eileen: i’ve made a check-off sheet and am going through and testing summer through the early behaviors in the levels so i know what level she is already at and where to start. here is a movie i made back in 2010 of my then new dog zani sitting on cue in the 15 different situations that sue suggested in the “old” training levels, level 1. there are plenty of warts in this training including consistently late clicks, but the cool thing is that even so, zani could and did learn to sit on cue! that’s why when testing behaviors, sue specifies to do it “out of the blue.” meaning outside the context of a training session and without having recently worked on or asked for the behavior. for example, you want to train your dog not to crowd up to the back door and rush out when you open it. for instance, you are teaching your dog to get on a mat and lie down. i have a fairly embarrassing post and video where i was trying to test my dog’s knowledge of the difference between her “crate” and “mat” cue. the dog is trying to take in this noisy, chaotic environment full of other people and dogs. this is the very first time i had used a verbal cue for “down.” i had already gotten predictable and repeated downs by arranging the environment that way. i checked the video of puppy clara i linked to in #7 above, and i delivered a treat about every 5 seconds in that one as well. i have some pretty cute footage of clara trying desperately to keep her distance from a treat in my post attack of the zen field. the reason was that i had gotten into a habit of using higher value treats for training first summer, then zani, in agility and other performance work. it turns out that those couple of years using high value treats got zani and summer addicted to the training game permanently. however, you will see me adding a second or two of duration now and then in the movie just to keep things mixed up. we have varied the height a little but she doesn’t know yet that it is ok to get up on her hind legs to reach the target.
i have read many times, and even passed on to others, the recommendation to let dogs work for part of their kibble. a hard dog to motivate, and has some behavioral issues that make lots of things extra hard for her. (for instance, when summer and i went to the rally obedience trial last week i had not a kibble on me. also, i have already written about the research that shows that mixing reinforcement and punishment is actually detrimental to learning. but what i love about the video is that it shows a clicker-savvy dog learning from the click and from the absence of the click what pays off. and in the meantime, remind myself that even with errors on my part, just marking what is right, to the best of my ability, will work. the levels provide a method of learning to communicate with your dog and teach her concepts, in the guise of being a handbook of training behaviors. well, my feral dog clara will probably not be in the proximity of children enough times in her whole life to train a default down, so that one is out. one of the criteria is that it has to be on the concrete floor; not on the steps. she looks at me before i open the door, and reorients and looks at me again after we go through. i got into the habit of doing the plate thing for that behavior and not many others. when i waited for eye contact before throwing, she could do it a couple of times, but it was spotty, and her enthusiasm for the trick went down. to answer a reader’s question: i should have mentioned this the first time. as i show in the movie, she can now take a relaxed position in her crate, even when another dog is doing some active training right next to her. , leave a comment and i’ll link to you here.
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