Saturday, July 26, 2014

Her "Ahah!" Moment

Hermione and I have been working on "hit it" and "touch" for quite some time now. Her "hit it" is her using her paws to touch and "touch" is her using her nose. She seems to prefer using her paws and so I've really tried to reinforce that behaviour. I want to say it's been a month or so, but maybe it hasn't been that long. Then again, maybe it's been longer. either way, it's been a while. Her "hit it" is spot on when I'm training with her, but proofing the cue has been a bit tricky. I could get her to do it as long as I had kibble or a treat in a closed fist pretty much anywhere, but I really want her to learn to use her paws instead of her voice. That was the whole point of me teaching her "hit it" in the first place. Even though I didn't see any improvement in her translating "hit it" to every day things and she was still yelling about things, I have kept at the training at meal times and when I'm dispensing treats.
About a week ago I saw a glimmer of her starting to understand. I was by the back door, letting the dogs out and she came over and whacked me with her paw. Normally I make the dogs sit before going out, but I said "yes" "" enthusiastically and flung the door open. I don't know if going out was what she wanted, but I wanted her to realise that she gets things for using her feet instead of her voice.
Yesterday was probably the biggest "ahah" moment she's had since we've started training the behaviour. I don't even think it's that she's put two and two together, but what I think happened was that she was so frustrated with me ignoring her barking that she hit me with her paw very enthusiastically and repeatedly. She had a stuffed fish toy that she loves. Technically it was otis's for his birthday, but Hermione seemed to enjoy death shaking and chasing it more than he did. I was sitting on the couch doing my best to ignore her insistent yipping; she really, really wanted me to throw it. Her bark is so high pitched it's difficult not to respond which is probably why she learned in the first place to use it. I sat and waited, hoping that she'd just give up. Instead of giving up, she hit me repeatedly on the leg with her paw in quick succession. The fish was within my reach so I nearly shouted "yes" in my excitement and hurled the fish across the room for her to fetch. Her frenzied state to get me to throw the fish must have worn her out because she didn't want me to throw it anymore after that one great toss, but I was so excited that she had used her feet that it didn't matter.
I've always read that re-training a behaviour or even training a new one takes time, patience and consistency. I knew that, logically. But, honestly, it's difficult to understand just  what that entails until you go through it. That said, I think we're making progress so I will blunder on and hope that paw tapping becomes more frequent than voice squawking.


pattib said...

I think you've had a major breakthrough! Keep up the good work!

Becky Andrews said...

Fascinating!! Hope more ahah moments ahead!!