13 May 2009

Happy dog training where if I say happy one more time, I'm going to barf of the happiness of it all.

We have these little baby jumps at work, known as the people jumps. So that the people, usually 8-12 year old girls, can do jumping just like the horses and ponies do. They work for small dogs too, and today, when Otterpop was sailing around them, in that little flying meatloaf way of hers, my friend says, "She looks so HAPPY when she's doing agility."

We don't always see Otterpop happy at work. Sulking. Glaring. Barking at Black Beauty. Giving stink eye to the cats. But not happy, the way she looks when given the opportunity to jump over some rickety old dowels on old jump standards and in and out of the roundpen.

It's a different thing, the dogs and the horses. Spend a lot of my day figuring out how to make a horse do something different, better, stronger, straighter. How to figure out how to get a rider to get the horse to do it. Tuning up a horse that knows how to do that but got sloppy. Making them feel happy, not exactly the goal. Usually jumping better, corners more balanced, softer, lighter, those are words that come up before happy.

That's the thing on training the dogs. It makes them really happy. I'm a pretty simple person, and I like to be happy. And I like my dogs happy. And agility seems to be this whole thing of happy. About the same amount of happy as having a day off and sitting around drawing with pens. And if I say happy once more, I'm going to happy my head right into this wall here. Like would Kurt Cobain have lived, if he had found his dog agility? Maybe it was all he needed. Maybe not. But I would have totally shown him how to make a better front cross.

When I had the dogs out to practice in the morning, I had this thought. All my dogs learn best when they're super happy.

Oh, wait, you're surprised that the answer was happy?

Moving on. That's the whole positive reinforcement gig, for sure. But the same things don't make them all happy. I'm not just talking about rewards, but the way they want to be trained. And what brings out the best in them, so they learn better. Like if for me, school was on a beach with ponies bringing pitchers of pomegranate limeade vodka drinks by and buckets of See's Candy that ride around on roomba vacuums. And there was no teacher. Or books with small writing. And the scissors were never lost. This, maybe not your ideal school. But I am pretty sure, I would learn GREAT there.

Ruby, clicker whore. She's easy. Start clicking and treating and that dog learns about anything you can think of. She cracks me up. I've been teaching her more stupid clicker tricks lately since she's doing less agility. She loves it. And if I had carnitas from Tacos Morenos as the treat, she would probably know the whole Thriller dance by now. Also, the daughter of the Tacos Morenos family, Carina, she is a 5' tall super champion boxer. Talk about small fast, kick yer ass.

Otterpop is clicker trained, and she learns good that way, but I think her most super effective way to learn is if I run around like a stumpy old troll with a froggy voice and play frisbee with her. And when she does the new thing right, that frisbee goes down and off she goes and she would sure learn it super fast if there was carne asada involved. From Tacos Morenos. Maybe not the most scientific operant learning method, but it's just what works for her. Like, if I was teaching her Thriller dance, then yeah, click and treat. We'd have to do more science. But the whole clicker thing would work better if we were both stumpy old trolls and I use the froggy voice and she gets to chase her frisbee.

Gustavo. He likes him his tacos for sure. Have worked long and hard to get him more operant and work with the clicker. But he loves to play and run. That's how he learns best. He loves chasing things. Me. Otterpop. Frisbee. Squirrels. Chicken on a leash. If it can have running before and after, makes things easier to figure out for him. Running and then some Tacos Morenos. Carnitas for him. You see a trend here, what my dogs want to eat all the time? You ever been to Tacos Morenos? Wonder why such a long line out such a teensy, tiny little taco shop at all hours? I don't even eat meat, I just eat their quesadillas. Everybody goes crazy for Tacos Morenos. Makes us all happy.

So for his teeter totter? Started having him eat out there, with the teeter. He was fine about this, but wasn't going crazy. Not seeing that spark in his face, where I know he's learning because he's so crazy happy for something. He was having crazy agility fun this morning, out at the practice field, where he TRUSTS his teeter, and doing great teeters, lowered down, flying around and being his old, wild self. Lots of super poles. Like NOT MISSING the hard entries.

But at home, don't want him up on the teeter until I see that Happy. And don't want him near it if I ever see sad. Clicker, not making him happy near the teeter because the whole Sound of it. So eating with Big Pink, nice happy eating but not Happy because it's the teeter. He was jumping up on Big Pink's yellow end fine, but missing that spark. Missing that crazy drive that makes him want to learn. Was doing it because we were doing dog training and dogs are supposed to do dog training and they get a treat. Bo-Ring, and then maybe a little scarey. But I could hear behind the fence, everybody else REALLY was happy and would love to demonstrate happy up on that teeter. And even though I'm trying to take the pressure off Gustavo, maybe a little peer pressure, not such a bad thing.

So everyone on the teeter. All of a sudden, Happy! The other dogs amazed that there is string cheese coming out for just running up and down a teeter propped up on silent pillows and tables and ice chests. Just back and forth, jumping up, jumping down, teeter totter silent as a lamb. What could be an easier way to get some cheese snacks? And then here goes Gustavo. And boy oh boy, does he look happy. So I think our teeter totter training, a tad unconventional right now, but I got to stick to the plan. And that plan right now, Happy.


Anonymous said...

hooray for TSD LEADER!!! training in crazy drive! yes!!
give yourself a (insert your most fav treat here) and Training in Crazy Drive should not be confused with the north of the border "d" in dash... well, maybe it is similar?
i think this is the hardest thing to do. we lug all our agility stuff around, set it up, and then who wants to play? only us? yep, sometimes that's the way it is, and we have to wait for the Crazy Drive. as in wait over a year for Crazy Drive. and still, not always there. but sometimes. and sometimes makes it all worth it... sort of.

Elayne said...

Can you get access to an adjustable teeter? It took me a full year or so to teach Lola the teeter because she was so scared of the motion. I started out with it almost flat on the ground and raised it a chain link at a time, sometimes I'd even have to go back a link or two, but eventually she got there and she never had a problem in a trial that I remember. The nice thing about the adjustable teeter is that you can put it nearly flat then run the dog across full speed which would fit right in with what Gustavo finds reinforcing. If I remember correctly I alternated running across for a thrown toy and squeezy cheese on the end and Lola loved both. Once the teeter got to a certain height I stopped the running because it got unsafe but the running was fun at the very beginning when the teeter was very low.

If you don't have access to an adjustable teeter maybe you can figure something out that's similar for just the low heights.

team small dog said...

The teeter where we practice is adjustable, I have it set to about half or so height, but he's actually never been scared of this one, would probably be still doing it normal height if I let him. He has full trust that this teeter is ok, and he doesn't mind it's sound.

The one we have to borrow is full, but I have it propped on tables and ice chests right now to make it flat and he just jumps up from a table. So I can adjust the amount of tip by the size of the props.

Which make our driveway look super because they include the tables, the ice chests, the drop cloths, the tarps, and wood scrap blocks.

He doesn't seem at all phased by the motion exactly, it's the motion that predicts the sound is what I think. So now that he knows it's quiet, he's happy to run on the table one in the driveway, with it barely tipping.

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

The best agility happy is the one I saw at a rescue dog event. They allowed people to introduce dogs to agility obsticles. I hear this woof! from the other end of the yard, look over and see this German Shepard standing at the top of the A frame looking around, tail wagging, tonge hanging out, eye sparkling. I take a closer look and see that the GSD has three legs. Very agility happy.

debnull said...

This blog entry has given me a hankerin' for Taco Morenos Carnitas burritos with cheese... Think I'm gonna hafta indulge this weekend...

The other Deb

Elf said...

Taj MuttHall has a fully adjustable teeter. ...Oh, well, actually, it's on loan at the other Ellen's place for corgi teeter desensitization. But that work might be finished. If you're interested, we could probably arrange something. I'd be HAPPY to do it.

team small dog said...

Thanks Ellen for the offer. For now, we are fine with the tables, ice chests and full teeter in the driveway and I have an adjustable one where I practice. We are so far so good so hoping to be back off tables in the driveway in not too long. But I appreciate the offer!

George Pets Store4u guy said...

I noticed that you use clickers for training dogs and are very successful. Would you recommend using a clicker on older dogs besides puppies?

Elf said...

Georges: I know that you're not asking me, but my dogs have all LOVED it when the clicker comes out, and I've found it to be so much easier to teach so many things using the clicker. It also teaches me to get my reward timing better, so that even when I don't have a clicker, I work better with my dogs. (And this is dogs up to 14 years old.)

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