Wednesday, December 9, 2009

101 things

Well, the 'pay attention' training has been cut short a bit by the fact that it is darn cold here in the winter (oh YEAH). Of course, she already does fine with it in the house, so it really can't be moved indoors. I've been leaving extra time to load her up when we do go somewhere to give her chances to 'fail' and have to go back in if she's not on good behavior, and she does seem to be making pretty good progress given how little practice we're doing.

But I have a replacement.

I noticed a few days ago that Kumi is convinced that the only things we might ever ask her to do are sit, down, stay and touch. Mostly she just escalates to lying down when she wants something, then looks at us with a confused expression if it doesn't work. For the most part, that's been true so far, but I don't want her brain to get stuck that way, so we're trying something new.

Back in my pre-dog voracious internet reading days I heard of a clicker training exercise called 101 things to do with a box. There's a reasonable summary of it here: and some more detailed points here . Basically, you put down an object and mark and reward any interaction with it, possibly shaping a particular behavior, but mostly rewarding creativity and differing responses.

Well, we didn't have a box handy (amazing in this house), so I used one of her nylabones, with the idea that maybe I could work towards something like a retrieve.

Well, we're a long way from retrieve.

I started by wiping a little gravy on the bone to get her going in the right direction. She got rewarded for licking the gravy off, and spontaneously nosed the bone a few times, which also got rewards. She did the nosing thing consecutively a few times, which made me think she might be getting the idea, but didn't continue more than two or three times.

In general, she actually seemed fairly stressed during the exercise. She quickly went (unprompted) to the down, but didn't relax. She was watching me very closely, and panting a little - seemingly nervous about not knowing what to do.

Needless to say, we kept the activity short, but it does seem like a good idea for 'training her to be trained' per-se. I also think next time I'll try to be more active at rewarding just looking at the item in addition to touching it.

Cooincidentally, I discovered a good new reward. We had some leftover thanksgiving gravy in the fridge I wanted to get rid of since we'd eaten the associated turkey, so I let her lick little scoops of it off a spoon. She seemed to like it more than many rewards, it didn't require chewing, and unlike her other high value rewards it didn't get my fingers greasy (or slobbery) since it was all on a spoon. I may try similar things with other soft foods like peanut butter or cream cheese.

In other news, I'm working on her letting me handle her front paws without pulling them away (she let me clip the back ones). Touch, yes, release, food x 10 or so.

I also put the dremel by the back door and am turning it on before I let her out. I was hoping she would run past it while it was on, but that wasn't gonna happen, so we're going slower.

Finally, to help break the 'sit, down, stay, touch' ultimatum I've been brushing her before meals and giving her a scoop when she's stood still for a few strokes rather than asking for tricks. So far she still tries to run away unless I put an arm under her waist, but is getting better about biting the brush and struggling. She also, surprisingly, lets me brush her while she's eating, though I'm not sure if that's a good idea to keep doing or not.

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