16 December 2009

What would Susan Garrett do?

So look. I don't consider myself a crappy dog trainer. Like, compared with everybody in my neighborhood, I am like Queen of the Dog Trainers. But I think if you stick me out there in the population of Dog Trainers, especially people who train dogs for agility, I am on the D-List. This makes me sad. But then I look at Kathy Griffin. And her bad plastic surgery. She does ok on the D-List. Can't I?

Then I look at Kathy Griffin again. Weep. I don't want to be HER. Um, C-List? Courtney Love? Nope. Just lost custody of Frances Bean and she is totally the queen of insane twitter tweets and crazy facebook posts. Nooooooo! I don't want this to happen to Team Small Dog! Poor Frances Bean!

So this means I need to aspire higher. Reach down a little deeper into my lazy little slacker, GenX heart. And put on my dog training pants. And ask the big question, What Would Susan Garrett Do?

Susan Garrett's answer to everything is Crate Games. I am pretty sure if I went over to her house and knocked on her newly remodeled door and told her about my problems with Gustavo, she would just take a bite of her carrot, and be all, "How's your crate games?"

And then she'd pull a copy of the DVD out from a box, try to sell it to me for $32.95 Canadian dollars, then send me on my way even though I walked all the way to Canada!

So we did some Crate Games testing yesterday, to see how is our Crate Games. I watched part of the video a long time ago but it made me want to claw out my eyeballs so I didn't finish it. I DID go to it in real life though, in a seminar with young and super evil Otterpop and the real Susan Garrett in the flesh. Somewhere I even have notes. Somewhere. I think there are a lot of little sketches of Susan Garret's face instead of writing notes in there though. I am not a great note taker. I would say more of a doodler. I do remember she wore a little black skort though.

Everybody's Crate Games at our house seems to work super on the deck. With one dog at a time. But as soon as someone is in a crate, and everybody else starts racing around after a tennis ball, only Ruby and Otterpop still have Crate Games. Gustavo's become erased. Surprise, surprise. I am going to go with the Susan Garrett theory here, and start from scratch. So, all you good dog trainers that read my blog, A-List ones preferably, if I can get him to be all relaxed and chill and impulse controlly on his own in there when everyone else is chasing tennis ball, is this going to help me?

I am serious here. I need some help! Calling in on the favor phone, A-listers!


Paul Anderson said...

I’m from the fly over zone so we don’t even have a list but I have a suggestion. From your last two posts it sounds like you have not made yourself more fun than anything else. Of course not, what’s more fun than dirt.
Anyway, I digress, what I would suggest is that you go back to running short sequences. Even just one jump, treat Gustavo, and throw something to let him run. As you are want to say, repeat-rinse. When Gustavo is happily playing this game add another obstacle, than three obstacles, etc. While you are doing this randomize your reinforcement, make it so he never knows for sure which sequence is going to pay off. You become Gustavo’s slot machine. Every once in a while, have a party, play, run, treat, clear his little brain then go back to sequences. Along the way set up 4 straight jumps and run with Gustavo over these jumps as fast as you can go, let him run ahead if he wants. If he skips a jump just keep on running and get him back in the game. Once you’ve hit the end, turn around and run back again. Have a party.
Gustavo’s energy level should be encouraged, not discouraged by putting him in a crate. Take advantage of it and have fun with it. Sometimes just run around the obstacles with no particular pattern, cheer along with the monkey screams and keep Gustavo interested.
The object is to make Gustavo want to run sequences, not have to run them. When he can’t wait to attack the obstacles and offers doing obstacles for fun, he will be more than happy to go out and play agility with you.
Sorry for the length but you asked for an idea. Now back to shoveling snow.

Cynthia Blue said...

LOL... well I love the crate games video it made me happy and cheered me up! Do I do it...? Well, sometimes, kinda, yeah I did it for a while. :p

All of my collies figure they can fit in a Pup-Tent at the same time, does that count?

Elf said...

Crap, well, maybe Susan Garrett is reading and will post some free help because after all she just loves donating time to thousands of dog agility people around the world and not getting paid for it just because she does it for love and has tons of spare time, like pretty much everyone in Canada as far as I can tell*. I'm afraid I'm not an A-lister. Maybe B on a good day.

My definitive answer is that it might help and it might not. I will have to think about whether I have other useful advice like this for you. Gustavo is such a great little dog, we all want him to be his super-fast self and his happy self simultaneously.

*Canadians: I am joking here.

Elf said...

I should point out that Boost goes nuts in her crate when other dogs are running or playing, so I have to put a sheet over her crate to keep it from exploding. Boost I trained using SG's crate games seminar & articles & videos. Tika does not do that, and I did not use crate games. The interesting point is that Boost *out* of the crate and *off* leash can restrain herself much better than in the crate. If it were legal, I'd just leave her loose at trials all the time. Crap I think I'm wandering again; the real point is that I don't probably know what I'm talking about. Sorry.

team small dog said...

Thanks for the snow shoveling break!

I think I encourage Gustavo's energy level...it gets beyond over the top. I think I rewarded so much of that in foundation training that I have a beyond enthusiastic dog, but who becomes very self rewarding at agility. So I want one tunnel, I get 2 and one is OVER THERE! I am doing a front cross but he has locked in on 3 obstacles over there, does them in a flash, and comes running back to the thing I just indicated he takes in the front cross. Like he is just doing his own thing part of the time.

The way you described sounds very much like how we practice, and him practicing is super focused, super fast. It's moving to the high distraction enviro of the trial where he loses his mind. And is super fast and enthusiastic, but a little out in left field, so he doesn't watch me, locks on to things and is gone. He finds agility very self rewarding, and in his enthusiasm, self rewards with extra obstacles. Or he finishes the run, and runs out to self reward with going and finding one of his pals and getting their treats instead of our run to your leash and lay on it, like we practice EVERY SINGLE TIME we do any training.

Today a dog was running up and down the fence line where we practice. Was a great training opp., for keeping Ruby and Otterpop focused with me, we were just doing circle work and running around tugging today. Gustavo can stay uber focused, tugging and chasing his toy and me, then in a flash, locked in on that dog and he's distracted. It was interesting how the other 2 have it, they hold their focus with me and know how to block out a very distracting and disturbing dog, and Gustavo, once one thing is new and a little weird, brain shuts off.

I guess my thought is that with crate games, he has to think about the playing and enthusiastic agility as a reward, but also as a bonus becomes happy relaxing, not thinking about relaxing as boring and stinky, and getting out and just going bonkers. And learns some impulse control, which shouldn't affect his speed and enthusiasm, but helps him THINK. Because he gets going and I think the thinking stops. Or he gets distracted and the thinking stops.

So that's where I wonder, is it less about me being more fun than the distractions, and more about him using his brain to think about having his fun, undistracted? Because I know my other dogs do that. I KNOW that they would rather go chase that dog off. They knew that dog was there. But they've learned that this isn't how it works, to keep having fun.

Unknown said...

I'm not sure I'm allowed ANY letter of the alphabet, and I KNOW I'm not allowed on any list....but....my two cents....
I have a terrier that would lose focus in the ring, what helped him was shorter sequences, until it became habit to ignore anything else...using the distraction of your fence running dog today: do one jump as far away from the distraction as possible, reward....add obstactles...take a short break....then, start closer to the distraction, one obstacle, reward....blah, blah, blah....as far as showing goes, start out only asking for a couple obsactcles in the ring (and, stay away from the more challenging obstacles in the beginning) until you have a confident, connected dog, then add obstacles slowly, making sure he's confident at each step....make sense?

Sarah said...

OMG, i was given your blog by a friend who said i would love your blog. I must say, this post was awesome ... i was talking about making bracelets, and instead of saying WWJD, they would say WWSGD ...

really good stuff here. i'll be back to read more :) made my day.

Unknown said...

So, I started in agility WAAAY before crate games existed, with my small and ballistic JRT. Gustavo sounds like he has some things in common with Tucker (fast, screaming, obstacle grabbing) and some things not as much (Tucker never lost focus on obstacles, obstacles, obstacles. Me, yes, obstacles, no). What I finally came to realize with Tucker was that obstacle grabbing was a stress behavior. Most dogs in the world stress down - - they lose focus, lose speed, etc. Tucker stresses up - - it's an "uh-oh, she's not happy, maybe if I do this tunnel? No? A-frame? No? Dogwalk? Jump?" I also came to understand, in training my subsequent dogs, that Tucker had the attention span of a gnat. Tucker can run for days, but he can train for no more than 5 minutes without losing focus and stressing up. My younger dogs can train for over an hour with focus (which I realize is odd but in a good way). So for Tucker, asking him to focus for more than 5 minutes leads to stressing up. Which means if he had to wait more than 4 minutes for a run, good luck to me on having any success in the ring, because exceeding Tucker's level of focus leads to a stressed Tucker which means an obstacle-grabbing Tucker,

So I guess my point is that it sounds like Gustavo (1) stresses up (but sometimes down); and (2) has a short attention span. I have never been able to figure out how to fix the stress factor as a stand-alone thing because I think its just inherent in many dogs that once they are out of attention span, they stress. But you can fix the attention span. Let me first give the caveat that I never did fix Tucker's; he got old and I stopped caring about Qing with him and just wanted to see him happy and charging around the ring, but I do think it's a fixable thing.

Here's what I'd do if I were training a Tucker again: I think you need to spend a week of doing nothing different and training with a timer, and see if you can figure out how much time you have before Gustavo stresses out (up or down). Take notes on how many practice sessions that day and how much attention you had at each as well as how hard the exercise was, and other variables. At the end of the week, look for patterns, and see if you can figure out a minimum average attention span.

Once you do that, shorten Gustavo's training sessions to be within his attention span so that he knows nothing but success, even if that means he only trains for 30 seconds at a time. And when he isn't training and you're working the other dogs, put him in his crate. After a few weeks of working within his attention span, if you're having continued success and focus, you can add a tiny bit of time to his training sessions, but be very conservative - - the idea behind this is to keep him from "practicing" being stressed, so you want to err on the side of a shorter session. But keep building very slowly and hopefully you can teach him how to focus for longer periods of time.

team small dog said...

Good idea's, listers of all Letter Levels! Thanks for helping me think of good ideas!

Susan Garrett said...

Ok Laura, I was just refer to this post so am a bit late with my suggestions. Since you asked so nicely I will try to put together a blog post sometime over the Christmas holidays that should help you and Gustavo.

Meanwhile I have 3 things to ask of you in order to for you to help me to help you (remember that line from Jerry Maguire? ("help me help YOU")

1)Remove all sharp pointed objects from your immediate reach (so nothing of importance gets "poked out") and sit down with a note book and finish watching crate games (taking notes of course). All of it, it will help.

2) Refer to this old blog post of mine. While watching your run with Gustavo it seems to me that he has nice obstacle value but not enough Laura value. This will help http://susangarrettdogagility.com/2008/12/very-clever.html

3).Please stop spreading rumors that I ever wore a short black skort.

team small dog said...

Kittens. We have checked the notebook. We reviewed the notes.

It was little shorts. Little black shorts! Susan Garrett does NOT wear a skort.

Interwebs. Not a skort.

We are crategaming like crazy. And doing hundreds of thousands of recalls. We anxiously await all words of wisdom from Canada!