Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Down, down, down

Avery loves combining the tug game with training (schutzhund curly!), so earlier, I decided to try my luck and ask her to down while tugging.  Looking back, that was probably dumb seeing as she only had 1.5 short sessions of successful down-ing on command, but guess who has a genius puppy?  This girl.  She let go of the tug and stared at me for a few seconds, and then promptly went into a down.  :)  That merited a reward party and I probably looked ridiculous, haha.  Equally impressive was trying it with the "stand" command, which she also did on the first try.  Good girl!  The stand isn't necessarily as hard as she didn't have to change positions to go into the stand, but seeing as we normally do it with "sit," I was impressed that she stayed standing and didn't automatically sit.

Then, tonight, I did another short clicker training session with treats, and she was fabulous.  We worked on a variety of things that she knows the basics of, including left and right finishes, turns in heel position, attention, come front from various positions, stays, and recalls.  Honestly, I could not be happier with this puppy.  We had a few attention span blips where she thought other things were more interesting momentarily than doing a right finish, but I responded to that by ignoring her and training Dolly the Toy Manchester Terrier some.  Not sure if that's correct or not, but it seemed to bring her attention back ("hey, why is she getting treats?").

One issue I notice as of right now is in her left finishes, it usually takes her 3-4 times to find the correct position.  I don't reward her for incorrect positioning (she likes to sit at a right angle to me) but I wonder if this is something I should go back to luring with and make her do it correct all the time, or just keep only rewarding her when she does it correctly on her own?

Monday, December 5, 2011

First "Blog Training" Day

I meant to wait til the end of the day to post since I'll probably do at least one more session, but I suppose I'll just edit if I want to remark about later training.  :)  Today was my first day training for blog content (lol), and I'm pretty excited to post about it so I guess the blog thing is working so far!

I'm currently reading The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller.  It has a sort of blueprint/game plan for 6 weeks of training, so I thought it would be a good way to give myself structure for at least that long without being in an obedience class.  Week one is fairly simple for us, but since today was only Avery's 2nd experience using an actual clicker (rather than a "yes!"), I think simple activities that she knows the basics of will help us transition a little.  Since they're basic commands that are necessary for many levels and types of canine competition, extra practice and finesse is only going to be a good thing.  Week 1 consists of: charging the clicker, name = attention, sit, down, puppy push-ups, stand, and the bonus game: spin/twirl.

Charging the Clicker: Done.  We did this a few days ago and it took very little time for Avery to "get it."  Clicker = awesome to her.

Name = Attention:  Done.  She's known this since 11/12 weeks and also knows a formal "watch" command, so I skipped this.  She needs work in distracting situations, however, as at the UKC show we went to, she ignored me almost completely, but as far as being indoors at home, we're done.

Sit:  Mostly done.  She knows sit based on voice alone with no lure or hand motions, but she doesn't understand sit from positions other than a stand (aka from the down).  I need to get her to generalize the "sit" to mean a position and not a movement, so sit doesn't mean "I'm standing and then I move my butt to the ground" but rather "My butt needs to be on the ground when I hear this," haha.

Down:  This was the weakest part of this week's training before starting.  She knew down from a stand (fold) and from a sit with the lure, but before today I've failed at getting her to react to the voice cue at all, in any situation.  It will still need a lot of work, but we made a major breakthrough!  I decided she wasn't thinking independently enough and was just waiting for me to lure without trying to connect anything, so I had to make her figure it out on her own.  I started over on the down and captured it rather than lured it, and within 5 minutes she was laying down from a stand or sit on voice command only.  I will need to work on this a lot more, if only because I think part of her success was just that she figured out that down was the name of the game today and may not actually understand that the word I said means down even when we're not solely working on it.  Very excited about this one!

Puppy Push-Ups:  Will be done when I finish training the above 2.  We worked on this some today, but when in the down, she needs a small lure to go back up into a sit.  I may try capturing the sit rather than luring later, too, and just wait for her to come back up after the down.

Stand:  She's also really good at this with the lure and knows to stay standing just on voice if she's already standing (otherwise she usually tries to sit when she sees treats), but I'm also going to try to capture this so that she'll get it on voice command from other positions without the lure.

Spin:  We haven't worked on this at all yet, I think we'll wait til last to do this after I get the actual obedience commands more solid.  Jade knew this one well and learned it in a day, so since Avery seems quicker about picking things up in general, I don't think it will be too difficult for her.  I'm not going to shape this because I'm lazy and I think Avery will get discouraged, so as of now I'm just planning on luring it and then phasing out a lure, which has worked well for Jade (dobe) and Cleo (chow mix) in the past.

Overall impression for today: capturing/shaping is so much better than luring, lol.  I definitely think luring has a place in training and will continue to use it, but for simple things that dogs do every day anyway, capturing is the way to go.  :)

Saturday, December 3, 2011


In order to attempt to hold myself accountable and to encourage me to keep trying new things and progressing in positive dog training, I've created this blog.  Hopefully it will not turn out abandoned like every other blog I've started, haha.

About Avery:  Avery is my (currently) 6 month old liver Curly Coated Retriever puppy.  She has been better than I could have hoped from the get-go, and has been a blast to train so far!  At this point, through puppy class, she's learned to come front, left finish into heel position, heel (no consistent attention yet, and heeling only in short amounts), a fairly dependable sit, a much less dependable down (still working on taking out the hand motions), watch me, go to crate, basic play retrieving, "crate" (from anywhere on the first floor of the house), and the potty commands.  ;)  Her AKC STAR Puppy test was a breeze and hopefully her CGC will be equally simple.  She most enjoys tug, retrieving bumpers, natural balance roll treats, and being fed.  We (I) have lofty goals for her, and would like to finish her championship and possibly grand championship in AKC and UKC (and CKC?) as well as dabble in competitive obedience, rally, tracking, dock jumping, agility, and hunt tests.  Will all of those happen?  Probably not, but I'd be happy if they did.  :)  Our current biggest challenge is having any sort of attention span, but she is young and ditzy, so hopefully it will come with time.

Avery and I visiting OSU
About Me:  I'm a 22 year old graduate of Ohio State with a degree in Zoology.  I aspire to be a zookeeper, and would like to develop my training skills both for my dogs' (and horse's... and cat's) sake as well as for my future career.  The first dog I ever trained was "Jade," my rescued Doberman and love of my life, who has since passed, and the second was my other Dobe, (now) 7 year old "Brandyn."  Both were trained using force/compulsion, and both made me think dogs and humans both hated competitive obedience.  ;)  We only showed in 4H until I quit the dog side of it after Bran continually frustrated me to tears at shows with her insecure aggression.

Several years after my 4H dog "career" ended, I chanced upon Jean Donaldson's book, The Culture Clash, and Karen Pryor's book, Don't Shoot the Dog.  Both were incredibly inspiring to me, and from then to now, I've tried to use positive techniques whenever possible (I'm still learning!).  Though Jade and I never continued formal training, our favorite game became "100 things you can do with ___" substituting a box for a milk jug, a wash cloth, or anything else lucky enough to be nearby.  Clicker games made training fun again, and seeing Jade's eyes light up at the idea of training rather than zone out was fantastic.

I am by no means a great trainer or even a good one, haha.  My biggest fault is my own lack of attention span and dedication... I tend to train reliably for a week or two and then do none at all for 2 weeks.  Avery seems to pick things up regardless, but I'd like to try to remedy this.  I also have issues with knowing when I can move forward, and rarely start training a new "trick" without being told to do it in class, so I am hoping the combination of documenting our progress and learning to train reliably will give me the confidence to move on and finesse the old stuff as I go.

I have no idea if anyone will read this, and I suppose it doesn't matter either way, but I am always open for critique, questions, etc as I am very much still learning and could very well be missing something or training something in the most difficult way possible and not even realizing, so feel free to comment on any post ever.  :P