Sunday, February 8, 2009

Mud and Chickens

Today was a nice day, almost 50 degrees, which meant MUD. I took Thai out to work the sheep, but it was way too muddy, with spots of unmelted ice, for me to want to work the younger dogs. One of us would have broken a limb (and it would probably have been me :)

Thai and I worked on her down and stay. She was so excited to be working she was trying to read my mind and doing things before I gave the command. But I think I need to go back and fix my criteria for her stay. I have been way to lax in my criteria. In the house she could not hold a stay when I was putting one dog in the crate and letting another out. So I know what we will be working hard on the next few weeks. Her flanks were nice and she wasn't too pushy. Not bad for the first time out in 2 and a half months.

As I was on youtube I found this rather long video of chicken camp. A place I'd love to go, but it is not in my budget in the near future!

Three things stood out for me in this video, two of which I need to carry over to my training of my dogs. First, there were many clickers there and the chicken KNEW which one was her click. I have always found this to be true with my dogs, and have never had a problem with them paying attention to other people's clicks. But I have often heard this as an excuse as to why trainers don't want to use a clicker in class. Doesn't seem to hold true here. Second, the placement of the reward was so important. It was given as quickly as possible and in a place that set the chicken up to do the behavior again...not right at the target most of the time. Once the chicken was proficient with the clicking they moved the reinforcer around so the chicken had to start the next behavior from different places on the table. I need to do that more with my reinforcers. And Third, they kept upping the criteria to be sure the chicken understood the behavior. They put in other colors or shapes to be sure the chicken knew which target to hit. And then they with held the correct target to show that the chicken only would perform the behavior with the correct target. This reinforced to me not only to always up my criteria for distractions, but also to proof that my dog understand the verbal/signal cue for the behavior and won't perform the behavior without the correct cue.

Today I am grateful for the warm weather that allowed me to pick up some of the mess in the yard and clean the duck pen.

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