Monday, January 7, 2008

Training notes

I just wanted to make some notes about some training experiences that I've had recently with Sonic, otherwise I'll forget or won't remember them properly.

I am finding that the more he does something the more confident he becomes (fairly obvious). He'll do something for the first time and be fairly careful (never scared though) but once his confidence level rises so does his behaviour. The rate of how quickly his excitement level increases is always directly related to how exciting he finds what he's doing. For example, he only took three trips to the beach to become highly aroused by it and was subsequently shrieking and lunging to get down to the beach from the car park. However doing training of sits, downs, targeting etc took far longer for him to get high arousal, but now he's confident with the exercises they also elicite shrieking/barking at me and multiple behaviours offered rapid fire in his quest for the reward.

I have now incorporated requested behaviours before meal times. So when I prepare his dinner I place about 6 pieces of kibble aside and ask him for at least three nose touches, a sit and a down before he's allowed in his crate to eat his dinner. The first time I did this I got one of the biggest temper tantrums I've seen from him so far. Other than sitting and dropping in rapid succession he refused to nose touch my hand, a behaviour that he does easily during a normal training session. He tried every avoidance behaviour he knew to not touch my hand (including bashing Angel when she got too close due to frustration that I wouldn't let him have his dinner!). I gave him one cue "touch" and then held my hand in front of his nose. When he realised that I wasn't giving up he jerked his nose in the direction of my hand, then when he realised that wasn't going to work he smacked his nose so hard into my hand that I'm surprised it didn't bruise. After four successive feeding times when I have done this I wouldn't say he has been anymore compliant. However once he realises that I'm serious and he won't get his dinner any other way he will give me what I want. His appetite is still ravenous and he is normally finished his dinner before the others have had two mouthfuls.

Walking him on lead has become a bit of a problem as he has learnt to lean into his collar with his front feet off the ground while reaching forward and his back "thumper" legs galloping. I was able to ignore this behaviour when he was a little guy, but now he is the size of a small border collie it is too much. So working from the Control Unleashed book I have incorporated stopping everytime he goes to charge off. I wait until he reorients to me and then we walk forward, stopping again the minute he starts throwing himself forward on the end of the leash. Anytime he is in my immediate area he is also allowed to go forward. It means that walks are very slow and takes me half an hour instead of five minutes to get to the leash free area, but he needs to learn that he can only have what he wants if he gives me what I want. I'm not sure how long it will take for him to figure it out but it will be interesting to see. I actually had an interesting result from it on Sunday when we went down the beach. The weekend before I had let him drag me down there and by the time we were on the shore he was a screaming nightmare. Last weekend after using the stopping, reorienting method he was much calmer when we reached the beach. There was also a huge difference in his body language, where he was relaxed and recovered much quicker so I could release him off to play in a much shorter space of time. I think this type of technique will be so useful when I'm doing agility with him particularly if his arousal level is going to be so high.

As he goes through adolescence I'm finding that anything he finds unusual, eg. children sitting on the beach or down the park, generates alarm barking from him at the source that he is unsure of. If I have food I immediately try and feed him, but unfortunately if he's too aroused he won't take food. Down the beach I have just used the toy to distract him away from what ever is causing him the anxiety. I'm hoping that like Riot, it is a stage that he will soon grow out of. I guess that is just something you have to deal with when you have a reactive dog.

No comments: