ClickerExpo 2011 Chicago Day Three (Sunday)

Here we go!  Day 3…

Session 1:  Efficient Training in Action (Cecilie Køste)

This lab really focused on smart reinforcement placement.  BUT, another key aspect of good training is everything that happens before you start training.

Her mantra is THINK – PLAN – DO.  Thinking is “What is the behavior to be trained?”   Plan is “What is the training plan, what is my criteria, where will reinforcement be delivered, what could go wrong, and what will I do?”  When you are training… no thinking, no planning.  That must occur before training begins.  If the training session is falling apart, you must stop, put your dog at station, and go back to thinking and planning.

Cecilie coaching a student
Cecilie coaching a student

The exercises in this lab were:

Cup Game (Clicker Mechanics)

She had all the students warm up with a basic clicker trainer exercise – the cup game.  How many treats can you put into a styrofoam cup while maintaining perfect form (feeding hand is still till click, no extra movements of the body, no speaking).  I haven’t done this myself since my first KPA workshop over a year and a half ago.

Go to Target

This is the simple “Go to Cone” game we even do at Puppy Class at When Hounds Fly.  The best way to use reinforcement here is to click, deliver the treat to the dog’s mouth, let them nibble it while you lure their body/head back towards the cone.  When the dog has finished eating and is released, the cone is now right in their face for another repetition.  Brilliant!

Beagle playing "Go to Dish"
Beagle playing "Go to Dish"

Finish Position

All the dogs here had finish positions already trained, ranging from kind of wide and sloppy requiring a big hand cue, to verbal only finish cues, to really snazzy jump, rotate mid air, and land in finish Obedience finishes.  Efficient training means when you click and treat, let the dog nibble on the treat while the handler moves around and faces the dog in Front position, tucked really, really close (like Front).  When the dog is finished nibbling, the dog is now ready to offer Finish again. Round and around you go…

Finish Position
This dog had a great "flying" finish. The handler is about to treat and will allow the dog to nibble while she moves to Front position, setting up for another rep.

One tip that was mentioned about any of these obedience behaviors is the dog should get it right and perfect on the first repetition – otherwise you have a dog that learns to do a sloppy finish, then wiggle their butt in to get closer, c/t.  Oops… Petey has that.  Michele Pouliot calls this a “two part finish”.

Long Down – Feed in position (room service) – bring the treat to the dog to reinforce position.

Sit – Feed above head for a more tucked sit.

Stand – Feed towards chest

Reverse Lure – While a dog is in position, tease the dog with food in your hand, almost like you are trying to lure them into another position.  If the dog maintains position, c/t.

“Many Downs” – How many downs can you get in a minute?  C/T and toss the food to reset quickly, or after a down, handler moves away to get the dog up, so you can cue another down.

Rollover – Feed over the shoulder to encourage more rolling.

Hold Cloth – Shaping a hold of a hotel towel.

A common theme throughout the sessions I have taken – everything you do in training should be a conscious decision, and certainly I have learned to be very conscious about where I reinforce and why.

Session 2:  Crosstrain! (Michele Pouliot)

This seminar should just have been renamed “Platform Training”.  Platform training is relatively new.  Michele had a DVD for sale at ClickerExpo that was flying off the shelves and kept on teasing me since it was played on a monitor in the hallway.

Platforms are so new in training that there are next to no videos on it on YouTube.  I just found a handful… this one is the use of platforms to teach position/distance for Obedience:

The use of props in training is not new.  We’ve used walls/edges to limit a dog’s option when trying to train a straight heel or a straight finish.  We’ve used mats for position.  Many are now teaching heel/finish using perches (or paint cans in my case for Petey).  Platforms make it easy for dogs to delineate space.  It makes it easy for us to understand criteria, since if the dog is on the platform, and it’s the right size, by definition, the dog is straight, and in the right position.  Michele showed clips from her new video that shows platforms being used to train front, finish, weaves, go outs, tight spins, stay, and response from a distance work (like paw from a distance, while perched on a platform).

I intend to teach the 18 basic behaviors from Cecilie’s Top OTCh lecture on Day 1 to Petey again, but this time using platforms.  I’m going to build my own platforms using leftover flooring from When Hounds Fly.

Lastly, she talked about other useful tools for training such as chutes, ledges, walls, x-pens, etc. to train behaviors.  I was delighted to see all this, because Julie is doing the same stuff with our students in our tricks class right now.  I love it whenever the methods we use at When Hounds Fly are validated by the world’s top clicker trainers. 🙂

Also, check out her “Step Up to Platform Training” DVD here.  She starts training her litter of puppies at 4.5 weeks old.  Wow!

http://cdf-freestyle.com/store.htm

Session 3:  Learning Games and Play

Kay Laurence is “one of the world’s top clicker trainers” according to Karen Pryor.  All weekend long, people were raving about her lectures so I decided to catch her on the very last track and session for the conference.  I am glad I did!  This topic was appropriately “light” in technicality but brilliant in terms of expanding my horizons of training.  Specifically, Kay has very ingenious ways to incorporate playing with your dog as training.

Through play, we can teach dogs self control, body awareness, and movements such as backing up, side stepping, etc., all of which are needed for many different dog sports.

One important thing to think about (which I often don’t) is the safety of the game. She is adamant that dogs should never run around on laminate flooring, as it’s an easy way for them to pull a muscle, or worse. I guess it’s true -try running around laminate flooring in your socks and see how long it takes to pull a muscle. Her training facility is CARPETED and ripped up and replaced regularly.

She has a pretty large library of videos on YouTube so I’ll just share these videos for you to watch and enjoy.  Have fun playing with your dogs!!!

Games with a Sausage (Catch the Mouse)

Egg Agility

 

 

Lastly, I thought I would share a few things from the Saturday (Day 2) evening dinner featuring Patricia McConnell.  She lectured on the  topic of animal cognition and how much animals think.  I didn’t really take notes but she shared various research on different examples of studies done and also cited Ken Ramirez’s (Shedd Aquarium) work on teaching dogs to understand concepts like Big vs. Small, Mimicry, and of course dogs like Rico and Chaser (object recognition with both noun and verb).  She showed some footage that I’ve found on YouTube for you to check out.  They’re interesting and fun.

She also shared a few other recent studies about dogs understanding our pointing gestures better than chimpanzees, and also a study that showed domestication does not necessarily mean a dog’s problem solving ability is reduced (which is commonly believed to be true).  Anyways I’m not really a scientist so I’ll just ask Krista (from UWO) next time I see her.

Julie, Mirkka, Emily and I had to leave at 4 to catch our flight home, so we missed the closing remarks by Karen and Patricia.  Evidentally it was so moving there were 400 dog trainers in tears at the end.  Oh well, next year I’ll plan to stick around!  In the meantime, I have hundreds of slides and notes to review.  Hope you enjoyed the blog series!

Notes for ClickerExpo
Notes for ClickerExpo

 

 

ClickerExpo 2011 Chicago Day Two (Saturday)

I’m exhausted!  I feel like I’m back in school… also feeling a bit inadequate, but also really fired up about enhancing my own training skills as soon as I get back home.  Cecilie said during her lecture today “You could shape that way forever and be perfectly fine, but doing it this way will make your training more efficient.”  Who doesn’t want to be more efficient?  So here’s a summary of what I did and what I learned.

Session 1:  Shaping Procedures for the Agility Trainer (Eva Bertilsson and Emelie Johnson Vegh)

I’m not an agility trainer and I don’t know the first thing about agility.  This is exactly why I took their track.

Eva Bertilsson and Emelie Johnson Vegh
Eva Bertilsson and Emelie Johnson Vegh

The most important concept they shared today is the concept that shaping is not just Behavior, Click, Reward, repeat.  There is a TON of behavior that occurs between the taking of the reward and the next cue.  What happens here MATTERS.  If you don’t pay attention to what occurs after the dog eats their treat and the next behavior, you end up building a lot of “garbage behaviors” in your training.

A perfect example I have from my own training is with Petey.  He often throws in extra behaviors between reps – a common one I see is he spins clockwise between behaviors.  Another common example I see with many dogs is during a Watch Me exercise – after the dog eats their treat, they often start scanning the room and looking at other dogs.

In both cases, the eating of the treat has become a cue to do an extra behavior.  If we are trying to build focus in the Watch Me, and you continue to allow your dog to eat, then scan, then cue Watch me, then click, eat, and scan, you are actually reinforcing scanning/looking away.

Good training eliminates the garbage that happens between repetitions.  You can manipulate the environment to prevent those extra behaviors, change criteria/increase rate of reinforcement, or work on reinforcement delivery (position) to prevent garbage behaviors from occuring.

Garbage behaviors are also contextual.  In obedience, a great behavior to get after eating a treat is for the dog to look back at the handler, since we are trying to build extreme focus on the handler.  But in agility, we are trying to have the dog continue along the intended path of the course (criteria would be nose ahead towards line).

Session 2:  Shaping Procedures for the Agility Trainer in Action

This was my first Learning Lab for ClickerExpo.  Since I am without a dog, I attended as an observer.

The primary exercises for the dogs in this lab was to implement the “Aim for It” procedure – which in a nutshell, is nose ahead towards intended path.  These exercises were fantastic, however, what really blew my mind was the exercises that preceeded Aim for It.

Eva and Emelie actually spent a good thirty minutes simply working on the protocols that lead UP to beginning training.  This is what happens before you start training with your dog.  It is clear that what happens in between training sessions is key to making each training session impactful, an also getting maximum intensity and the right attitude out of the dog.

Training starts with a dog at their “Station”.  The station can be a mat or a crate.  When a dog is at their station, the dog is off-duty and the handler is free to think, plan, and prepare.  Once the trainer is ready, the dog is moved from their station to their work area through a “Transport”.

Transport, as they define it, is not just walking the dog casually on leash (or off) to their working area.  When transporting a dog, they assert that the handler must be fully engaged and contacting their dog at all times.  That can mean dog is being lured/lead with food from your hand (and making full contact/munching away), lead with a collar grab, or lead via a tug toy.

As soon as the trainer disengages with your dog (food hand is taken away, hand goes off collar, or toy is taken away), training starts, and you c/t the first behavior that meets criteria (for Aim for It, it’s nose ahead).  Once the trainer is done the session, he immediately go back to transporting (by using your last food reward as a lure back to the station, or tugging back, or collar grabbing and leading back).

This protocol takes “pay attention to your dog” to a whole new level for me and I feel quite guilty for leaving my dogs “dangling” after the end of a training session now.

Session 3:  Efficient Training – Making Progress Quickly (Cecilie Køste)

This session had a lot of parallels to Eva and Emelie’s.  A lot of it covered basic good training form (no talking while training, hands by the side (not in the bait bag), etc.  She also spent a lot of time sharing videos of her colleagues training, and they do also have very regimented stations – the dog was sent to his crate whenever the trainer needed a break, or time to setup the training environment (moving props, reloading treats, packing tug toys, etc.)

The biggest takeaway I got from her presentation was placement of reward.  As I mentioned earlier, up to this point I have been pretty relaxed about treat placement.  Primarily, I used treat placement as a way to reset the dog to maximize the # of behavior repetitions in a training session (i.e. click for watch, toss treat for to floor to reset, or click for down, toss treat to side to reset, or click for mat, toss treat away so the dog has to travel back to the mat).  She summarized the four different strategies for treat placement as follows:

  1. Reinforce in position (treat in down for down stay – room service as she calls it)
  2. Reinforce to reset position (to expedite the next repetition)
  3. Reinforce for Direction Sliding (treat ahead of the dog away from you in heel to counter-act the tendency for a dog to become banana shaped in heeling)
  4. Reinforce to next behavior in behavior chain (toss toy over jump, if final behavior in chain is a jump

Session 4:  Click to Calm Unleashed with Emma Parsons

Last lab of the day – I was an observer in Emma Parsons’ Click to Calm Unleashed lab.  She ran the lab walking through the different exercises she teaches in her Click to Calm class for reactive dogs.  What’s amazing about them is they don’t actually require a ton of space, and one thing that was really surprising is how hard she pushes her students… making trainers with their space sensitive dogs work in extremely close proximity by being strategic and careful about entrances, exits, and maintaining high rate of reinforcements (or sometimes just shoveling food into the dog’s mouth).  With more research and planning hopefully I can incorporate some of these exercises for classes at When Hounds Fly.

Car Crash Game
Car Crash
Parallel Racing
Parallel Racing
Off Switch Games
Off Switch Games

 

The evening ended off with dinner with a lecture by Patricia McConnell – I’ll write more about that tomorrow.

Have a good night!

ClickerExpo 2011 Chicago Day One (Friday)

Hi everyone!

Just on break between my last session and dinner so I thought I’d blog a bit about Day 1 lectures and workshops!

Session 1:  Ken Ramirez, Aggression:  Treatment and Context

This presentation categorized and summarized many of the aggression treatment protocols commonly in use in science-based training.  Classical Counter-Conditioning, Constructional Aggression Treatment, Incompatible Behaviors (Watch me), Look at That, Click to Calm, etc. were all covered quickly, and Ken presented his opinions, pros, and cons of each.  Most of the content of this presentation was review for me (since dog aggression is an area I spend a lot of time studying and working on in the field), however, here are a few interesting points I picked up:

  1. Ramirez asserts that training Incompatible Behaviors (Watch-Me) is an excellent tool to prevent the rehearsal of aggression and to keep animals safe.  However, he clearly states that these approaches do not solve the aggression problem by itself. This is something I figured out by accident, which is why I incorporate Behavior Adjustment Training now in the treatment of dog reactivity.
  2. Ramirez showed a video of Kellie Snider in a CAT exercise with a Doberman that is aggressive to strangers that visit their home and has a bite history.  The video showed clips of a 38 minute protocol where initially, the dog would bark and lunge at the sight of Kellie (over threshold), but only at the precise moment the Doberman relaxed would she leave.  If the dog barked as she was leaving, she would return.  After 50 repetitions (roughly), she was able to greet the dog and feed the dog treats, and shortly thereafter she was able to pet the dog on the head.  The video itself was quite amazing in that a) she is incredibly brave – the dog was unmuzzled, has a bite history, and was only restrained on leash and being held by a pre-teen boy and b) this dog had never allowed a stranger to come into their home in many years.
  3. Ramirez did not discuss BAT (Behavior Adjustment Training) as he is not familiar enough with it at this time. A bit disappointing, since it is my favorite protocol for reactivity now.

Session 2:  Michele Pouliot – Anticipation is Making Me Great!

Michele is a world champion canine freestyle competitor – which is exactly why I took this track (I know very little about Canine Freestyle).  The topic of this presentation was how to use a dog’s anticipation to your advantage as a training tool.

If you have ever had a dog anticipate your cue and break a start line stay, or impatiently begin offering behaviors prior to the cue, here are some takeaways (Petey is a chronic jump-the-gun dog, and I’m delighted that she frames this “problem” into an advantage)

  • Anticipation when harnessed creates energetic and immediate (low latency) behavior
  • Most errors of dogs starting before cued are handler errors – extraneous cues the handler gives unconsciously – video taping yourself is the best way to troubleshoot this
  • Never correct (even mildly) a dog that anticipates and starts before the cue – you will kill their enthusiasm
  • Create a “Start-Ready” dog by creating a cue that tells the dog “the first cue is coming” so they know to get energized, focus, and wait for the first “real” cue
  • Use a “wait” cue and reinforce it either with a primary reinforcer (c/t) or cueing the actual behavior.

Session 3:  Cecilie Køste – Top OTCh Skills for Top Obedience

Cecilie is world class competitive obedience trainer from Norway.  This is another area I really don’t know much about, so I was thrilled to have a chance to hear her present in person (tomorrow I am attending a hands on workshop with her on the same topic).

A key concept in their training method is to teach a set of 18 “basic skills” that have no cues, then assemble them finished behaviors fluent with very high criteria, then backchain them into performance behaviors, and then assemble routines through backchaining.  The analogy she used is “Letters to Words to Sentences”.

Since I’m working on getting Petey ready for Rally-O Trials, I’ll blog more about this separately but here are a few neat points I wanted to share tonight:

  • They are BIG on Doggy-Zen proofing.  All behaviors in the basic set must be performed with food scattered on the floor or in bowls – once the dog has performed the behavior, a release cue is given to go to the food (or toy)
  • A new term… “reverse luring” – where lures are presented and the dog must ignore the lure and maintain position (a variation of doggy-zen)
  • No cues are given to basic behaviors – so each session is compartmentalized to focus on one of the 18 basic behaviors.  How does the dog know which behavior is being worked on?  The dog offers all 18 and you just c/t the one you are working on in a session.

Two videos that were quite impressive was a dumbell hold while  hot dogs were placed on the dumbell, and a dumbell retrieve where the dumbell is thrown right next to a bowl of food (zen to the nth degree!)

Time for dinner!  Stay tuned for Day Two tomorrow.  Comment below if you have questions!

Lastly… BEAGLES AT CLICKER EXPO!

Beagles at ClickerExpo
Beagles at ClickerExpo