Logan – Part 30 – much progress

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It’s been a while since I’ve published an update on the boy’s progress. We have been working hard over the last few months and I’ve also done load of CPD which has been very helpful. We attended practical workshops with Kamal Fernandez and Kay Laurence over the last few weeks, and I hosted Sarah Owings from California a couple of weeks ago and we talked at length about how to progress his training. Sarah has been through a very similar process with her dog, Tucker over the last few years.

I’ll write more about the detail of what we have been doing when I have more time. I’m also presenting at the IMDT Conference on Logan as a case study next weekend so I don’t want to give away too many spoilers!

Bullet points I have been helped identifying over the last few months

  • he needs a constructive outlet for his energies (I was doing this to a certain degree but focused what I was doing)
  • different toys for different games; Kongs seem to be too arousing for him if he is chasing them but ok of he is searching for them, soft toys are good for chase and games where I play a bigger role
  • play more co-operative games with him
  • teaching him release cues to fluency so he knows exactly what is expected of him
  • he is not the same dog as he was this time last year, so the reasons for doing stuff or not doing stuff may (and very often are) either not there at all or very different.

Stay tuned for more over the next few weeks, I have plenty of video and thoughts to share.

Thanks for reading.

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Teaching in second language

Your dog needs to learn a second language the same as we do
Pretty challenging session with this dog, not due to what we were teaching but as to how we were teaching it.
 
Consider the following – Katy doesn’t understand what I was asking her to do at the start nor how to do it as we were teaching her these skills. Moose the dog didn’t know what we were asking her to do, she just knows what she is being reinforced for. I have to break it down into bite sized chunks so Heather can translate while we are doing it as Katy speaks limited English and I speak almost no Spanish. Heather was also translating for the benefot of the people watching the demo.
 
We have to make sure Moose isn’t left hanging, not knowing what to do in the session, thus potentially getting frustrated, so I had to keep the session moving along.This is why clear communication is important with your dog.
 
Katy and Moose already had built a foundation of skills working together so it went very smoothly.
 
The session lasted about 5 minutes, with this being the last 3 minutes. In the first 2 minutes, we had reinforced Moose for being on the platform (click and treat). We then added the new cue “apples” so that Moose went to the plaform when cued. This was reinforced a few times. Then, when she went to the platform, Katy asked her to lie down (a previously taught behaviour). This was repeated a few times until Moose understood that “apples” means go to the platform and lie down.
 
This whole process took less time than it takes to boil a kettle and make a cup of team. Done in a second language through a translator.
 
Lovely work from Katy and Moose.

Replacing a problem behaviour

Stella is a young Staffordshire Bull Terrier who comes to work with her human. When Mandy is working, Stella looks for attention by barking and jumping up. When that attention is given in order to settle her, her jumping and barking is inadvertently reinforced, perpetuating the cycle.
There are a number of ways to train this behaviour but we have chosen to train the building blocks individually and then put them together. There are a number of things to consider
-amount of time on her bed
-how far away her person is
-what her person is doing
-what else is going on in the room
-being able to understand the cues she is given
All of these are elements which make this exercise more or less difficult depending on how they are combined. By understanding these elements, and adjusting them accordingly, we can make good progress towards the desired outcome of Stella being settled in her bed while Mandy works.
Once this is achieved, we can use other reinforcers such as petting, smiles, kind words and opportunity to play or go oustide and move away from food.
Also note that we can train this behaviour extremely easily off lead. There is no need to have Stellan on the lead and physically move her in order to achieve this. The above steps were trained in the space of 30 minutes. If Stella doesn’t achieve what we want and gets up, we only need to go back a few steps and build it up again, no need for verbal corrections, no reward markers (ahah or oopsie!) and no need for physical corrections.
Positive reinforcement training in action.

Logan – part 29 – welcome home.

I was away for most of the month of March. I had the good fortune of being asked to present at the first Animal Training Symposium in Perth, Western Australia. Steve Mann of the IMDT, Sam Turner who is a canine proprioception legend (author of 4 excellent books on the subject) and I presented on a variety of dog training topics over the 16 days. It was a massive success and the attendees were raving about the information they received.

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Logan was boarded while I was away and we collected him and Watson on Monday afternoon as soon as we returned. After a fairly relaxing week of training (we pottered away at some stuff, more on that later), I took him to the park this afternoon for his fist session around dogs since we got home.

The park wasy busy (a warm and bright day), loads of dogs and people around. Despite this being the first we’ve been properly around dogs in 5 weeks, we did get a few firsts. No barking on entering the park, as he usually gets excited. We had to move directly into the centre of the park as there was a guy practicing his golf pitching in the area we usually go to. This meant we were a little closer to the path and other dog walkers than usual. We were straight into it, as there was a couple walking three off lead dogs down the path, one of which was a big American Bulldog boy. Logan and him had a few seconds of measuring each other and then they both dissengaged. We then ambled through the open space of the park, looking at other dogs, many of which were running and chasing balls, he did really well. The best moment, and another first, we were 20m away from 6 off lead dogs, he looked at them, sniffed the gound, search for some food which I put down and then moved off when I asked him to. I’m delighted.

One of the behaviours he has done historically when he is stressed is to seek out fallen pieces of wood and chew them. This wouldn’t be an issue in and of itself but he then becomes fixated on them and won’t let them go. Today, he found a stick, picked it up and carried it and when we stopped, lay down to chew it. I marked and reinforced every time he let it go (again, more on this later as it’s something else we’ve been working on). When he was chewing it, it wasn’t done with the same frantic energy which I have previously observed. When the time came, he was able to leave the stick, there wasn’t much left though, and come back to the car with me.

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All in all a great session. One period of a few barks, loads of much lower intensity behaviour around dogs then before, more col body language and loads of interaction with me.

Great stuff. The journey continues.

What do you smell yourself doing next year?

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How we view the world. Our outlook on life. Our vision for the future. Alexandra Kurland wrote an amazing blog on the metaphors we use. So many of our are based on sight.
 
We would never dream about saying “What does the future taste like to you?” or “What do you smell yourself doing next week?” (Well you might, but it might be a bit bizarre.)
 
I did a scent instructors course a couple of weeks ago and we were talking about the scent picture. A picture os scent. We can’t help it. It is how we represent the world to ourselves.
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The pictures are from Helen’s walk with Watson a few days ago. A full three minutes of sniffing were had. Three minutes. Similarly, the way we view the world (there is another one), a dog’s world is represented by smells. They get information through scent the way we get information through vision. Imagine going for a hike, reaching the top of the mountain on a clear day, only to be told thay you are having 15 seconds and then you are on the move again. How annoyed would you be?
 
Logan did not sniff when out at all for the first 3 months after I brought him home. Now I let him sniff everything he wants, every time we are out. It is his walk, the same way the one above is Watson’s.
 
Your dog’s walk is about exploration and enriching their life. Let them sniff, a lot, for a long time. We wouldn’t want to walk around the world blindfolded or unable to examine interesting things would we?

This is why we study

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Our team is committed to studying. Seminars, webinars, textbooks, research papers and articles, book and blogs from the best trainer and scientists of learning on the world.
 
Why we study
 
– to understand more about behaviour so we can provide you with the quickest, most effective and most ethical training programmes
– so that we understand that, yes, you can use things your dog does not like in order to change their behaviour, but that these are almost always unnecessary (and no, your dog is very unlikely, statistically, do be the exception to that)
– so that you and your dog can both become active participants in the learning and training process and you understand it is a conversation, not a monologue
– so that we can dispell common myths such as dominance and stubborness being the reason for your dog’s behaviour
– so that we can explain the a “bonker” (a rolled up towel for hitting your dog on the head or slapping it on the ground to scare him) is not only unecessary but it shows your dog that you are willing to use violence against him. How would you feel if your boss did that to you?
– so that we can explain to you why postive reinforcement techniques not only provide long lasting results but enhance your relationship with your dog long term
– so that we take the pressure off you and your dog and resolve the problems you are having
– so that we can teach you that play and petting have a mssive role to play in your dog’s care
– yes, so that we can become the best available to you
– so that we can intelligently campaign for legislation (successful this week in Scotland) which outlaws the use of unnecessary training tools like e-collars.
 
This is why we study. This is why we are behaviour geeks and proud of it.