Posts Tagged 'Sit'

My 200th Post: A Time to Sit and Reflect? Nope, Just a Time to SIT!

This is After Gadget’s 200th post! It’s almost two years since I started this blog. With about 100 views a day, and over 32,000 views total, there’s a lot I could write about. I started writing a thoughtful, reflective post about how this blog was a way for me to grieve, and the activism I’ve ended up doing on Lyme and MCS, the resources I’ve provided on ticks, and the community I’ve gotten to know — and helped forge — of assistance dog bloggers. I was going to delve into how grief-stricken I’ve been lately, and how I’ve avoided blogging about it, but how I want to dedicate myself to that kind of self-care now.

Then I thought, “Nah! Let’s do something fun!”

So, instead, I’m hoping this will give you some idea of how far I’ve come as a trainer, and Barnum’s come as a learner, and we’ve both grown as a team, by participating in what seemed like a very silly contest.

Sue Ailsby, the dog trainer whose Training Levels program I follow, decided to launch a contest for Training Levels list members. Inspired by the trends of “planking” and “owling” (yeah, I’d never heard of them either), where people lie stiff as boards or sit crouched like owls in “unusual or dangerous” locations, Sue has launched a contest called “sitting.”

Here are the rules of the contest, where you can also see several pages of entries. The funniest part of many of the entries is Sue’s hilarious captioning. I was not planning on doing much for the contest, but once I started seeing the entries and laughing really hard at the captions, I became more interested in fanatically obsessed with training and capturing more and better Barnum stunts.

I started out with an old standby — Barnum sitting in the bathtub. You might recall this one from my post about training to make baths more enjoyable, and its photo essay addendum, “Bouv in a Bathtub.”

Barnum sitting in a white fiberglass bathtub with a large white grab bar on the edge of the tub closest to the camera.

I have totally mastered this one.

I’ve also sent in this one, just because I think it’s a cool picture, although obviously this is from before the contest started, so I don’t know if it’s viable. Maybe it could be used on the “For Exhibition Only (FEO)” page.

Barnum, King of the Hill, surveys his domain from atop his snowy peak

I Can See Russia from My Backyard (*totally* stole this caption from Sue Eh?)

But, after that, it was training time! I knew there would be a lot of cool, impressive photos of border collies and other agility stars who could leap onto tall objects, so the first hurdle (pun not intended) was teaching Barnum to hop up onto surfaces. The only surface he is used to jumping onto is my bed — a self-taught skill from an early age. Most people are not impressed with a dog on a bed, though.

Therefore, I decided to start with the coffee table. Barnum already knew how to put his front paws on the table (“Paws up!”), but since hind-leg awareness is a much bigger deal for him (and for all dogs), teaching him to get his fear feet up was what took the twenty minutes of shaping.

Barnum sits on a black, dinged, painted-wood coffee table. He is sitting the long way, so his paws are at the narrow end on one end, and his butt is about two-thirds of the way down the table. His head is tilted to the side, looking quizzical.

Ta dah!...Wait, is this right?

By the next day, if we wandered into the living room, he’d jump onto the coffee table, uncued, just in case I felt like clicking that.

A black-painted wood coffee table with Barnum sitting on it. He's looking directly into the camera. It's a rectagular table, and Barnum's is sitting mostly on the narrower part, but cheating a little by being slightly diagnonal, so his butt is at one corner and his right front paw is just barely hanging over the middle of the other side.

I can do it this way, too. This is harder. Can you tell?

(I’m hoping to condense the process in a time-elapsed video so you can see how that shaping was accomplished, and why it became such a successful foundation behavior for what came later. However, I am still trying to figure out my movie software, and I want to get this post published before the new year. Thus, today will only feature stills.)

From there, we moved on to sitting on the couch (I know this is not something most people have to shape, but I did have to actually click and treat Barnum a few times to let him know that, yes, his presence on the couch was desirable).

Barnum sits on a brick-colored three-cushion couch. He is sitting on the middle cushion, body facing forward, but head turned to the right to face the camera, with mouth slightly open in a questioning way.

Spud Puppy

And then there was no stopping us! (Cue gay disco anthem, “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” by McFadden & Whitehead, to play over and over in your head. You’re welcome.)

Barnum sits behind a glass door on a tile floor, with white molded fiberglass surrounding him on the other three sides. There is a metal handle on the door and above his head, a shower knob. Two bottles of shampoo sit in the corner.

"Chief O'Brien, energize!" Wait a minute. . . . Is that *shampoo*?

I don’t think Medicare will cover this use of durable medical equipment. . . .

Barnum sits on gray vinyl foam van seat of power wheelchair. He is sitting very tall, right in the center, with his back against the back rest. Black foam armrests on either side, cherry-apple red base, gray wheels, and black foot plate. Barnum's expression is one of a dignified bouvier.

Ooh, look how tall and distinguished I look. . . .

And then we pulled out all the stops. . . .

Before I show this next picture, here’s some background for those unfamiliar with Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels: “Zen” is the name for teaching a dog self-control. (For example, the usual doggy zen cue is “Leave it.”)

A low black table (the same coffee table as in previous pictures). The right side of the table is set with a tangerine-colored placemat and an asian-style wide bowl, with a pair of chop sticks sticking out of the bowl. A takeout menu for a restaurant called "ZEN" stands behind the place setting. Barnum sits on the left side of the table, holding a metal dumbbell in his mouth, from which hangs a printed sign. It says, "ZEN is not just a Levels behavior. They also make great sushi. (Hint, hint.)"

That's a "hup," "take," "sit," and "stay," ladies and gentleman! (And continue to stay as I take multiple shots because my hands shake, and eight-out-of-ten pictures were blurry.)

In case you don’t get the joke, here are some closeups on the props:

Closeup of Barnum holding the sign so the text is more visible Closeup of the menu for Zen restaurantSee? It’s a play on words. A jeux de mot. It still makes me really hungry, though.

Actually, though this was a lot of fun, it wasn’t just fun — some of these behaviors have useful applications. I plan to write about that soon.

I hope you enjoyed this, my 200th post for After Gadget! Thank you for reading! Please celebrate with me in the comments!

-Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SDiT, living up to his acrobatic name

P.S. Doesn’t it seem like this would be an appropriate post for the next Assistance Dog Blog Carnival, the theme of which is “Achievement? Well, I already wrote my post for that, but it’s not too late for you! You still have time to submit your post for the ADBC and for the Patients for a Moment/PFAM Carnival!)

Woot! Do I Have a Working Dog?

Barnum and I just had a very exciting walk!

I haven’t even been able to attempt a walk recently because I haven’t felt up to it. But I slept on and off till 4:00 PM today, so I started gathering our walk things as soon as I woke up.

I really wanted to try to go farther than we have been, despite that my outdoor chair is still in the shop, so I found my elevated leg rests for my indoor chair.  I’m hoping the walks will whomp me less the next day if I have more physical support and stability.

And . . . we’re off!

First, I took him to his toileting area, and I asked him to pee, and he did! Click!

Before we left the yard, I clipped the leash to his collar, and didn’t put on the Easy Walk Harness because I thought he’d probably generalized loose-leash walking (LLW), and we wouldn’t need it. I was right! He showed no more inclination to pull on his collar than on the harness. Click!

He was also very interested in taking cheese for clicks, which he earned for

  • being in the right position, or
  • making eye contact, or
  • being about to go too far ahead and then remembering to keep the leash loose and returning to position!

Click!

We wandered along at a sedate pace (because that’s what he’s used to; going at faster speeds makes him excited, and then he forgets what he’s supposed to be doing) with a nice loose leash. Then, when passing my neighbor’s front yard, we saw they had a very bright, dark pink, plastic thing propped up next to the road. I think it might be a toddler’s sled?

Anyway, Barnum looked at it with deep distrust. He’d never seen one of these before, and who knew what it was capable of?

So I backed us away from it until he seemed comfortable, and we watched it for a bit. I c/t for looking at it relaxedly. Then I started playing the “Look at That” game (from Control Unleashed).

I’d say, “What’s that?” and point to it, he’d look, I’d click, and he’d turn to me to take the treat. We did that a bunch, moving slowly forward.

Eventually we got close enough that he just wanted to give the whole thing a good sniff and not take any cheese, so I just clicked for sniffing. BUT, he was keeping track, because after a round of sniffing, he came back to demand cheese! I obliged of course; the click is a contract.

Since he was already sniffing it, I thought we might as well add nose targeting, so I pointed to different parts of it, saying, “Touch!” and he’d get a c/t for each.

Then we did some sits and hand targets and eye contact cues, right in front of the pink thing, and he was very happy to get c/t for all of that. I decided that the pink thing was no longer a source of anxiety, and we moved on.

We continued out LLW, including the opportunity for me to cue a poop. I have learned now that when he reaches for a treat and then wrinkles his nose and turns away, it means he has to poop. Very useful information. I can then take him to my preferred spot and cue just as he starts to circle.

Unfortunately, the bugs were terrible, attacking us both relentlessly, so I decided to speed up to try to lose them. This triggered the desire to run for Barnum, which resulted in some leash pulling, so I turned us toward home.

This was a tricky place to turn, because we had gone partway up an extremely steep hill, which also was very loose (dirt roads here, keep in mind) with gulleys and gravel from the snow and rain, so I had to go down it very slowly, with my back-rest reclined as far as possible, otherwise I could easily have tipped over. (This chair is too lightweight to safely maneuver a hill like that.)

I would not have felt safe to do that at all with the Barnum of two months ago, because I would never know when he’d pull and I’d do a face-plant into the rocky road. But he walked very slowly and deliberately next to me, while I crept along on “turtle.” Good dog!

On the way home we passed the pink thing, which was no longer an object of interest. What was an object of interest was my neighbor using his riding mower, which is the kind of fascinating sound and movement that usually plays havoc with Barnum’s focus. So, first I let him just observe for a couple of moments, and then he made eye contact. C/T!

Then we did more uncued eye contact, and I segued into cueing sits, downs(!), stand, touch, eye contact, and “chin” — the first time we’ve done chin away from home. He was game for all!

Then I decided to see if I could get him in working walk position with my two cues I use at home, “come by,” which means, “swing around on my left rear,” followed by “side,” which means, “stand next to me on my left, parallel to my chair, with your face next to my knees.” Often, at home, I can just say, “Side,” without “come by,” but I wanted to make things easy for him.

Not only did he do it — which we, again, had never done away from home before — but when I asked him for Side the second time, he actually did a BOUNCE into position, which is incredibly cute. (He leaps into the air and lands in the right spot. He bounces from a down into a stand sometimes, too, and gets serious air.) He bounces into position when he is feeling confident and happy to be training.

I really have to get these working bounces on film some time. They’re wonderful.

All this, in front of the mower driver!

Then we moved on, and a formidable opponent presented itself to us: birds! Not just one bird, but two or three small birds, scrabbling in the dust in the road and on the roadside, looking for seeds or insects. Bouncing, scratching, hopping birds!

I stopped when we were a good distance away to think about how to handle it. I backed us up, hoping to get him under threshold, which — with birds — has generally not been possible in the past. But, when we were about seven car-lengths back (that’s how I measure distance — I imagine how many cars would fit in that space, because I have no concept of feet or yards or meters, etc.), I just sat and waited for him to notice me. He looked at me, c/t.

Then I did “What’s that?” with him to get him looking back and forth between me and the birds. Two of the birds (too far away for me to identify, maybe wrens?) helped us out by flying away, so there was just a single robin left.

After we had grooved on the Look at That game, I cued eye contact and got it, and we slowly proceeded forward, with me c/t very frequently for keeping LL and for eye contact. Then, when he seemed he wanted to chase, I said, “Leave it,” which is our Zen cue, and — while he did not actually back off or look at me, which is the response I train for — he did STOP in his tracks.

The robin hopped right into the middle of the road, taunting us, the cheeky little twit, and I said, “Leave it,” again. Then, [cue clouds parting, sunbeam shining down on us, choir of angels singing] Barnum SWUNG HIS HEAD TOWARD ME AND LOOKED AT ME, INSTEAD OF THE HOPPING BIRD!!!!

I clicked and gave him about half-a-pound of cheese and squealed with delight, and other dignified dog-trainerish-type things. I told him how proud I was of him, and he waggled around a lot. It was a very nice moment. We proceeded forward, and I got to practice my zen cue with the robin a couple more times, each of which went great — because now we were on a roll, see?

Then we went into our driveway, which put us even closer — despite a few intervening trees — to my neighbor riding his mower. So, I went right up to our border so Barnum could watch, and then we did more zen, sit, touch, etc., despite the mower distraction. Very satisfying!

Inside the gate, I took off his orange safety vest and his leash, and we romped a bit, but he really was not so into it because he wanted to get inside, away from the bugs. He was way ahead of me when I saw him pick something up from the ramp and chew it. I thought it was a flower at first, but then it started crunching. I asked him to drop it, which he was not inclined to do until I reached for the cheese (still need to work on that), and when he did, I saw it was a piece of plastic flower-pot. Not edible!

He took his cheese and turned back to slurp up the shard of flower-pot. His nose was on it when I said, “Leave it,” and he backed right off of it! We really ended on a high note!

Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SDiT?!?!??!

P.S. Several of you have commented on recent posts, and I haven’t yet had the chance to reply. Your comments are really important to me, in some cases quite touching. I just wanted you to know that I definitely plan to respond to them.


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