Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Training Day 2: In Which What Goes Up Always Comes Down

Did you bring the clicker? Did you bring the clicker? K asked as I arrived for our second day of training.
Yes, I brought the clicker. She hadn't let me leave it with her last time because while I had explained the theory behind it and how it is used, everyone in her family were prone to fiddling and she knew anyone who walked past the table (including herself, apparently) would start clicking it indescriminately.
I took it home.

Fortunately, Gatsby was still aware of what the clicker meant...

With that, I took her out back again. Since she responded to the clicker, I was hoping to teach her to respond to her name - to look at me when she heard it. This was actually surprisingly difficult. I've noticed K loves to chant her name in a cutesy voice while she plays with her 'Gechhbi, Gechhbi', so I wondered if she was desensitised to her name. I tried adding 'hey!' as a 'look at me', but with no avail. I just sounded silly saying 'hey!' in an excited voice over and over. 
Hmm. Maybe forget that step and go straight to my first goal: recall. Maybe once she knows good things come from me she'll pay more attention to me. 
This didn't go so well either. K came out and found me struggling, and as I pointed out Gatsby didn't seem so keen on the ham bits this time either, we crushed up some lamb... something or other. I forget what they are exactly, but they come in big dry crunchy pieces in a package from Petbarn. That got her interest for a bit longer, although they can be hard to break into small enough pieces.

K and I called her back and forth across the very small area, treating her when she came to us. She did start coming to us fairly reliably, but - 
Do you think she's just playing us for treats? I asked K. Running back and forth? 
Probably, K replied.
I stopped calling. Sure enough, she'd look over after taking K's treat, knowing it was the other person's turn to treat. Hmm.

I'll play with her, K said, grabbing a rope toy. K was worried Gatsby would get too worked up with the toy (she's possessive), which is why K doesn't usually use toys to play with her, but I thought it was a good opportunity to test the recall. Nope, she wouldn't come to me when the toy was involved.

Well, I had somewhere to be after that so I couldn't stick around any longer, but wanting to end on a good note I opened the door, went inside and called Gatsby in after me. No matter what I did, no matter how excited I sounded or how many treats I waved, Gatsby wouldn't come in.
I looked at K.
We only call her in when we're finished outside, she said.
Oh man.
Feeling discouraged, I shut the door, leaving Gatsby in the yard, and asked K to drive me to the station. As I was gathering my things Gatsby started pawing at the closed door and K automatically opened it for her.
Do you realise what you just did?
K looked at me... oh, right! Whoops. I honestly didn't realise, it's habit now.

I was frustrated at myself for not being sterner with my friend, because at the beginning of a session I'm always pumped and sure we'll make progress, and then at the end when I'm exhausted I'm frustrated at her for not being more disciplined and frustrated at myself for not being more assertive and clearer with my message. Fortunately I did my best to voice my opinions to K before I got out of the car, and I think she is, slowly, realising and taking it on board. I made a mental note to send her a clear email before I saw her again, and reminded myself to be thankful that she was getting involved - when she sat down on the stoop to join in with recalls it was a clear sign she knew we were in this together, she wasn't leaving me out the back to work with her dog. Not every day will be a success, I know. But we'll rest up and be at it again the next day.


  1. just one step at a time with this sort of thing ,you're doing great really,don't get disheartened with little set back,because any progress is good even if it is only with K.try concentrating on one task at a time like with recall for a while in your training session,oh have you thought of trying tiny pieces of cooked bacon as the treat?xx Rachel

    1. That's right Rachel, it's not really a set back at all - it's just a sign of the things to be worked on. I was lucky Day 1 was a positive day to get us kick-started but I know there'll be plenty days like this - and I sure hope there are, too, but with different problems - that'll mean there's progress!

      The ham bits are basically bacon (we actually call them bacon bits in Australia) but hmm, cooked would certainly be tempting... so tempting I'll have to stop myself from eating them myself first though! Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Go ahead and eat the bacon bits - you deserve a treat too!

    Maybe if Gatsby was a bit hungry the treats might be more of an incentive?

    1. I don't think Gatsby would feel very 'positive' about the human eating all her treats... especially if she ends up working for them! On the other hand, if she's not co-operative, well, wouldn't want that lovely bacon to go to waste...

      I definitely agree. I'm told dogs are generally not food-motivated if they're full!
      ...K, if you're reading this, I now have an objective third party to back me up: stop falling for the cute puppy eyes hovering around your feet at meals!


Thoughts? I'd love to hear them!