Friday, May 30, 2008

Busy Busy

I had family visit last weekend, so between preparing for that and then recovering afterward, I haven't done much training. There certainly wasn't time to work on loose leash walking, but I did work in some clicker training during feeding time.

It just takes a few minutes per dog to use part of a meal as rewards for clicker training. It adds up pretty quickly, especially if you do it every day.

I've been working on the down with all of the dogs. With Lily, I had already captured the behavior previously (taking her into a small room, letting her get bored, and clicking any time she lay down). It's now one of the behaviors she tries when trying to figure out what will get a click. Now I'm working on attaching the cue "down" to the behavior.

Since Netta hadn't already learned that lying down was a behavior that could get her a click, I used luring to teach it to her. I held a treat over her head until she sat, and then moved it towards the ground to encourage her to lie down. Well, that's how it's supposed to work, but I've never had a dog actually lie down on the first try. Instead, I used shaping in addition to luring. So, at first, all she had to do was tilt her head down a bit when the treat went by, and I clicked her for it. I gradually required more and more movement, until finally she was lying down every time I put my hand on the ground. I got this far in a single lesson that was less than five minutes long. Now I'm working on fading the hand signal, with the eventual goal that she'll lie down with just a small gesture. After that, I'll add the verbal cue.

One really nice result of this training is that when I go out to visit Netta, often she will lie down instead of jumping all over me. I make sure to always give her extra attention if she sits or lies down, and ignore her if she jumps up.

Bibb is less food motivated than the girls, but he loves petting even more than Netta, if that's possible. So he gets pets as well as food as a reward. I did the luring and shaping the down with him, too, although in his case it only took a couple of repetitions before he was throwing himself to the ground before I could even start to lure. He's a very quick study, and the easiest dog I've ever worked with.

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