Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Agility class 1.4

Class went so well this week! We worked way off on the other side of the room during circle work, and it was a completely different experience for both Chimera and me. I was relaxed. He did beautiful heeling and I was able to give lots of reinforcement for attention. In fact he got more distracted by the equipment we were passing than by the dogs, until I moved a bit closer. When he got distracted by the equipment, I would pull him away from the distraction and reset him. With the dogs, I'd let him look for a moment but was able to call him back to work. I also was more careful this time to keep the work sessions very short. During rest, I'd sit on the floor with him and he mostly watched what was going on from my lap. I checked in with the instructor and told her that we'll continue working at a distance and slowly move closer to the other dogs, and she was supportive.

There was one section of the floor where someone must have been dropping treats, because he started sniffing madly. I was surprised to realize that I have literally never had a problem with Cai getting distracted by the floor until now. Previously he'd spent all his time either focused up at me or staring at other dogs or people. I tried gently inserting my foot under his nose to interrupt him, but he started stress-sniffing my pant leg. I mentally flailed for a moment, and then literally thought: "what would Denise Fenzi suggest in this situation?" I thought that she would try to make the sniffing as least reinforcing as possible, while making the work interesting and rewarding. So I shortened his leash until he couldn't move farther along the floor, waited until he lifted his head, and then did a little heeling turn and rewarded it. We had to repeat this a few more times. He did lose interest in sniffing those same spots again, but I don't know whether it will work long term. I should ask Denise what she really would do...

He's doing well on his stand stay once he's in the stand, but I still have trouble getting him to not sit. Cuing problem.

Worked on collar grab and driving to a toy. He tugged hard on his bunny toy. Yay!!

After class he saw the giant shepherd exiting the building and heading toward the potty spot where we were, and he didn't react! Yay again!!

Monday, February 25, 2013


Chimera helped us in my friend's garden yesterday, by eating the weeds and tilling the soil. (Click on any photo to see larger version.)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

BAT with Sarah and Owen

My friend Sarah drove over with her Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Owen, to be decoys for the Monster. We worked on our street since there are few other dogs in yards and we don't get a lot of foot traffic or car traffic. Chimera did quite well! We did two sessions of 30-40 minutes (the time really flies by), and Cai was under threshold about 90% of the time. We already scheduled another session in a couple of weeks, though we'll have to do it in a new place, because Owen was a bit overwhelmed by all the urban noises. (Fun fact: last night at 11 pm, there was a bird mimicing car alarm noises outside my window.)

Thanks Owen!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Attention training

I'd already been thinking that I hadn't done enough impulse control/It's Yer Choice/distraction work with Chimera. I don't feel like it's my strong suit (I'm better at teaching tricks... classic clicker trainer problem), so I just kept putting it off. However I now realize that's become a real problem, because I haven't given Cai the foundation he needs to succeed in agility class.

To be fair, I have at least taken other classes specifically to work on focus around other dogs, and before his reactivity started we did lots of little bits of training while out for socialization. In a few weeks we're doing a three week class at Braveheart called Strength, Balance, and Body Awareness. Really looking forward to it!

I'm trying to think of all the attention games I've seen other trainers do:

Ask dog to get into heel position or front and give eye contact while you hold treats or toys out to the side as a distraction. (Did this today!) Later, ask for heeling while you hold them out/move them around.

Heel past distractions. Heel up to food/toy at dog's eye level (ie on chair), keeping leash short enough that dog can't reach if he goes for them. Reward turning away.

Have treats/toy on floor while you ask for behaviors, blocking if dog tries to go for them. (I did this when he was a baby, but over time forgot about it.)

Raise the challenge level on stays (which I have barely worked on). Yesterday I was able to drop treats and he would hold his stand-stay, which pleasantly surprised me. I can also walk back and forth in front of him. I can start throwing more stuff at him.

Recalls, sends, and/or retrieves past temptations.

Classical conditioning may help. In some contexts, Chimera orients to me when he hears dogs barking. Perhaps I could CC other dogs moving -- it would help with his reactivity, too.

Finally, a good ol' "leave it" cue, which I haven't bothered to teach him.

Of course, just going out to different places and asking for behaviors is also helpful. I've started doing this again. (I had stopped almost entirely for the past month or two due to his reactivity.) But we spend most of the time working on leash walking and reactivity training, with just a teeny bit of extra behaviors when the environment is quiet.

If my readers have any other suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Agility 1.3: My dog is a paddle ball

Third agility class was on Tuesday. In short, Chimera has bursts of brilliance when he's able to focus on me, which is generally when the other dogs are stationary. When they're moving, his brain starts to leak out of his ears (it's because they're so big). No reactivity (yay!), just super distracted (darn). He was exceptionally distracted by a large dog who hadn't been in class the previous week. The instructor had us do straight lines of heeling, moving in parallel lines to two other dogs at a time. Cai would look at me, and as soon as I took a step forward he would be at the end of the leash, pulling toward another dog, or the chairs or tunnel that were on our other side. It was bad. I might have been able to keep his attention somewhat if not for the fact that we were supposed to do straight lines, which is about the most boring work I could have tried to engage him in. If I backed up away from the other dogs and did a little turn in place, I'd have him for a second, but then he'd be gone again.

The instructor repeated again that "in agility we're the leaders" and to "keep moving forward" and that I "treat him like there's something wrong with him, but there's not". That was... frustrating. She implied that I was doing something wrong and put pressure on me to perform a certain way. And it was a one-way conversation because the instructor can't stand around talking to one person in a room full of students, leaving me with little opportunity to explain what I was trying to do and why. (Plus I just start ineptly stuttering in these situations.)

We switched exercises, and then went back to heeling, this time in a big circle with the two other handlers in my group. Feeling frustrated and wanting to avoid more tension between myself and the instructor, I decided that following her suggestion to "keep moving forward" would not create undue stress on Cai and would avoid making me look like a completely unwilling student. This is how it went:

Entirely as expected: about five treats for the very briefest of glances at me, with what felt like 45 seconds of Cai hitting the end of the leash as he went in random directions. He was confused, and more importantly, not learning anything (except maybe that walking in a big circle with other dogs is confusing and mildly stressful).

I sent a short e-mail to the instructor tonight asking for our own space when it's time to practice circle work. He was overfaced. I will NOT put him in that situation again. I want him to be able to think and choose to engage with me, and have the opportunity to learn that the work is rewarding. I can take my time building that history of reinforcement. Getting the behaviors is much less important.

I looked at my calendar and set aside the weekend after this one to read the Control Unleashed Puppy book, which Sherry gifted me about a month ago but I haven't had time to read yet.

One other thing I learned today: I had brought his mat last week and this week, with the intention of using it to create a clear "break" from work, when he can turn off and rest. However I didn't put enough foundation into it for him to want to rest on his mat, and he would constantly leave it and head out to sniff stuff. I found that he was more focused during work if I sat on the floor with him and was hands-on -- scratching him under the collar, on his butt, or petting his chest as he sat on my lap. I also let him lie down next to me and watch the other dogs as long as he didn't lock eyes with any of them.

I told some of this to my friend Elissa, who suggested that I drop the class until his focus is good enough that I can just work on getting the behaviors. I'll re-assess when it's time to pay for the next six weeks, but I don't think it's that bad. He did quite well in a number of other behaviors, when the dogs weren't moving about the room. For example, one of the other exercises we did was holding the dog by the collar, dropping a toy ahead of them, and releasing them to it. We were facing the wall and he went to his toy every time without turning around to watch the other dogs. If I can just have enough space to practice circle work successfully, over time he'll be able to handle the group exercises. We'll see what the instructor says in reply to my e-mail...

Monday, February 18, 2013


Chimera went on my group hike today and found a dead, dehydrated mole at the end of the trip.
The other dogs wanted to see what he had, and he would growl and/or bark when they came close and then run away, so they started chasing him around in circles. I let them do it, because then he didn't have the opportunity to settle down and eat it. When it was time to get into the car, he wouldn't get close to me while I had the other dogs leashed to me. I put them into the car while he settled down safely away from the road. Then I held the leash out to him and said "time to go", our cue for leashing up and leaving the park. (He usually comes right over when I say it, because if he doesn't, I just stride purposefully toward the exit and he gets the picture.) At first he ran away from me with the dead mole in his mouth, but I repeated the cue, approached slowly and calmly, and held out the leash. On the fifth try he let me reach over him and clip the leash to his harness. This was a moment where he decided to trust me that I would only leash him up and not try to take away his prize, and it was critical to not break my promise and ruin that trust.

I told him "let's go" and backed up away from him, and with just a small amount of tension on the leash, he relented and moved with me, but his body language was stiff and suspicious. I stopped and made a big fuss over him, and he started wagging his tail and came toward me, and I rubbed his sides and his butt without reaching for the dead mole in his mouth. I backed up again, and we repeated this two more times, to build his trust in me and teach him that it's safe to come to me when he has something valuable.

Finally I led him to the car and opened the door to his crate. He walked up to it, then stopped, conflicted. At this moment I swiftly pulled the mole from his mouth, put a little pressure forward on his harness, and said "in the car!" He automatically jumped in, and got a big jackpot of treats!!

Friday, February 15, 2013

BAT work (finally!)

I've been doing a little BAT foundation here and there with Cai, by praising him when he looks away from something in the distance and then moving away and continuing praise. We've done a few more walks in our neighborhood, and his leash walking is improving and reactivity is decreasing. I've realized that BAT and Kay Laurence's "connected walking" gel very well together -- really, they're almost the same thing -- and I think that's why.

When he's gone over threshold, I either move him away as quickly as I can (either picking him up or using the leash), or (if it's a minor reaction to something far away) body blocking and giving a no reward marker. More and more, he's doing frustration barking rather than alarm barking at dogs (even big ones), and at the same time he's developing more emotional control. I've seen that when his reaction is minor and it's clearly frustration-based, the NRM works well to interrupt him and he's able to reengage with me. It's not something I planned to do in training, but it slipped out here and there, and it's working well for us.

On Thursday I met my friend Miki and we did a formal BAT session. I brought boiled chicken with me but I didn't even bring it out. We started off a block away from each other on the same side of the street. Immediately after we started, everyone in the neighborhood decided to take their own dogs out for a walk and we were assailed from every side!! Cai went over threshold many times because of dogs suddenly appearing. Because he was amped up and nervous, he also started alarm barking at the sound of people's voices and a couple of people wearing hats. Uuuugghh.

Once there was a break in the stream of dogs, we went back to approaching Miki and her dog. After a few reps from a block away, he switched over from tense body language to curious, and we covered the ground between us quickly. Because he was very interested in the sniffing the ground, that ended up being an alternate reward to moving away from her. When we did move away, I sometimes ran with him, which he liked. In fact, a few times when he ran away from the other dogs, he seemed relieved. He also liked it when I gave sincere praise -- he would perk up and give me a happy expression.

At the end, when he was hanging out six feet away from Miki's dog and totally ignoring her, we crossed the street to do parallel walking. Cai tensed up again when they started walking but didn't go over threshold, and seemed happy when he figured out that it was the same game.

His leash walking was terrible at first but not shabby by the end, again because I think the two methods are so complimentary. He's learning to disengage when alarmed/interested/frustrated. I've been teaching him a bit more rules and self control as well, so everything's slowly coming together.

I have the realistic Melissa and Doug Jack Russel Terrier, and I should practice with that on the street outside. Other than the structured practice sessions, it looks like I can just drive over to that neighborhood at the same time of day for lots of stealth BAT work, although I have to be very careful to keep him under threshold.

Video: Cai and Jasper playing

It never gets old. :)

Agility lesson 1.2 recap

I went into class not having much of an idea of how Chimera would do. I was prepared for him to be barking at the other dogs and needing extra space and management. I was prepared for him to be very distracted by being in a new environment with new dogs and people. (Remember that lesson 1.1 was a people-only orientation.) My goal was to cultivate any engagement and joy of working I could, without putting too much pressure on him. If he spent most of the class distracted and not eating the boiled chicken I brought, fine, I'd do my best to work with what he gave me.

Well my crazy adolescent was an angel and blew me away with his attentiveness and joy! Holy cow! He alarm barked at another dog in the parking lot, but when I carried him into class (being carried reduces his reactivity), he showed only calm curiosity toward the other dogs. He had friendly body language all during class, and wanted to greet them, but did not get frustrated that he couldn't. He happily ate the boiled chicken as well as some Zuke's treats from the instructor. He was attentive about 80-90% of the time, and during breaks he often solicited attention from me or calmly lay down and looked around. (I've been rewarding default downs.) He would get more distracted when other dogs were moving, which was understandable, but if this great behavior keeps up I don't think it will be a big distraction for much longer. I think that the biggest reason he did so well is that this was a similar environment to the last agility class we were in, where there were only 2-4 other students and we were quite spaced out. That earlier practice is paying off!

The first exercise we did was heeling/circle work. The instructor had us go three at a time in parallel lines, walking straight, doing a front cross, walking back, and repeat. Chimera has already gotten lots of reinforcement for heeling, so he quickly recognized what I wanted from him and fell into position. Here and there he stopped to watch the other dogs. I kept the leash short enough that if he moved away from me, he wouldn't get within greeting distance, but I made sure to put slack into the leash once he stopped at the end of it. This is in line with Kay Laurence's "connected walking" technique, which has helped us make progress in his leash walking skills, and the slack leash with my body turned away from him is now a cue for him to check in with me, when he's ready. Once he reengaged with me, I would continue forward and reward him (with treats, praise, and smiles) for choosing to work with me. I reminded myself to relax my body and not hold my breath or otherwise become tense when he was distracted. I told myself that my goal was joyful engagement with my dog, backed up by yummy treats.

Of course the instructor did not know what my goal was, or our training history. Her advice was that if the dog stops, you should keep walking. She said "you're the leader" and that in the sport of agility, the human is the leader and the dog follows your directions, or something like that. Also that the reinforcement will build the behavior that you want (walking next to you), so just keep moving and keep rewarding and the dog will learn. At first she said this generally to everyone, and when it was clear that I was ignoring her and purposefully stopping and waiting for my dog to look back at me, she came over and patiently, kindly, repeated herself. I mumbled something about how he needed the chance to look around, and she said that he didn't need it, that "he's amazing", and that I shouldn't play into his game. I tried to say other things in between this, but she must have recognized the "yes, but..." expression on my face. Finally I looked her straight in the eye and said, "I think of it differently." She said, "okay" and left to help other students.

I was proud of myself for sticking to my guns under pressure, but I was quite adrenalized immediately after this exchange, even though it was polite and she certainly wasn't advising me to do something horrible. However I felt that physically forcing Cai to walk with me would have created conflict and frustration in him, and I want a willing partner who has decided, on his own, that it's not worth looking at distractions, because it's more fun to engage with me. Putting more pressure on him would have sucked the joy out of the work, for both of us. As she kindly said, he was already "amazing" in his level of attention. :)

The next exercise was standing next to a wall and giving our dogs treats for simply standing at our sides, between us and the wall. She said that this was classically conditioning our dogs to want to be at our sides. Here I took the opportunity to reward Cai for maintaining eye contact instead of glancing at the other dogs.

We reviewed the It's Yer Choice game that the instructor is using to teach our dogs their start line stays. I am doing a stand stay, since she pointed out that little dogs sometimes have a hard time doing sit stays on cold, wet grass. Dragon had a killer stand stay, but he was a less fidgety dog. Cai has surprised me though, and is getting the idea quickly. She discussed using treats and toys and funny handler movements as distractions to play the IYC game.

I had another "butting heads" moment with her when Cai wanted to sit in front of me, since that's a stronger behavior for him. We hadn't practiced getting into a stand much, and I didn't expect him to do it on anything other than an obvious hand gesture that was just shy of luring him with a treat. She wanted me to let him offer the behavior, which I normally would be happy to, but I wasn't holding my breath for it happening in this context. I didn't want to let him sit and stare at me because he would get frustrated, and also lose confidence in the sit. (That's okay at home, frustration can be part of learning, but I want class to go smoothly for him.)  She warned me that giving another cue after he sits is reinforcing the sit because it's an opportunity for more rewards. I agree! That can often be the case, and I don't want him chaining the sit-then-stand behavior. However the way she suggested getting him to stand was to put my hand under his belly to prompt him to stand up. I admit that I probably made a face at this, but I nodded to her. This would be a poor choice for Cai, since he has some handling issues -- I would expect him to either lean strongly into the pressure and resist standing up, or jump up and move two feet away from my hand.

Here's the odd thing -- later in class, the instructor was demoing collar grabs and how her dogs enjoyed them thanks to the classical conditioning she was having us do, and she showed how she used her hand to prompt her little dog to stand up. She put her hand under his belly, and when he stood up, she gave him a treat. So... the handling she was doing was just as much a signal for reinforcement as my big hand signal had been, and the dog could just as easily chain the behaviors together! I thought that was bizarre. Anyway, I'm working on putting the stand on a verbal cue...

Both of the suggested pieces of advice reminded me of one of my favorite Kay Laurence quotes: "Don't put positive reinforcement on top of traditional thinking."

After the instructor walked away, I look at Cai and thought about all this, and he ended up offering a beautiful kick back stand twice!! Geez, proved me wrong. But he didn't offer it again after we took a little break, so he does need more practice with that. I know I do tend toward giving my dogs a bit too much help, but I think of it as erring on the side of caution.

We played the name game -- call your dog's name, then immediately give a treat.

Then we did the collar grabs -- take your dog by the collar, immediately give a treat. The instructor will use this to create drive toward the obstacles without messing with stays, which is nice clean training. I wonder if I'll have logistical problems with this as Cai's fur gets really long...?

The last thing we did was start to build the behavior of our dogs putting their toys (or food pouches) in our hands, by enticing our dogs to pick them up, quickly putting our hands on the toy, and immediately giving a treat. This is something that I should do more with Cai. I've been shaping a dumbbell retrieve, and he makes an effort to bring it toward my hand. I've also done some fetch training, where I throw a toy down the hallway and interrupt him on the way back with a treat. (That was how I taught ball-obsessed Dragon to bring his ball to my hand.) I should also do shaped retrieves with more objects. I need to tackle this skill from all these different angles, because he's a resource guarder and he wants to run away with anything he has in his mouth. We've come to a truce with his tug toys -- he will drop them on the floor and lift his head toward me when he is ready for me to pick the toy up and play tug. If I reach for him while it's still in his mouth he runs away. On top of this I regularly trade him an object for a treat when he steals things. So the quick trading that the instructor is having us do would be helpful for him. I had a little trouble in class when he would pick up one side of the toy in his mouth and stand on the other side, making it difficult for me to put my hand on it. But if I were to switch to a smaller toy, he would guard it more. Sigh. In our last agility class, I avoided this by using toys on lines, so I could reach for the other end without him feeling threatened.

After the class was done, we walked around the cars in the parking lot, to decompress and practice leash walking. He did very well, probably because of all the attention and heeling work we'd done in class. A dog suddenly barked at him from inside one of the cars, and he barked back but was able to reengage and calm down after just a few seconds.

What a good boy. He'll be a fine working dog when he's mature enough to ignore big distractions and is past the reactivity. Someday...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Typical adolescent rough patch

Chimera is full-throttle into adolescence nowadays. He went from eating his food regularly and loving treats, to eating every other meal and being too overstimulated to eat even hot dogs and chicken if there are other dogs nearby. He's started marking in other people's homes. His recall at the park is poor and because of that and the reactivity, he must be on a long line.

I would like my adorable, fluffy, attentive puppy back now, please.

I have to remind myself to keep socializing him to new places, because otherwise we fall into a routine of doing the same thing and going to the same places week in and week out. We're making slow strides in his reactivity to people and other dogs. I've started a little BAT work and I'm doing a structured session with a friend later this week.

We haven't been doing as much tricks training since he lost interest in most of his treats. We still do play training, and I've been working on trying to get better stimulus control over his verbal cues. We haven't been doing any tricks training outside of the apartment because of his reactivity and general distractability. I'm not sure what to expect from agility class tomorrow.

Leash manners progress has slowed from the quick boost we got after switching techniques, but I'm still seeing slow progress, and I'm enjoying the walks more than I used to.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Video: balancing on swinging ottoman

This is great preparation for confidently shifting his weight while on an agility teeter, as well as improving his general balance and coordination. He chooses to lie down most of the time because it's easier to stay on. I have no requirement for his behavior -- I'm just giving treats as it swings forward to motivate him to stay on and teach him to enjoy it.

We of course started practicing this with me holding the ottoman completely still, then moving it just slightly and giving lots of treats. He's a confident dog so we progressed to this stage quite quickly. Go Cai!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Recap of first (new) agility class

Today was the first day of our proper competitive agility classes. (You may remember we joined five lessons of an ongoing beginner class back in December, which gave us some good practice, but ultimately wasn't a good fit.) This one is at Ace Dog Sports in San Francisco. This first lesson was an orientation without dogs, and I was very impressed with the instructor and the curriculum.

She had us practice pulls (outside turns) and front crosses with rolling suitcases taking the place of our dogs -- brilliant idea! Then we did the same thing with a classmate acting as our dog. She also had us practice taking a handful of Zukes treats and dropping into plastic cups one treat at a time, as quickly as we could

She demoed an "It's Yer Choice" version of shaping a stay and recommended that we start practicing at home before next week's class. This will be our start line stay. She recommended teaching a stand-stay for small dogs since they often don't want to sit or lie down on wet grass on the agility field. (Same thing for some short-haired dogs, too.) I did a couple of sessions of shaping a stand-stay without any cues after we got home. I've been luring Cai to switch between sit & stand and down & stand with his front feet on a platform, but don't have the stand in any other context yet. Dragon had an awesome start line stand-stay, but he was a less fidgety dog!

She recommended having an agility-only release word that means "drive to me" as opposed to "you're free to do what you want". That's a great idea for most people. For myself, I've been raising Cai with agility handling in mind since the day I brought him home, and his release from staying already means "drive to me". I tested it out to make sure I was correct, and sure enough, Cai runs to front if I'm facing him or to my side if I'm facing away, so I'll continue using my current cue.

We discussed knowing our dog in terms of what food rewards will work for them. She said that you don't have to teach your dog to tug, but you need him to be able to drive out toward something he values and pick it up in his mouth, and then have some semblance of getting it back to you. I have a food pouch I used a lot for Dragon, especially before he was comfortable tugging in class. I need to pull it out and teach Chimera to run to it, and then not run away from me with it! He's made a lot of progress recently with bringing objects to my hand, so this is a good time to introduce the food pouch.

No bait bags are allowed in class -- treats must be in easy-to-reach pockets, with no plastic bags in the way. That's the way I usually train. Cai knows which pocket in my sweatshirts is the treat pocket, and always tries to stick his head in there! (And the other pocket is the tissue pocket, and he's gotten very good at sneaking them out and shredding them.)

No luring allowed. Yes! The first six week chunk is called "power steering" and is solely about flatwork. Yes! After that we will be starting obstacle basics, including crate games, and using the crates as if they were obstacles. YES!!

She said that training collars and head collars and harnesses are not allowed in class. I said that I have a puppy who will lunge toward things he wants and that I don't feel comfortable with having a leash attached to his collar rather than harness. She said that I could bring the harness at first and we would work through it, but that "harnesses are useless in class". Something about the way she said it ruffled my feathers, and I felt my body become stiff and I know I got a hard look on my face. (I have trouble sometimes when people tell me things I don't want agree with.) I don't like the thought of working Cai on a leash going to his collar. With Dragon, I worked him on a harness until he was focused enough that I didn't need to have him on leash, and then I introduced an agility martingale/lead combo to get him used to it before trialing. Same with obedience work -- on the harness until he heeled so well that the leash was decorative. Well, I need to do more IYC and focus work, and then Chimera will stop lunging at OMG STUFF, and the issue will be moot.

Something else I liked was that she said that her dogs have no leash walking skills, because they rarely get leash walks and she doesn't care about it, and they have phenomenal heeling/circle work skills that she can cue if needed. Wish I could say the same thing for myself, but as a pet dog trainer I really need to have a dog with good leash skills or it will reflect poorly on me. Plus, it's giving me good experience to draw on when teaching clients.

I just looked up the instructor's profile again on Ace's website, and she went through one of Bob Bailey's chicken camps. This is all looking quite good.

Leash walking progress

Yesterday morning, I took Chimera with me when I drove to the grocery store, and before shopping we took a short walk in that neighborhood to practice leash walking. We also went for a walk in our own neighborhood this morning. I did my best to apply a combination of the principles I'd learned from Kay Laurence and my mentor, Alison.

I focused on finding a walking pace that set us up for success -- actually walking together rather than me deciding on a pace and then spending a lot of time and energy forcing my dog to walk at the same pace, whether or not it's comfortable for him. Unfortunately, for us that means that I SPEED-walk while Cai trots. He doesn't have a "stroll" speed. I've always been someone who liked to walk quickly and with purpose, but now I have to stretch my stride even more. It's worth it, though -- immediately we settled into a rhythm which could cover a few yards at a time of pleasant walking together without any "corrections" needed.

As soon as Cai started to speed up and go in front of me, I would let all the extra leash out from my hand (it's about five feet long) and turn around to go in the opposite direction. I did my best to bend my knees and hold my hand low to create another cue for him (a visual one) that I was leaving him, and I didn't actually walk away until he had turned back toward me and was prepared to catch up. (A compromise between what Kay and Alison suggested.) Alison had said that the dogs usually quickly learn to turn around when they feel the leash slacken and see/hear the owner leaving, however I found that once Cai was moving toward something he wanted to check out, I was gone from his awareness. I used a no-reward marker as well, trying to really get his attention that we were going to head in the other direction. At the end of the second walk, I did find that he was reorienting more quickly once he was at the end of the leash, so perhaps with some more practice he'll learn to reorient before he reaches it.

I realized that I was teaching Cai not so much to be at my side (as traditional training and giving treats for being in the right position focus on), but teaching him to walk at a particular pace. My timing was much better if I gave the NRM and turned around not when he left my side, but when his pace sped up. Staying at my side was partially a side benefit. The end result is pretty much the same -- a pleasant walk with no pulling from either the dog or the human. This is a great example of Kay's wonderful quote, "Don't apply positive reinforcement on top of traditional thinking." (One of my two very favorite mantras from Kay, the other being, "You may be using positive methods, but is the dog actually left with a positive experience?")

Alison also emphasized that rather than trying to teach the dog to be on your left side, the client should strive to always be on their dog's right side. It changes the focus from forcing the dog to be in a particular place, to changing the client's behavior and expectations. As the client makes it habit to walk next to their dog, that becomes the norm for leash walking, and so the dog will expect to be at their owner's side. Beautiful. Chimera and I did switch sides occassionally, but I found that focusing on placing myself at his side let me relax, because I was no longer so pressured to watch for his "mistake" in moving away from me. During the second walk, we ended up frequently falling into a nice rhythm with Cai comfortably trotting very close to my leg, sometimes closer than he had been during all the time I'd spent rewarding him for being in position. I would let him move laterally away from me as long as he continued at the same pace, and of course everytime he slowed down or stopped to sniff something I would as well. The walk was for his enjoyment. Only when he sped up would I "correct" him as described above.

(Side note: I describe myself to clients and fellow trainers as using "positive methods only" because it connotes my training philosphy and they get what I'm saying, however in my own brain I'm quite aware that I use corrections and, in the technical sense, positive punishment. It's usually in the form of body blocking, interrupting/blocking with my hands, or the word "no", which is a conditioned punisher associated with a history of interruptions and redirections. I actually prefer to say that I follow the phrase LIMA -- "least invasive, minimally aversive" -- as much as I can.)

Back to this morning's walk. When we turned a corner and were met with new sounds, sights, and smells, rather than trying to continue the walk with Chimera being super distracted, I would stop and let him take it all in. That might mean standing around for upwards of five minutes, but again, the walk is for the dog's enjoyment, and it would ultimately set us up for success. We did have to end the walk early because while Cai was looking around, a cat ran by and then all the neighborhood yard dogs started barking, which set off Cai. Our total distance was about half a block. But apparently it satisfied him, because after we came home he was happy to nap while I ate breakfast.

The thing that I had the most trouble with was trying to be "fun" while Cai is at my side. I HATE being told that you have to be "fun" and "interesting" to get your dog to pay attention to you. It is of course true that the more fun you are, the more willing your dog will be. However it puts SO much pressure on the owner, and it feels like you've failed every single time your dog loses focus and checks out the environment. Talk about aversive! I did do a few turns and direction changes here and there, and it helped Cai perk up and watch me, but mostly I felt lost. I can do lots of turns and pace changes and side changes while we're heeling and make that fun and interesting, but when we're out for a walk, I don't want him heeling. The point isn't for him to be constantly watching me. The point is for him to move with me without uncomfortable pulling on the leash. I think we have to find a new way to get clients to engage with their dogs without demanding that they be "fun".

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Recap for today

Very slow hike in Redwood this morning. Chimera had a good recall and was getting good socialization off leash when he was a baby, but right now he has to be on a ten foot line because of his reactivity and poor recall. Repeat to self: it's just adolescence. Just keep plugging away.

I brought hot dogs and boiled chicken, and sometimes he ate it but much of the time he was overstimlated and turned it down or spit it out. Hung out at the entrance for a long time, rewarding him for looking calmly at dogs and people. He was still eating food here unless a dog got within ten feet, so we got good practice in. After this food beginning, his reactivity level was low for the rest of the trip. I was pleasantly surprised to see a decrease in his worry about people with hats and walking sticks. Still a lot of over-sniffing of dogs, especially at the beginning, and I had to pull him away a few times. Also worked on stopping when he was at the end of the line, putting in a bit of slack so there wasn't tension, and waiting for eye contact (a la Kay Laurence).

At home, introduced birch for Nosework to replace the green tea bags, which didn't smell as strongly and the smell didn't carry very well. Lots of reminders to myself to go very slowly with raising the challenge level. Warmed him up with lots of treats for nose targeting the tin, then did a few very easy hides in the kitchen. He was happy to nose the tin, but his body language really lit up with excitement when I hid the tin behind my back and he heard it snap to the fridge door. Proof that he enjoys the hunt!

Practiced metal scent articles, with a pile of eight canning rings. Was 100% correct in picking up the right one, and I was extra pleased that he was bringing it toward me and even toward my hand rather than just playing with it. I really need to get my leather articles. Not working on a formal send or front yet, just his understanding of selecting the correct article.

Started to shape picking up a plastic pill bottle. I want him to be able to retrieve more items. Realized that I need to add a verbal cue ("bring it") to the behavior with known objects, so that I can tell him what I want with new objects.

Worked on picking up the dumbbell from the floor. (He prefers to take it from my hand.) Set it in fun places, then tossed it just around the doorframe so that he had to go look for it. Saw his body language perk up as he would locate it. Brought it back to my hand 100% of the time -- big improvement!

Played tug with the squirrel and asked him to sit or down in between tugging. He correctly sat, then sat again, then laid down, and after that he started to just stare at me blankly when I said "sit". He might have been guessing or cuing off inadvertent body cues the first two times. I hate not having a reliable verbal response to sit and down, but I also hate working on instilling it. Ugh.

For agility, worked on sit-stay - focus forward - go! with shortened tunnel, tossing a long-handled rabbit fur tug as a reward. He may be starting to figure the focus forward thing out. I stopped working on it for a number of weeks because he couldn't figure it out and would get stressed.

Napped in his crate while I left to teach two classes. Not one of four expected students showed up. Spent ninety minutes chatting with Alison and Metro Dog staff members.

After not peeing all day since the hike, Cai had to go multiple times in the evening. I'm keeping him close by because he's still not reliable if he's loose with access to the living room. Three or four times, he started to bug me -- paw or bark at me or even pull on my sleeves -- when he had to pee. Good boy, sort of. At first I thought that he was just being a bored puppy, but he kept at it until I figured out what he wanted.

Of course we also spent lots of time cuddling and I told him how much I love him and what a wonderful, adorable puppy he is.

Before bed I will brush his teeth and his fluffy fur.

Clicker Expo 2013: Eva Bertilsson and Emelie Johnson Vegh: This Class is a Blast

behavior components for humans
what do to: knowing vs understanding, actually doing it - ability to do it/mechanical skills
when to do it: stimulus control
fluency: accuracy at speed

plan and prepare
practice w/o dog
practice w/ dog

where goals come from
from us as instructors: general goals for dogs and humans
from each student: goals for themselves and their dogs
who else might influence these goals? family, friends, social pressures, media

our goals as instructors
trainer mechanics
understanding and planning
structure (in class, in each dog training session

becoming their own coach: put words on actions and plans, make decisions, solve problems, ask for relevant help
where do cues/prompts and feedback (for humans) come from? from the instructor? from the situation and the student him/herself?
how can we as instructors teach and step back at the same time?
start wit ha lecture to give the big picture
miniscule exercises that can be done independently
well-defined exercises
written instructions: checklists, feedback list, flow charts
working in groups - in their classes, groups of 3 - provide help and feedback

how can we help groups gel?
written instructions, checklists, feedback lists - easier to give and receive feedback
given roles
group work start-up - instructors do it first to start things going
shared resources in one set of instructions, timer

advantages of working in group
observing others
instructions, performance, feedback
supporting and getting support
extra hands (helper, timer, record keepter, attend to dogs)
responsibility for own training

trainer mechanics
we can only choose to do what we actually have the skills of doing
relevant components
general - timing, look at the dog
specific - where to hold hands, exactly what to click for
toolbox of miniscule mechanical skills - better to become fluent at a few specific skills than be a jack of all trades
fluent at important skills
avoid rehearsing garbage behaviors
practice as if the dog was there (with imaginary dog or with human as dog)

At this point I was wiped out and both Chimera and I fell asleep... I know they talked some more about practicing without the dogs first, and that when you are practicing with your dog, you are in the "training bubble", and you should be entirely focused on your dog. Set both the humans and the dogs up for success.

Clicker Expo 2013: Ken Ramirez: Love It!

This was a lab for which Chimera and I had a working spot, but I was disappointed that we only "worked" twice. A few other dogs were asked to come up front a demo toward the end, but that was it. The rest of the lab was lecture, since it was a stand-alone session rather than lecture + lab afterwards.

focus today on two types: teaching novel reinforcers, using natural reinforcers

reinforcement substitutes, aka conditioned or learned reinforcers, eg, clapping, toys, tactile, play

establishing training currency
developing useful substitutes for food
like money in our society
and just like money, its value must be constantly maintained (if money suddenly couldn't buy you anything, you would no longer value it)
trainers have problems when value disappears from oy or play

3-6 months to turn novel stimulus into reinforcer
1. just pairing (with food)
2. pairing during training session, not as part of reward process, just between behaviors ("treat is as a behavior", after one c/t, do clap+treat, then continue training as usual)
3. use as part of reward process and pair after easy behavior (easy behavior, click, clap, treat)
4. use (paired) after more difficult behavior
5. eventually use without primary/pairing, then next behavior gets primary reinforcer
6. use more often without pairing

think of it as a behavior
animal remains calm as you offer novel stimulus
reinforce it often and well

incorporate into training
continue to use it and strengthen it
continue to treat it as a behavior for the animal's life

toy is secondary reinforcer
what they get to DO with the toy is the primary reinforcer
get paired with primary reinforcer of fun activity

pair short game of tug with long game of tug if dog likes longer game rather than short reps
same method

animals develop expectations about reinforcers based on how and when trained (ie, always rewarding a particular behavior with food, animal won't want play as a reward)
can be changed systematically

During our working session, we first had the opportunity to pair a novel stimulus with a primary reinforcer. I did a thumbs up and paired it with chicken. During the second session, when we were talking about play as a secondary reinforcer, Ken asked us to do a regular play training session with our dogs, and he went around and selected a few to demo good examples of play as a reinforcer. (Elissa Cline and Habbit demoed his crazy jumping for the ball hanging from a rope.) Cai was willing to play with me for just a few seconds at a time and then he would disengage and look around, so I let him do that and focused on relaxing myself and having fun with whatever he wanted to do. And that was it for our working spot...

Clicker Expo 2013: Julie Shaw: Puppies Gone Wrong and Right Again

conflict-induced aggression is a conflict-resolution strategy, resulting from an approach-withdrawal conflict or the inability to predict and/or control the environment

intensity/impulsivity (hard to train, hard to calm)
+ mild/moderate anxiety
+ intelligence
=high risk puppy!! 
(lost of GSDs and Mals fit this description)

genetic foundation (angst temperament, impulsivity, intelligence) -- learning the "wrong" things (run away with valued object, stealing food, jumping up) -- owner frustration -- motivational conflict created -- dog learns to resolve conflict through aggression -- conflict-induced aggression

before 8 weeks of age puppies do not learn from bad experiences; may show fear response but rebound
therefore, it is likely to be a genetic issue if pup shows fear behaviors before 8 weeks
(really?? I've never heard this before?)

playbow can = conflict - I'm not sure what you're going to do, can bounce forward or backward

role of socialization: puppies taken from litters before 7 weeks of age, poor communication skills (good puppy classes are vital), socialization period 4-14 weeks of age, fear period 8-10 weeks of age
(missed some info here, couldn't write quickly enough)
learning is always occurring
making associations and working for reward - owner's attention
causes or increases hyperexcitability
unwanted behaviors are rewarded
poor communication: owner inadvertently conditions behaviors, interacting with a puppy when it jumps up, (missed info here)
inappropriate use of punishment: P+ is rarely needed to teach puppies, almost always administered inappropriately which increases anxiety, can be "rewarding" to the puppy, P- can be useful when trying to get a "starting point" but still have side effects
avoidance conditioning: if a behavior can stop/prevent a negative stimulus it will increase in frequency (ex: to make the scary child go away, snap), behaviors are very resistant to extinction

conflict-induced aggression - solution: resolve the conflict before they learn through trial and error that aggression will work, stack the deck so emotional conflict is resolved

aggression to owners is typically a puppy problem, often around 3-4 months
if it's new problem at older age, send to vet for medical check-up

ambivalent body language
clients often describe "mixed" body language during an attack
dogs often shake, slink away, or act very submissively after the attack
aggressive situation was so intense, dog can't handle any more, needs to shut down/wind down
"remorseful", "Jekyll & Hyde", (my addition: "then he realized that it was me/that he was biting a human")

more likely to have had serious illness in first 4 months of life
hyperexcitable, lack of training
do not get walked often
(missed writing down other correlations found with conflict-induced aggression in puppies)

has learned to use aggression to avoid the situation
becomes less fearful because he now knows how to avoid the problem situation

often happens when:
when picked up, restrained, toe nails clipped
confronted, stared at, or punished
reach for head
over food, item
on furniture, asked to get off
often just to one or few family members

puppy temperament tests are of little value

consistent interaction
cued behavior - communicative tools
bite inhibition
(more things I missed)

Clicker Expo 2013: Emma Parsons: Introducting Puppy into Reactive Dog Household

I was hoping this would be a how-to, but instead it was Emma's personal account of how she introduced a puppy into her home with an adult dog-reactive dog.

"go touch" cue for fearful dogs
do not force reactive dog to accept new puppy - be prepared for long-term management
reinforce behavior you like
kept totally separated for first two weeks, other than crates side by side in car and at night
carried puppy through house - adult reinforced when he reached up to sniff puppy's feet
baby gate with minimal exposure - adult gets accustomed to sight and sound of puppy, but is free to approach or retreat (puppy was gated into kitchen - good for puppy's training anyway!)
reactive dog regressed in comfort level with pup and guarding behavior when Emma had surgery and didn't clicker train them for a few weeks
if one dog got a treat, they all got a treat
go to mat - get out of the way
big yard with puppy on leash: c/t session - DRO
very short interactions loose in yard
total integration after four months
prevent practice of unwanted behavior

Clicker Expo 2013: Susan Friedman: PARROT

P - power
behavior is the power animals have to control their environment
behavior is a tool to affect your own outcomes
studies show that babies and animals are happier, bolder, more active if they have control over their environment (ie, baby mobiles would spin when babies lifted their heads)
animals evolved to work for their food
learned helplessness has pathological outcomes: ulcers, illness, eating less, increase in blood pressure, more stuff I didn't have time to write down
empower more, impose less
power to say "no"!

A - approximations
key to new behavior is reinforcing sequence of smaller approximations
people expect too much, and if animal fails, force is the go-to solution
who raises the criteria? behavior in an operant class is naturally variable; variability of response provides opportunity to reinforce responses that more closely approximate the target behavior

R - reinforcement
the ability to learn, ie, to change what we do, based on experience, is our nature
reinforcement is not manipulation or bribes, but essential feedback about how to behave in the future
learning: behavior change due to experience
schedules of reinforcement matter
behind many behavior problems is a very lean reinforcement schedule

R - repetition
high ROR (rate of reinforcement) across different conditions builds reliable behavior
people tend to underestimate how much repetition is needed
bonus outcome of repetition: big trust accounts
don't underestimate trust account and history of reinforcement

O - observable
objective understanding of behavior - focus on what you see - behavior and conditions
behavior is what animals do, not what they are
there are no problem behaviors, there are problem situations, on which behavior is just one element
test what you think you know

T - teaching
see teaching opportunities where others see punishment opportunities
misbehavior is a lack of information, motivation, or practice
animals learn something with every interaction
"it's not about teaching impressive behavior, it's about impressive teaching of behavior"

Clicker Expo 2013: Room with a View Point

I only stayed for half of this because I had to take Chimera out to run around. I was disappointed that (at least during the time I was there), there weren't any really meaty questions for them to have deep discussions on. Most of the beginning was the panelists talking about the changes to dog/animals training that have had the most impact on them during the past 20 years. Here are the notes/quotes I wrote down:

Myth - don't add cue until behavior is 100% how you want it. Using cue earlier reduces frustration by giving the dog information.

Adding R+ training to a dog's life may not help if other situations are still P+. It's crazy-making for dog to have "a little bit of everything", ie, clicker and shocks.

Watch out for poisoned cues!

Even clicker training can be aversive with poor application.

Clicker Expo 2013: Kay Laurence: Connect Walking

(I'm placing some key quotable phrases in bold.)

dogs are born knowing how to connect - we don't need to teach it to them, we just need to let the connection between the dog and owner have a chance to develop

she likes the term "heart of the pack" to replace "leader of the pack"

you build a connection by sharing positive experiences, create trust and reliability, security in each other, and feeling comfortable with each other

owners ruin trust/reliability when they respond to the needs of other people before the needs of their dog. this is something people are programmed to do naturally, but we need to teach them to put their dogs' needs first

why should we allow other people to touch our dogs? why should strangers be touching our dogs?
she says that if we are having a controlled interaction with a stranger and we've invited them to pet/touch our dogs, then it's different - precursors/cues tell dog this person is an "acquaintance" petting them and not a "stranger", and is ok to interact with
if you allow your dog to greet and interact with everyone, you will have off-leash problems

all equipment we put onto our dogs is inherently punishing to them
collars (sometimes martingales) and leashes are needed for safety, but she doesn't like using harnesses or GLs unless there is a physical safetly issue for the dog or owner
I didn't get a chance to ask her opinion on small dogs in harnesses (I personally believe small dogs should not be walked on just a collar, unless they are already very well leash trained - potential for injury is too high)
equipment usually functions on suppression, not learning
often designed to meet the needs of the person by "fixing" the problem
extremely well marketed
develops idea of "on lead = bad", "off lead = good"; "on lead = next to owner"; therefore dog learns "next to owner = bad" and wants to get away from owner when let off leash
a piece of equipment cannot build connection, and may prevent it

rather than ignoring a dog who is jumping because he wants to greet you at face level, Kay recommends hooking a thumb through the dog's collar to prevent a black eye, and then going ahead and greeting the dog - afterwards dog is calm, feels that everything is okay between you and him, and will go about his business rather than continually pestering you for that greeting (for small dogs, teach them to jump onto chair or ottoman for greeting)
ignoring dog who wants to greet you is example of trying to suppress behavior, and high cost to relationship and connection - builds frustration, dog feels trapped
letting dog greet you at face level let's him know "I'm okay, you're okay, everything's fine"

puts loop of leash around the back of her hand and then runs it through her palm/fist - like a trapeze artist hanging from ropes - this is physically the strongest way of holding onto the leash
(I personally don't find this comfortable and was taught to put the end of the loop over my thumb and then hold the leash in my fist)
Kay wants people to walk with their arms at their sides, fingers down, which gives relaxed body posture and communicates to dog to be relaxed as well
(I was taught to hold my hands together below my stomach if walking a big dog, as this centers you with a low center of gravity and makes it easier to brace and not get pulled over)

move together at mutually beneficial speed - your speed is dependent on dog's comfortable speed
three compatible gaits: walk or stroll, trot, canter
change direction by turning toward your dog, not away from him

parking - for rest and talking - take dog by collar, lay slack of leash on ground, step on it with both feet, let go of collar - dog has enough room to stand, sit, or lie down, and sniff around in a small circle, but can't jump on anyone approaching - prevents dog from making errors and tells him to take a break
transport - for quickly getting through difficult situations, such as past other person and dog or something else you don't want your dog to investigate - short lead, lock your arm at your side (my experience and training is that that is hard to do for women with big dogs, whereas men can lock their arms that way easily due to more upper body strength), and walk with purpose. you are taking control and will keep dog safe (ie from other passing dog)
walk together - for pleasure

skills for owner: assess the environment - see what's coming, respond to changes, walk at the right speed, energy, and rhythm, alter the length of your leash, set a boundary and block at the boundary (I don't remember what this means - a wait?)

stop and wait at moment of disconnect, do not pull back, move away when dog reconnects
put a little slack in the leash right before the dog reaches the end
give the dog time to enjoy their walk
let dog stop and sniff when he wants, or stop and look at something when he wants
turn body away (to communicate that you want to go in a different direction and are waiting for him), wait for eye contact from dog when he's finished sniffing/looking (as long as it takes), then move in new direction

dog is very sensitive to change in the angle of the leash clip on his collar - did great demo with having person hold their hands in front of them with palms facing toward each other, with collar wrapped around hands. Kay slowly moved the leash that was connected to the collar upwards and the person said that they could feel the subtle shift in the clip's weight when it was at about a 45 degree angle.
dogs can learn to respond to just this subtle shift in angle - can clicker train it if dog has learned to ignore it already

transitioning to off leash: on dirt/open ground, not in woods - 15-30 foot line - use as slow break under foot when dog speeds up/goes out

unrelated: fixing surfing the floor for treats in a performance space: spread bits of paper on the floor - look like treats at first but dog can't get them up, will choose to stop floor surfing - reinforce that decision
for dogs that are obsessed with birds - put a dead bird in a crate and let dog worry at it - reinforce when dog gives up or checks in with you - build from there (I wish she had further outlined the steps between a dead bird in a crate and live birds flying around - I think she said it's in one of her books) (also, where do you get a fresh dead bird??)

My very favorite Kay quotes:
Don't use positive reinforcement on top of traditional thinking.
You may be using positive methods, but is the dog actually left with a positive experience?

My friend boiled this entire 90 minute lecture down to "is she still teaching stop when the dog pulls, wait for eye contact, then continue?" Essentially, yes, though I found the leash work and body language she talked about to be helpful. I stayed for the lab after the lecture, but was disappointed in that none of the dogs who signed up where major pullers. Two were quite biddable and were happy to watch and make eye contact with their owners. One was very distractable, and Kay commented that the dog was calmer after some practice. It was very slow progress for her, but it would have been with any method.

I was skeptical of being able to use the transport with some dogs. I've walked big shelter dogs who, as soon as they felt any tension on the leash, dug in like weight pulling dogs with their shoulders, and I would have had trouble holding my arm at my side and making them go straight in one direction. I usually used two hands on the leash, and held them up to protect my shoulders.

During the lab, she emphasized moving slowly and taking a stroll with the dog. I nearly rolled my eyes because my dog does not have a "stroll" speed setting. I fell into the trap of raising my hand and asking a question about my own dog, rather than dogs in general, which I always find obnoxious about other seminar-goers. Whoops. I said that I had a young, active dog, and that I didn't think that taking a slow stoll with him, as she was emphasizing, would work. She started off by saying to watch him when he's off leash in the yard and watch how he moves. I said that we don't have a yard. You don't have a yard? No, we don't have any fenced space. In the garden, then. We don't have a garden - there's just the street. Kay was surprisingly surprised by this. I know she lives in a little hamlet in the country, but surely she understands that other people live in, say, apartment buildings? Then she asked what kind of dog and said something I didn't understand about how the walking speed isn't dependent on the size of the dog or something like that, and I just dumbly said okay. I think that she was originally going to answer my question by saying to watch him walking around freely offleash and try to match that pace. That ain't no stroll, let me tell you. Cai is either sniffing or quickly trotting. I've found that I can match his pace if I'm speed-walking and he's air-scenting while trotting, which slows him down a bit. If he's not and he wants to move forward, he moves ahead of me almost immediately. We need more help with this.

I did my best to integrate Kay's methods during the past week. The best thing I took away from it was to put slack back in the leash when Cai reaches the end, so that I'm not pulling back. He learned quickly to park himself and watch whatever was interesting him, rather than actively pulling. That has decreased his reactivity noticeably. It's also helped me relax. He's also learned quickly to turn around and look at me, which is helping him learn to disengage from his triggers/interests, which is great, and reminds that me that I should do BAT with him -- looks like it would be a great fit. So I have an increase in eye contact and this good parking behavior, BUT there is no increase in staying by my side. He hits the end of the leash just as often. With his recent decrease in appetite, I haven't been able to reinforce staying by my side very well.

I recounted this to my mentor, Alison. It turns out that she went to one of Kay's seminars way back when and heard most of it then. Alison recommended that as soon as the dog starts to move ahead (because as soon as he does that, you know that he's going to continue forward until he hits the end of the leash), you put all the slack into the leash and turn around to go in the other direction. If you have a small dog, you lower your arms/hands, so that if he ends up getting a jolt it's not so strong and he doesn't get lifted off his feet. But the point isn't to yank the dog -- the dog learns quickly that when he feels all that slack in the leash come down, that's a cue to check in with you, because you're disappearing in a different direction. You also have to be fun to walk with when the dog IS at your side - connecting verbally, pace changes, direction changes, pointing out things to sniff, etc. Alison liked Kay's emphasis on figuring out the pace that's comfortable for both you and your dog. It's not just your dog walking with you -- it's you walking with your dog. Alison also said not to focus on teaching your dog to walk on your left side, but teach yourself to be on your dog's right side. It's the owner's responsibility, not the dog's. Make that connection and closeness be the norm for your dog.

In conclusion, I hate teaching loose leash walking.

Clicker Expo 2013: Ken Ramirez: Adduction Training

concept training examples: space conceptualization (eg, how much room the human next to you needs) and intelligent disobedience in guide dogs, modifiers - left/right, over/under - in search and rescue dogs, matching to sample (he taught this to his own dog), mimicry as a behavior

standard clicker training teaches very specific behavior. concept training teaches ideas
creative games make concept training easier: free shaping, 101 things to do with a box, Kay Laurence's Learning Games

clear criteria is still important

how do I begin? good foundation, solid basics (clicker, cue savvy, understanding of clear criteria), desensitize to new things constantly, practice generalization, dog must be well-trained before you start

types of adduction: a type of compound cue - can come in many forms
additive - cue one behavior, then anothe to go on at the same time
conceptual adduction - animal understands idea of doing 2 or more behaviors together, so thoroughly that trainer may cue 2+ behaviors that have never been put together previously
"and" - all behaviors done simultaneously
"then" - all behaviors done in order they were cued

additive adduction
most trainers have done this at some time
passive - go to mat, lie down
active basic - run with me and jump over hurdle
active complex - lie down now come to me (crawl)
more complex combos require more work on the dog's part
prompting often required to get animal to do togther, also requires certain amount of coordination from animal, can be developed with practice
more often is is used, better animals becomes at it

conceptual adduction
animal can receive multiple cues before carrying out instructions
can combine behaviors that have never been previously combined or trained together
without both it has not reached the level of a true "concept"
often requires a mechanism to let animal know when trainer has completed series of cues: release signal, target removal, "hold" - "ok", "wait" - "go"
multiple modal cuing: verbal cue combined with visual cue (or other form), can eliminate need for release signal
start by having series of well-established cued that don't take dog far away from you

A+B+"go" - dog executes A then B after you cue "go"

At this point Chimera was really bored and I couldn't keep him quiet with chewies or petting or tugging. We left the lecture early.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Costume party

My sister celebrated her birthday by having a costume party, the theme being "villains". I racked my brain for a costume idea for a long time but kept coming up blank. In the meantime, I prepared for taking Chimera to Tahoe by getting him a cute red and grey striped sweater. I brought him home and then realized that... I have the exact same red and grey striped sweater. This was completely unintentional, but I knew that I had to take advantage of it. But what kind of villains would wear striped sweaters?

Evil mimes, that's who. (Click on any picture to see it larger.)

My murder weapon of choice is the shotgun, while Cai's is knives. (Don't ask me how he uses them.)

Pure mime evil.