Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tuesday Training Tip: Beginner Novice Week 2

I sent my entry in for the obedience trial in November this week. I'm already nervous, LOL!! We are entered for both Saturday and Sunday so if it all goes well, we will have two legs toward the Beginner Novice title (you only need three to achieve it). So now we really need to get to work!

This week we worked on heeling, and stays. There are two things that will kill us at the obedience trial - actually being at the trial and the stay exercise. Monday 'looses her brain' at first when entering a place with a lot of other dogs. I was hoping to get her down to the Iowa Pet Expo this weekend to practice and do some desensitization, but sadly Des Moines has a pit bull ordinance and we wouldn't be compliant so that was a no-go. This weekend was also the grand opening for Petco here so I am hoping to head over there with Monday when I get back from Washington.


Monday hates stays. Seriously. They are her least favorite thing and I can't really blame her. So we are slowly increasing the distance I walk away from her. She is fine with me leaving and walking a straight line away from her (like when doing a recall) however, it's when I start to walk a circle around her that we have a problem. So we have started practicing that with low environment distraction and low duration since I am increasing distance and difficulty (moving). At this point I am not worried about the fine details (sitting straight in heel position, me returning head on, returning to heel position by walking around her) - we are just working on the basic 'stay where I leave you' issue :).


Monday actually has great heeling behavior, I just need to work on being formal! I always forget about arm position and I want her to get used to working while I am silent. In beginner novice, you are allowed an 'encouragement' command during heeling I think, but it is still much different than how we usually practice heeling. I need to learn to keep my mouth shut :).

Another thing we worked on was reducing my reinforcement rate. I am usually a high reinforcer :) and I need to get out of my patterns. I like giving cookies, LOL. But in the heeling video above I did not have any cookies on me and I didn't reward her with any. I just used praise and attention. In the ring I won't be able to have treats to rely on so I need to get used to not relying on them now. I also need to get her used to longer stretches of work for less reinforcement. While I am reducing the quantity of rewards, I am actually increasing the quality. Monday is HIGHLY food motivated and it doesn't take much to get her excited so I pulled out some her favorites - Buffalo Bites and string cheese (she doesn't get these on a regular basis).

I made sure she knew the highly valued reinforcer was available (on the table behind the camera) but I didn't carry it on me. Which made it easier for me to not reinforce her so much. If I don't have it on me I can't give it to her! This, of course, is all about human training :). Luckily, Monday has enough natural drive and motivation to do things with me, that we can go pretty long between 'rewards'.

How long do you go between reinforcements? Will your dog work for you with only basic engagement for a reward?

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