Terrific Training Day

Yesterday and today, Barnum has been on fire! Cooler weather and a short haircut really seem to make a difference!

Today we did two sessions of outdoor simple behaviors (sit, down, side, let’s go, hurry up, back up, touch, chin, stand up). He has some skittishness about certain parts of the yard which I don’t understand, so I’m trying to make the outdoor work there super easy and reinforcing for him.

Since my dad and I had just done some repair work on my old pchair (the Jet), I also took Barnum for an extremely short walk, just basically past the house on the street and back, to see where he and the chair were at. Both were good. Barnum’s LLW is quite good!

We’ve continued with the “jump up on something to nose touch a target” skill, and he has graduated to the chest freezer, which requires good balance and guts and drive. The acrobatic athleticism for which he was named really shines through here.

New skill today! We started it yesterday. Barnum initiated it, and I followed. He tried shutting the outdoor door on his own. I was going to wait on this one, because it’s quite heavy. It’s metal, whereas the others are wood, and I thought he’d need to use his paws. Gadget used to jump up and slam the door with both paws. However, Barnum has developed a way of flicking the door shut by using the side of his head and both turning and pushing at the same time, which is very fluid and shuts the door in almost one go! I was so pleased with him when he did this tonight after a fabulous, really high-energy training session, that I gave him a banquet of a meal!

We’re also working our way up the wall with our “light switch on a board,” and he is now consistently flicking the switch up when it’s at nose height or a little above. Soon, I’ll start raising it and seeing if he comes up with the idea to bounce up. I need to find tubing to extend the switches. I want to do away with the extenders I used with Gadget; there are too many problems with them.

Worked on the cue for paw targeting (“Bop it!”) and reinforced staying on his bed when people are in the kitchen doing things with food. His “leave it” has really gone to the dogs, and I am awaiting the arriving of Sue Eh’s new training levels books, The Steps to Success, with increasing impatience so we can start from scratch on Zen again.

I’ve discovered some holes in his training. Zen is one. Another is that he really needs a “look” command; I generally use, “What’s that?” But he doesn’t really get it, so we did a bunch of practice with that tonight. I just want him to get the concept of looking at the thing I’m pointing to. Right now, if we’re outside, he gets too focused on whatever it is and ignores and my c/t. When we do it inside, he thinks he’s supposed to touch whatever it is. So, I am trying to click sooner (though still not soon enough yet), so I can capture the look and less of the movement.

The reason I realized we needed this is we now have our two-inch square foot target, but it’s a similar color to the floor, and small, and far away, and he doesn’t see it and go directly to smack it on cue. He is doing a search for it and then smacking it, and then once he knows where it is (even if I have an assistant move it between reps, he watches where she’s going), so I want to establish a “look at what I’m pointing out” behavior.

We’ve been doing at least two sessions a day with the dumbbells, and his hold time on all of them is better. It’s always a fine line to walk to try to quit before he gets bored and frustrated. The plastic one is his least favorite because it’s the biggest and heaviest. He likes the metal one best — narrow bit and very lightweight. Tonight, I took my hands off and let him hold it twice: first for a count of four, then for a count of eight. I was soooo happy with him! I am trying to alternate between speed/enthusiasm at targeting/taking the dbs, hold time, and variety of position (height, angle, etc.), because he really wants to just grab it at the same height and location every time.

We’ve also incidentally practiced relax in the bath tub, chin on my leg, paw/foot, sound alert, kisses (which I’ve added to the infusion pump alarm alert), default dropped food Zen, backup, and  stay (down-stay and sit-stay).

Oh! We have also been working every day, several times a day, default go-into-crate-when-I-eat. It’s  slow, but we’re getting there. He hasn’t yet figured out that the cue is me eating.

I also have been working on proofing “brace,” because it turned out we had a gap when it came to me reaching over his head — in other words, when I am facing him, versus my being at his side or coming from behind. He’s catching on to that quite quickly.

It was a bad day in some other respects, but at the end of it, Barnum’s gusto shone through. LOVE that gusto!

- Sharon, the muse of Gadget (I had tons of gusto, except when I preferred to ignore you and do something more fun), and Barnum, seriously kick-ass SDiT

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2 Responses to “Terrific Training Day”


  1. 1 Laura August 9, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Enthusiasm with any animal that is training for a job is a plus. It’s awesome when my horse at work overcomes a fear or finally puts together all the elements for a skill that we have been working on :-) Go team Sharon! Go team Barnum :-)

    • 2 Sharon Wachsler August 9, 2011 at 10:33 pm

      Laura, if you are ever inclined, I think it would be so interesting to read a blog about what it’s like to be a mounted police officer. (Or whatever is the correct terminology for an officer who works on a horse.) I would love to know what your day is like and how much care you are required to do for the horse, and if you get to keep the same horse until it retires, or if you have to switch, and what kind of training you and the horse do together, etc. I think that would be fascinating.


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