There are adorable, funny, or exciting things that happen all the time while training, and I think, “I want to blog about this.”
Then I almost never do, because I tend to want to write long, cerebral, carefully-worded blogs that take me hours and hours, over the course of several days, to write.
And I want to include pictures and captions and descriptions of said pictures, etcetera.
Then I reread them, copy edit, spell-check, proofread, etcetera.
Plus, there’s being sick and trying to have a life (ha!) and there you have it.
Wonderful moments lost. Yes, lost because I have a memory like a steel sieve.
I am going to try to overcome my natural verbose tendencies with Training Moments MiniPresses.
I’m doing Training Level Three Target with Barnum, which is that he has to run 10 feet and press a small target with his foot and run back.
We’re working on the “the foot target still ‘works’ even if I move it” part. Actually, I backed up, because I started moving and reducing my target too quickly, because when I introduced it, due to his past experience with the nail file (see My Operant Dog! for video), he started targeting it right away.
But when I tried to get distance and reduced target size and different environments, it was too much. He ended up just running over it, without paying too much attention to actually hitting it.
Tonight, we were back to our big target, with me on the floor, close to it, and just moving it a couple inches after a few reps.
He started getting sloppy with the overrunning it again.
Usually, when we start a new skill, I am profuse with clicks, because in the past, he has not been “extinction hardy” and would get upset (whine or just shut down and give up) if I didn’t click everything. I have had to very slowly introduce “twofers” very rarely; he seemed to experience them as punishments, for quite a while.
He has much more confidence and a higher frustration threshold now, but I am still careful to click for almost every single attempt with new skills.
The foot targeting counts as new because I took us “back to kindergarten” two nights ago.
But tonight, he overran it once, no click. Then he hit it with part of a foot next time, which I clicked, but realized I hadn’t wanted to, and gave off “oops” body language. (He’s sensitive to these nuances.)
I decided to click for intent — not so much how centered or solid the touch is, but simply the clear intent to whack it with his foot, even if it’s not a particularly good touch. Even if he doesn’t actually hit the target, but he looks like he’s trying to hit it, versus happening to hit it while galloping past/over it. Going for enthusiasm over accuracy, in other words.
I try to toss the treats a good distance so he has some enthusiasm and energy going. (Part of my “How to Build an Enthusiastic Dog” protocol which, I promise, I will post some day — hopefully soon.)
He came running back from the bathroom, and I’m ready to click him for any decent directed paw-to-foam-target attempt.
He runs full-tilt to the target, as if he’s going to overrun it again, then he stops and POUNCES, punching both front paws onto the target like, “BAM! Check this out! This target is TOAST! WOOHOO!” (Yes, if he was a person, he’d have said, “Woohoo!” Or maybe, “Yeehaw!”)
It was hilarious. I clicked and tossed the entire handful of food, which was about 15 pieces.
Okay, Sue Ailsby disciples, I know she doesn’t believe in jackpots, and I have to say, the evidence is convincing, and in general, I don’t think JPs work with Barnum. (Though they were gold with Jersey, so I maintain that with some dogs, they are worthwhile.)
However, this wasn’t me thinking, “That deserves a jackpot.”
It was just me thinking, “I better end it right THERE,” and tossing all the food partly to make sure I didn’t try to go for the badbadbad “just ONE more,” and partly just pure pride and gratitude for what he’d just done. I felt generous.
I just sat there and laughed and laughed. Then he came over and very thoroughly licked my face, mostly my chin.
He was wagging a lot. He likes when I laugh. (Everybody finds laughter reinforcing, if it’s with you, not at you, I think.)
That pounce wins the Training Moment of the Night award.
Alright, this was not as short as I intended, but I wrote it in under half an hour, which is a record for me.
Somebody click me.
-Sharon, the muse of Gadget (What took him so long? I used a good solid paw whack, or two, as a default!), and Barnum, SDiT, living up to his clown/acrobat name