Saturday, July 20, 2013

Lesson 1--Saturday

I've started obedience classes for Silver with trainer Jen Bachelor.


My first greyhound, Oreo, took classes from Jen. Oreo was a good, food-motivated student, and forever afterward greeted Jen by diving nose-first into Jen's right pocket. The things dogs learn by accident... Oreo took the classes, and I came home and did homework with Oreo and Sam.

After I adopted Jacey, I used the same lessons to work with her--with Sam getting some additional training as well. Jacey tried hard, but she never managed a decent sit, and stay was not a syllable she ever was willing to hear. (Oddly enough, Sam was better at stay--at least, after you'd said it three or four times.)

Jacey sits (more or less)

I've had Silver for nearly two years, and I haven't tried any lessons with her. For one thing, she's more independent than Oreo or Jacey ever were. For another, while she's food-motivated, she's only food-motivated on her own terms. She'll happily push in front of Sam to eat from his bowl, but sometimes she'll turn her nose up at treats (treats she happily eats at home) if there are distractions. (Nine other dogs in her class = nine distractions.) But I'd like to get her certified as a therapy dog, and that requires at least a tiny inclination for a dog to do what it's told; I'm hoping the class will teach her that doing what I say for a food/praise reward isn't a bad idea. And I'm teaching her through class so I've got an expert's input on any issues with her.

(I'm not going to give away Jen's lesson plan. If Jen wanted to give away the info for free, she could post it on her blog. So I'll talk a bit about the goals or theory of a lesson, but I'm going to avoid the actual how-to steps.)

Our first lesson was this morning. Silver spent most of her time watching the other dogs and didn't show the first sign of interest in lessons. (The treats--chopped up turkey franks and sticks of string cheese--were fine. But I was just supposed to shovel treats into her mouth while she watched the other dogs.)

The lessons involve clicker-training. The idea is that you click to signal the proper behavior. First you have to teach a dog that the click-sound means treats. Then you have to teach the dog that she can make you click by doing something you want her to do. You do this by getting the dog to touch a target, then clicking and rewarding for the touch. The first few times, you may have to lure the dog into touching the target; at some point, though, the dog is supposed to make the connection and touch the target on her own.


So we practiced this afternoon. I'm not 100% certain that Silver understands click = treat, so we need to work on that without complicating the training by adding touch-the-target at the same time. When we tried touch-the-target, Silver would touch if I lured her into it, but otherwise she'd stand there. She'd sniff my hands to try to squeeze out a treat, then she'd give up and stand and wait for something to happen. We started working this outside on the patio, but when Silver lost interest, we went back inside.

Meanwhile, poor Sam is absolutely beside himself watching this. He remembers touch-the-target. He excelled at it when he took lessons with the other girls. Sam's all, Me! Mom! Me! I can do this! Me! Let me, Mom!

From earlier this year: the old man is still as food-driven as ever

So I took pity on him. I put the target down where he and Silver could both see it. I put a treat right on it, and Silver lunged in for it. I clicked and treated and waited. When another treat didn't show up right away, Silver walked off and laid down. I moved the target toward Sam, but I didn't put a treat on it. Sam touched the target immediately (click+treat). If I moved the target to the side a bit, and he'd reach over and get it (click+treat). That smart ass actually laid down and put his chin on the target! I let him finish off the treats I had in my pocket. Perhaps Silver will learn by example, and I'll work with her on click = treat, too.

While we were outside, I worked with Silver on recall. I put her on a 30-foot line. The idea was to walk her, let her get distracted sniffing something, I'd sneak a little distance away, then call her to me. But the little stinker glued herself to my hip! I'd try to sneak away, turn to call her and find her right on my heels! We're going to have to work on this.

--BOMC book arrived. I left it with my mother. It's crocheted blocks, and Mother is doing some craft stuff for her church where she makes blocks at home and donates them to the church. Now she has some extra patterns to choose from.
--Order from Joann's arrived: yarn and needles.
--Drs Foster & Smith has shipped the heartworm meds and Missing Link.
--I signed up for more Craftsy classes. (This makes 4 classes I've signed up for, and only 1 that I've taken.) Craftsy is having special offers with reduced prices for classes, so I signed up for a couple of sweaters-that-fit classes.

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