For Clara’s Novice Masters Trick Dog title through Do More With Your Dog, we need 15 more tricks to add to the 15 we’ve already done. I’ve picked an assortment. Some she already knows fluently, some we can resurrect from old training, and some are completely new. Likewise, my criteria will vary a bit. She can already do paws up on a wall; we’ll get it once and that’ll be enough. It’s something I’ll fade out as she gets older. But Peekaboo/center position, where she stands under me and pokes her head out between my legs, is something I want to get fluent and strong.
Here’s the list of what we are going to work on, with commentary.
- Balance beam (walk on an elevated plank). This should be straightforward. I have a sturdy agility teeter that she has actually walked while it moves. Walking a steady plank should be easy.
- Balance cookie on nose. I’m thinking of this as a fun challenge. I hate the “leave-it” videos where dogs have treats all over them and look miserable. I realize this is just one treat on the nose, but it’s a new thing for Clara. I broke out the boiled chicken today. She may have only a dog biscuit on her face, but she’ll get chicken for her efforts. And we’ll break it off if I can’t make it enjoyable for her.
Update: We’ve done one session of this. I used some flat, large kibble to start with instead of a dog biscuit. I aimed to start by putting the kibble on top of her head, but she thought that was too weird when I reached up there with food. Instead, I started by putting it on her front legs, using our “leave-it” cue. She got that right away. I paid with mozzarella cheese, which she seemed to think was a more than fair deal. Sometimes she got the kibble, too, if it fell off, which was OK with me. Toward the end, I switched to putting the kibble on the top of her head and she did fine with about five reps of that.
- Crawl. We have worked on this before, but I find it a challenging behavior, so it might take us a while to meet criteria. (This image is from 3 1/2 years ago.)
- Disc rollers. New behavior. I’ll need to get some rollable disks. The only ones I have are soft rubber and not suitable.
- Doggy pushups (sit/down). This was an earlier failure. We are practicing. We’ve got this easily if I reinforce each position. But I want to build some confidence and extend the behavior to all six iterations on one treat if we can. I rarely ask for multiples, and I’d like to get her more used to the idea.
- Focus. This is eye contact for six seconds. When we used to do the Training Levels, she got up to 20. Shouldn’t be too hard.
- Front (go from heel position to sitting in front of me). This will be new for her, but with my rally and obedience background, I’m pretty clear on how to teach it. It looks like they allow the backward step, as in rally novice (AKC).
- Memory game (indicate where a treat was placed under one of three containers). Should be fun.
- Muffin tin game. Also fun. Hardly any criteria—remove items to get to the goodies.
- Paws in a box. We’ve never done this, but she can do a tucked sit on a small elevated platform, so this shouldn’t be too hard.
- Peekaboo/center position. I am excited about this one. I want her to get it very solid so I can cue her to do it on walks. So I will go slowly and work to keep my training clean. Like mat training, I want to reinforce strongly both getting into position and staying in position.
- Platform jump (jump between two platforms of equal height). This is easy for her; I just need to get my two platforms the same height. I think I can take the height of the Klimb down to get it close to the Kato board.
- Roll out the carpet. We started this. It’s completely new for her, even though it’s such a baby trick. First, I put treats in a bath mat and let her at it. She was initially a little tentative and looking for instruction from me. But got the idea pretty soon that when she pushed with her nose, a treat appeared, whether it was one that was already in there or one I tossed. The challenge will be to get her to use her nose exclusively since she likes to use her feet.
- Stand. We’ve been working on this on and off for years. I have to remember what I started using as my verbal and hand signal!
- Target disk (nose touch to a disk). This will be simple if I hold it in my hand, more challenging if it’s on the floor (the rules give you a choice). I have taught her a paw touch to a disk on the floor and it’s actually on stimulus control. I don’t want to risk messing that up. In this case, I am going to take the easier route and hold the disk for the nose touch and let that be part of the cue. I rarely work on stimulus control and I don’t want to lose what we have with the paw touch. (To clarify: it’s perfectly possible to get both things, but I am running up against my own limitations. Plenty of these tricks will challenge us, so I don’t mind taking the easier way on this one.)
- Target stick. We are working on the new stick. This is an easy and fluent behavior for her; I just need to get it transferred to the longer stick with the ball on the end.
- Wall stand (paws up on the wall). We’ve done this before. We’ll do a one-and-done.
- Weenie bobbing. This is new for her, but she loves water and puts her head under naturally, so I don’t foresee a problem.
- Which hand holds the treat? This will be new for us. Since closed hand is an old signal for “leave it,” this might get interesting.
You may notice that there are more than 15 here. I need a little insurance in case some don’t work out!
Head Cock: Already a Mega-Blooper
I’m also planning for some of the hard ones on the list (we aren’t stopping at 30 when there are 61 tricks on the list!). One of the novice tricks seems like it will be very difficult for Clara: cocking her head. Zani was the queen of this charming behavior, but I have never seen Clara do it in her whole life. I will try shaping it, but it will be tough.
I’m trying to do the planning and problem-solving myself in this project, but on this trick, I might need to bring in some reinforcements. Hmm, which trainer friend shall I hit up?
We had a practice session where I tested the waters about capturing/shaping head movement. I marked and treated for any kind of movement of the head in any direction. This seemed a safe enough thing to do for one session. Unbeknownst to non-observant me, something was going on with another part of her body. This movie first zooms in on her head, where you can see that I was doing a halfway decent job of marking head movement. Then it zooms out and you can see the other movement I was capturing. Oops.
We also had some amusing developments when I started using the yoga mat for the carpet roll, as you can see from the featured photo at the top. I’ll post some yoga mat footage next time since it’s cute.
Clara is enjoying this so much and that makes me very happy.
Copyright 2021 Eileen Anderson