Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Training Tuesday: Real Retrieves!

I haven't worked with Maisy much in the last two weeks. I had a migraine that lasted over a week, and on top of that, the crazy train very suddenly arrived at my job. Seriously- it's been a tough two weeks. So much so that I'm not quite ready to show you where we're at with our heeling. In fact, I had just been planning to skip Training Tuesday entirely. Then this happened out of the blue:

My dog is so smart, you guys.

Okay, this is obviously far from a perfect training session. I make a number of mistakes, and there are definitely things to work on, but check out how awesome she is! She's going out, picking up a dumbbell, coming back, and offering a sit at front!

Here are the things I see in the video:

At :22, Maisy dropped the dumbbell when I reached for it. When I make her pick it up, she resets the sit and ends up all kinds of crooked. I decided to reward it anyway, because this is literally only the fourth time she's offered a sit with the dumbbell. (She did two reps before this video was taken; I was so blown away by it that I made The Husband record the rest of the session. PS- Big shout out to The Husband for tearing himself away from his computer game to do this for me. I love you, honey!)

She drops the dumbbell again at :40 when I ask her to sit. I'm not quite sure why- it doesn't look like I'm reaching for it, but maybe I shifted my weight? Or maybe she was just confused about what I wanted. This is a very new behavior after all.

At :44, I dropped a treat. The resulting 15 seconds of food seeking really slows us down. To make matters worse, I do the exact same thing again at 1:18. I need to put the treats in a pocket or on a nearby shelf instead of holding them in my hand. It's a rookie clicker mistake, and not only do my poor treat handling/delivery skills cause a significant distraction, but they also cause Maisy to start fronting off-center. You can't really tell because of the angle of this video, but she was fronting to the hand holding the cookies. Sigh. I know better.

Maisy drops the dumbbell again at 1:50. Initially, I thought she was doing it in response to me saying “nice”- you can hear me saying that to her in the video. My reasoning for this was that Maisy used to react to praise as if it was a marker signal, like the clicker. (It doesn't help that the word “nice” sounds somewhat like the verbal marker I use with her- “yes.”) I actually had to work pretty hard to help her understand that praise is just praise, and not a predictor of a food treat.

However, upon reviewing the video, I really think that she dropped the dumbbell because I reached for it. I don't think she understands that she's supposed to hold it until my hands are actually on it. Then again, that's some pretty fuzzy criteria, so I need to help provide her with some clarity by introducing a cue like “give” to indicate when she should let go of it, and when she shouldn't

The final two reps- at 2:09 and 2:19- are absolutely beautiful. She's centered and straight. The last one is even fairly close to me! None of her fronts are terrible, but she could definitely be closer overall.

All in all, I'm very happy with this training session. While there are definitely some things to work on, things are coming together nicely- and she even seems to be enjoying it! I hope that she'll continue to see this as a fun game that we play together. I know I do!

More experienced trainers- I'd love to hear your take on this video. Do you agree with my assessments? Do you have any advice? I'm shamelessly looking for suggestions!


Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

Awesome! It took my dogs forever to learn how to sit with the db in the mouth. Vito was absolutely horrible. Also I like that you got better as you progressed from that first attempt :)

Remember that the click ends the behavior so if you're working on the front you could mark before you grab for it and so what if she drops it. You can work on the hold while you reach by just giving her the db while she's sitting already and then rereaching.

Other advice:

- Stop bending over her as she's coming in!! Lots of pressure.
- Treat at your knees so she has to come in closer to get the treat. Make her move to it.
- When she drops it and re picks it up, move backwards again so she has to chase you. You could randomly do that anyway on the return to make it more fun.
- Make sure she's facing the direction you're throwing. So reset her, or throw the other direction, or whatever to try and bring out more of the prey drive. The 2 times she completely blew it off she wasn't chasing it at all as you played with it and had her back completely turned.

Crystal Thompson said...

Thanks, Laura! I *knew* you'd be all over this post. :)

I think I need to work on the "give" aspect separately from the whole picture for a bit to clear that up, and then put it back together again.

I appreciate the tips about bending over- that probably IS pushing her out- and about treat placement (which I know, but you know, fail to do, sigh).

I like the idea of running away, and I was planning on doing that anyway. Would you recommend turning my back and running, or taking quick steps backwards and away?

Also- can't believe I missed the "make sure she sees the dumbbell when you throw it" problem. That is so obvious!

I am so excited though! My dog is so amazing- look how awesome she does despite all of my sloppy training!

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

Well it's easy to critique when it's not your own dog and handling!

I would just run backwards as it's easier to do in less space but I guess it doesn't matter. Vito gets really excited when I toss it one direction and then just take off sprinting the other direction, facing him and standing still as starts to catch up. It's helping to get his fronts closer, I like them really close, but all the excitement is hurting straightness a bit.

Crystal Thompson said...

Hahaha that's so true. And actually, I thought I did a decent job critiquing my video today. I am always surprised by how helpful it is to tape/watch training sessions.

I really want to get some ball throws in there for rewards too- I'd like a bit more energy and animation, and I think that will bring it out- but she's very funny about switching between food rewards and play rewards. I guess I'll just keep working at it. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen, but at least we're having fun!

I'll play around with this some more. Your suggestions were super helpful, thank you!

Jen said...

Oh, what a great video! And she's obviously having a blast (look at that tail!) clicker training is so great and fun, and it's lovely to watch them really getting it.

Ci Da said...

I've also found handling treats really got in the way when drilling retrieves. I keep rewards in a cup off to the side and use very liberal excitement/praise to bridge between the behaviour and food reward.

I've worked really hard on building enthusiasm for the game. I do a lot of 1-2-3 games to get Cohen quivering with excitement before I send her off for her dumbbell. Also consider a collar grab or otherwise engaging the opposition reflex for the game.

I've also used it for hide and seek. Our less formal games involve me asking for a sit/stay then I'll go into another room to hide the object (in easy places at first). I then release and reward with tug/play/praise/excitement/awesome food when she finds it. It's really built value for the game.

Break the release down into tiny bits by reaching for the dumbbell with one hand then taking it away. Reward if successful, then try reaching further/with two hands/whatever. I tend to ask Cohen to continue holding it more often than I ask her to drop it to really cement that behaviour. The drop is easy!

Crystal Thompson said...

Thanks, Ci Da! Now that you mention the hiding games, I remember Denise Fenzi talking about them at the seminar. (She talked about the opposition reflex thing too, but I'm gonna start with the hiding games. I'm still working on helping Maisy be comfortable with all that touch!)

Anonymous said...

Crystal, when you are ready to trial with Maisy, will you let me know so I can come and watch? She's really doing fabulous. Those last two really were great in the video!


Crystal Thompson said...

Nicky- December 26th. We're going to a very small CDSP trial, and I'm super excited about it. I'll give you all the details as it gets closer.

Joanna said...

The only thing I have to add was that she perked up on the final retrieve, when you had jackpotted the last one. Obviously you can't jackpot all the time or it loses its value, but it's good to note it.

She's looking great, though. I love clicker training the retrieve. It's just so satisfying to watch the whole chain happen. :)

Shannon said...

Very nice! I'm not very experienced at this, but I think you're right on with rewarding the not-so-perfect sits at first. When you're raising one criteria, the other ones might fall a bit, right? I'm working with a dog who has no natural retrieve or toy drive at all, so with her I reward any enthusiasm for the dumbbell, imprecise as it may be. Baby steps...Maisy's fetch looks pretty good to us!