Level 2 Tests, Part 2

Here are more Training Levels tests videos! By now it’s been three weeks since we made these, and we are still practicing and refining the skills at these levels, as well as building the other skills not-yet-tested for Level Two.

A note on accessibility: The YouTube captioning program is, um, extremely limited, to put it nicely. Their software uses an algorithm to match captions to spoken English in the video. This does not work if, oh, say, you usually have a lot of background noise (such as wind or powerchair motor noises); or important noises that are not language (such as the sound of the clicker); and/or you’re not speaking clear English (which is true when my voice isn’t working well or at all, in which case I might also sign). Thus, it took hours of painstaking work to make some badly captioned videos, while other videos were totally impossible to caption at all.

However, the lovely and delightful Anna of Forward/FWD and Trouble Is Everywhere, pointed me toward dotSUB: Any Video, Any Language, which has software that is so much better. You can caption any ol’ damn video you like, regardless of language. Unfortunately, WordPress won’t let me embed the dotSUB video directly, like I can with YouTube.

Sooo, from now on I’m going to embed the non-captioned YouTube videos, and provide links to the captioned version and to the video description/transcript. I wish it weren’t so clunky, but there it is — if we make the internet accessible, then anyone can use it.

Also, here is the captioned version of the video from my previous post that I was not able to caption via YouTube:

On to the fun stuff!

We are still working on Level Two (L2), but I’ve moved us ahead on Zen (“Leave It”) to Level Three (L3), because, in general, we rock the Zen. (If you decide to watch only one of these videos, watch the L3 Zen test, to see Barnum clowning it up about thirty seconds in.)

Please note: Normally when we train, I make sure there are no distractions (unless they’re planned), and Barnum is really excited to train. We are both focused. This is probably the most important factor I’ve learned from Sue Ailsby’s method [scroll down to the bottom at this link] — Is the dog In The Game?

However, when we test, there’s someone else there filming — sometimes more than one person — and I have to try to remember what the criteria are for each test. I get nervous about the camera, too. Thus, I have a hard time focusing on the training/Barnum. All of these things affect Barnum’s focus, too. So, please don’t think we are normally this flaky and distracted when training! (My timing with the clicker is particularly abysmal.) Barnum has an excuse — he’s only seven month’s old — but cognitive issues or not, there is never an excuse for the trainer! Ah well.

This is the first part of our L2 Crate test — the crate in my bedroom. The criterion for Level Two crate is that the dog enters the crate with no more than two cues, allows the door to be opened and shut, with no pawing or vocalizing.  This is the crate we use the most. We had a false start, but I decided to consider it a fluke, because we use this behavior all the time. The non-captioned version is below. See the captioned version here. Read the description and transcript here.

This is part 2 — the crate in the living room. Ironically, though we use this crate a lot less, Barnum does better in this part of the test, pretty much because we had the two previous sessions in the bedroom (practice!). See the captioned version here. Read the description and transcript here.

This is our L2 Distance Test. I never taught this as a distinct skill before, but I’m loving it. I already use it sometimes when I’m sitting in bed and I want Barnum to come around my wheelchair from one side or the other. I can tell we can use this one a lot in the future. The criteria are that the dog must go around a pole or other object two feet away from the handler, with no more than two cues. See the captioned version here. Read the description and transcript here.
Finally, our L3 “Zen” Test. The dog must leave alone food in a stranger’s hand for 20 seconds, one cue only. (I wrote “40 seconds” in the description that accompanies the video, but that’s wrong.) He met my neighbor once before, but he was focused on her dog that day, so he doesn’t really know her. (Though we do still have some work to do with manners, as you’ll see when he starts to snorffle her pockets!) See the captioned version here. Read the description and transcript here.

Comments are always more than welcome!
-Sharon, Barnum, and the Muse of Gadget

4 Responses to “Level 2 Tests, Part 2”

  1. 1 Lolly August 28, 2010 at 8:51 am

    HI, Sharron,

    It was so fun to watch the videos, and thanks too, for the transcripts which help when I can’t see the action.

    I admire your dedication to training your own dog. I’ve done a lot of customizing with my current dog, but I wouldn’t want to take on training my own guide dog, though I know others have done it successfully. For anyone who doesn’t know, training is a lot of hard work!

    I loved the “Doggy Zen,” video! It’s like Barnam was saying, Hey, did you forget me over here?1$%$”

    It reminded me of an experience I had during a Dolphin Encounter at the Minnesota Zoo several years ago. The trainer called the oldest dolphin in the pod over to have him show us some behaviors. Four of us were in conversation, and after about three minutes of just floating at the side of the pool, Semo splashed all of us, getting us quite wet! The head trainer said, “Ok, Semo, I get the message…”

    Your using Sue Ailsbys levels reminded me about duration, and making that part of the training. I’ll work on that with my girl who is seven and a half, but never gets tired of learning.

  2. 2 Sharon Wachsler August 28, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Hi Lolly,

    Yeah, Barnum is quite the clown. He loooves attention, and he definitely thrives off petting, praise, laughter, etc., more so than any other dog I’ve had.

    When I was little, we went to Sea World or something, and it was between shows, and a dolphin was just swimming around in the tank. I was up top, watching her/him. There was a ball floating on the water, and suddenly the dolphin swam over and tossed it to me with its nose. I was thrilled! I tossed it back in, and it swam over and tossed it back again.

    At the time, I thought, “This dolphin knows I love animals and wants to connect with me.” I felt special. Now I realize that the dolphin had probably been shaped to do that for a whistle and a fish, and was just doing something that usually pays off, and also was probably bored and looking for something to do. (Cuz s/he probably know I would not pay off, not being a trainer.)

    I have loved the dolphin stories in Karen Pryor’s Reaching the Animal Mind. There’s one, especially, that reminds me of your encounter, with a very thinking dolphin who was trying to train/communicate with the people — particularly Pryor.

    And YEAH, it’s a lot of work! That’s why I post so infrequently — I’m spending all my time and energy training! What customizing are you doing with your GD?

  3. 3 Lolly August 29, 2010 at 8:58 am


    I taught her the “Find,” command, which is useful when looking for things like chairs, door handles, automatic door openers, railings, etc.

    I’ve also worked with her on back chaining routes to learn them. She loves this technique, which of course is a game to her.

    As much as I love positive training and its benefits to teaching dogs new things, I also think we can diminish the impact of experiences, and animals thinking abilities by reducing everything to a reaction to behaviors that were trained.

    Several years ago, at that same dolphin encounter, after we completed the expeerience and were about to leave, the head trainer brought my dog over to the edge of the pool. The youngest dolphin in the pod, aged four, swam over to the edge and she looked at my dog for what seemed like a minute. My dog looked back, in a curious way, and the dolphin swam away, picked up a toy and brought it back to the edge of the pool where my dog stood, and the dolphin put it on the pool deck next to my dog. Even the trainers were blown away by this act.

    The dolphin had never seen a dog before, and some how, in the moment they spent looking at each other, it seemed as if there had been some kind of communication.

  4. 4 Sharon Wachsler September 6, 2010 at 2:10 am

    Hi Lolly,
    Yes, I’d heard hat Find used to be standard for GD schools, and now it’s not used so much anymore. Back-chaining is the best. I look back on behavior chains I did front to back, and I think, “Why did I make it so hard on myself?” Live and learn!

    That is a terrific story about your dog and the dolphin. They seem like they are truly amazing animals. Very very complex. Well, I think that’s true of any very social animal — parrots, apes, etc. I do think dolphins are often very curious.

    I’m not a hard-line behaviorist. Some things that some behaviorists say as fact are so obviously not facts to me. For example, a popular one is that dogs don’t learn by watching or mimicking. Well, anyone who has had one dog and gotten another knows this is ridiculous. The new one learns from the old one, and vice-versa.

    But I also think the line between behaviorism and “classical” psychology, for lack of a better term, or sociology, is not so crisp. In the example I gave of the dolphin who spontaneously started playing catch with me, I do believe s/he learned to do toss the ball through training. However, s/he knew I was not a trainer and had no fish, so s/he was just doing it for fun. S/he made a choice: “I want to play ball. I’m bored. This person is paying a lot of attention to me, I bet she’ll play if I initiate.”

    The trainers I’m working with online now talk a lot about choices dogs make. The training is to try to show them the most desirable choice to make for both them and you, but there are always choices they can make, among a variety of desirable options, as well as choosing something you really don’t want them to do, but they make that choice anyway. And I don’t think the lines are as distinct between people and other species, either, where people supposedly are so complex and other animals are simple. For example, everyone wants what they want — of every species. Everyone, overall, is self-centered and tries to get what we want/need. If you, as a human, do it a certain way and are overt about it, it’s considered manipulative. And therefore a lot of people see applying behavioral psychology to real life as manipulative or evil, but I think it’s just a more aware, and usually kinder and more direct, way of doing what we’re already doing.

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