Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Insanity, or Is It?!

I've posted this quote before and I'm sure we've all heard it said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

Sometimes though, your journey brings you back to a point and maybe it isn't insanity to give that one more shot.

With Spencer, the first obstacle he learned was the weave poles - mainly because that was and is one of Baxter's weakest obstacles/skills.

Baxter was trained with channels and with Spencer we had just discovered Susan Garrett/Say Yes and the 2x2 method.

2x2's made sense to Spencer. Weaves are one of his strongest obstacles/skills. I'm certain that it helped that he REALLY wanted his toy, but teaching him 2x2s was super easy.

2x2 Weaves

Now fast forward to Nike. We didn't start doing much with the weaves until she was around 9 months and at that point in time I was just having her run down a wide channel to a target plate. I wasn't actually teaching weaves, just getting her accustomed to the pressure of the poles and teaching her it was nothing to be concerned about - so we didn't do it often at all.

After she turned 1 year old I started working on teaching the 2x2s ... but she was having none of it. She did not care what I had. Did not care about the poles at all. Just really wasn't getting it and VERY much wanted to flank the poles not run through them - even when we were just trying to build value for interacting with one 2x2 base.

So, rather than fight with it, I left that.

Channel weaves, open to closed

She'd already had exposure to channels, so I moved on to that method and started closing the channel. Problem is, when you have a herdy dog who already wants to flank things, she might or might not hit that entry, but she sure was not going to collect and get that second pole.

So, instead of fighting with that, I left that method as well.

Next we tried "windows." Windows are similar to guides but instead of not letting the dog leave, they are just a "window" that sticks out from the pole on the side the dog ISN'T supposed to be on. I love these because they help the dog understand the weaving motion, but the dog is choosing to stay in. It's also not as aversive as guides/xpens to those dogs who are touch sensitive.

Channels with plastic guides - not how I want to teach ...

Nike did like windows, and she figured how to hit the poles and stick in them even at speed. The problem comes when trying to fade the windows out of the picture. You slowly start removing windows in the middle, leaving the end windows (entry and exit) to help the dogs be correct.

Learning weaves with the "window" method
First time in the weaves using windows

However, as soon as I'd fade a window out, it was like she'd never seen the weaves before in her life and was not generalizing the motion through the poles with the windows to poles with no windows on them.

So now we're back to 2x2s. This time though, I've cleaned up my mechanics a little and my baby dog has grown up a little. We've also discovered the joys of chasing toys and playing fetch, which probably helps.

I've also gotten a little smarter in how I train. Spencer would keep trying even if he wasn't being rewarded because he really wanted that toy. He has pretty awesome resilience to disappointment - as long as you don't put any pressure on him. Nike has zero resilience to disappointment. If she gets something wrong (tries and is not rewarded) more than twice, she is probably going to leave work and go sniff/find something better to do. So sessions with her are very short and she is rewarded for coming back to me to try again.

So far this seems to be working, so I'm hopeful.

It is definitely a paradigm shift to take responsibility for EVERYTHING and not have any pressure on the dog. If nothing else, Nike is certainly greatly increasing my skills as a trainer.

Sayings evolve for a reason, so I guess even if I haven't gotten the dog I thought I wanted, I am getting the dog I needed - and sometimes it's evolution, not insanity if some time has passed!

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