08 November 2011

Gustavo and the Table.

Gustavo is one of those dogs that has a hard time with tables. Laying down in one place for 5 seconds during an agility trial has always been hard for him, and somehow, no matter how much I worked on it being stress free and fun, in his short trialing career, turned into a major bummer.

I pulled him from running in Standard last spring. I just couldn't watch the train wreck any more that resulted from tables. The best case scenario was actually sometimes he would actually lay down on the table and wag his tail the whole time and look very cute. This was rare. He has exactly 2 Masters Standard Q's to his name. His most common scenario was he just wouldn't lay down and would stand there with a cuckoo insane look on his face and tap his feet around like the table was blazing hot. The worse case scenario was when the table would send him into a weirdo vortex and he'd start a frantic behavior like jumping off and climbing underneath then getting back on and back underneath and on and so on like that until I captured him.

That's just plain weird. Clearly a problem. My table training methods, so reliable with my other dogs, made him insane.

As part of the reprogramming of ammonia free brain program, I started practicing constant rewarding on tables to make tables seem fabulous. Not that we hadn't done this before. I thought I'd done a good job of training his table, but obviously, I was mistaken. So more tables and more rewarding. More, more, more.

I made him think he was king of the world every time he hit that table and just plain old layed down and stayed there while I counted. Gustavo should know how to count to 5 by now. He's heard that count thousands of times by now. And Go.

So what I taught him, was that either during or after counting to 5, he would almost always get a treat. I tried to mix this up, so that he didn't know when, or if, he was getting rewarded. But usually, the act of laying there without moving earned a prize.

I think I weighted this too heavily on the always rewarding. So I started to go 50/50, 40/60, 30/70, using my detailed record keeping system also known as my memory that can't even find my sunglasses, to remember how many tables had been rewarded that week and how many had gone commando.

Lately I've been trying to practice with no treats out there on the course. Nada. The reward is at the end. Sometimes this is fine, and sometimes, it causes a meltdown. He gets a lot of verbal praise, but if there's a stressy obstacle right after a table like the chute or a teeter, meltdown. I can see him on that table, licking his little lips, hoping for his treat. Hoping, waiting, listening for his And Go. And then if we have to go somewhere next like the chute and there was no treat, my god. Can there still, to this day, be a meltdown.

There was today. I wanted to cry. I don't think I'm ever going to get this agility thing right.

He reboots in his crate. We worked it out. There's always an answer I can find.



Elf said...

Yet another reason for USDAA to do away with the table in Standard. They did away with in in GP; what's one obstacle more or less? Plus it makes gustavo melt down. Plus it wastes so much time on the course while dogs like Tika or hobbes decide that 9 years of going Down on the table is plenty, thank you very much, or etc. etc. etc. there are so many table stories that waste course time.

I've seen your runs; you're a great dog trainer. Gustavo just presents some, er, interesting challenges.

Jodi, eh? said...

Your drawing of Gustavo reflect your love for him and how cute he is even though I never have met him and how sad you are that you sometimes can't get him to do what you want him to do. I have a dog who's impulse control is less than perfect and when she reacts in a way which may reflect on my less than perfect dog training, it creates a barrier between our love. You are lucky that you can rise above that barrier and still love him the same. You are awesome. Your drawings are awesome lately too.

andrea said...

poor frustrated you
and poor melted down Gustavo - very glad you have a reset button for him

DoggyDoogle said...

It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job, try not to get too discouraged. There are so many variations of personality types that not everything will work for everyone 100% of the time. Continue do your best and forget the rest. ;)

Anonymous said...

How old is Gustavo? Zodi is now 3.5 and I've really noticed a change in her in the last 6 months. Maybe he needs a little more time. Don't forget that a dog like Gustavo might still be running at full speed at 7-9 years old unlike a lot of BCs who seem to peak at 3-5.

Anonymous said...

Catching up on your blog ... yes, I think if you send this to USDAA they will listen and get rid of the table! (One can only pray for that or perhaps we all need to drive to Texas and hold a demonstration - maybe next May if a lot of folks go to the IFCS World competition!) And I don't mean demo the table, although maybe that's the answer - they need to see how horribly torturous the table can be for some us!

Beth & Lexi