Archive for January, 2010

Joey and the delivery guy

January 30, 2010

I ordered in chinese tonight (mmmmmm) and when the guy brought it, the restaurant had messed up the credit card slip. So he had to come in while we figured it out. And Joey let him in! And Joey sniffed at him, and came to me for a cookie, and sniffed, and cookied, and so on. I was so proud of him! For a dog that couldn’t spend more than a second in the presence of a stranger without exploding into growls, this was huge. And this was somebody in JOEY’S VERY OWN SPACE! It probably helped that the stranger was carrying a bag of goodies, but still. I was very proud of my Joey boy.

Control Unleashed is indeed magical. Or at least, it has magical results.


Happy Birthday, Dittany

January 30, 2010

Dittany would have been 16 today if she had lived. She died in July of this year, at 15-1/2. She was a beautiful black-and-white basenji girl, easily finishing her championship at just over a year, with limited showing. Damara Bolte, an excellent handler, showed her for me in conformation, which remains a mystery to me. She remained beautiful to her final day.

She also got a CD, and a U-CD. It wasn’t easy; I was trying to change over to clicker training, with basically no guidance or instruction. And D had some noise sensitivity, and was easily spooked. But we persevered together.

I’m glad that APDT rally came along at the end of her life. It was the perfect venue for her. I could talk to her all the way through the courses, and even though she lost her vision to PRA, APDT let us continue to show. Dittany didn’t retire totally from the ring until her 13th birthday. She really loved coming out to the trials, and strutting her stuff in the ring. And she liked the cookies, too.

There’s a new puppy coming into our lives soon, but the hole Dittany left in my heart will never be filled.

Rats Rats Rats!

January 23, 2010

I’m very cross with mapquest right now. I had Amelia entered in a rally trial this evening. Because it was Friday night, I wanted to avoid the beltway and 95, my usual way to get to the site, so I got a set of directions cross-country. Everything went fine, until I was within two miles or so of the site. And I got totally lost. The roads dead-ended without ever going by the intersections where I was supposed to turn. I stopped and asked for directions, and got back to where mapquest said to turn, and it wasn’t there. We drove around for an hour and half, until long after Excellent would have been over, then came home without ever finding the site.

rats rats rats.

Amelia and Joey get some training

January 19, 2010

I worked with Amelia first on going around the vase–I finally got some flowers to go in it, but I’ll need to cut their “stems” which will require finding the wire cutters. The vase kept falling over with them as is. So we just worked on going around the vase, and then on going around the vase and around me, in a figure 8. It’s coming along nicely.

Then I put on some music, In the Mood by Glenn Miller. It’s not a song we’re going to use, probably, but is there a human being alive that can resist dancing to In the Mood? We did about half the song, then many treats, then the second half, and many treats. We did that twice. It’s still working, she’s getting more and more animated the longer we go. I’ll keep adding duration until we’re doing the whole thing. We also did a little rally, just a few moves to keep her fairly sharp and get her used to doing long(ish) chains of rally behaviors for the big payoff.

I decided that I’m tired of Joey always sitting or downing right in front of me. So I had him sit, then moved to heel position and treated him multiple times. Then I asked for a down, and he went down from the sit right next to me! Yay Joey! Many fine treats. Given that he didn’t know sit or down when he came, unless a cookie was immediately in front of his nose, and that I hardly do anything with him except husbandry stuff, he’s coming along. Bless his dim little brain, and kindly heart.

Taking it on the road

January 18, 2010

We went to our usual Sunday freestyle meeting with our friend Ruth. Ruth is one of the few people Joey actually likes. It took him about six months, but today he actually stood up and put his paws on her! For Joey this is huge. He got a lot of roast beef and lamb lung treats for being so social. Even with Ruth, though, he still sometimes gets overwhelmed, and has to walk away from her to compose himself. It’s so cool that he remembers how to calm himself when he starts feeling social pressure since he had so much trouble with this initially.

For Amelia, we tried differential reinforcement (not sure this is the correct term) on the road for the first time. She did her opening pose, then we ran to the treat bag and got 1 treat. Then we went back, did several moves, ran to the treat bag and got 4 or 5 treats. We repeated this several times, then just started doing longer behavior chains. The routine is still not choreographed, but I know several moves I want to have in it, so I just played around with those. She really likes this game; the more behaviors she does before reinforcement, the happier she gets. She was really into it.

We took some photos, and if I can remember how, I’ll upload some later.

Amelia does a good job

January 16, 2010

When I got home with Joey from his evening walk, I discovered my right glove was no longer in my coat pocket. Since it wasn’t on my hand either, I figured I’d dropped it (I’m quick like that). So I took Amelia over the same route. Since I’m keeping them off the sidewalks as much as possible to avoid the icemelt left over from the snow, I’m walking around the backs of the buildings. Dark, no pathways …

And Amelia found the glove! Bless her. She found it, sniffed it, stood there a few minutes, then did her indication from tracking! I gave her many fine treats. Not really tracking, but closer than we’ve been for a while!

Amelia training continues

January 13, 2010

We did a couple of things tonight. First, I worked a shaping exercise, teaching her to go out and around a vase (this is going to be part of a freestyle routine). Click/treat for each behavior. I put the bowl of treats on a box, within her reach, but only one “leave it” and she was ready to work instead of helping herself. We got some good distance and started adding the cue.

Then I did some multi-exercises for multi-payouts. I did four to six behaviors, then Yay Amelia and run to the treat bowl for several treats, doled out very ceremoniously. We did both rally and freestyle sets. She was very bright and sparkly, very happy to keep going for the payoff she knew was coming. I don’t think adding duration is going to be very hard, she’s liking this game.

Variable reinforcement for Amelia

January 12, 2010

We had our second session of alternating one behavior=one boring kibble, and series of behaviors=party with several good treats. Amelia has really got it! She’s almost disappointed to get the kibble (not that she turns it down), and is very animated and excited when I ask for more and more. We worked up to about half a freestyle routine, and she just got more animated as we went on.

Amelia’s great experiment

January 11, 2010

I tried an experiment with Amelia the other day. I took her into our training room (aka the bedroom) with no treats, no treat prep, no bait bag, and ran some rally exercises. They were wretched, because I’m really bad at fading treats, and Amelia’s not a girl who’s gonna work for free. So I asked online, and Shirley Chong gave me an exercise to try with her.

I cut up cheese and sausage, and put a few kibbles in another dish. Then I took Amelia into the training room, asked for a single sit, and gave her a kibble. Then I asked for a sit, some heeling, and another sit, and had a party, giving her 3 or 4 cheese/sausage pieces, one at a time. Then I asked for a single down, 1 kibble. Then some heeling, a 360, and party! with several good treats given one at a time. We did this several times, and the change was obvious. The longer she worked the more “up” she got, more drivey, happier, perkier. She never said no to a kibble for a single behavior, because she’s always starving (at least, she thinks she’s always starving). But a single kibble is no competition for several treats, doled out one by one, with lots of praise and excitement.

I’m going to keep working on this, ’til I can build her up to way more than a single rally run with no treats along the way but a huge party at the end. And I won’t make this mistake with my next dog. I’ll have to find a new mistake to make!

The basenjis are suffering

January 9, 2010

It snowed this morning. Then the wind blew, so even though it had stopped actually snowing, the snow was blowing around all over the place like a blizzard. The b’s were NOT impressed. I’d go so far as to say the b’s were ticked. pissed. irate.

When I got home from work the snow was mostly gone except on some of the grass, but it was cold. I called Joey to go for a walk, and when he heard the velcro on his coat unzip, he made a uturn and went back to the couch. I made him go for a walk anyway. Then I took Amelia out for her walk. She’s got this winter thing down; by the time we reach the end of the buildings, she’s taken care of business and is ready to go back home. Smart girl.

We’re all ready for spring. And it’s only January.