Last week I talked about my criteria for trialing.  Many of you will be surprised to learn that I was only holding her to one criteria – the fact that she did excellent work was a bonus.  I’ll get back to that topic in another week or so.

This week I’ll talk a bit about Training Criteria.

Lyra is just now mature enough (and sufficiently interested in food) to begin using food for proofing activities.

In this video, I’m working on proofing front and heel positions with food.

My criteria for earning praise is TRY.  I will always verbally or physically reward effort.

My criteria for earning a cookie is:  ignore the cookie and get the position correct – the quality of the position doesn’t have to be perfect as long as she I believe she gave her full effort for her level of training.

I am comfortable giving multiple commands, encouraging her, and at one point I even started to turn my body so that she would be “pulled” into position – I felt she needed some help so I gave it to her.

Let’s look at this session from start to finish:

10 sec – start easy – hands behind my back so that I am “neutral.”  Move backwards to make it clear that I want a front position.  To encourage her to be absolutely straight, feed from the top down – not from the sides.  Alternate hands.

21 sec – gave a hand cue when she missed the verbal signal; she is still learning that finish on a verbal.

49 sec – beginning of proofing – I tried to pull her out of heel position with a cookie but she resisted.  Good dog!

1:00 pulled her out of position.  Wait.

1:06 – success!  Praise plus a cookie in correct position – remember to reward for position.  For those of you who took precision heeling, note that this is now a modified pocket hand; I will always use this position for food rewards.

1:10 – an easy one – don’t forget to make work easy AND hard.  It builds confidence.

1:16 – poor choice to feed dog from the wrong hand – I tried to offset this by reaching over her head to keep her straight.

1:21 lovely resisting of cookie.  She also did not move, which is correct.  If a dog is in a position and you repeat the position, the dog may shift, but should not throw something else at you.  This is an function of stimulus control.  An easy way to proof your stimulus control is to ask your dog to do something that they are already doing.  You’d be surprised how many dogs cannot do this.

1:55 – if I ask for “heel” and she jumps back and comes right back in, I will accept it.  She is doing this because we’ve worked so much on “get your butt in” – that should go away as she develops her understanding of what correct heel position “feels” like.

2:08 – note how many “heel” commands I give.  I’m totally comfortable with this.  I don’t want her to get stuck and she is trying, so I help her.

2:28 – I decide that she needs more help so I turn my body.  This is to use the force of my body against the force of the cookie – I’m lessening the pressure of the “proof” without actually making the proof itself easier.

2:50 – she figures out the heel position but not the head position – I go ahead and reward.  I follow this up with an easy rep for confidence.

3:12 – this moment tells me that she learned from the hard proof that she just finished – she takes much less time to make a good decision.  I tell her how proud I am!

3:34 – asking for a front after doing a series of proofs in heel position is quite a challenge.  As soon as I ask I realize I’ve made a mistake.  I cannot use a cookie to “lure” her there, because I just finished using the cookie as the “anti lure”.  So I use my body in a manner that pretty much forces the issue and causes her to come to front.

3:45  we’re just beginning this work – I give lots of support for effort.  Note that I’m tilting my body to help her; fine at this stage but eventually she needs to do it on her own.

4:08 – nice!

4:20 – that was difficult and she did it.  Good girl.

4:25 – note that moving towards the cookie hand is actually much harder than away.  That is why I praise even though her sit is obviously quite crooked.  No cookie but nice praise.

4:35 – she gets confused here.  This is a typical place for confusion – it looks to her like I’m opening up a space for her to pivot since I often teach going to heel position that way.  I do not allow her to get into heel because I know she’ll get stuck, so I turn quickly on a circle to get her reset.

I was very pleased with her work in this session.  I felt that she tried hard and that she made definite improvement in her understanding of ignoring distractions and finding the correct positions with a verbal cue.  She will have one more training session today – outside where we can run and play so we don’t have to rely so much on the rewards!  Remember, precision work is boring for a dog, so reward schedule should be high to offset the fact that there is little you can do to make this exciting.

Need help with your dog’s precision?  Sign up for the on-line Obedience Problem Solving Class with myself and Nancy Gigliardi Little at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy – registration opens May 15th.  To be kept informed of all upcoming classes, sign up for the catalog/newsletter.