Thursday, February 28, 2013

Teaching Bow

Last week, I posted this video of Hurley successfully "bowing".  Jodi wanted to know the best way to train and, while I cannot necessarily share the best way ('cause I'm not silly enough to think my way is the best), I can share what worked for us.

When I start training any new trick with Hurley, the first thing I do is break out the clicker.  He seems to understand that clicker = learning new trick and he's less likely to offer his same old arsenal of tricks at first, which helps me to shape or lure the behavior that much faster.

I chose bow because I thought it would be easy for Hurley to learn.  He already lowers himself into a down front legs first from a stand and he's always offering play bows.  My job was just to shape and capture a movement that he already does on a regular basis. 

I lured him with a treat into a partial down.  I was careful to never use our hand signal for down because I didn't want him to be confused about down as a separate command.  It would be easy to accidentally confuse him since I was essentially starting to teach bow the same exact way I started to teach down.  By sticking my foot out and doing a little hand flourish (ie, bowing to him), I was able to ensure that bow was not confused with down.  I didn't add the foot and flourish to the lure until I knew he knew what was expected.

As soon as he had his front elbows down but before his back end hit the ground, I clicked and treated.  The difficulty in this step was preventing a full down.  I either tossed the treat away from him or stepped into him to reset his position after I gave him the treat.  I was able to do this because Hurley's a slow-moving dog.  I would probably just start with the next step for Maggie & Sadie who both would plop down faster that I could mark the halfway down.  Plus they both tend to sit and then slide into a down.

We did this for a couple short training sessions over the course of a few days.  I noticed that Hurley wasn't really maintaining a bow so much as he was just slowly lowering himself into a down.  If I reset his motion by tossing the treat or taking a step into him, he wouldn't go all the way down but he didn't really stop in a bow on his own.  I decided he needed more help in maintaining the bow so I added a step and once he started lowering his front end, I stuck my arm underneath his belly to prevent him from going into a full down and we had a little treat party.  It took only a couple times doing this before he was maintaining a bow and any time he maintained that bow without my arm in the way, he would feast on treats.

Then I stopped all training on bow.  I have noticed that doing 5-10 minute training sessions until he "reasonably" gets it and then giving training a rest for a period of time works best with Hurley.  It's like it sinks in better.  I always resume training, thinking it'll take us a training session or two to get back to where we were but he always surprises me and does it even better than where we left off.   In this case, I didn't revisit Bow for a month or more but when I'm trying to pack in a lot more training in a shorter period of time, this break is 5-7 days long.

Hurley's Bow isn't perfect.  I would like to get him to a point where he never goes into a down from the bow and where he can follow using the verbal command only.  Hurley's much more reliable with hand signals than verbal commands.  I use both because I want to have the flexibility of both (what if he goes blind? deaf? can't see me?  too loud of an environment to hear me clearly? etc).  There are a ton of tricks he knows where he can't do it on verbal alone and because they're only tricks, I don't worry too much about cementing the verbal.  Besides, if Hurley has to bow shouldn't I have to bow back?  It's really only polite.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hurley's Love Affair with....

Hurley has a new love in his life...


My dog is weird.

 And yes.  He ate the whole thing.  And begged for more.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hurley's New Trick

We've been working on bow on and off for several months.  Really, we worked on it a couple times a month or two ago and today, I decided to revisit.  Hurley of course didn't miss a beat and offered up a most proficient bow.  He's such a rock star.