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Monday, February 22, 2010

Spectacular bluebird day and a training video

A fresh and sparkling white layer covered the forest this morning, under a stunning blue sky early in the morning.Snow blanketed the boulders that K used as her one of her 'look-out' points this morning.
She gazed across a meadow, silhouetted against the endless azure sky.
The clouds started to roll in about a half hour into our hike but the snow still sparkled.
I slipped and tromped my way up to Hug Hill, anticipating a spectacular view. At times, the snow almost covered K completely!
Even her head submerged in the snow at one point, and she looked hysterically snowy when she emerged above the snow.
Despite the 5°F temperature, I sweated and roasted as we laboriously climbed. When we reached the apogee of the hill, misty clouds veiled the snowy mountains. It was beautiful in a surreal way rather than the crystal clear way that I expected.
After we enjoyed a few cold moments on the hill with my sweat freezing on my skin, we practically rolled down the hill all the way home, a happy girl and her dog who'd had a gorgeous day in the mountains.

On another vein, over the past several days, I've spent extra training time with both dogs. With K, I've worked on scent discrimination where she has to choose a certain plastic bottle that contains a particular scent. Eventually, I'll post some details of that training.

With R, I've worked on more basic training where he picks up an object and brings it to my hands. I use positive training techniques, where R earns treats for doing the correct thing (or some facsimile, depending on how far along we are in training a given behavior). His only 'punishment' for making an incorrect choice is that he doesn't get treats. As you watch the video, notice that I never say anything negative, threaten him, or intimidate him. Rather, I try to always be encouraging of good behavior and ignore bad behavior.

People often use 'clickers' for this type of training, where the person clicks at the instant of a correct behavior and then gives a treat. With R, I haven't ever used a clicker. Instead, I use a verbal 'yes' at the instant of a correct new behavior. As I watched the video, I realized that I'm not good at this technique. I end up using too many words and not enough 'yes' exclamations.

I've clicker trained K, and I think that I'm going to start clicker training with R in the near future.

Here's a synopsis of 3 days of training. It progressed far faster than I ever dreamed, mainly because R is not afraid to make mistakes. He 'goes for it', trying a new strategy whenever a previous one doesn't earn him treats. His demeanor is perfect for this type of training.

I realize that it's a long video but it shows both the ups and downs of the three days of training. It also shows R bouncing back after being terribly afraid of one of the objects that I asked him to pick up. So, if you have time, you might enjoy seeing the training in action.


  1. We're off to watch the video but wanted to comment first -

    Great pics!
    I loved K's snowbeard!

    Have a great week!
    P.S. My word is SCENT!

  2. I loved the video or R! He's just like I imagined him. He sure knows how to work!

    K's snowy face gave me the giggles!

  3. Amazing photos! The colors are so brilliant and K couldn't be more worthy of such a backdrop.

    Thanks for the video. It was fun to watch R's progression...a cool transformation from day one to day three with the medicine bottle.

  4. Stunning blue sky! R is indeed a fast learner. I was impressed by the video. I'm a big fan of positive reinforcement only myself.

  5. That blue sky is stunning and makes for some magnificent photography.

  6. Hey there, KB
    I love the way you are so patient and kind to your animals!No wonder they will eventually do anything for you. I employed the same reward method with Max...and Im reaping the results in his old age. (He was never quite as good as your guys though)
    Take care and lotsaluv

  7. what a smart boy!! can i send a couple of my dogs for one on one training?! :)
    is that duct tape i see on his laceration site?! the tape of many uses!!
    the blue sky is just gorgeous...we have been cloudy now for a few days...
    amazing to see YOU moving around with such ease after such a surgery!
    loved the video!

  8. I'm looking forward to your future comments on the scent training. Please discuss more on your technique with clicker training. In spite of taking one 'clicker' class, I just stumble through it. I like the 'yes' positive reinforcement instead!

    And I truly love your photos - blue skies, white snow and Happy dog!

  9. I can't watch the video now because I'm at school, but will when I get home.

    I find the clicker to be so convenient when I'm working on shaping a behavior. I used to think my "yes" came at the right time, too, but the clicker is just so much more precise.

    BTW, I totally agree with what you said about abandoning a tough training challenge instead of having Marge get stressed. I've done a lot of thinking about how Marge and I have been doing with agility, and I think I've found some of the sources of our problems.

  10. Beautiful pictures! Those of us who love winter, find those sunny, blue sky, fresh snow days just heavenly!

    R is a good learner! I need to work with Stella more and teach her some finer points. When I got her she didn't know how to leash walk, or not jump on people and just generally a rough dog. We have handled those things, but now it would be fun just to teach her some other behaviors. We'll be watching you!

    Jo and Stella

  11. A bluebird snow day! Fantastic!
    The video is great. Those can be difficult to sequence correctly. We will be working on similar training soon!

    Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
    Sierra Rose

  12. Definitely go to a clicker with R. He will love it. Plus, there is some relatively new research that shows a clicker results in more than 33% faster learning than a verbal marker word (like YES!).

    I'm so glad that he can help K bring you things you need during your recovery.

  13. The snowy photos are beautiful. K looks majestic near the rocks then silly with the snowy face. Thanks for showing the video. Gives me something to try out with Java. She gets so nervous when I'm trying to teach her something new but maybe I'm not breaking it down enough. Might have to try the clicker again too. I don't use it because I'm too klutzy and forget to click or can't both click and treat.

  14. Oh my goodness, that video was SOOOOO fun to watch! I just adore that little boy!!! And your happy voice when you rewarded him was wonderful! He is a smart little labbie!! Give him a very special squish for me please!

  15. Wow - you've gotten a lot of new snow! I've heard from friends that Breck has also gotten some much-needed snow. These photos are great!


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