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!

Good Training

I went to practice obedience today at the closer by training facility. My obedience instructor is sick again! I feel bad for her, she gets sick way too much. I have been wanting to get sick lately… to have a few days off to sit in bed at home. But alas, to no avail, as I keep waking up feeling pretty good. 🙂

Anyway I went with a plan and having a plan is such a good thing. I really need to work on novice obedience exercises. Including heel and the recall. I mean really, the only things in novice are, really, heeling, stand for exam, and recall. Three separate heeling patterns. And its hard, too! Heeling is not an easy thing to teach a dog. There are a lot of parts. Levi and Chase are both coming along pretty well. I have to transition off the treat on the stick, and we worked on that.

Chase is learning to watch the stick with no treat, and he did pretty good. Levi also did good looking at the stick with no treat. And Tatum, well, she is learning about stick rules, which is a good thing!

We also worked recalls and Chase did good. I put a small box in front of me so they have a nice straight tight place to get the front. And both the boys did quite well. Saturday I was wondering if Chase would ever get into the obedience ring! But I think he will, it just takes a lot of time and patience.

Maybe by the time I’m in senior living is when Chase will be ready…. LOL I hope not that long! I’m hoping by the end of summer, but it will depend on his progress, of course. I won’t put him in before he’s ready. Actually, I will probably be overcautious and not put him in until quite late!

Flyball Seminar

So.. there is a flyball seminar in Las Vegas in March. March 1, 2, 2008. I really want to go. I hear they are only about half full, so I sent my entrance fee for a working slot in today. Hopefully I’ll get one. I hope some of the other members of my club, the Thunder Paws, come too.

Instead of going to mover NYC, I’ll be going to Las Vegas.. yet again. Man, that city just calls to me all the dang time. I am going there so very often! But it’ll be fun. I really want to see how I can get a better box turn on Chase. More reliable in competition. And how to maybe speed him up a little bit. His fastest time was 4.7 seconds. And I would love to see him at 4.5 or maybe even below. I believe he is capable of it! He is a very fast boy. It’s the box turn that slows him down, I think.

The seminar is being given by Touch n Go. They keep winning the U-FLI nationals, and they have, I believe, the fastest U-FLI team. And man, they are fast. I saw them in the tournament I went to in Nevada last October.

So.. I hope I get in!

New Videos Way to Go

Making videos is fun. I have done it a number of times. As you can see from my prior post, I have lots of dog videos and agility vidoes! I even bought a video camera in order to record my agility runs, and other dog sports runs, for memories and to critique my running style.

So anyway there is a fun site called YawpBox. Not only is it a social networking site, it is also a national TV show, and a national Radio Show. The TV Show gets all their content from the social networking site. Videos, people, etc. So, after you make your video, you can uploaded it to YawpBox, and it just may end up in front of thousands, or more, of people on TV! Are you brave enough to be on TV? I’m not sure I am…

It is very entertaining to see regular every day people in their videos. Sometimes I get tired of all the perfect actresses on TV. And it’s nice to see regular people on TV instead.

I think to really understand YawpBox you have to visit their website. There are categories you can upload your video too. And you can vote for videos as well. Vote for the ones you like! And you can vote for the ones you don’t like, too.

It’s a fun site!

My Take on Cesar Millan

Okay I finally had to do it. All the controversy about Cesar Millan and I had never seen his show. I don’t have the National Geographic Channel so I rented some of his shows on Netflix to see what I thought. I only got one DVD, which is fine, and I’ve watched about 3 of the episodes so far.

Can I form a full opinion on watching only 3 episodes? Well, maybe not, but already I think I have a good general idea.

What I liked

He is a very strong personality and he is a natural leader with the dogs. Dog respect him immediately and he probably gives off very strong energy so he can take charge with the dogs. This is great for him and it really works well with dogs. I agree that all dogs need to have a firm, benevolent leader to lead the pack.

What I didn’t like

I don’t think that what he shows on TV is really a good thing for the average general public dog guardian. Many, many people don’t have that strong of a personality as he does. Personally, and I’m not bragging I’m just being honest, I have a good strong personality with dogs. I am a good leader and dogs respect me.

Would I take a dog for a walk that has a history of biting his person? Um, no. Not without a muzzle. Would I try to take a bone, or anything, away from a Vizsla who is growling and lunging to resource guard? Again no, not without a muzzle. And I do not think any regular dog guardian should be doing anything like that. It is most likely they will get bitten. Heck, Cesar got bitten on the show.

And there was the lady with the lab/pit mix who, when she took the dog on a walk, he would bark and lunge and go into a frenzy when another dog came by. And he bit her multiple times and punctured her and drew blood. This dog, for Cesar, was okay.. but still nervous. And even after Cesar left she could not walk the dog, because she was afraid of her own dog.

What Cesar Millan doesn’t do is address the deep down issues the dog has. He doesn’t get into the dog’s personality or behavior. He doesn’t try to work through these issues with loving, firm support. I see and understand how some critics have said he sets dog training back 100 years. Sure you can thrust a dog onto a shiny floor and make them walk on it until they just do it. But why not gain that dogs trust at the same time by approaching the floor, and clicking and treating the dog when he gets nearer the floor? Why not boost this dog’s confidence and teach this dog, a Great Dane, to trust the people’s guidance and make good decisions? That poor Dane was terrified, you could see the stress drool coming out of his mouth. I would so have preferred that situation to have included slow progress with a clicker and food rewards. Even after the dog went onto the floor by himself, he still looked nervous.

I don’t want a nervous dog. I want a happy dog that has confidence in my leadership and works for me because we are a good team, and we are figuring each other out and we have a good connection and we are having fun!

I didn’t see that at all in the episodes I watched.

The sad thing is, of course, that these people let these dogs get to this point in the first place. The Viszla (who was bred in Utah no less) went to live with her family at 8 weeks old. Why on earth is a puppy learning to be fearful, learning to be a resource guarder? Did they not read any puppy books? Did they not follow the three most important rules of puppies… socialize, socialize, socialzie? I guess not. That entire situation was avoidable. They created the Vizsla’s fears, and reinforced them along the way. It’s a very sad situation to see.

The rescue dogs, of course, are always a challenge because of the baggage they bring with them. But still, for the lab/pit mix the lady couldn’t walk without him flipping out, I would recommend her to read Fiesty Fido, teach the dog the look, and some calming behaviors, perhaps TTouch, and work that way instead of forcing the dog into situations where he is uncomfortable, which may aggravate the whole issue.

Anyway… that’s my soapbox rant for the day!