I really am still here, though! We’ve just been busy at work.
Lizzie has been spending a lot of time locked up, and she’s BORED. So we’ve been doing some trick training. She’s learned ‘spin’ (and ‘rinse!’ which means to spin the other direction. :P), and we’re working on wave and roll over.
I posted over on Dogstar Academy about what I *don’t* like about clicker training, so I guess now it’s time to rave about what I *do* like. I like how it engages dogs, especially dogs who get bored with a lot of repetition. And I think it’s a really, really powerful tool for behavior modification, especially when it comes to conditioning. There’s some research (I don’t have a citation but I will try and figure out where I read this) that suggests that the click- as a short, sharp noise- is just the type that is easy to condition a critter- human or canine-‘s neurological response to, so that you can actually CREATE a positive feeling (increased neurotransmitter production) to that sound- an emotional response, not just a learned ‘food’s on the way’ reaction. (I would see if it worked in people, but alas, I am not food motivated, nor particularly toy driven, so I would be very hard to clicker train.)
I love how shaping games make my dogs think. Not all dogs like freeshaping- Mal doesn’t care for it. Kaylee hasn’t figured it out yet. But Wings ADORED it and Lizzie thinks it’s a pretty cool game, too- you can just about hear the little wheels turning in her head.
Lizzie is in season, as of yesterday. She’s 6 months and 4 weeks old. (Why is it the dogs you want to spay after their first season wait FOREVER to come in, and the ones you plan to keep intact seem to plan things so they can have the maximum number of seasons possible?) So no park, no class, and no walks on our main walking trail till the end of May. Oh well- we may be able to arrange a couple of playsessions with a friend and her (female) Eskie pup, and she can still play (some) with Indy, at least till she is further in (Indy sired a litter in 2004 and unlike Mal, KNOWS what that enticing smell is.) She was supposed to have a (leashed) playdate this afternoon with J’s eskie puppy and a corgi friend Biscuit (male, but only 3 months old)- but between the icky weather and her being in season, I’m not sure we’re going to manage it.
I was planning to take Mal to an obedience match today, but he hasn’t eaten well since Friday and is turning down cheese even here at home, which is his lowest-distraction environment (usually). So I’m going to wait and see- Novice isn’t till noon, and we can go and just do a PreNovice run (no heel free, SFE onleash.)
I’ve created a new blog, Dogstar Academy, for non-spitz and general dog content, so this will be the last update on Mal.
Tonight was Lizzie’s first agility class at Paws for Applause and we had a BLAST. Because of the holidays, this wasn’t a normal class, but I think we’re really going to enjoy training out there. We started class with some heeling (on leash- beginners is entirely on-leash although you drop the leash for some obstacles, etc) and then did a sequencing game.
There were sequences of 2-4 items, and there was everything on the course except for an a-frame, although at lower levels, and some sequences had parallel items where you could take whatever version your dog was comfortable with (for example, there was a baby teeter about 4″ of the ground, a bigger teeter about 8″ off the ground, and a 1′ one and you could take any of them for the same amount of points). You did the sequence, and if you did it correctly, you grabbed a package off the ground by one of the obstacles, ran it back to the pause table, put your dog on the table in a sit or down (bginner 1-2 did sits, beginner 3-4 did downs) and they had to stay while you turned around and put the present under the table and an ornament on the tree. Food/luring and clicking is allowed/encouraged. It’s a training game. You had three minutes to do as many sequences as you could and couldn’t repeat sequences without having completed all of them.
Lizzie hasn’t had any real formal training beyond the stuff we played with last week, so two of the otherwise easy sequences were out for us because they had long tunnels in an S-curve (which I knew she wouldn’t go all the way through) and another two had weaves, and I didn’t want to even THINK about luring her into weaves. There was one with a baby dogwalk and then a closed chute that we thought about but decided not to take because I didn’t think she’d do the chute. We successfully completed all three of the sequences we attempted though without a single error! The first sequence was a teeter, a jump, a short tunnel, and another jump; the second was just four straight jumps; and the last was a pinwheel of 3 jumps. I was SO proud of her! 🙂
She did a really good job of ignoring her playgroup boyfriend, Monarch the papillon and seemed to really have a blast. I can’t wait till nxt week!
Met tonight with Bonnie and was very impressed with her facility, and she was very complimentary about Lizzie. We did a bunch of different stuff- began working on a send-away to a target, calling the dog to ‘heel’ positions to the left and right side of me back from the target, a tiny jump (2″!), and a short tunnel. I was most impressed by Bonnie’s great job of ‘clicking’ people- she was EXCELLENT about telling me when I’d gotten something right. I’m a klutz- I have trouble juggling everything I need to in order to clicker train, and I’ve got a really bad habit of bending from the waist to deliver a treat to a short dog- Bonnie got me working to bend my knees instead.
Lizzie seemed to really enjoy it- she was active and engaged the entire time, and Bonnie did a great job of keeping things moving along so that we didn’t spend too long on any one thing. Our first class is on Thursday and I’m really looking forward to it. Lizzie’s papillon boyfriend Monarch is in that class, and Bonnie is getting a BC pup of her own in a few weeks who will, I think, also be in there.