out perpendicular to the dog). No food should be in the hand making the gesture.
  • Increase the criteria from eye contact with the hand, to standing while looking at the hand.
  • Increase the criteria such that the highest-angle standing orientations are weeded out. So, maybe everything from perpendicular to the hand gesture to 85 degrees are rewarded, then only up to 70 degrees, etc. This would theoretically allow me to remove my body position from the equation, I just have to put my hand in the right place.

ETA 1: I have just taken the food out of my gesture hand, and this has already made a huge difference in Sei’s frustration levels. Whoohoo! We will see how the rest goes.

ETA 2: I think we are getting somewhere! It is still a baby behaviour, but the frustration level is way way down (the most important thing), and I am starting to get some standings still.

I love it when thinking through the problem and analyzing it from a different angle gets me where I was hoping!

Sei’s First Class

Today was Sei’s first live in-person class! We are taking a conformation handling class (tonight) and will start a basic pet obedience class next week.

Lots of things were learned on my end tonight, although few of them focused on conformation.

Sei did amazing! He struggled with the environment at first (new facility, first class setting, first time being around strange dogs he can’t meet, loud barking from the next room over, funny floors, etc), but he quickly bounced back. He focused on me, took food, played with me and even eventually played with a toy (or a strip of muskrat fur, if you can actually call that a ‘toy’). I thought that it was interesting that he was able to play with me (bouncing around, running, chasing me) before he could play with a toy. I knew that when he started trying to chew on my leg that he was ready for the toy! He walked super well on his harness, peed in a new place, and sniffed a few new dogs.

The facility we are going to is marketed as being +R, and the info session I went to yesterday for the basic obedience class (with a different instructor), supported that claim. The instructor tonight however, could be best described as balanced. Things I was told that made me cringe:

  • I was reluctant to put Sei’s lead on the ‘show collar’ (at this point, a thick rope slip collar), because he is not yet trained to yield to collar pressure. He pulls enough right now that I did not want him pulling on a slip. So any time he went to pull, I just put a finger through his harness. The instructor inquired about this, and I explained. I was confused (and a little horrified) to hear “don’t worry about the pulling, he will stop with the leash chokes him”. She had misunderstood what I meant by ‘he isn’t trained for a collar yet’ to mean ‘I don’t think I can control him on a slip collar’ rather than ‘I don’t want him choking himself because he hasn’t been trained not to pull yet’. This never actually came to a head. I continued to use a combination of luring with food, calling his name and engaging him with motion, and grabbing his harness to have Sei move with me, and not go to the other dogs without him tightening the collar. Next week I will make/buy a small martingale show collar to avoid this issue. [To be clear, I have no issue with slip leads being used for showing in general. Just because a slip collar CAN be used to choke a dog, doesn’t mean that it has to be, and by the time the dogs go in the ring, they can certainly be trained not to pull into the collar. I just feel that it is not a suitable choice of equipment for Sei right now, where he is in his training, nor does it really matter what kind of collar he wears for a recreation ‘information’ type class].
  • When another puppy was stopping and sitting during the trotting, his owner was told to pop him on the slip collar, then follow with a reward once he was moving “so that he associates the collar pop with good things, and it becomes a good thing rather than a bad thing”. I hope she didn’t see my face at that point.
  • At one point she took the leash from my hands, to show me how to lure Sei forward on the leash. She gave me the leash back quickly when she saw the shocked look on my face.
  • The ‘bilingual’ class is not really bilingual. For 55 minutes of French instruction, I got about 5 minutes of English (which ultimately worked in my favour, because me sitting on the floor playing Sei could just be taken as the fact I couldn’t understand what was being said, rather than the instructor being offended at me keeping my dog engaged).
  • Finally, I was told as I left that Sei had such great improvement from the beginning to the end of the class (he did!). And that would continue as long as I “quit babying him”. Ha! Coming from this particular instructor, I am going to take that as a compliment. In my opinion, the ‘babying’ was the REASON he improved so much over the course of the session. I acknowledged when he was struggling and tried my best to make him feel better about things, rather than ignoring him or making him press on with whatever inconsequential task we were doing at the time.

Lest I only be a Negative Nancy, I did appreciate how the instructor handled the ‘inspection’ part of the class with Sei. Sei was clearly not going to be happy having her looming over him and touching him. Before I had to say anything, she suggested having her just stand near him and have me feed him cookies, then decreasing her distance over the next few classes. We were all happy with that solution.

Things I did well tonight:

  • Observing Sei, and doing my best to respond to how he was feeling. I don’t think I made the perfect decision every time, but I tried with the knowledge I have to work with. I am a lot farther ahead of where I was with Perrin on this, simply in interpreting what Sei is telling me, and knowing what to do about in in a positive manner.
  • Keeping engaged with Sei the whole time, rather than disengaging with him when the instructor was talking. The goal of taking this class is to build positive associations with the training building and a working environment. If we learn any conformation stuff, that will be cool too.

Things I need to work on for next time:

  • Being more confident in how I handle Sei. I do know some things, and I do know Sei (at least better than the instructor, when I say he is nervous, I know he is nervous). I think that if I am more confident in a quiet, self assured manner, I will invite fewer comments that people think are helpful. I need to be less stressed and flustered for Sei’s sake too.
  • Learning how to say “Thanks, I will think about it!” in a genuine way to comments that I find contrary to my philosophies or are just unkind or unhelpful. This ends the conversation in a positive manner, and prevents me from trying to be all flustered and explain my reasoning and back story for what I was doing and then having that nit-picked, leading me to getting more flustered. Keeps my stress level down, is non-confrontational, and still invites future help on the actual course subject matter (because I certainly DO need that). Win-win.
  • Keep a better hold on my leash so that it cannot be snagged from me while I am flustered.

In hind sight, I wish I had rented ring space at this facility (if they offer it, I don’t actually know), so that Sei could have been familiar with the space and its noises and sights before adding other dogs and people. I think that would have made things easier for him.

Sei rocked all my expectations tonight. He is such a cool guy. I just want to cuddle him now ❤

August 8th, 2017 Training Log

Things have been very busy lately, and I have been recording most of our work though our Fenzi homework. I figured I would make some notes for today before going off line again for a while (I am prepping to paint much of the house, thats going to be fun with two dogs!). I am also falling behind on the puppy genius homework with the two gold classes, and in life training. Gah. Got to catch up!

Perrin’s Heeling:

Fitness Trainer Homework:

Some of the videos are shared with Perrin’s heeling.

Sei’s Crucial Concepts Homework for the past few days:

I really, really hate luring. So that is what we are working on in this course right now. So far, we are struggling with tuck sits. I debated on whether or not to go down that rabbit hole, because tuck sits are a real challenge for Sei right now, and I don’t want to spend the entire rest of the course on them if we can’t get them worked out in the next few days (few things ever get worked out in a a matter of days). We will see how it goes. These are our progress so far, with my notes.

I struggle with luring quite a bit, and find it very frustrating. It seems to me like a strange thing to struggle with as much as I do because it should be intuitive. With my older dog, I shape pretty much everything and have so far followed this with Sei.

I find it difficult to make sure I am doing the right thing with the lure, observe what the dog is doing, adjust myself accordingly (which I often don’t know how to do, how my hand motion relates to the dog’s motion is not always obvious to me beyond the obvious ones like spins), see when criteria is met, AND get my markers and timing correct.

I took video of luring attempts of roll over, tuck sits and spins, all of which are completely new berhaviours for Sei. I made progress with the roll overs, and spins, but tuck sits were not as successful. The above video of tuck sits are a good example of the issues I tend to have when luring.

I had several problems here:

  • The biggest issue is that while I theoretically knew what to do with my hand, I did not know what I was doing in practice, nor how to modify it when what I was doing was not working and I was getting rock-back sits.
  • I wasn’t sure of the best way to handle the rock back sits. He tried something, and he is at the stage where I really want to reward the effort of trying, and for working with me. I defaulted to asking for a hand touch, rewarding that, then tossing a reset cookie. That went on for a couple reps and I felt like I was just patterning that sequence. Because I didn’t know how to fix the underlying issue, we called it quits so I could come up with a better action plan for later.
  • Because things are going poorly, I am frustrating/confusing my dog, and I don’t know how to fix the issues, I get flustered. Then my mechanics, marker words, and timing go out the window. Normally I wouldn’t continue to the point where I get flustered, but I usually start there with luring.

 

I just experimented with how the lure placement/path effects behaviour: Can he follow the lure instead of sitting and waiting for the cookie (a very reinforced behaviour)? What happens if I move my hand up/down/sideways when Sei is standing? Sitting? Down? Moving? That sort of thing. No markers, lots of cookies.

I definitely have an issues splitting and setting criteria with luring. I’m not sure why. I don’t have those problems when shaping. It is definitely going to take some practice for me to get the hang of the multi tasking for luring, and to find how it is easiest to see the dog’s motions when I am so up close. Especially with Sei being so much smaller than what I am used to working with.

Whoohoo! Unexpected tuck sits! I was intending to video footage for Baby Genius with the whipped cream, but I started getting repeated tuck sits. Bonus! No subtlety in the lure with that can, but it certainly made it easier to reward for a longer time in position.

I’ve been doing trials with different treats for the lure, and what I am using makes a big difference. I think it must be my mechanics that is doing it with each for it to be so consistent across different foods, but I’m not sure. Discrete bits of food (kibble, hot dogs, cheese) yielded poorer results than something lickable that I could smear on my hand, then open my fist to reward (PB, cream cheese, jam). This video highlights the difference.

After many attempts, here is where we eventually got to with the mixed treat method. PB for the lure, and kibble for the reset. My ‘get it’ marker needs to be cleaned up here for sure, I am moving my arm before I finish the marker. (Sorry about the background noise, my husband was wildly happy about whatever trick my older dog was doing with him upstairs, but this was by far the most suitable clip).

 

August 2nd, 2017 Training Log

Today we got a lot done! Sei got quite the day of brain work:

  • Handling Face: I wanted to associate Sei’s face being touched with good things, so I was pairing a face touch with a C/T. Then he started offering chin rests, so I did a bit of that.
  • Chin Rests: Literally Sei’s second session on this. The first was earlier in the morning when I was just making good associations with his face being touched and he offered me a chin rest. With duration. Very impressed with him.

 

  • Timing for CCC: I took more video for my crucial concepts course and got it edited. Nothing too interesting here.
  • Stacking: I worked a bit more on the stacking practice. It is a slow process, but I think we are slowly moving forward with it.
  • Two Ball Game: This is really not a very good example of the game, but it is better than we were doing a week ago!
  • More Play: We had an awesome play session in the evening! I found strategy that works to keep Sei bringing the ball to me rather than running off with it. When Sei picks up the ball and turns back around, I run the other way and keep moving until he drops the ball. Then I pick it up and start the game again. I’m pretty happy with what a change that made. I did eventually have to go get a tug to to save myself from puppy teeth between Sei dropping the ball and me throwing it again, but that worked fine too.
  • Focus in the face of popping corn: Sei found the popcorn popping in a glass pot on the stove very interesting. So I took the opportunity to work on some focus.
  • More stationing, hand targets, a curiosity exercise from the Baby Genius course we are taking, and a little bit of mat work.

August 1st 2017 Training Log

Today is the ultra short reader’s digest version. Just the things we worked on, but no thoughts about them. It was a bit of a whirlwind day and I am behind!

  • Worked on more stationing with the treat and train while we are eating.
  • Had an awesome play session with Sei. He is sometimes returning with balls and rolled frisbees now! Whoohoo!
  • I started our homework for our Crucial Concepts class that we are taking. So far it is just me working on timing my makers and treat delivery. I still need to video a few more scenarios before editing them together.
  • Started reading our other FDSA course homework
  • Dealt with an x-pen climbing puppy for the first time! Jail break!
  • Hand touches, with food as well as using a toy to reward for the first time
  • Continuing to add a sit cue
  • Husbandry work, CC’ing a comb
  • Puppy Cuddles!

July 31st 2017 Training Log

We just got back from a weekend on the farm! Both dogs enjoyed themselves thoroughly. Swimming in the pond yesterday was a big hit! Perrin (who couldn’t swim at the beginning of the summer) was just a big fish, and swam around for the better part of 40 minutes! He is pretty tired today. Sei splashed around in the shallows and got up to his belly, and went for a kayak ride. No swimming volunteered yet though! He has no issues with being on the unstable floating dock, although he does hate being left on shore when everyone else is in the pond. Here are some fun clips!

 

I was also able to pick up my treat n train. Its pretty fun! Sei got it figured out in about 5 seconds, while Perrin wanted nothing to do with it. It is a bit like having a TV for dogs; it feels like cheating when I need Sei to be staying in one spot and out of trouble, but he is still too wound up to be quiet in his x-pen. I did a bit of targeting with Sei using it, which was fun.