Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Got It Down

It amazes me how easy it is to train a dog in something that they already have a propensity for. Training the Dachshunds, Kyo and now Hermione and Otis to sit/down/stay was all good fun, but it took a lot of work, consistency and repetition. Otis still doesn't "down" very well, but part of that is because I haven't pushed it with him. His sit is reliable and with how short his legs are and how heavy his head is the regular "down" position is a bit difficult. He usually ends up in a froggie stance, front paws with elbows bent and back legs kicked straight out behind him. As for Hermione, she finally did a "down" for Mr. K for the first time ever just the other day. I was pleasantly surprised. So, knowing how much work these obedience tasks have been, I was absolutely floored when all it took was two, good solid clicks on my behalf and Hermione now "digs" her bowl for water instead of barking. I don't even have to click anymore.
She begins her frantic diggy diggy, front paws assaulting the bowl and as soon as I say "thank you" or get up off of my butt she instantly stops. She waits patiently while i fill the bowl and there is no excited yipping or yelling while she waits. She's absolutely quiet. It's great.
Part of me wishes I could see sometimes. I think if I could see her I would pick up on other behaviours that I could shape into wanted (quiet) responses instead of her noisy barky ones. I know she's noisy partly because I'm blind. I think being a Spaniel she has the natural tendency to be noisy and so that is the route she chose. Otis, on the other hand, uses his paws a lot to let me know he needs/wants things, but his breed seems to be just quieter than the Spaniel. That brings us back to the propensity for things.
As for learning targeting...Hermione is sort of getting it. Otis definitely gets it, but Otis is naturally more likely to use his nose or paws to get what he wants. He ploughs boldly into my palm when I offer it to him, but Hermione daintily taps it. That means it's been harder for me to catch her "touch" than his. I've used the "close fingers over something tasty" method longer with her just because it gives me more of a chance to click for her. Otis really didn't even need that in the beginning at all. Part of me wonders if I should try training targeting with an object other than my hand for Hermione. I think she would be more inclined to "touch" something else. My only concern is that I won't feel the touch and won't click at the right time.
Decisions, decisions.
I'm going to continue on the targeting work with both dogs, but I'm also going to hang the bells at the back door just to see what happens. If I hear any noise, whether it is bell ringing or cloth rustling, clicking will be happening. Hermione is naturally curious and so I am thinking that if I put the bells back there she will investigate on her own, giving me the opportunity to reinforce the behaviour; and hopefully decreasing the need for vocalising.
It's not exactly the learn step 1 to move to step 2 in order to reach goal, but she's never really learned that way. Otis is very much a systematic learner, but I don't think Hermione is. She might be too much of an independent thinker.
either way, I'm glad I've managed to control her barking in one arena. Now, it's just figuring out how to manage it in other situations. I think it's going to take some creative thinking on my part, but we'll get there.

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