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.