Saturday, February 13, 2010

new mindset

After a comment left by Diana last Saturday, a passing comment from a league member, and re-reading Control Unleashed, I've been doing a lot of thinking. If I can train Oreo to put a ball in a basket ball hoop, cross both his paws, and shut a door, then I can train him to ignore people in the ring....right? Oreo literally cries and whines, staring at the clicker sitting on the coffee table, because he wants to do tricks so bad. Why? The rate of reinforcement is ridiculous. He gets treats probably every 20 seconds when we're doing a trick session. If I don't give him a treat for one trick, he'll start giving me his entire repetoire until he gets rewarded. This dog loves food.

As a result, I went to class today with a new mindset. Reward more often, especially for Oreo dealing with distractions/stressors. I also want to start incorporating more trial stressors, into our class sessions. Today, I asked my teacher to "play judge".

My teacher set up a difficult sequence today. Lots of serpentines. The course was very difficult to remember.

Well, the fact that a person was in the ring, threw Oreo off immediately. At least I think it did. After the first jump, instead of sepentining, he went off course into the green tunnel. I'm beginning to see a pattern where when he gets nervous, he dives into tunnels. Weird, because when I tell him to go in a tunnel, he certainly doesn't dive in!

I was unable to greet him on the exit, since I wasn't planning on being anywhere near the tunnel.

I gave him a "good tunnel", and tried to get him back on track. He glanced toward the crowd, saw the "judge", and then focused on the indicated jump...click/treated right in front of the judge. Around the serpentine loop again. Same scenario...click/treat.

Once we began heading away from the people/judge he picked up speed, then we about face over the A-Frame. He stopped at the top to look out the window. Was he looking for the baby sheep?

Once he focused and started his descent....click/treat. Jumped past judge...click/treat. Finally, we got away from the judge to weave, tunnel, jump, tunnel, tire, and even though we were heading toward the people he was really going fast. I dared to have him teeter without putting myself between him & the crowd. He looked at the crowd. Looked back at teeter...click/treat.

Wow. That was a lot of work, and it was only our first run. I'm used to being done with our class runs in 30 seconds.

We did about the same our second go round, with Oreo still taking the off course tunnel at the beginning. However, he didn't stop on top of the A-Frame, and I did end the sequence with me on the opposite side of the teeter. He took the opportunity to look the other way toward the "judge"....he looked back toward the bottom of the teeter....click/treat.

For my final run, my teacher stayed out of the ring, and let us run for the handling aspect. Oreo was able to avoid the off course tunnel, but skipped some jumps. It may have been more my handling than him. I was still having trouble remembering where to go. Overall though, he did much better on his last run.

Afterward, Oreo took treats from my teacher. This is the first time he has ever taken food from her. I guess that was the biggest accomplishment of the day.

Next time, I think our first run will just be for fun. Then, we will add the "judge". I may have her roll our food tube toward us, and reward Oreo from that. He loves the food tube.

If anyone has any suggestions, I'm listening.

5 comments:

Kathy said...

Are you doing the Look at that game where you click/treat when he is looking at the scary people?

I have done it with sooo many dogs-and it is the one thing after the clicker I consider my most valuable training tool. Breeze used to be very scared of people and nervous, when I took her to the first control unleashed seminar I went to I was amazed at how scared she really was, in that environment I saw it a lot more, but just the look at that game has helped so much. Of course Look at that is from Controlled Unleashed, I flow in and out of that game when ever I am with my dogs, we might be doing one thing and I notice them really nervous or overstimulated by something and we just jump right into Look at that, then when they relax we just switch back to the origional training or game, now it is automatic nature to me, that is the best tool I have ever used.

One thing with Oreo if you are worried about the amount of treats I would maybe be very selective and use the treats for what you are working on -conditioning him to the people in the ring, maybe not do full sequences, lots shorter things, maybe less so you are not using as many treats-and can set up the exact scenerio you want for teaching him to not worry about the people and saving treat training for the issue that sounds biggest to you right now-maybe even doing some privates so you work on agility and handling seperately so you and Oreo can just concentrate on the agility and then use the class time and the other handlers-ask them to play judge when he gets the hang of it with your instructor-to work on the relaxing around ring crew issue. It is HARD to work on handling and think about what you want to do and to really pay attention if you are working on something like the people in the ring, or at least it is hard for me, so maybe a few privates to seperate out the two issue would be a cool thing.

Ricky the Sheltie said...

Gosh, I like Kathy's comment - this blogging stuff is just so awesome!So many people out there with so much knowledge that years ago we would never have come in contact with them and now we can get so much advice right in our own homes - do you know what I mean? It's just terrific to have so much support and so many people who are working on the same stuff or who have already done the same stuff. Seriously this is just all great!!

That being said, I don't have any advice (LOL!) but think you are on the right track with the rate of reinforcement and the clicking and treating etc. I will do anything for food too and I hope mom is really listening and paying attention to what you are doing with Oreo! :)

Sara said...

Kathy,
Yes, we are playing "look at that" before he goes in the ring.

My teacher would be fine with me breaking the course into pieces, are just doing an easy part of the course during class, so I could focus on stress issues. That's a great idea. In fact, when I was looking at the course, I saw a nice jump/tunnel loop we could have done. Maybe that would have been a good start.

Lian said...

Hi Sara,

Sorry I have missed so many of your posts and now trying to catch up.

With Oreo's unsettled in the ring with people around. I would work from the very basic again. You don't really want him to associate agility with "slow", "nervous", "look around at the crowd". I will take him off from any trials for a little while, maybe just two weeks but to work with this issue. You can take him to trial and get into the crowd with him, reward or play with him and let him get used to people around him. You want him to be HAPPY with so many people around, the noisy the better. If he would not play, you can ask him to do some very basic trick and click & treat him. Try to do this in different places, in the town, street, park, anywhere that you have lots of people walking about (distractions). Do not ask him to perform a difficult trick, just the easy one. Build that up. You can do a very short session like not more than 3 minutes each time but on a regular basis.

When he is happy, you can get other people to give him the treat. You don't want him to back off from people.

Hope this help.

Sara said...

Thanks Lian. We're not trialing until April. Although we do have a league match in a couple weeks, where I can use food in the ring.

I will try & bring him out/about, although with the weather so cold, it is hard to find people! LOL. Everyone stays inside. That's why I thought I'd try and expose him at school, but I can see why it could be a bad idea, as he may associate the fear with the agility itself.