Muffit is Better

Well good news, after a couple of days on the new meds Muffit is much better already. His breathing sounds clear, no more snuffling and no more major green nasal discharge! Yay! He is eating well, and starting to play, too. Still a bit low on energy but that will come.

I’ve started him on the clicker and he doesn’t quite understand yet, but he will soon. We’ll start with what he knows, sits and downs, and add the mat work. Tatum really liked starting with the Mat.

So the days go by, we wonder what to feel and do about Lucy, and we just plug along.

Tatum is Officially Clicker Savvy

First off, dogs like to lay their heads on keyboards, and it makes it hard to type!

So anyway I want to teach Tatum flyball the right way. And she’s not very high drive when it’s just me and her… so we are working on the small bits. I want her to have a nice swimmer’s turn.

There is a good article on training the box, which starts with very basic steps, over on Flyballdog Tag. And we need basics. Microshaping, even.

I got out the clicker and treats and I put down a white lid. Tatum knows to touch it with her nose, to run over to it and get treats, but not how to put her feet on it. So first step, get the feet on it. Well, she wasn’t moving her feet at all, so I put the white lid away and started to teach her to just move her feet.

She laid down, which was fine, and to get her to move her feet I put a treat in my hand and moved my hand far too her right. When she turned her body (lying down) to get closer to the treat, I clicked and gave her the treat. I kept moving my hand around to encourage her feet to move during the first training session.

We did this for a few minutes and then stopped.

A few hours later we tried again. I’ve been wondering how clicker savvy she is, as she’s very calm and subtle in her movements sometimes. We did the same thing.. I’d move my hand, she’d move her foot (either one, didn’t matter) and click treat.

Then I stopped moving my hand to see if she was getting it. First couple of times she just stared at my hand for a good minute, I swear. So I moved my hand again. But she was thinking about it. So I laid my hand still again, with treats in it, and she moved her foot! Click Treat! After a couple of those, she started putting her foot on my hand! Yay!

She is officially clicker savvy! I’m excited. She doesn’t offer much behavior to me.. not like Levi does, who throws himself all over the place to see what I want. But she’s a girl, she’s more posed than my goofy boys. And she’s still a bit shy when we work alone together. But to see her think and figure things out is great. I’m excited. I need to just learn to understand how she learns, and how she offers behavior, and how to shape her so we find out what we want.

And then put the behavior on cue, Only on cue, and Always on cue! Then I’ll be happy with my own training!

Oh.. so the next step is to get her to put both feet on the target, then put the target on the flyball box, and then get her up with all four feet. But that’s a while away so far. It’s gonna be great to have a flyball collie!

I just watched the AKC Invitationals… I would love to see Tatum there. Would love too! Sometimes I have too many toys hooked up to the HDTV and I need HDMI splitters too watch all I want. I want an HD DVD or a Blueray DVD… someday!

Drawbacks:
Now I have to also consider the consequences of doing this. At first, I was letting her nibble on my hand to get the treats. But she has such a soft mouth now I don’t want to reward her for being bitey when taking treats so I stopped that.

In addition I need to consider the white target. I use it for other things too, and usually it’s just a target to do a nose touch with and to get treats from. If I teach her to put two paws on it, she has the potential to do that all the time in all training environments.

So maybe I need to use something else.. when we reach that point. Maybe I need to make a special flyball target so I can still use the white lid for obedience targets and agility targets. Hrm… something to think about.

Shaping with the Clicker

One of the core training techniques with clicker training is called shaping, or free shaping. There is also micro-shaping which is amazing to watch, and the clicker expo had a presenter… Alexandra Kurland who clicks with horses. And in a nutshell, she shapes the horses to carry their bodies, with a rider, so that their heads are down and their balances is better so that they will not damage their spines.

My definition of shaping is something like this: you watch a dog, and when she does something you want, you click. So if you want to shape a turn to the left (this is in the clicker books, I think) if the dog even slightly moves her head to the left, or even looks to the left, you click and treat. The dog will then be wondering what caused that click, and will move around trying different things. This dog will need to be clicker savvy first, though, and throw out behaviors to see what gets the reward.

Eventually the dog will figure out that turning her head to the left gets a click and treat. Then you up the ante, you stop clicking the head moving to the left, and the dog will try more, and move to the left, maybe even step, and you click treat that.

That is basically what shaping is. Micro-shaping would be clicking the slightest muscle movement, or twitch, on the dog’s left side.

This can take a long time in the beginning and takes a lot of patience. In example, Tatum is not a big offerer of behavior. Lucy, Levi and Chase dance all over the place wondering what it is I want from them and will mark. Tatum isn’t that savvy yet. But I had a perch box out today, and when she would sniff the box, I would click and throw a treat on it.

What I eventually want of her is to stand on the box with her front feet, and move her back end around it. But we start very, very slow. Eventually she put one foot on the box, yay! That is what I wanted, so click and treat. I pushed her off in play to get her drive up, and she came right back, put one foot up… click treat.. she put the other foot up… click treat! We were getting there!

Tatum is not very animated, so with micro-shaping what I need to do with her is just click any movement. To get her used to offering. So if she is just standing there, and I am just sitting there waiting for her to do something, if she moves her head or nose or muscle, I click and treat, to get that movement going.

This is the beginning. You can get a dog to do a perfect heel pattern as you move along with clicker training. Amazing stuff! And I did have to see it in action to really understand it! You increase with small steps. The more clicker savvy the dog becomes, the more behaviors the dog offers, the faster it goes.

And it is amazing to watch the process. Amazing!

Wow the Clicker

The clicker expo, as I have said before, blew me away. I do look at my dog training in a whole new light, now. I don’t know if I can convey to you what I feel, as although I like to think I am fairly good at writing, sometimes getting my information across is difficult for me to do.

Plus, I have talked to a number of people now who do use a clicker to train, but seem to be in the same place I was, and the clicker is just a tool to mark behavior. Where clicker training is an entire training concept that molds and shapes a dog in an encouraging, positive way and gives the animals control over their environment, and helps us to communicate with an entirely different species in an amazing way.

The Karen Pryor Clicker Expo is an amazing way to really get the idea of clicker training. Clicker training uses a clicker as a marker for behavior, and also uses positive reinforcement to not only get the behaviors you want, but to mold and build a relationship with the animal.

One of the statements that struck me the hardest was that clicker training has been used in the exotic animal world for years and years. But some of the trainers, when they came to dog training, were told, and believed, that dogs are different. Dogs you use punishment to train. It’s the amazing, open minded people who challenged that belief and realized that no, dogs are exactly the same. And the people who are involved with police dogs, search and rescue dogs, military dogs… those that are changing the dog training world, slowly, to use clicker training, are the ones that impress me the most. Because those fields are so traditionally punitive. It needs to change. It is changing. It will change.

I could go on for pages and pages about clicker training, but I’ll keep my posts short as I go through the knowledge that I have absorbed. Amazing knowledge. And I’ll post up some links to some great sites, too.

I have been clicker trained

I am home. I am amazed. I see the world, dog world and the rest of the world, in a completely different way now.

I get clicker training now. I get it. I hope I continue to get it. I know that as my experiences are no longer sharp, that my memories fade and my motivation diminishes, but I sure hope a lot of it sticks in my brain and in my heart, and I can develop the skills to be a real authentic clicker trainer.

Clicker training is not just click and treat, marking the behavior and shaping. That is a big part of it, but it’s not all of it. Watching the speakers was amazing. Kathy Sdao and Ken Ramirez were my favorites. They were amazing speakers, very energetic and got their points across wonderfully.

There are some key points to clicker training. You shape the behavior, or capture, using the clicker. And then after the dogs knows the behavior, you put the cue to it. And then after the behavior is reliable, you go to a variable reinforcement schedule. And then, you know a well trained clicker behavior because:

The dog always performs it on cue, and
The dog ONLY performs it on cue.

I missed those points. Didn’t understand them. And now I understand them so much better.

I am tired, so this is a short post.. I’ll post more later about what I learned, and I’ll read over my notes. I need a nap!