Rumi has decided to take his blog back for the day :) He has excelled in ODX and is on to Utility. Most of the handful of times we have shown he has passed every exercises except for signals. Given that we show ASCA there has definitely been the times where the go-out situation looks a little...ummm...unique...but usually he figures it out and if he blows it, the second go-out is usually better than the first and by the second show he has always managed to nail them both. But oh those signals. I have managed to really confuse him on them.
So I decided, since I really want the UD sooner rather than later, I'd take data. I know the importance of data, I do it all the time in my other job. Obedience is my hobby, my stress relief, my fun...so I tend not to be as good at taking data and being okay with that. But when there is a problem, and I want to fix it, data is good. So I decided I'd do 4 sets of 4 signals with variable distances based on Laura Romanik's amazing heeling sets (can't wait to train my puppy using them) and keep the data. I also figured I'd do a heeling set before hand, since signals are preceded by heeling.
The first day showed that I had definitely taught Rumi to wait for a second signal to drop. 17 attempts before he did a correct one. After that for the next 3 days errors went down to only 4 or 5 out of all 4 sets (16 repetitions). Then we had to take a day off to let his sore shoulder feel better from a nice head butt from a ewe (he showed her it would not be wise to try that again!) and then we ended up with an icky set of 16 errors and a ton of stress yawning and avoidance behaviors. YUCK! Obviously there was something else playing into this.
So I pondered, mulled, and of course ruminated. It has been hot and humid around here. I had had Rumi doing heeling sets of a total of over 100 steps before 4 sets of signals. That really was a lot when signals were already stressy. And then we did that 4 times. And then I was re-reading one of Denise Fenzi's blogs and watching one of her video's of her training her dogs with half my mind, cooking with the other half and suddenly it hit me (luckily without cutting my finger). Rumi likes food, but unlike my previous dogs, he LOVES to tug and play. And I had been focusing so hard on counting steps and keeping track of number of errors to record that I had just kind of handed him food. And for him that was not reinforcing enough. I needed to do what was reinforcing for him.
Today I went out and just did signal sets and while I still used some food reinforcers I made sure I played and smiled and laughed until he was also happy with his performance. And we had 3 errors and 2 were anticipation errors, which at this point in his training I don't really count as errors. And he was happy and sparkly and having fun. And boy were we both hot and sweaty by the time we were done with all the playing and tugging. There was no way I could have done this much play and heeling sets.
As I was typing this I also think I need to change the data I'm keeping. Although errors are easy to count, I need to track our successes. I don't need to keep looking at our errors. So time to change our data keeping a little bit and continue on with my new insights and see where we get :) Maybe I need to track my laughing while I train too...seems to be the more I laugh the better trainer I am.
I train my dogs for fun, teach middle school students for a living. I love behavior in all its many forms. I am not so good at journaling regularly, so this is an experiment I will try to keep going :)