Monthly Archives: August 2011

Real research (OR why haven’t I seen this article before?)

Anyone who knows me knows that I am obsessive about research. This article: Training Frequency Research is about how often to train a dog for optimum learning.

(I’ll note that I haven’t seen this article before because it just came online in June.)

Now, it’s about beagles. 44 beagles (quite a thought, right there), trained to jump into a basket and sit there while the trainer walks away and comes back. Some dogs were trained every day; some several times a day; some, once or twice a week. The dogs that learned the most were those trained once or twice a week. (I’ll just note briefly that all dogs were trained using operant conditioning: i.e., clicker training.) Those dogs made the most progress (learned the most), too.

I find this knowledge really useful; it means that training agility once a week is a GOOD thing!

Back to training Rush….

Rush and the curly girlies went off to stay with friends for a week while Jay and I visited his family. While I desperately missed the dogs, it was nice not to have to devote every waking minute to making sure Rush didn’t pee in the house. Rush stayed with a friend and her golden retrievers and border collies. I gather he did well and would be welcome to come back. Dancer and Elly stayed with the Poodle Goddess (my friend Cat), who has known them both for years.

This morning was the first day back to the morning training routine. Elly got up during the night and I took everyone out at 4 AM, so all dogs slept until 7; that was nice. As soon as Rush and I got up, we started the morning training routine. He practiced balancing on the Bosu; he did some lovely retrieves and recalls; we worked on the Reinforcement Zone by walking up and down the sidewalk in front of the house (new distractions!). He was lovely and focused.

After a break to have some breakfast, Jay helped me get his face, feet, and rear shaved for the first time. Jay fed him a continuous stream of treats while I did a quick shave. He looks a bit shaggy, but overall, not too bad. Next time will be easier!

Yesterday I took Rush to his first agility trial, outdoors at Brownsville. He got out of the car and was so excited! All those dogs! And he could see tunnels (he loves tunnels!). He started to bark but quickly quieted down and observed calmly. Many people admired him and gave him treats. Heidi even did some RZ games with him. He liked that a lot.

I had an exciting training moment with Rush today; every time the girls bark (sadly, they bark often), I’ve been calling Rush to me and giving him treats. My hope is that he won’t learn to bark. Today, when Dancer started to bark (Jay was using the shop vac and banged it into the front door), I looked toward Dancer–and was nearly knocked down when Rush ran to me and slammed into my thigh with both paws, demanding his treats right now! He got them, of course. (I notice that the girls have started showing up as soon as I get the treats out for Rush. Maybe they’ll learn not to bark, too. At least I’m being a lot more consistent than I used to be.)

Elly is having a rough time right now. I think she may have overdone it a bit while staying with Cat; she’s limping on her left shoulder. I’ve been massaging it and stretching it gently. I hope that will help.

Right-front foot target (OR what are your criteria?)

Rush is beginning to really get the hang of this clicker training thing. Keeping in mind that he’s been with me for only three weeks, and in that time I’ve tried to do a bit of clicker training every day, but also a LOT of socialization, I’m very pleased with his clicker savvy.

We started clicker training with the Bosu ball–balancing on the round side and then balancing on the flat side. That’s our morning warm-up routine now. I put down the Bosu and Rush comes running. I’ve been using it to train a release as well–I say “okay!” and then reward off the ball. If he leaves the ball without the “okay!” then no reward off the ball, and no big deal either, he just gets back on the ball. It’s starting to transfer to his sit, but it’s far from solid.

The next thing I clicker-trained was putting his front paws on the bottom of a bowl and moving his back end in a circle around the bowl. That’s getting really solid as well.

The last week I’ve been working on a foot target. Specifically, a right-front foot target; you have to watch something to decide when to click, and I chose Rush’s right-front paw. I started with a big bath towel, sitting on one corner. Every time Rush stepped on the towel with his right-front foot, I clicked and threw a treat off the towel. Every few clicks I folded the towel smaller. The first time, somewhere around a quarter-towel, Rush was clearly losing focus; I started the next morning with a half-towel and we got to an eighth-towel. At that point, I switched to a hand towel, and in a few more days we had a quarter-hand-towel.

I switched to a washcloth, and Rush lost it all completely. He had no idea what I wanted. He didn’t seem to see or feel the washcloth. I dropped the project for a few days. This morning I started with the washcloth, as soon as we’d finished out warmups on the Bosu ball. Rush was (as Sue Ailsby says) “in the game”. He wanted to earn his breakfast, and he was clearly feeling sharp.

I tossed the washcloth down and clicked when Rush looked at it, then rewarded just a bit off the washcloth; I waited. He stepped on it, possibly by accident. I clicked and rewarded on it, then clicked again and rewarded off it. Three or four more clicks, then I saw him visibly startle when I clicked, with great timing for once, just as his right front foot hit the washcloth. He got his treat, then backed up to put his feet on the cloth again. Several treats, and then it was clear he’d gotten it, because I could move the cloth and he’d run for it, even from several feet away. I’m going to take it to Debbie’s today to see how it goes there.

Training 24/7

Jay’s brother and his family were visiting for a few days, and I kept on training with Rush, which inspired Jay’s brother to comment that I spent all my time training him. Well, yes, I do.

Rush is a baby–12 weeks old today–and I don’t want to give him any chance at all to learn bad habits. So treats are always in my pocket and I try to reward him for all the good behavior I see.