Logan – part 20 – setting the human up for success

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There are two beings involved in any training process, the learner and the teacher. As Logan and I get to know each other, we both switch these roles over from time to time. He is teaching me to examine the science of learning more deeply so that I can meet his needs more, he is teaching me patience and and to do my best to remain compassionate towards him. He is struggling in certain environments and I need to occasionally remind myself of that.

The point of this is that this lack of progress (which is only the expectations I have, rather than what is going on as we are progressing every day), can lead to my behaviour of training him not being reinforced enough. Behaviour is lawful, that means my behaviour is lawful too. If my behaviour of doing a particular exercise with him isn’t reinforced well enough, then it is unlikley to get stronger or reoccur. Loose lead walking is one of these behaviours. When he came to live with me, he pulled like a train on the lead all the time. And I mean all the time, never not. Because his history of pulling on the lead was so strong, it has taken a long time to change. That, combined with me not practicing enough due to lack of reinforcement means we hadn’ been showing much progress. Having said that, his high arousal levels are the root cause of his pulling and we do work on reducing, or him controlling, his arousal every day and this is paying off.

So what have I done about it? I’ve changed the criteria for my behaviour. I’ll save you all the details as not to bore you but I’ve switched my perspective on his lead walking. This has allowed me to be reinforced more often and to start seeing the progress he is making rather than being frustrated (remember, frustration comes from a previously reinforced behaviour not being working, not enough reinforcment leads to frustration).

The other thing I have done is change my antecedents. I make sure I am wearing comfortable clothing and trainers (sneakers for those Stateside), and always have my treat pouch loaded with goodies for work when we encounter people and dogs. The other thing I have done is listen to my favourite podcasts. Drinking from the Toilet by Hannah Brannigan, The Fenzi Dog Sport Academy Podcast and The Cognitive Dog Podcasts are all on my playlists. I select one which will run for the amount of time I want to be out and let it play while we do our training walk. I have now increased the amount of reinforcement available to me and as such we are doing more training walks and we are getting better at it. Just like anything, the more you pratice, the better you get at it.

As a side note, over the last two days we have seen 8 dogs when we have been out on the lead training walks; number of barks = 6, and these were only at two of the dogs we saw. He has walked by 6 dogs without barking and been far more relaxed around people when out.

Slowly getting there.

 

 

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What is progress?

Sydney

I’m just back in from an 80 minute walk with Logan. When I go out on long walks in the evening, it gives me time to watch him and mull over ideas in my mind about where we are going next, where we are now and formulate thoughts about what to share with you.

I am going to publish this both as part of Logan’s blog and as one of mt GDT blogs to please forgive the repetition.

I had a PT today with my rehab coach, Scott. We were talking about what progress is and how we measure it. Last year, my back was in such a state that I couldn’t properly lift a 12kg kettlebell. With Scott’s help and tuition, today I cleaned the 32kg kettlebell for 3 reps left and 3 reps right for 2 sets. A personal best which I am delighted with. Around 10 months of work, one session a week with lots of stretching in between. Could I have progressed more quickly with another session a week? Yes, possibly. During one of the reps, my technique was a little off and I didn’t rack the bell on my chest well enough and had to adjust a moving 32kg (70lb) weight without dropping it or injuring myself. Scott’s observation was that the recovery from the failed rep shows how far I have come and how much I am getting stronger.

I’ll get to how this applies to dog training in a moment but I find my clients learn well from human analogies. My sport is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I have been training for seven and a half years and have been a blue belt for 6 years. I am on the cusp of being promoted to purple belt. There have been times in the last six years where I have come in from the gym feeling dejected and disheartened that I am not improving as quickly as I want to. My Coach, Ricky reminds us that it’s a personal journey and that the comparison is only with ourselves. This is hard as the ego kicks in and it takes intestinal fortitude to keep coming in and getting smashed by a 25 year old monster who has only been training for 5 minutes.

This evening on our walk we had a mixed bag. Loads of really lovely connected walking on a loose lead, less reactivity to the dogs we encoutered. When I say less, I mean that; less. Not none. I measure our progress in many ways. Out of the hour, how much time does he spend pulling on the lead versus engaging with me or walking with me? How readily can he take food reinforcement from me? (I talked about this in the last blog). When he reacts to a dog, how many barks, how long does the barking last for, how intense is the bark, can he take food during it, how quickly does he recover and go bark to his baseline behaviour? If he reacts to one dog will he do that same to the next? Does he react to everything which previously upset him or only some of those things? This is the big one; when he is stressed what will he do now? Tonight we saw a few dogs which upset him a little. He was then able to calm down relatively quickly and a few minutes later was walked past several traffic cones. Result! If that had happened a few months ago the traffic cones wouldn’t have been safe.

I have been lifting weight on and off for 20 years. Would it ever occur to you to say to me “Why can’t you clean and jerk that 32kg kettlebell?” Maybe yes but more likely no. But we feel under pressure from others (usually via social media from those who make assumptions from little information) as to why our dogs are not doing ABC after so many months or are still doing problem behaviours XYZ after an arbitrary period of time (usually ones they have come up with). Life gets in the way. Injuries, other commitments on your time, other interests. When you are working on a project with your dog, whether problem behaviours, trick training, competition etc, the progress is against where you were yesterday or last week, where your own head is and how your own skills are developing, not in relation to anyone else. I tell my clients that progress is not linear and a few are quick to mention it in comments back to me which I am thank ful for. It is ok and sometimes necessary to regress. Last week at the gym, by back was stiff so we dialled it back and did some movement exercised and stretching. Is this regression or is this taking the break my body needs? That break allowed me to hit a PB today. If it’s not going well with your dog, take your foot off the pedal and do  something else with your dog and try again after you regroup (yes, Linda, I know!). Again, progress is not linear.

Keeping this in mind witll keep us sane and focused (at least that is the plan)

Logan – part 19 – What is Progress?

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I’m just back in from an 80 minute walk with him. When I go out on long walks in the evening, it gives me time to watch him and mull over ideas in my mind about where we are going next, where we are now and formulate thoughts about what to share with you.

I am going to publish this both as part of Logan’s blog and as one of mt GDT blogs to please forgive the repetition.

I had a PT today with my rehab coach, Scott. We were talking about what progress is and how we measure it. Last year, my back was in such a state that I couldn’t properly lift a 12kg kettlebell. With Scott’s help and tuition, today I cleaned the 32kg kettlebell for 3 reps left and 3 reps right for 2 sets. A personal best which I am delighted with. Around 10 months of work, one session a week with lots of stretching in between. Could I have progressed more quickly with another session a week? Yes, possibly. During one of the reps, my technique was a little off and I didn’t rack the bell on my chest well enough and had to adjust a moving 32kg (70lb) weight without dropping it or injuring myself. Scott’s observation was that the recovery from the failed rep shows how far I have come and how much I am getting stronger.

I’ll get to how this applies to dog training in a moment but I find my clients learn well from human analogies. My sport is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I have been training for seven and a half years and have been a blue belt for 6 years. I am on the cusp of being promoted to purple belt. There have been times in the last six years where I have come in from the gym feeling dejected and disheartened that I am not improving as quickly as I want to. My Coach, Ricky reminds us that it’s a personal journey and that the comparison is only with ourselves. This is hard as the ego kicks in and it takes intestinal fortitude to keep coming in and getting smashed by a 25 year old monster who has only been training for 5 minutes.

This evening on our walk we had a mixed bag. Loads of really lovely connected walking on a loose lead, less reactivity to the dogs we encoutered. When I say less, I mean that; less. Not none. I measure our progress in many ways. Out of the hour, how much time does he spend pulling on the lead versus engaging with me or walking with me? How readily can he take food reinforcement from me? (I talked about this in the last blog). When he reacts to a dog, how many barks, how long does the barking last for, how intense is the bark, can he take food during it, how quickly does he recover and go bark to his baseline behaviour? If he reacts to one dog will he do that same to the next? Does he react to everything which previously upset him or only some of those things? This is the big one; when he is stressed what will he do now? Tonight we saw a few dogs which upset him a little. He was then able to calm down relatively quickly and a few minutes later was walked past several traffic cones. Result! If that had happened a few months ago the traffic cones wouldn’t have been safe.

I have been lifting weight on and off for 20 years. Would it ever occur to you to say to me “Why can’t you clean and jerk that 32kg kettlebell?” Maybe yes but more likely no. But we feel under pressure from others (usually via social media from those who make assumptions from little information) as to why our dogs are not doing ABC after so many months or are still doing problem behaviours XYZ after an arbitrary period of time (usually ones they have come up with). Life gets in the way. Injuries, other commitments on your time, other interests. When you are working on a project with your dog, whether problem behaviours, trick training, competition etc, the progress is against where you were yesterday or last week, where your own head is and how your own skills are developing, not in relation to anyone else. I tell my clients that progress is not linear and a few are quick to mention it in comments back to me which I am thank ful for. It is ok and sometimes necessary to regress. Last week at the gym, by back was stiff so we dialled it back and did some movement exercised and stretching. Is this regression or is this taking the break my body needs? That break allowed me to hit a PB today. If it’s not going well with your dog, take your foot off the pedal and do  something else with your dog and try again after you regroup (yes, Linda, I know!). Again, progress is not linear.

Keeping this in mind will keep us sane and focused (at least that is the plan).

Logan – Part 18 – some progress

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His high arousal levels are the root cause of most of the training issues we have. We work on this together, if not daily, then 5 times a week. Controlled play, asking him to come back down, playing again, changing reinforcers are the name of the game.

Since we attended Craig Ogilvie’s workshop on Interactive Play a few weeks ago, I now have a structure to work within. I don’t work rigidly within it, but use the principles as a basis for these sessions. We are just back in from a session. A rare hot, late summer afternoon here, means I have to watch how hot he gets as when he gets too hot, he can become over aroused more quickly and take longer to calm down.

One of the things Craig showed us during the workshop was to stop play after a period (with him after 40-60s), take him by the collar and offer a high value piece of food. I then have to pet and stroke him, and when he calms down, the game can start again. This works on a number of levels. The taking of the collar becomes a cue for him to calm down. Whether he takes or refuses the food (he won’t take food if too aroused) indicates his arousal level. Once he offers calmer behaviour (less panting, more attention to me) the continuation of the game acts to reinforce these behaviours. The collar touch cue can then be used in time on other locations and situations to ask him to calm down. This has already started to transfer.

How I deliver food is also interesting (at least I think so). Tossing and catching the food is more of a game so he will more readily do that. Taking food from my hand is next. I can then drop or toss food on to the ground and ask him to search for it. This one takes more calmess as he has to engage a different part of his brain to concentrate on the searching. All of these allow me to gauge where his head is.

I kept the session reasonably short today. I also added in throwing the Kongs for him to chase and search for. We did about six throws. This is a highly arousing activity for him and one which he has found difficult to come down from in the past. After the toy throwing, I put the Kongs on the other side of the fence where he could see them but not reach them. I offered him a drink of water which he took and then walked away from him. He looked at the Kongs, nice calm behaviour, just looking. When he looked away from them and towards me, I marked this and then offered another game of tug. A few times he raced towards me and played. I then asked for an “out”. This was reinforced with a variety of options. More play with me, some food and then play, going back to look at the Kongs (no access to them) or going to his water bowl.  The result was more interaction with me, letting him choose the reinforcers. I will try to get some video of this over the weekend.

At the end of the session, I put all toys away in the bag, spent some time walking around the area with him and then brought him home. He is now lying at my feet sleeping. Six months ago he would have worked himself up sufficiently that it would have taken him and hour to switch off when he came home. A work in progress but some good results today.

 

 

 

Shiba Samwell’s Story Part 2 – The Introductions

bruce

I was starting to get excited now, but I was also nervous about how the introductions would go.

We agreed to meet at a park in Glasgow; a neutral territory. I often talk to clients about adopting confident posture when handling their dogs, so I’m well aware of how that should look. But I can also empathise with them as it’s easier said than done! So this was my time to practice as I preach.

I entered the park and walked along the path, Oshi and Yuna by my side on their long lines. They were very relaxed, taking in the new environment. It was our first time here so lots for them to see, hear, sniff and for Yuna to roll in!

We turned a corner and there he was…this beautiful white Shiba. I was smitten immediately. I kept my distance and slowly made my way towards him, allowing Oshi and Yuna to decide if/when/how they wanted to interact.

I could feel myself tense up a little at this point and Jessie, also a trainer, noticed this immediately. “Drop the leads”, she said. I hesitated. This is not common practice or something I would recommend unless you are very fluent in reading dog body language and have a wealth of knowledge and experience in dog behaviour.

I made a calculated decision to drop the leads based on the information available to me from observing all three dogs. I was also ready to intervene if necessary.

Yuna said a quick, polite hello and decided to go about her own business and leave the boys to talk.

The boys approached each other a little more cautiously. In proper textbook dog-dog interaction fashion, they approached each other in an arc shape and subtly sniffed each others’ rear. They then circled around for a face to face sniff. I won’t lie, my heart was in my mouth by this point, even though the interaction was lovey so far.

Within around 10 seconds, Oshi bowed and his high-set, sickle tail slowly began to wag. This is his “chase me, mate” display. I started to breathe again and the boys went off for a game of chase. I was thrilled.

The following hour and a half was filled with lots of lovely interactions between all three dogs, but particularly between Oshi and Samwell. The play was very balanced with lots of role reversal and frequent breaks. It was beautiful to watch and very “textbook”.

So, it was decided: Samwell would become a Whitelaw!

Next time…bringing Samwell home.

A Question of Ethics

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A question of ethics.

He’s cold. It’s 18 degrees (64F). Who gets decide whether he’s cold or not? Him or me?

I just took him for a bath with hot soapy water. He had been out playing in the fields and ran through a manure pile so I took him for a bath at The Wizard of Paws. I had a couple of errands to do so he was in the car for an hour or so afterwards.

When we got home, he lay up on my bed and curled into a ball. I felt his ears and they were cold. His hair is so short and he has so little fat that he gets cold quickly so I wrapped him up in his blanket and let him sleep.

If he gets to decide if he’s cold or not, why do I get to decide what is painful or unpleasant in his training. If the consquences of his actions are painful or unpleasant and he either wants to avoid or escape that consequence, who am I to say it is not unpleasant.

If it’s right that I supply the blanket when he’s cold, is it not right that I do what I can to make his training more comfortable too?

Logan – part 17 – one more round

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As some of you may know, I do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as my sport (which is why my forearms are as awesomely powerful as they are!) (Joke! before the haters have a heart attack). We spar for the last 30 minutes of the class and we usually do 5 five minute rounds. I am always looking for more. “One more round!” is the battle cry. It’s not always a good idea. One more round when you are dog tired can lead to injury. Self knowledge is crucial. The less experienced players become more aroused, tempers can get frayed and people get hurt.

This brings me on to tonight’s arousal control session with Logan. His ability to control his arousal levels is the single biggest things which will change his life for the better. My suspicion is that beofre he came here there was plenty of going up and not enough coming down. When he is over aroused, he will pull on the lead like a train. He won’t let go of toys readily, moves frantically, snatches the toys from your hands and can’t listen when you ask him to do things. When he is really over aroused, it takes him an age to calm down.

Having said that, with the advice from several excellent trainers I can talk to about him, we are making huge in roads.

This evening, we played tug under control. It was the best he’d been. Loads of beautiful behaviours, letting go of the tug immediately when asked, accepting food and affection during the session, lowering his arousal levels quickly so we could engage in another round.

We did about 4 rounds of this over about 20 minutes. Tug-let go-move with me-tug-let go-accept food and petting and so on. All was well. Until I got a bit greedy and asked for one more round. Up he went. We did manage to get back to the house without (major) mishap so all good. I’ll stop at four rounds for the forseeable. Operant conditioning in action!