Today I took Lyra out for some personal play time.  No toys.  No food.  Just me and a dog.

That, however, didn’t last long, as I was joined by my sons.  One proceeded to take over my jumps for his personal fitness training and the other….became a magnet for the dog I was trying to train.

Some days it’s hard to be a mom.

But wait, there’s more!

I noticed that what I wanted from Lyra, specifically, that she would ask me for some personal attention, was exactly what she was doing for Nick, even though he was not really encouraging her.

Now, he wasn’t discouraging her either.  When she came over, he’d absent mindedly pet her head, and then she flopped to the ground for a nice belly rub.  He gave her that.  I commented that he was getting better interaction out of her than I was, and I needed that for training.  I encouraged him to play with her or train her, so that I could watch.  And he did.

And you know what?  They showed moments of brilliance together.  So I went and got the video camera and then I decided to interview Nick to get a sense of how he approached his training/play time with Lyra.  While the video camera took something away from their interaction, there’s enough left to be worth showing.  This blog is his response to my questions.  If you watch and read carefully, there is a good deal to be learned from this twelve year old.

Note who drives the interactions.

Note how he selects the motivator he uses.

Note where his  attention lies the entire time he works with her.

Note who takes responsibility for failures.

Note the genuine praise and approval for her successes.

Note his response to her failures.

Note her attitude.

How did you get Lyra to play with you?

I just pet her when she comes over.  And then I quickly called ‘heel’ and tried to walk her around a little bit.  She followed.  After a little while, when I felt that she deserved a reward, I petted her.  Gave her a belly rub.  Then worked with her a little more.

2)  What did you do when she walked away?

I clapped twice and called her name.  She reacts well to this.  I also have to use a high pitched voice.  My mom taught me this awhile ago and I’ve adapted it to my own needs (for example, getting the dogs out the door when mom wants them out.)

3)  How did you decide when she had worked long enough?

Two ways.  If I felt that she had done something hard (like I had done a weird twist or she had come back from a distraction), I felt she deserved a reward.  The second way was when she wasn’t working quite as well.  If I pet her she’d come back back up again.

4)  So. you’re saying you’d use the rewards to revitalize her so she could work more?

Yes. that is correct.

5) How long did you work with her?

About five or ten minutes.

6) DId you think that was about the right length of time?

I think she could have gone longer but….she was starting to be distracted more easily and she didn’t seem so interested in being petted anymore; I think I had worn petting out a bit.

7) How did you pick the reward?

I didn’t have any toy or food, so that was out.  And every time I’d pet her, I just pet her as I always do.  Rub her back, or I would rub the top of her head a bit.  Or I’d rub her neck but then she thinks that means belly rub.  She had to make a choice to flop over, so she must really want a belly rub.  So…I gave her one.

8)What did you do when she picked up the bone?

The fist time I used it as a replacement as a toy – I threw it.  The second time I let her carry it while she worked because it seemed to make her happy but this distracted her from her work so she started just lying down and eating it.  So I took it away and replaced in with a dumbbell that I could throw but she would have no reason to try and eat it.

9) Did you do anything else besides rub her head and body?

Yes.  I talked to her in a happy voice and I ran with her because she likes that too.
Thanks Nick.