26 October 2010

Gustavo gets stuck in the frustration station, which is a dumb name but it seemed suitably dog trainy.


Gustavo is very different than Ruby and Otterpop in a lot of ways. He's hairier. He's friendlier. He likes to sit down on your foot like it's a little chair. Sometimes he forgets he knows me. And he doesn't know how to handle frustration.


When Otterpop or Ruby can't figure something out, it drives them crazy in a good way to try to figure out the answer. It makes Otterpop manic, and some of our funnest training times are when she's made an error and she has to figure out how to get back into those weave poles, or back up on the dogwalk to try again to hit the contact. She LOVES doing it again, and is super motivated to get it right. And while me and Otterpop are far from perfect, we sure do have fun every second we're training. Because her doing it right is super fun, and her doing it wrong is super fun.

Gustavo, on the other hand, hits a frustration wall really fast. And he smashes up into it and instead of bouncing back, sort of slides down into a puddle of smoosh. And moves on. To something else. Such as, perhaps there is a squirrel out in the forest? Perhaps he should run away very quickly because perhaps he will turn into a brilliant unicorn with golden hooves? Perhaps those stupid weavepoles will get sucked up into the grass with a slurping sound and when he comes back there will be little holes there instead and we can have a round of mini golf.


I can relate. I am probably a lot more like Gustavo than Otterpop or Ruby when I get frustrated. Where Ruby tends to start bouncing up and down when she can't figure out how to do something and Otterpop yells and spins, I like to bash my head into the wall, then lay down and think beautiful thoughts of wide open plains. Like in Texas. Where there are cute adobe houses with 100 miles to the next neighbor and I have a closet full of handtooled boots and drive a convertible Impalla with sparkle naugahyde seats and play soothing ditties about lumberjacks drowning in quarries to myself on ukelele.

Because that always works real good to make the problem go away.

So because I hate to see him get frustrated, I tend to back things up and make them easier when he's not getting something, assuming that it's my crappy training or handling that is preventing him from connecting the dots. But then how does he learn? If someone always did that with me, good golly. Cowgirl up. Would I have ever learned how to teach Otterpop to gamble? Would my scanner ever have started scanning again? Would our house ever have gotten painted, even if all the paint is peeling off already and it looks like a Halloween spook house year round and still makes me cry even though I gave the ladder back?


Today I set up the weavepoles with his beloved Cratey docking station at one end, and Robot at the other. Both very beloved items of much reinforcement. He was pretty keyed up. Almost too good to be true, Robot AND Cratey, out there together! The combination of one beloved item at each end, able to instigate popping out of the poles somewhere between pole 8 and 10 to race to them early. Much like the dreaded popping out of poles in a trial when a tunnel lurks ahead.

When he would pop out early to race to his crate, or his robot, nothing happened. Which seems to confuse him. But duh. Hello. Supposed to run through 12 poles. I think he can count to ALL by now. And when I'd release him back out of the crate to try again, or call him out of prayer position to the robot god, he'd freak out and dash away. Instead of giving it the old college try. Stand there, looking out into the woods, pretending not to know me, and looking up in the air, dreaming that a squirrel drop out a tree and into his mouth. And that it would taste like carne asada with extra added fur and claws.

We went through this cycle a few times. Catch him, give him a break, start with something easier that could guarantee a shiny bright reward. Then over to the frustration station again.


His overall success rate in that exercise was about 60% success/40% pop out early. Not so hot. But something to work through. Curiously not missing a single pole entry the whole morning. Frustration station worked great for the wrong thing? The harder thing for me to figure out is how to help him learn to work through his frustration without his brain exploding. I am going to try to figure this out. Later. After I drive my convertible Mercedes down the coast with my friend Keanu, stopping only to gather up stray small dogs that we find along the way, none of who bite, and who we pass out to all his pals who are totally fatter than me when we get to Los Feliz where I don't get lost on the way back to my beach house.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Reading your blog makes me feel better about life. Thanks so much.

Carol
& Small Dogs Romeo & Juliet

Liz said...

I like your drawings.

And I can truly and deeply identify with the messy house--dogs that need to go out--laundry that is eternally unfolded--footprints all over the kitchen tile--the den that has become a holding area for random crap we dont want to deal with--and we have to drive to San Diego tonight--and on and on.

And and, I like your crate-poles-robot set up, even if maybe it wasnt more than 60% successful this first time. I bet if you give him a day or two to reboot and come back to it he does better. I like to think sometimes thier brains need time to marinate. I am going to try to give that set up a go on Friday... just need to find me a robot.

Mary said...

Perhaps you could set up a very slight, very controlled, circumstance in which Gustavo experiences frustration, but is able to quickly turn it off (escape it). No rewards. Just mastery of turning off an aversive. For example, put a pumpkin on the porch and give him a wand so that when he points the wand at the pumpkin, it disappears. Pretty soon all he'll need is the wand, and pumpkins sitting around won't even bother him because he has the wand. And then pretty soon his want will turn into his finger, and he won't mind the pumpkins because he has his finger. Then pretty soon he won't even need his finger because he has like his mind-finger. (You might want to ask Michael Ellis if I've got this right.)

Elf said...

Boost sometimes stresses out when things get too complicated. Like, if she picks up the paper in the driveway and parts of it fall out, suddenly she's more interested in the shrubbery out by the street than in bringing in the paper. Interesting thinking about how to teach her it's ok to stop and think about it and try something. Challenging! I think dogs suffer from fear of failure just like people.

team small dog said...

Mary where can I get this magic pumpkin removal wand you suggest?