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Old 04-29-2012, 03:19 PM
Catsi Catsi is offline
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Default Abby's training adventures - Shaping the dumbell

This may be the first of a series of threads about a noob trainer (that's me) asking heaps of silly questions. Or I may just keep the same thread... that's a good idea.

Anyway, I've started to become just a little organised lol. So I have some training goals.

Most of them I have a handle on and we are having a good deal of fun, but one that I've hit a bit of a wall with is shaping the dumbell.

I basically just shaped for interaction in the beginning and building value for the dumbell. Moved on to just rewarding a grip on the dumbell and I'm trying to slowly build some duration to the 'hold'. I haven't named anything yet. I use 'yes' as a marker and 'good girl' to let her know she's doing well but I don't want her to end the behaviour.

I've managed to confuse matters somehow (not surprising) and now she just picks it up, holds it for a second and spits it out. If I do nothing, she just picks it up again and repeats. I'm so dopey, I'm not sure what to do next to build some duration and I'm not 100% sure what I've done wrong either (which would help if I could figure it out and become a better trainer.)

I don't want to kill her enthusiasm by making this a boring or overly frustrating exercise, because she has really started to find value in the dumbell. In fact sometimes when she is holding it, she is also doing her 'gruffing' noises, which is very cute, but more importantly it tells me she's having a fun time lol.

Basically my end goal is an obedience style dumbell exercise, but I'm starting with the hold.

Any advice would be appreciated.
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Old 04-29-2012, 04:24 PM
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lizzybeth727 lizzybeth727 is offline
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Sounds like you're doing great so far! You've gotten past a lot of steps that trip up even experienced trainers. I don't think you've done anything wrong at all, it's just that you and your dog are a bit stuck; it happens.

(Frankly I'm slightly jealous: I'm trying to train a dog who WILL NOT OPEN HIS MOUTH. It's exceedingly frustrating.)

Anyway. First of all, if she drops the dumbbell, pick it up and pause for a few seconds before retrying. Don't let her continue trying if she's failed the trial. This will make it a little more clear for her that she made the wrong choice and needs to reset.

If you have a good one second hold, this is probably a good time to start teaching her to deliver the dumbbell to your hand. Give her the dumbbell, and then coax/encourage her to walk with it in her mouth just a little distance to your hand, then click and catch the dumbbell. The idea is she needs to bring the dumbbell to your hand, and you'd click when it is in fact over your hand. Don't click her for dropping it into your hand, click her for bringing it to your hand. See the difference? Technically you're still clicking her for holding it.

Then you can build up the distance she has to walk to get to your hand; also have her grab the dumbbell and turn around to get to your hand.

When she's very clearly targeting your hand with the dumbbell (there's a point where it "clicks" in their head, it's usually kind of obvious for the trainer to see), then you can go back to teaching her to hold it longer while standing still; because by that point she knows she shouldn't spit it out unless she's over your hand.

Make sense?
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Old 04-29-2012, 04:53 PM
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Maxy24 Maxy24 is offline
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I remmeber this is where I got stuck with Phoebe, she would take it and I got her to hold on if I pulled on it (she didn't play but it seemed the urge to tug against me was still there) but if I let go so did she. There was literally nothing for me to build on, she never held it slightly longer or anything. I agree with Lizzy about making it about putting the object in your hand, that way it's not about duration but about getting it to your hand, which will cause duration to happen. Make sure she has a good hand targetting behavior. I would personally start with a toy, something she's already comfortable holding and bringing to your hand, at the beggining of the session and then switch to a dumbell and see if she can make the connection because of the practice with the toy. But I've never done any sort of competitive obedience so maybe that would cause I problems I don't know about.
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Old 04-29-2012, 05:15 PM
Catsi Catsi is offline
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Quote:
Anyway. First of all, if she drops the dumbbell, pick it up and pause for a few seconds before retrying. Don't let her continue trying if she's failed the trial. This will make it a little more clear for her that she made the wrong choice and needs to reset.
Ok great, will do this. Right now we have just been continuing and it's not been very clear at all. Which is why I have probably just got more of the same.

Quote:
If you have a good one second hold, this is probably a good time to start teaching her to deliver the dumbbell to your hand. Give her the dumbbell, and then coax/encourage her to walk with it in her mouth just a little distance to your hand, then click and catch the dumbbell. The idea is she needs to bring the dumbbell to your hand, and you'd click when it is in fact over your hand.
Firstly, and I just realised this, I have always shaped with the dumbell when I'm sitting on the ground. My excuse is smaller dog - easier when I'm at her level. But I've never tried the same behaviours with me kneeling, standing, crouching, walking etc, so I'll have to make sure Abby can do this before we move on!

Quote:
Don't click her for dropping it into your hand, click her for bringing it to your hand. See the difference? Technically you're still clicking her for holding it.
See these are the distinctions that I just don't get... until someone points it out! Wonderful!

Quote:
Then you can build up the distance she has to walk to get to your hand; also have her grab the dumbbell and turn around to get to your hand.
Great, this is a step by step process. Makes a lot of sense now that you have given me ideas for a plan.
Quote:

When she's very clearly targeting your hand with the dumbbell (there's a point where it "clicks" in their head, it's usually kind of obvious for the trainer to see), then you can go back to teaching her to hold it longer while standing still; because by that point she knows she shouldn't spit it out unless she's over your hand.

Make sense?
Lizzybeth, this makes a LOT of sense!
To be honest, this is not our first attempt at the dumbell... It's probably our fourth (I don't mean session, I mean attempts to grow the behaviour lol). I started with a piece of dowel trying to get her to get her mouth around it and I had a lot of difficulties the first time. She'd just love targeting with her nose!

So I'd put it away for a couple of months and get it back out again. Eventually we got a very weak tooth touch and so on and so on. But I put that dowel (finally we got a dumbell) away so many times to just think it over. But now I realise that I should try and address the issues and that there is always a way around things if I put my problem solving cap on - or better yet, Chazzers put their problem solving caps on.

So yes, I'm really happy with where we are at.

Last edited by Catsi; 04-29-2012 at 05:16 PM. Reason: Quote tags incorrect
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Old 04-29-2012, 05:21 PM
Catsi Catsi is offline
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Originally Posted by Maxy24 View Post
I remmeber this is where I got stuck with Phoebe, she would take it and I got her to hold on if I pulled on it (she didn't play but it seemed the urge to tug against me was still there) but if I let go so did she. There was literally nothing for me to build on, she never held it slightly longer or anything. I agree with Lizzy about making it about putting the object in your hand, that way it's not about duration but about getting it to your hand, which will cause duration to happen. Make sure she has a good hand targetting behavior. I would personally start with a toy, something she's already comfortable holding and bringing to your hand, at the beggining of the session and then switch to a dumbell and see if she can make the connection because of the practice with the toy. But I've never done any sort of competitive obedience so maybe that would cause I problems I don't know about.
This all makes sense. Giving Abby another job to do that isn't just 'duration' that allows duration to be built in anyway.

Great idea to use another, more comfortable toy as well for this game because then the meaning might just come more easily for Abby if I can generalise the behaviour a bit more. Thank you Maxy.

Did you get over you bump with Pheobe? I couldn't tell in your post.

Edit - I do have a good hand target behaviour, so that will help with this.
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Old 04-29-2012, 05:29 PM
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lizzybeth727 lizzybeth727 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxy24 View Post
I would personally start with a toy, something she's already comfortable holding and bringing to your hand, at the beggining of the session and then switch to a dumbell and see if she can make the connection because of the practice with the toy. But I've never done any sort of competitive obedience so maybe that would cause I problems I don't know about.
A LOT of people start with a toy. Personally I don't like to, because you get a lot of ingrained "play" behaviors that you'll have to shape out later on: chomping on the objects (to "squeak" them), shaking the objects, dropping and tugging the objects, etc. Of course you CAN still get these behaviors if you start with the dumbbell, but if you shape it right the likelihood is greatly decreased.

That said, you can use a toy in special circumstances. For example, with the dog I'm training who won't open his mouth when I'm training with the dumbbell, I'm starting to use a toy to get the process moving. I won't be training the whole retrieve with the toy, just the grab/hold. Also this dog has an INCREDIBLY soft mouth (one of the softest I've ever worked with), and is very timid with toys, AND I'll switch VERY QUICKLY back to the dumbbell, so I don't expect we'll get a lot of the annoying play behaviors.

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Originally Posted by Catsi View Post
Firstly, and I just realised this, I have always shaped with the dumbell when I'm sitting on the ground. My excuse is smaller dog - easier when I'm at her level. But I've never tried the same behaviours with me kneeling, standing, crouching, walking etc, so I'll have to make sure Abby can do this before we move on!
LOL, yeah, I'm used to training big dogs. But one thing we do in the beginning is to have the dog up on a table or porch or something so their mouth is pretty much at our eye level. It makes it a lot easier to see the subtle tooth bumps and such that you need to click correctly in the early stages. That's another thing that might help you, though, is to put Abby up on a higher surface so you can see her better.

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Originally Posted by Catsi View Post
Lizzybeth, this makes a LOT of sense!
To be honest, this is not our first attempt at the dumbell... It's probably our fourth (I don't mean session, I mean attempts to grow the behaviour lol). I started with a piece of dowel trying to get her to get her mouth around it and I had a lot of difficulties the first time. She'd just love targeting with her nose!
I work with a trainer who's been working on retrieve with her dog for SIX YEARS. And she's a professional. I know exactly what she's doing wrong, too, but she's never asked me for help and I don't give my collegues help - especially those who have been training a lot longer than I have - unless they ask for it. So believe me, you're not alone.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Catsi View Post
So I'd put it away for a couple of months and get it back out again. Eventually we got a very weak tooth touch and so on and so on. But I put that dowel (finally we got a dumbell) away so many times to just think it over. But now I realise that I should try and address the issues and that there is always a way around things if I put my problem solving cap on - or better yet, Chazzers put their problem solving caps on.
Sometimes it's good to take a break, too. There's definately the very real phenomenon of latent learning, where taking a break gives your subconscious brain the chance to work through and solve the problem. Often our best training sessions come on Monday, when the dogs have had the whole weekend off to think about it. Sometimes a little break is all you need to get to your breakthrough.
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Old 04-29-2012, 06:02 PM
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~WelshStump~ ~WelshStump~ is offline
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You might find this video helpful, as I did. It really doesn't start to get into the actual training process till 54 sec in:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oFO9Z0oHBA
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