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K-9 Prodigy

Unleash the genius in your dog

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Posted on 17 November, 2017 at 17:23 Comments comments ()
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Peek at the trainer's homework! #9

Posted on 16 December, 2015 at 10:17 Comments comments ()

Peek at the Trainer's Homework! #8

Posted on 14 December, 2015 at 10:13 Comments comments ()

Peek at the Trainer's Homework! #7

Posted on 9 December, 2015 at 11:36 Comments comments ()
Charlie doesn't really do "stationary behavior." So I'm actually very proud of his work so far in the paw lift and hold -- we worked on it for one minute each time for nine times, then videoed the tenth. It's the right, not the left paw that we're trying to get the lift/hold for.

Peek at the Trainer's Homework! #6

Posted on 8 December, 2015 at 10:46 Comments comments ()
As your dog's training gets more advanced, you have to start worrying about things like "Will new training interfere with old training? Will this new behavior mess with something she's already good at?"

For example, one of my clients had a Labradoodle who was PERFECTLY trained to wait at curbs. No matter what else happened, the dog would never step off into a street. It was almost guide dog-level training around curbs.

When I went in to do some additional leash training with her (she still pulled on the leash quite a bit, even though she always stopped at curbs LOL!), one method that I do a LOT is work dogs off sidewalks. Sidewalks are terrible places to practice good leash walking. There's heavy scent distraction, and the dog understands the sidewalk as a "path" so there's no real incentive to slow down and see where you're going. You can't do any of the turn practices. And worst of all, if the dog pulls, even if you do a stop and reset, there are so many scent distractions that wherever the dog ends up, it can still sniff, and still end up getting reinforced for leash-pulling! Ugh! So if you live in a quiet neighborhood, a lot of leash-training can be done in the street. (Parking lots are another good choice. Anywhere flat, somewhat boring is a good choice.) This, however, directly interfered with her prior curb training. All along she'd been trained not to walk in the street, now we were going to walk in the street?

We eventually came to the conclusion that we would do the exercises on the sidewalk, regardless of the extra difficulty and probably longer training time. The owner was just too concerned about all of her hard work she'd put into curb training. That's an all right decision. As your dog starts getting more advanced, you find you have to make these decisions!

I thought about all of this with Halo's work on "targeting" this cookie jar. In the impulse control and delayed gratification advanced course we're doing, I'm still not entirely clear on what this exercise will be ultimately used for. I noticed that her "targeting" of the jar looks exactly like her "alert" to the Birch odor in K-9 Nosework. "Uh-oh," I thought, because for Nosework, she's taught to alert to the *birch* odor, and never ever alert to food. But now here she is in this class, alerting to food.

What are my choices?

I could skip the exercise. I could skip the entire class. I could try to shape some different target, such as that she hits the cookie jar with her foot instead of using her nose. But would that foot movement then transfer over to her Nosework, where they are not to use their feet? Ultimately, I made the decision to simply continue with the exercise and see where the training went. We're not doing much with Nosework these days anyway (our current focus is Rally) so if we do this cookie jar exercise for a few weeks, then abandon it entirely for a few months, then start up Nosework again, she may have entirely forgotten about it. 

Aren't these decisions hard? If you are stuck in hard training decisions with your advanced dogs, let me know! Sometimes two heads are better than one at puzzling this kind of thing out.

Peek at the Trainer's Homework! #5

Posted on 7 December, 2015 at 10:18 Comments comments ()

Halo's doing much better with the Impulse Control/Moving Food exercises. Due to the way my little camera was set up you can't see how quickly my hand was moving (you can see a little bit in the reflection in the glass door behind me) but I'd basically cranked it up to full-speed and she was still holding her uncommanded, offered sit.

On to that "Get It" practice. That's just Step One of "Get It." Step Two involves you doing your verbal cue -- but then waiting just half a beat or so before flipping your hand over. The dog is learning the verbal cue as distinct from the "hand signal" (which here is really more of a clue than an actual signal.) I tried Step Two with Halo (not in this video as it's from a couple days ago) and she was conflicted like, "Your voice says go but your body says Leave it." When dogs are getting mixed messages, they will ALWAYS go with what your body language is saying, not your voice. So there's more practice of "Get it" just to establish that muscle movement pattern.

Finally there's the "targeting" of the cookie jar. Remember how I said that I take these classes just to see if there's anything interesting in them for students? So sometimes I get into a class and am like "Ummmm...what is the purpose of this exercise?!" I'm starting to realize that it does take a certain leap of faith to go into a new dog training program and be willing, not suspicious, to go in full-throttle and actually do the exercises! Even if you're not sure what's going on! Anyway, so the homework "targeting the cookie jar." For some reason Halo seemed nervous of the cookie jar. She's such a confident dog in general that I made the decision to just try again tomorrow and see if she was better -- and lo and behold, she was!

We finished off with some obedience and heeling, just because we like doing it.

Peek at the Trainer's Homework #4

Posted on 4 December, 2015 at 10:43 Comments comments ()
Homework for Week One (Part One) was to choose an "Active" Behavior (involves the dog in motion) and shape it in nine individual sessions, each session 1 minute or less. Then video the 10th session of 1 minute or less.

Here's Charlie in his tenth 1-minute session; the behavior I chose was backing up. We are only three days in to class at this point and I think he looks fatigued, unfortunately. Though he's still so willing! I am pleased with my totally neutral body language here. No commands, no gesturing. Shaping at its finest!

The next part of Week One homework is to choose a "Stationary" Behavior (involves the dog holding a position or doing something not moving) and repeat the nine 1-minute sessions with video of the 10th. So stay tuned!

Peek at the Trainer's Homework #3

Posted on 4 December, 2015 at 10:33 Comments comments ()
Besides the Advanced Shaping course I'm taking for continuing education this term, I'm also in a class called "CJ Games," which covers things like working with dogs who can not function without immediate rewards. None of my own dogs have this issue, although it's very common with client dogs -- sometimes they've been through multiple obedience classes and can do fairly advanced behaviors -- but if there's no treat in the hand, it's "Huh? You want me to do what?" It seems to be slighly breed-related, with more independent dogs such as Akitas and some terriers having this more commonly than other dogs. It's a frustrating problem for owners. I've got lots of training tools already up my sleeve for this issue, such as "engagement training" -- but the CJ games promise to add something new!

I'm working Halo in this class, though like I said she can easily work without food rewards, including in the show ring! Part of the "job" of a trainer's dog involves working through coursework with the trainer, so she might as well get started at that! (She just turned 1 year old, BTW.)

This first exercise, Impulse Control Around Food, is proving difficult for her. In fact, Chasing Food/Pattern Games is a training method exactly opposite to this one, and I frequently use it with obedience dogs because it jazzes them up and makes them look fancier. (It's also one of the basic methods to work with dogs who are obsessed with chasing squirrels and the like.) 

Halo had some difficulty with this exercise, probably because she's been trained in Chasing Food/Pattern Games. We're going to repeat the exercise until she can keep her body/head more still and shows a little more self-control and restraint. Note that I'm not *commanding* her to Sit or Wait or Leave It. It's an *internal* locus of self-control and restraint that she's learning; not a handler-directed one.

Peek at the Trainer's Homework #2!

Posted on 30 November, 2015 at 12:39 Comments comments ()
I wasn't very satisfied with yesterday's "baseline" homework for our Advanced Shaping course, so I re-did it. This time sans all the extraneous hand and body movements, though there were very tiny almost imperceptible movements that I still caught myself doing.

"What's going well": The stillness is definitely helping. My reward position is still helping. Charlie looks good.

"What could be better": Still a tiny bit of handler movement. The treats were awkward and clumsy to get out of my pocket; more convenient treats would be better. Next time I will set up session in a part of the yard that's not riddled by holes (um...Halo? We need to talk about these holes.) From the video I could see that there is not enough clarity on what he is to do with his feet. Should they be on my feet? Off to the left or right side? One on the left and one on the right? My spur of the moment training decision was to just worry about the shoulder for now, and we can do the feet later, but I may be wrong. Time will tell.

Peek at the Trainer's Homework! #1

Posted on 29 November, 2015 at 18:52 Comments comments ()
It is very important for professional trainers to keep up their knowledge and skills by continuing to take workshops, courses and classes!

I have so much fun in my continuing education, and I know it helps keep me sharp and on my toes. Over the next six weeks I'll be taking part in a few courses and I thought it would be a good idea to share my "homework" on my blog -- in solidarity, of course! You all aren't the only ones with homework!

This course is "Advanced Shaping." Shaping is a technique that I use very frequently. It is one of those techniques which always has room for improvement! 

This homework assignment was actually given out before class even began. It's what's known as a "baseline," or the "test" portion of the "Test, train, test" improvement program. It's not my dog being tested here, though -- it's me!

The homework was to do a "simple shaping session, doesn't have to be anything fancy." Then answer the questions of "What was working?" and "What wasn't working?"

My homework is above, and in answer to the questions:

1) "What was working": Charlie is a super happy dog, always willing and very smart! He can get a tad bit frantic during clicker sessions and today he was much calmer, which I appreciated. Where I put the treats worked too, either feeding in position, or out of position so that he could get back into position.

Isolating the Side Pass Right and clicking it separately from the shoulder target/pressure worked. He got the shoulder target first and then the side pass a little later (trimmed from this video) and then we would have just had to put the two together.

2) "What wasn't working?": As I noted in the videos, my body was moving quite a bit, and so were my hands. All my dogs are super-sensitive to my body movements and I can elicit all sorts of things so easily with just things like a slight shoulder rotation or pointing moving my hand a couple of inches. For good shaping technique though, these are no-no's. You should stay as still as possible -- no "hinting" or "helping."