Fixing What I Broke
Part 2 of Dogs Notice Everything.
The three “Missed Cue” videos were among the first videos I posted publicly wherein I tried to illuminate an aspect of dog training.
Imagine my surprise when, after showing how Zani and Summer didn’t understand their “Go to Mat” cue at a certain distance from the mat, people started asking me how I would fix that.
Oh dear. I was so proud of myself for showing the world the result of this disconnect between dogs’ and humans’ perceptions. Now people wanted me to fix it?
Let me say again: I’m not a professional trainer. I am not qualified to teach people how to train their dogs or to diagnose or treat behavior problems. But these were my dogs (and this was my mistake!). I thought about it, and decided I would feel OK about posting a solution. I could show what worked for us.
I consulted Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels and saw where she recommended moving the mat around from the very beginning. I hadn’t followed the directions, tending to stick the mat in one place and sending the dog to it from various positions. Sue wrote:
When you finally get the mat far enough away from you that she’s not going to hit it naturally, she might go looking for it (EE HAH), or you might have to switch from waiting to shaping.
Well, if I had done that from the beginning I never could have made the “Missed Cue” video. But going back and retraining it was fun for both Summer and myself.
Find the Mat
In the “solution” video I moved the mat farther and farther from Summer so that part of the behavior became looking for it. I put it some strange places as well; draped over a step and on top of the couch. After a couple of days’ practice of this (covered in the 3 minute video) I tested her in the original setup with the mat at the end of the hall, and actually slightly out of sight into a bedroom. She found it and ran to it confidently, going much farther than the point at which the behavior had previously fallen apart.
As usual, we didn’t do perfectly though. I did the exercise with Zani as well, and I have an unexplainable “outtake” at the end of the video where she comes up with a pretty strange alternative to finding the mat.
By the way, my dogs are free to move after I mark the behavior with a click or a yes. But since I treat so much in position in mat and other duration behaviors, they tend to stay there. That’s why you see me doing various things to re-set the dogs in these videos.
The Missed Cue: Generalization
This is the video where Zani failed to generalize the “going around” behavior from a pole lamp to a short plastic box. Or rather, I failed to help her generalize it. Since the video was short, I included a suggested way to retrain the behavior, where I took a third object, a fire extinguisher, which has a vertical profile, and cued her to go around that as a transition between the dissimilar objects. She ran to the fire extinguisher, offered a couple of behaviors towards it, then tried going around. The second time I gave the cue she responded quickly. Looking back now, I would do this differently. I took a risk using the cue. It is usually not recommended to use the cue until the dog is very solid on the behavior. What I would do today, and what I am doing with puppy Clara as she learns this behavior, is re-shape the behavior each time I introduce a new object in the beginning, and not use the cue until she is offering it regularly. That way I don’t “dilute” the meaning of the cue. As Sue Ailsby says, “Remind, review, reteach.”
Here is a short video of Clara “re-learning” the go around behavior on a new object for her. It only took a few clicks for her to get it. Let me reiterate that this is a re-shaping, not the initial shaping of the behavior. If I recall, that took about 5 minutes and many more approximations, and of course she wasn’t doing it with such ease at the end of that session. I will do the re-shaping on various objects in several environments before I use the cue “cold” on a new thing.
Clara Re-Learning Go Around
Here are two short examples of how well you can generalize the “go around” behavior (called “Distance” in Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels) if you use the reteach method and are very thorough, as my friend lynnherself is.
Going Around a Car
Going Around a Building (holding a leash!)
We’ve already had one very nice description of how another trainer solved the distance problem with Go to Mat. How about the rest of you? Have you solved this kind of problem? Do you want to share that in a comment or a video?
Discussions coming soon:
- One more demonstration of a dog noticing everything (and an embarrassed human)
- Dog/dog resource guarding
- Poop in my pocket: life with an old, old dog
- Superstitious behaviors
Thanks for reading!
Copyright Eileen Anderson 2013