Dice is 18 weeks old. My primary focus is finding ways to expose him to the world while keeping him out of mischief – not a simple matter with a high drive puppy who isn’t content to just watch the world go by. He wants to engage with something; if he engages with me it is either work or play. If he engages the environment it is attempting to chase cars, bicycles, or birds, digging obsessively, eating bad things, barking at dogs, hunting critters in the grass, etc. In other words, there’s not much “just being” going on.
Which is fine – I signed up for this and got what I asked for. Now I take responsibility for molding him in the direction that works for us.
Here’s a typical training session; one of those interludes when he is occupied and out of trouble. For today’s blog, go a little further than just watching what he’s learning. Ask yourself – which activities does Dice enjoy and which are not very popular? If you can’t tell, then I’m doing a good job. If some stand out rather obviously as not popular, then that is evidence that I should have changed something.
It’s my job to figure out which things he enjoys and to use them to reinforce things he enjoys less. If I don’t know which activities he does not enjoy, then I cannot go to extra trouble to build their value.
How does one build the value of less intrinsically valued activities?
- Figure out which ones they are
- Choose less distracting environments as much as possible for those activities
- Use a higher rate of reinforcement or a higher value reinforcer when working on these activities
- Keep the total number of repetitions down
- Follow less popular activities with more popular activities.
Here is today’s video – what do you think? I give the answers below.
His favorite activities are generally heeling for a toy, platform with impulse control, automatic down after releasing the toy,
His middle activities are fronts, scent work, nose touch, and jump to a stand.
His least favorite activities are circling the cone, holding a dumbbell, down/crawl backwards.
As an interesting side note, he’s usually fine with down/crawl and I would have put it in the middle pile on most days. But today? Nope. Not wanting to do it very much.
How can I tell?
Does he looks around during the exercise? Are his ears up? How many repetitions before I start seeing unwanted changes to his demeanor? Does he lead the way to the activity if he knows what it is or offer it on his own if there are props involved? Does raising the rate of reinforcement without making other changes create a more enthusiastic picture or is more required to get me where I want to be? Can he perform well in non distracting environments but loses focus in more public or outdoor spaces like this one, compared to other activities that he enjoys more?
Note that some exercises will always be more or less favored and others will vary, so this analysis is something you do on a regular basis. Also, be prepared to change your analysis on the fly to bring out the best in your dog.
Give it some thought with your own dog. What does your dog enjoy? How do you know? How do you structure your sessions to take advantage of preferred activities next to less preferred activities in order to improve your dog’s attitude?
This exercise was helpful to me as well and I can see where I need to make a few changes. Excellent! That’s the value of video.