Tuesday, May 8, 2012

2, 4, 6, Weave

Gimmie dat toy!
I've started weave pole work with Spencer, since they're a stumbling block with Baxter. Baxter is a little lower drive and he learned weaves initially with channel set poles and then did some re-training, or attempted retraining using Susan Garrett's 2x2 method. It is hard to get motivation for the weaves with Baxter. I'm toying with the idea to start Baxter over from the beginning and work him though with Spencer. Using jealousy to help motivate and just working on building more drive ... but I digress, that's another topic! Spencer is being trained via the 2x2 method exclusively.

I am super impressed using this method with a dog from the beginning. Spencer has been working on this for about a month now - I don't train it every day or even every other day, he'll see the 2x2's maybe once or twice a week for short sessions of  3-5 min max before we work on something else. Since he's up to 2 sets of 2x2's (4 poles now) I have to train outside - there is no non-slip space large enough in the house. All the rain we've gotten lately is dictating when I will (or rather will not) be working on this!

See look, weave poles somewhere in this picture
In about 6 sessions over those 4 weeks Spencer is to the point where the 4 poles are nearly straight and the behavior we're practicing almost LOOKS like weaving. He can find some pretty nasty weave entries from on and off-side - which in itself is impressive since (due to the obedience work he's done) he was sure that standing on my right was going to result in some horrific doggie torture and would cross behind to my left at every opportunity.

As soft as Spencer is, even when he gets a entry wrong I can resend him multiple times and he will figure it out because of the toy drive. For now with only 4 poles I don't use a NRM (non reward marker) I just recall and send again, no reward is pretty obvious as his toy is still in my hand. Once we're up to more poles I'm not certain what I will do. The "pro-NRM" for weaves camp has a point - the weaves can be self-reinforcing, so you want to stop the reinforcement/reward if the behavior is not correct. The "anti-NRM" camp has also got a good point, that stopping motion and calling the dog off the obstacle for incorrect performance (both handler and dog error) can cause anxiety issues, stress and shut down behaviors. That'll be a bridge I will have to cross when I get there.

For not being a very confident dog I love having a training method that he has enough fun with and enjoyment in (or at least enjoyment in getting his ball reward at the end!)  that he can keep working at something in order to get it right, instead of shutting down. It makes it so much easier to train and I enjoy the process a whole lot more.

I has toy!

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