DAY 1 2/19/10 Day one of training went really well. We had a twenty minute training session with my new 14 week old Lab mix, Koot. I also have three other dogs, a 13 year old Lab mix, Homer, a 7 year old Golden Retriever, Ginger, and a 3 year old Pomeranian, Puck. Not being able to isolate Koot to train her individually, I had to train her with the three other dogs present. I thought it was going to be a tough job at first, but once I figured out a system, it worked out okay. I used positive reinforcement and beef jerky as the reinforcer. The first behavior I am training Koot to do is to sit. I used a closed left fist as the non-verbal signal and the word ?sit? as the verbal signal. Within ten minutes Koot was getting the concept that if I said ?sit? and put my fist up, holding the treat in the right hand, that if she sat she would receive the jerky. It took me just waiting for her to do the behavior of sitting and then giving the treat, and she finally caught on that when I said ?sit? or held my fist up, that certain behavior would get the jerky. Once sit was going pretty well, I went for the second behavior which was ?shake?. She did not catch on quite so quickly as sit. I did this for about five minutes after the original twenty minute session. Eventually she just became more and more bored and wanted to sniff around and play, so I ended the session. My plan for next time is to strengthen ?sit? to where if I do either the fist or say the word, she does the behavior right away. I will hold off on the ?shake? behavior until she masters sit. DAY 2 2/26/10 Day two of training went even better than day three. This time the only dog other than Koot was Puck, the Pomeranian. She is not as distracting as Homer and Ginger were for Koot. This time I had real training treats to entice Koot to behave the way I needed her too, and they worked very well. When she started to run off, I would call her name and she came running back. I strengthened sit, and now she sits to a closed fist or the word as long as she gets the treat afterwards. The next session will consist of me either say the word or closing my fist to see if she understands it without the treat. This training session lasted about 15 minutes due to the shortage of treats, however I went out and bought more, so a lot more time should come out of the new bag of treats. I think mixing up the treats each time aids in getting Koot to concentrate on the task at hand, instead of her getting bored and running around as puppies normally do. I have realized that training a puppy is more much demanding and difficult than training a dog who has less energy and is more calm. When I trained Puck, she was more focused and understood better, whereas Koot needs constant reminder of the food to keep her focused. After we practiced sit for a little while I went onto the next behavior I wanted to teach her which was to lie down. This turned out to be extremely difficult and so I changed gears and started shaping ?sit pretty?. She was certainly getting the hang of it, but it was difficult for her to stay up on her hind legs, and one time she even did a complete flip and fell over backwards. I think with some more practice she will get the hang of it. For ?sit pretty? I use my left hand palm up for the non-verbal cue and the word ?up? for the verbal cue. I say ?up? in a harsher more definitive way than I would say ?sit? so she understands the difference between the two right away. In the next session I will continue to work on ?sit pretty? probably the whole time. I think it will take a couple sessions for her to get confident and steady enough to ?sit pretty? for a couple seconds. Overall, the training is going very well, and I think it gives Koot something to do other than run around and antagonize all the other dogs. She needs that extra outlet for all the puppy energy that she has, and I think she has fun trying to figure out our little training game. DAY 3 3/10/10 The third training session was the best yet by far. There were three or four different aspects that made it the best. The first was that I isolated myself and Koot in the bedroom with the door closed and away from the other dogs. This helped her focus much more on me and the reward and it lessened the interactions and influences of the other dogs. This also helped with making the session longer than normal because she had no distractions and was so focused, which brings me to my second point. This session was about a half hour long, much longer than the others. This led to a much more productive time with respect to the training and the learning of Koot. It was a solid chunk of good training that got a lot accomplished. The third reason is that she actually got the hang of the whole training aspect. The last session she was playing and thought it was a game, which is kind of is, but her game meant just rolling and running around and not really thinking ?why did I get this treat?. This time, however, you could clearly see that she was trying to figure out what she needed to do in order to get the treat. She is learning that when treats come out, and Dessi is saying something weird and then giving me a treat, it?s a special time. I think isolating her from now on will tell her, okay, this is training time. She is with the other dogs 24/7, and the one time she is not with them means something. The routine of doing this certainly helps with her learning and her focus. The fourth aspect was that I used a different treat than the previous sessions. This treat was a small round Cesar treat that I don?t think she liked as much as the tiny training treats from last time, but it did the trick. As for the actual training, I learned that you have to have a detailed plan before you start to train an animal. You cannot go in there and wing it. You have to know what you are going to work on, in what order, how you are going to do it, what you are going to say, what your hand gestures are going to be, etc. or else everything will just go haywire. I started out this way and I was even confusing myself, never mind Koot, and realized I needed to stop, think about what I was doing and then do it. This seemed to work out a lot better. I went in saying okay, I am going to strengthen sit, then work on UP some more, and then think of another one. When I got into it I kept changing the behaviors that I wanted, the commands, and the gestures. Koot ended up having no idea what UP meant and just stared at me like I was crazy. Then, I took a minute, said ok what is she good at that I can reinforce and that might be a little easier (than her having to go up when she can?t hold herself there). Then I said, well she seems pretty focused, let?s try DOWN again. I used a finger pointed down and the word ?down? while holding the treat on the floor. If she went after it without laying down I pulled away and said ?no?, if she lied down all the way I said ?good girl? and gave the treat. Eventually, she got the hang of it and by the end of the session she could discriminate the hand gesture because if I said the word but didn?t do the gesture she would stare at me, but once I put my finger pointed down she lied down and got a treat. From here I decided to try roll over and see how good at that she was. I realized rolling all the way over was too far but half way was doable. While she was lying down, I put my hand in a gun position, put the treat to one side of her, and said ?play dead?. After some practice she would just collapse on one side and I would give her the treat. She did exceptionally well at this one. So once I stopped and thought about what I was going to do and how I was going to do it, everything started to come together pretty well. From now I will have a plan before going into the session, and I think this will help both Koot and I and will maximize results. Summary of accomplishments: She had pretty much mastered sit, but we have to reinforce the hand gesture and the verbal command. I will attempt this by using just one or the other, not both, and try to get the same behavior out of each of them. She has a good understanding of down, and we will continue to strengthen that as well as attempt to have her perform the behavior from a standing position and not a sitting one. Play dead is about the same as down in terms of skill, and we will strengthen that one as well. I want her to be able to play dead without me having to the hold the treat to the side but just in front of her instead. Goals for next time: Perform SIT with just the gesture of a closed fist Perform DOWN from standing position Perform DEAD with treat in front and not off to side Be consistent with behaviors and work on them instead of changing them up each time DAY 4 3/11/10 Today?s session was productive but not as productive in comparison to yesterday?s session. I think Koot was a little more wound up and energetic today than the day before and so her focus was not there as much. Even with less focus, we still accomplished a solid amount. Goal 1 from yesterday was to perform sit with just the hand gesture. To start the session I worked on having her sit when just seeing the closed fist, it started out well at first, but then she wasn?t doing it unless I said the word SIT. I realized it must be because she knew that if I had a treat I wanted to her to sit and she would get it, so she was not responding to the fist but to the reward. I don?t think we are to the point where she will sit without the reward so we moved onto goal 2. Goal 2 was to perform DOWN from a standing position. I am happy to say that this is half way accomplished. By halfway, I mean that when I say down and point my finger to the ground, she will either just collapse down or she will sit. If she sits and I don?t give the treat, then she will go all the way down. So we are inching step by step to performing DOWN from a standing position. Goal 3 was to perform PLAY DEAD with the treat in front of the face and not off to side as a lead. This was accomplished for the most part. In a down position, I will say PLAY DEAD with a gun gesture and the treat next to the gun gesture, and it takes her a couple seconds to figure out what I want, but once she realizes it she rolls to the side. On all three behaviors, it takes waiting for her to just perform the behavior you want. For example, if you want her to sit you just wait while she is standing and she will eventually sit. Or if you want her to lie down, you just wait while she is in a sit position and she will eventually lie down and the same goes for playing dead. Each behavior is a sort of extension of the last, which makes it easier in teaching them because if you have the first behavior, sit, and you want the second, down, then you simply wait and the dog will instinctively go to the next behavior in the sequence. This is especially helpful in timing because you can predict what she will do and when. Goal 4 was to be consistent with the above three behaviors. Instead of switching behaviors and trying to learn something new, harder, or easier, I stuck with SIT, DOWN, and PLAY DEAD. This made it easier on both Koot and me. Koot wasn?t getting confused as to what behavior would get her the treat because we stuck with only certain ones that she could try and figure out which one worked. As for me, I used the three behaviors as guiding points for each other. So goal 4 was accomplished. Summary of accomplishments: SIT with verbal cue. In general DOWN was accomplished from sitting position but strengthening of cues and from a standing position would be appropriate. PLAY DEAD is an established behavior with the treat in front and not off to the side, but needs strengthening with time between command and behavior. Goals for next time: Perform SIT with gesture only and make sure Koot sees the gesture before performing the behavior. Continue to work on performing DOWN from standing position. Work on reaction time from PLAY DEAD cue and the behavior. Be consistent with the SIT, DOWN and PLAY DEAD behaviors. DAY 5 3/12/10 I am very pleased with today?s session. I worked on the non verbal cues the entire time and got them pat down. Koot did very well in recognizing the gestures and in responding with the correct behavior. For SIT, I used the closed fist and put the treat right behind it so that she knew there was a treat but it also forced her to see the closed fist. She performed SIT each and every time she saw the closed fist with the treat, and eventually I will wean the treat from the gesture. For DOWN, I did the same thing with SIT. I used the finger pointed down with the treat directly behind it so she had to see the gesture. She recognized the finger and lied down. This is evidence that she is discriminating between cues, because she sits when she sees a closed fist and lies down when she sees a finger, instead of just seeing the treat and guessing on the behavior. For PLAY DEAD I incorporated a snap into the gun gesture of my hand. I did this for two reasons. One is that when she hears the snap, she knows to play dead so it is not solely a hand gesture for all three behaviors which I also think makes it easier for her. Also, this is kind of a show technique in that you hear a snap, see the gun, and then see her roll over and play dead. It is a nice play on of actions. I think she recognizes the gun, but when she hears the snap of my fingers, it is easier for her to understand what I want. Summary of accomplishments: Can sit to a closed fist with treat behind. Can lie down with a finger pointed down and treat behind. Can play dead to a snap and gun gesture, also with treat next to the gesturing hand. Goals for next time: Perform SIT to just the verbal cue. Perform DOWN to just the verbal cue. Strengthen PLAY DEAD with non verbal cue. Be consistent with the above three behaviors. DAY 6 3/13/10 Today Koot and I had a shorter training session than normal, however we still got a good amount of training and perfecting the behaviors in. I am continuing to switch the treats up each time and I think this really helps her stay focused and keeps the training as a fun game for her. For SIT, we started off with the non verbal cue and she understood it right away. Then after some of this we moved onto the verbal cue of sit and she also understood this. In general, I think SIT is more or less accomplished completely. For DOWN, we started with the non verbal cue as we did with SIT. She understood this and performed DOWN right away. However, performing DOWN by the verbal cue turned out to be more difficult. With the gesture, she has a visual of what she is supposed to do, for example the hand pointing down tells her go down. But, with the verbal cue, she has to know what to do by just a simple sound, which is why it was more difficult I think. I would say DOWN and just stand there, and eventually she would get the idea and went down and I would give her the treat. Overall I think she is learning DOWN from the verbal cue very well and I think with a little more practice she will get it down pat. For PLAY DEAD, she understands the non verbal cue very well. I think adding in the snap for the non verbal cue was huge in helping her understand when and what behavior to do. You can definitely see how much she understands the snap and the gesture more than just the gesture. For the verbal cue, this seemed to be more difficult than the verbal DOWN cue. But just as the DOWN cue, I said PLAY DEAD and then waited for her to do something or roll over to give her the treat. She eventually got the hang of it, but a little more practice and polishing will make the behavior faster and more on cue. At the end of the session, I tried giving the cues without holding a treat. I wanted to see if she really understood them, or if the treat was a major component in her behaviors. Giving the verbal and non verbal cues for SIT without a treat proved to be fine in that she performed the behavior right away. However, this was not the case for the other two behaviors. Without the treat, she is confused for some reason. I can say the word and give the gesture but without the treat she just stands there. A couple of times she did the behaviors and I gave her lots of praise, so hopefully she will understand to do the behaviors with or without the treats. I think with a little bit more practice she will get this. Summary of accomplishments: Can do SIT with verbal and non verbal cues as well as without a treat, but needs more polishing to be faster. Can perform DOWN with non verbal cue, but needs more work on the verbal cue. Can perform DEAD with non verbal cue, but needs more work with verbal cue. Goals for next time: Strengthen SIT in terms of timing from time of command to behavior. Perform DOWN with verbal cue. Perform PLAY DEAD with verbal cue. Stay consistent with above three behaviors. DAY 7 3/21/10 Today?s session was short and sweet. Koot pretty much has all the behaviors down and can perform them with both verbal and non verbal cues. Today we just brushed up on them and made sure they were good to go. She quickly and efficiently sits on command with both verbal and non verbal cues. She also does it without a treat which a huge step. She quickly and efficiently lies down on command with both verbal and non verbal cues and also does it without a treat. The same is true for playing dead. Sometimes she will see a treat, and then automatically sit and lay down without waiting for the command. When she does this, I do not reward her because I did not give her any cue, or at least the cue I wanted to give her. She only does this on occasion, and when I see it starting to happen I walk to another part of the room and start over. I think reacting in this way will show her that she only gets a treat when she responds to something I do, not to the treat or because she is bored so she rolls around. I also think when I start over and walk to another part of the room, it lets her start over and refocus herself. Whenever she does behaviors nilly willy, and I start over and don?t reward her, she seems to refocus and start again. I think we will attempt to tape her behaviors and see how she does with this. If she doesn?t seem to like the camera or is nervous, then we will stop taping and practice some more so she can get used to it. It might take a couple takes, but I think she will get the hang of it eventually. Who knows, she might even get it on the first try. I will definitely tape it in a room with just her, me, and the cameraman. If she is around the other dogs she will become distracted for sure. I think being in the same room she learned all her behaviors in will also help her focus and not realize or think about someone else being there.
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