After slacking off for two weeks while on holidays (When Hounds Fly was closed, and I also slacked off on Petey’s training) I’m back at it and yesterday I taught Petey a new behavior – “Around” – which is just to go out and go around an object, either left or right, based on how I send him out. The whole exercise took approximately 20 minutes (of course, broken up into many short, high intensity sessions).
Here are some comments about the training plan:
1) Initially Petey has no idea what to do. We’ve been doing a lot of “go in/on” so he was just jumping on top of the bucket. That’s why I put my leg there – I was hoping he wouldn’t jump up.
2) I moved onto using “Aim for It” (described in Agility Right From the Start) – which is basically just click for action, treat for position.
Click 1 – for heading towards the object
Click 2 – for looking at the intended path
Click 3 – for moving along intended path
Click 4 – for turning head towards intended path, and then cue to mat
Subsequently, less intermediate c/t are required and very quickly, the dog understands the whole path to take as one behavior.
3) Good Agility Practices / Loopy Training
There’s no time for dead time in training! Like I mentioned in my previous post about training with high intensity, the dog is either working, or on their mat.
In clicker training, a loop is:
Cue > Behavior > Click > Consume Reinforcement > Cue > Behavior > Click > Consume Reinforcement
I use the tug toy frequently as a way to deliver the reinforcer, and transport the dog back to their mat – at which point, another loop in the training starts again.
When using food, it’s important to deliver the food in a way that the dog does not have to get frustrated to find it. Usually, my aim is pretty good, but you’ll see on the video there’s a bad bounce (2:11) and Petey has trouble finding it. Having to sniff/scan/search for food breaks the loop. This is inefficient training and can also cause superstitious behaviors to creep into your training.
When it’s time for a break, I send the dog to their mat.
4) The opposite direction: I didn’t include any video, but I started with Aim for It to teach the other direction.
5) Object Generalization: My goal for our first session was for Petey to go around a pylon. So I started with the Pylon on top of the bucket, then moved to a small paint can with the pylon, and then just the pylon. It was nice and easy.
What do you think of the training plan I used? Comment below if you have feedback!