Monday, July 25, 2011

Kipling's Training Journal: Part One

I strikes me that I really ought to keep better track of what Kipling and I are working on in this adventure of puppyhood. I'll try to publish this at least weekly going forward - with photo and video clips.

Fourteen Weeks:
Sessions are still super short and are broken into formal (planned) sessions and spontaneous (unplanned) sessions. I'm almost always walking around with a pocket full of cheerios (The Spin Doctors have nothing on me) and a toy (love THIS Cuz Dino for this purpose) and a clicker in my other pocket. I am still aiming for less than 5 minutes in duration or less in any session. The spontaneous sessions are closer to 3-5 reps and done.

Name recognition
I did a ton of name recognition when he was 9-10 weeks old in conjunction with loading the clicker. I hadn't done as much in the last two weeks or so and it was starting to show - particularly now that Kipling is growing out of the "suck up" stage.
So, lots of hide and seek, turning my back and calling him - expecting him to come around front and make eye contact, also sit in heel/right heel position and making eye contact there too. I'm really trying to do at least one 60-90 second session of this a day - sometimes in a formal session and sometimes as part of our regular routine (out for potties - "KIPLING!" {eye contact, moving towards me, etc} Click/Treat).
There's a big attention component to name recognition, I'm deliberately testing him when he's in the midst of doing something really fun like playing with Teller, in the sprinkler, drinking water, with a chewie, etc with a "Kipling!" and rewarding handsomely when he breaks away from those activities and comes to me (we're talking tugging, a piece of hot dog, loads of attention, etc.
I'm leveraging the BIG boys in some of these exercises - both of which will drop whatever they're doing for a cookie and they know cookies are available in abundant quantities right now (pocket full of cheerios and all).

Loose leash walking
Short walks up and down the street are going really well, he's hanging in heel(ish) position for 10-15 steps between reinforcement, though I'm varying reinforcement anywhere from one step to fifteen. We're changing direction a lot, paying for quick little about turns and he's working equally well on the right side as the left. Last week I had a puppy that was wanting to cross in front or behind me a lot - keeping the leash loose, but not exactly working with me. It's a stage all puppies go through and consistent placement of reinforcement has refined the expectations and he's doing well in either position.

Sit is getting more complicated for Kipling, last week we lost the sit entirely in favor of the down - which always happens at some point - it's always funny to see them start to generalize: if down means cookies, down must be better than sit, so sit=down=cookie. This is always a short setback and what it tells me is that he's learning and he's thinking. I need to reinforce that sit and down are two separate behaviors. We're adding some duration in the sit, at this point we have about 30 seconds with me 5' away and I can do a walk-around (a'la novice rally) sit-stay (though still not using the word).

Kipling came with a sit for a default behavior, which I've been working to replace with down. Down is certainly a more stable behavior for a default - and a fast down will come in very handy when it comes time for drop on recalls, table behavior, control behavior, settling ringside, etc. You probably saw with our blanket game that he's offering a lot of downs. At meal-time we have a 30-45 second partially  out of  sight down-stay while I deliver food bowls and release the dogs to eat one at a time. In the down I've also got about 15-20' of distance outside with light distractions.

Another one of those "we're gonna need this" behavior. I have some aspirations of putting Kipling into the breed ring before he starts his obedience and agility careers. Learning to stand, stack and gait is pretty high on my priority list. I'm no pro at handling and stacking, but I can get him accustomed to having his feet handled and placed, teach a bit of free-stacking and learn to hold still while "judges" go over him.

Put'cher head down
For the BIG dogs this game has a couple of names - pathetic, put yer head down and bang. When we're ringside getting ready to run Teller's Put Yer head down has turned into 'put your head down (between your paws) and frog out your back feet. This gets his belly on the colder (usually anyway) floor and it stretches him out too. During down-stays a dog with a head down isn't looking around for other options or at other dogs, it's a very stable position. I started this trick a bit on the blanket and introduced it as a solo criteria training session this evening as we were rained out of our loose-leash walk this evening.

   Down-stay and self-control before meals. I'm continuing to up the ante for Kipling around the house. First thing was "thou shalt not bark for your meals"- which I really expected to go away LONG before it did. Now the rule if the weather is nice enough to leave them outside while I prepare their bowls is "come inside and lie down next to the door, maintain that down while I walk over to get your bowl and while the BIG boys are released to eat, maintain down while I walk your bowl into the expen (his feeding station), put the bowl down, stand back up and THEN release you to your bowl". Any breaks in the down starts the process all over again...We had one morning when it took him 10 minutes to get his breakfast, but now it's pretty solid. 

I'm trying to keep life for the BIG boys as normal as possible, so if it's not nice enough outside for them yo hang out before their meal, the BIG boys wait in down or sit stays while I make breakfast, Murphy is released to his bowl, then a few seconds or a minute later Teller is released to his bowl. Kipling's criteria is to maintain radio silence during this time, stay off the side of the expen, offer a down when I pick up his bowl (from the kitchen). Continued down means I walk towards the expen with his bowl, a broken down means I walk further away (with the bowl).

  Keeping feet on the floor. One of the behaviors I wasn't so consistent about with Teller and I created a maniac. Kipling is getting MAJOR payment for feet on the floor and lots of uh-ohs for feet on me. Ditto for greeting strangers. I'm working on an offered stand for greeting friendly strangers.

Shaping games
A couple weeks ago I posted a video of Kipling doing the tippy board, this week we worked a bit of the place game. Just another silly learning to learn games.

Another shaping game. I'm still not putting him on equipment, but since he's so into playing (and bouncing on) the bulkhead in the backyard I decided to play a bit of a 2o2o shaping game with him. He 'got' it almost immediately. At the vet this week for his lepto shot Kipling was offering (and I was paying for) 2o2o on the edge of the scale next to the front desk. He's also offered 2o2o on stairs outside - which I've also paid for. All this 2o2o stuff doesn't mean anything to him yet - but I'll take that as another one of his offered behaviors!

Other Stuff
     Swimming! Kipling has turned into quite the confident little swimmer. In the last week or so he's not getting chilled to the bone as he was at 10 and 11 weeks when he'd get out of the pool SHIVERING after a couple of retrieve reps. He's confident enough in the water and a strong enough swimmer now that I'm letting him swim with the big boys. Occaisionally there's crowding at the stairs, but with a little management it's not such a big deal, the BIG boys are being pretty careful and yielding to him a bit. He's also started working some swim lap repetitions like I do with the big boys. At this point he's doing about 10 laps one way, taking a break and repeating the same the other direction. In addition to his swim retrieves I'd say he's up to about 20 minutes in the pool before he flits off to go do something else (like run around the yard chasing butterflies :-)

     Dremel. Toenails are the bane of my existence around here. Both Murphy and Teller's nails grow impossibly fast meaning I'm doing full dremel pedicures every 5-7 days so that we don't have tip-tapping on the floors (that's my metric). I was initially cutting Kipling's nails with human toenail clippers but it wasn't going as well as I liked, so I switched to dremeling with him. Every other night (or so) before bed I'm putting him upside down in my lap securing his head and taping each toenail with the dremel a couple of times. For the first couple days I just did his front feet, now I'm tapping all 18 toenails. This is serving two purposes - the daily taps are helping me get his nails back into a length and shape I'm happy with - without the stress on either of us to do more than a few taps per nail and he's rapidly figuring out that if he holds still the process is over quicker, he gets cookies for dremel taps and after toenails there's usually a party of some sort (tug, retrieve, super-awesome tasty treat, etc) - today he got a big finger-full of creamy peanut butter.

1 comment:

goldendoglover said...

Great entry, Erica! Lots of useful, practical advice.