Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Scent Articles...

Over the last couple of days Teller has had a major break-through with scent articles - and I'm kicking myself for not trying this sooner! When Murphy was learning articles I shaped the whole thing - clicked when he got to (or hovered over) the correct article. I had some moderate success with that method - but never had to really proof it for the ring.

I've tried a few things with Teller - cheese on the articles (Terri Arnold's method) and some of Bobbie Anderson's methods. I wasn't liking any of them honestly - they are great methods, but they weren't clicking for me. Someone suggested integrating the cheese with my scent - as in rubbing the cheese into my hand and then rubbing the articles with my cheesey hand. I didn't like this idea for a few reasons - first it was messy, second it was messy and Teller was looking for the visual orange cheese on the article and not using his nose. I was considering going to the tie-down method - but I wasn't sure how I wanted to handle that - is the tie on the article as much of a visual hint as the cheese? The answer I received for that question was that you can use the ties on the scented article too - but you just don't tie it...but...if the correction for the wrong article is to get a "check" when the dog picked up the article, then the visual tie-down is ultimately going to lead the dog to believe that he's chosen incorrectly - yes you train through that, but there's got to be a better way.

This is where Murphy comes back into the process. Murphy is my easy dog - he doesn't need a lot of mental or physical stimulation - he doesn't HAVE to work every day, he doesn't care if an entire day goes by without retrieving a tennis ball or a frisbee. Neither of my dogs have ever been counter surfers or trash pickers - except for Murphy - but ONLY when there's butter or a butter wrapper within his reach...One day a couple of weeks ago I made toast for breakfast and as I'm buttering my bread both boys are sitting next to me - pointing the stovetop (where the butter was). Too bad they aren't pointers huh? So I had a lightbulb moment! BUTTER!

Fast forward to the articles. Instead of cheese which was giving me moderate success (but not scenting success), I switched to butter - just a little rub of butter on my palm and then on the article. At first Teller wanted to lick the correct article - but I was able to fix that by giving him a second command: Find IT! and when he found it, BRING IT! A few reps of that and now it's back to FIND IT! The brilliant thing is that Teller is using his nose on the pile. He's very reliably going to each article, checking each one and grabbing the correct article and bringing it to hand (I'm not working the front and hold yet). I've been able to reduce the amount of scent (and thus butter) that I'm putting on the articles - I'll post more as we make further progress...Of course we haven't proofed the articles yet - but we're getting there!

Murphy has also been re-training articles and is NUTS about the butter scent - in fact breaking his wait to run (GALLOP) to the article pile - it's pretty funny actually. I love it when Murphy really likes working - at this point I'm using the same article set for both boys and not rescenting the article I used with Teller (Teller works articles first and then Murphy) - so at that point the butter has pretty much been worn off - but while Teller works for almost any reinforcement, Murphy is doing 2 retrieves off the full pile and getting a lick of butter for the successful find :-)

And on another note, we want to wish all of our friends and blog readers a VERY Merry Christmas from the Magica Boys (Erica and Q too)!!!

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