My entire neighborhood is covered in two inches of ice, onto which it is raining.
I’ve got stabilicers and waterproof boots, but Buzz doesn’t have either. So, not only is he slipping around, his poor feet are on ice and in ice-water, which isn’t all that pleasant for him.
So, today, most of our exercise has to be mental. I was trying to think of a new trick to teach him and started to list out the tricks he knows…
(Can you tell what room I was in when I was thinking about this? Tee hee.) Now, not all of these tricks are 100%, so it is good that I listed them out, I can work on getting them all more solid in his brain.
up (get on that)
hurry up (pee/poo)
crate (get in your crate)
go lay down (leave me alone)
get outta da window (stop looking out the window and pretending you are a guard dog)
touch (touch my hand)
back up (walk backwards)
too far (come closer, especially when hiking)
over (jump over that)
through (go through the tunnel)
leg (go through my legs then around the left leg)
take (grab the frisbee)
I also made a list of tricks I want to teach him. Today, he got really far with learning “bow.” Since Buzz is clicker trained, we learn something new by shaping.
~~commence nerd interlude~~
What is clicker training?
Clicker training is a positive reinforcement method based on behavioral psychology. It is called “clicker” training, because you use a clicking noise to mark the behavior you want to reinforce. Dogs learn very quickly that you will give them a reward every time you click and they also learn that you are going to click for very specific things. In your dog’s brain, a click will mean “bingo!” or “you earned it!” or “that right there!” So, if you ask a dog to sit, you click when they put their butt on the ground, the dog will figure out very quickly that butt-on-ground is what you want.
What is shaping?
Shaping is teaching by “systematically reinforcing successive approximations toward the target behavior” (Kellie Snider). Basically, you have in mind a final behavior that involves a lot of work for the dog, to begin with, you reward the dog for doing anything that resembles that behavior. If you want the dog to go in the kitchen, you reward them for taking a single step in that direction. Going to the kitchen might take 10 steps. To begin with, you reward for 1 step towards the kitchen, then, once the dog understands what it is being rewarded for, you up the ante and wait for 3, 5, 7, 9, 10 steps before you reward the dog.
Today, even though I wanted Buzz to do a full, deep bow, I began by clicking him anytime he lowered his front and not his rear. I’m sure that sounds crazy. Like, how long did I have to wait for that? The amazing thing about a clicker-trained dog is that when they see the clicker, they know that you are waiting for something and will start to offer behaviors. When I took out the treats and clicker then stood watching Buzz, he very quickly went through a repetoire of tricks (sit, lay down, stand, get in the chair, sit, sit, lay down, get a toy, lay down, watch me…) Once he had done all the tricks he could think of, Buzz then started to offer me new behaviors, things that don’t have words attached to them yet. He puffed air out of his cheeks. He jumped on me. He lay down with his head flat on the ground. He head-butted my leg. Some of this is bad behavior, but I didn’t punish him. Not getting clicked and rewarded is enough to stop Buzz from repeating those behaviors. I just stood there waiting for anything where his shoulders went down and his hips stayed up. He kept trying stuff. You could see his brain working, the spark in his eyes. “This?” “This?” “This?” “This?” I half expect him to get out the oils and paint a masterpiece when he’s in this mode. “This?” “This?” “This?” “This?” Eventually, he did it. A very slight bow. CLICK! (and then give him a cheerio). Our first click took about 3 minutes. It took Buzz about 20 seconds more to get a second click. His brain is basically moving from “This?” “This?” mode to “Was it this?” “Was it this?” Buzz repeatedly offered me sit and stand before bowing slightly again. CLICK! This is with no hints from me. No words, no luring him with a treat or touching him or gesturing. From there, Buzz had it. He was saying “It was this!” CLICK! “It was this!” CLICK! He started doing it more emphatically and distinctly and I gave him a lot of praise, then we stopped training because we should always end with successes and I was almost out of Cheerios. Soon, I hope to have him bowing fully and learning the word “bow” as well.
Then, we move on to wave, target, spin, roll, or belly.
~~cease nerd interlude~~
Buzz is nice and relaxed after all that mental exercise!