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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Improving rapidly with food, back into training with a hungry dog!

5 months 2 weeks old

So far Knightley has eaten two small meals, both chicken and rice, with a little kibble. He was going NUTS when I started preparing the first meal - he hadn't seen that dog bowl come out for about 30 hours, and for a growing puppy who'd been losing his meals via diarrhea for a couple of days previous anyway, he must have been absolutely and completely famished. I didn't even try to stop him barking at it, I knew it would be futile. He often barks just a little when I am preparing his food... I have worked on it, but I need to do more concentrated work obviously - because this time he was barking loud enough to wake the dead! Definitely more spark there!!

The first meal I just hand fed without training much, just a bit of zen. I hand fed to stop him gobbling it quickly, so his stomach would have time to get used to eating again, and he'd be less likely to get an upset stomach from it. After no bad reaction to that meal, I gave him another one later, but this one we did a little training with it, as his previous meal had almost taken him back to himself in terms of energy. 

His reaction times were great (sharpened by hunger and the fact he loved the food), and we went back over old ground of Sue Ailsby's Training Levels, refreshing cues, doing a little bit of shaping, closing the cupboard doors, doing some 'go around' with a soda bottle, then with absolutely nothing there, with was new for us (look up 'distance' in the glossary to find out which behaviour I am talking about). We did some more zen too. His zen is getting really good these days, we are getting closer to passing L2 zen, he just has to stay off a treat on the floor for 1 minute just using his willpower now. He has gone 30 seconds. We need to take it outside also, as like I've mentioned before, his brains fly out his ears outside. I'd rather he ate less random garbage, dirt, sticks, grass etc when we are out together, I will work on zen in an outdoor setting for specifically that reason. 

We also did a bit of relax, working on putting to the cue to the behaviour. I can cheat a bit here because I've already trained 'bang', which is the trick where the dog is meant to fall over and act dead in response to being shot. While I want more duration from relax, and want him to let go of his bodily tension some more, I do like the position he goes in for bang - lying on his side, legs all out to the side, head on the ground. This is what I want for relax, so I am using the hand cue for bang, whilst telling him relax as he does it. I tested it once or twice, and he reacted to just the verbal cue! Yay. Next session I will start putting a new 'relax' hand cue to the behaviour, and then we'll start working on truly completely relaxing and duration, but it's a good start.

Knightley in a sit stay giving good eye contact nearly two weeks
ago during our day down at the lake where he had such a wonderful
time. I am a bit biased but... isn't he just the most gorgeous puppy?!
We also worked on stays a bit during the afternoon with a bit of plain kibble. His stay is getting really good, but I am very careful to increase it by a second or two at a time only. To pass Level 2 he needs to do a 1 minute stay at 3 metres (10 feet) from me for a sit, 6 metres (20 feet) for a down. He can do 30 seconds at a distance of 3 metres whilst at home (with no distractions) for the both of them. It shouldn't be too hard to increase that. 

Duration behaviours are meant to be the one thing that is 'harder' with clicker training, rather than traditional training, but I have to say, I haven't found that at all. Even when he was a little puppy he could do 10 second stays. We haven't worked on them a great deal because they were never a trouble spot, or I think he'd be up to that 1 minute mark already. We also use the 'wait' cue, as well as 'stay' - although 'wait' is not in the Levels. I use wait in a situation where I am not going to return to Knightley to release him. Stay means stay where you are, always just stay don't move don't do anything until I return to you and say you can. Wait means don't move until I give you my next cue or release you to move. I find wait a VERY useful cue, and an easy one to train. 

I use it every time I feed him - I usually use his meals to train, but leave him a small amount to eat from his bowl to ensure we keep his bowl manners. I ask him to get in his crate and he goes into a down (a requirement in Level 2). I tell him to wait, then put the bowl in the crate with him but slightly out of reach. I wait 10 seconds or so, then tell him 'Go eat'. I also use wait in sitatuions like when I am going through the baby gate and he obviously wants to come with me. I'll put him in a wait, then go through the gate, and release him once I have gone through (I plan to train this with a better solution, using the concepts of zen, just haven't got around to it yet... so much to train!!). It's just a very useful cue. As is stay of course, but I like having both.

Anyway, it's great getting back to our training. Hopefully tomorrow he will nearly be back to his normal smarty pants self. Late this evening outside he picked up a big branch, tried to carry it inside with him, and was generally very proud of himself, tail wagging happily like a flag.... That's more the Knightley we all know and love. Had to disappoint him with the branch though.

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