All posts by scratchandsniff

Teaching "Front"

I have to train a more precise and more consistent “front” position with Elsie before I can trial her and keep my dignity intact. I saw a great video on youtube, and thought I’d give it a shot with this method. The two parallel lines of tape on the floor is for my own visual sense of criteria and I simply shape from there. I find the hardest part about shaping my dog to a location relative to myself is my own tendency to try to move things with my mind – “Almost… aaaaaalmost… I’ll pretend that’s right *click*” – which leads me to shape away from the intended position, which results in a sloppy performance all around.

It’s like playing mini-putt. When the ball is nearing the hole I figure that if I lean really far in the direction that I want it to go, often making a sort of creaky “ahhhhhh” noise, the ball will change its course and head toward where I want it to go simply because I thought really hard about where I wanted it to go.  It doesn’t work with mini-putt (usually), and it doesn’t work with dogs. You get what you click. Having this visual information is really helpful to me because I can’t try to move Elsie with my mind and consequently click the almost-right-position.

Notice in the below video her tendency to come in from my left and walk her back end into position.  This is a combination of gravitating to my left anyway (into heel position, because I naughtily haven’t taught side! [heel on the right]) and my history of clicking an almost-front-despite-her-rear-drifting-to-the-left. She will soon start coming into front much straighter and more purposefully because I’ll be for more consistent with my criteria than I have been previously.

Elsie’s movement back and forth at the beginning of this video is because she is trying to figure out how to make me click.  We have been working a lot on backward movement, as well as bows and ‘head-down’, which is what you are seeing here. These behaviours decrease in frequency as she figures out what earns her a click.  Right now, I am looking for all body parts to be with in the bounds of the tape.  As this progresses, I will select for a tighter position, as well as an automatic sit, at which point I will add my cue. I have already been using the cue “front” to mean what I intended as a front, so I will have to be thorough in adding this cue to a behaviour with tighter criteria.  There are as many different opinions on adding cues as there are trainers (“add it only to a finished behaviour”, “change the cue if you change the behaviour”, etc), but I am going to give this a shot and see how it goes. I tend to be a little sloppy when it comes to teaching cues and stimulus control, so I’ll just have to be a little more careful in this process. But that’s another topic all together…

With the helpful visual info that the tape provides, combined with Elsie’s self-taught crotch-targeting, I hope  to end up with some real tight fronts!

(I’ve noticed that my Photobooth program for my computer camera films as a mirror image, so when I say she’s gravitating to my left I’m not crazy… what the video shows is backward!)


Arlo’s Recall Rehab… wait, where did it go?

Arlo, doing what he does best.

I realized this winter that, since adopting Elsie this summer, Arlo’s gotten to be a little out of practice. Specifically, his recall was going down the toilet, and fast.

Now, the trouble with working Arlo is that he is very difficult to motivate – he doesn’t want anything from me, at least not reliably.  Hotdogs? Spit.  Sardines? Meh, gets tiring after a couple days.  Tripe? Same (seriously).  Toys? “You want me to do WHAT with that!?” Sometimes he’ll be thrilled to work, most of the time not. I have to seize those windows of opportunity to be able to make headway, but how is that going to help me train a recall in the park? It’s bothersome but doable to train obedience/tricks on Arlo’s watch, but not so much for training a recall – arguably one of the most important cues for a dog to respond to reliably, their safety could be on the line. Continue reading Arlo’s Recall Rehab… wait, where did it go?

Confessions of a Cross-Over Trainer – Part Two

Continuing on with Part Two… (click here to read Part One)

What we saw in the following two years was a severe escalation of Odin’s behaviour.  We returned to R.H. for further instruction during that time and also kept in email contact.  R.H. was less than enthusiastic about us persisting in contacting him. He eventually told us that his insurance didn’t cover aggressive dogs and that we should buy William Koehler’s “The Koehler Method of Dog Training” and to follow it step-by-step, and to buy Cesar Milan’s DVD on aggressive dogs. In case you don’t know who Koehler is, he was a trainer in the middle part of last century advocating ‘training methods’ such as holding a dog’s head underwater, taping a dogs mouth shut, throwing a heavy length of chain to hit the dog, hanging a dog from a choke chain until it stops struggling, and hitting a dog across the face with a wooden stick. Continue reading Confessions of a Cross-Over Trainer – Part Two

Confessions of a Cross-Over Trainer – Part One

The term “cross-over trainer” commonly refers to a trainer who decides to train using primarily positive reinforcement with a dash of negative punishment but who previously trained primarily with negative reinforcement/positive punishment (for definitions, do a search for “quadrants of operant conditioning”).  Of course, the world is not black and white and certainly defining training methods is no exception. There are all sorts of people falling anywhere across this spectrum. So, in this, I also include “balanced” training, which could be anything from a clicker in one hand and a shock remote in the other, to a cheap tidbit for a sit and a haphazard jerk on the leash for anything the owner deems inappropriate.  I think this can apply to not only professional trainers, but the average dog owner as well.   Correction-based training is very accessible to the general public, what with TV personalities and the like, so many of us subscribe to some version of corrective training when we first dip our toes into training our dogs. It may seem very sensible to say “good job!” as well as “that sucked!” to our canine students, but the end-results are not always what you may expect.

But I digress.

Continue reading Confessions of a Cross-Over Trainer – Part One