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Lilly has a few default behaviors that she throws at me when she’s not quite sure what I want or when she knows it’s the fastest way to get what she wants. Here’s a tiny video clip I shot, using our still camera, which can also do little clips. Since the camera isn’t as imposing as the regular video camera, Lilly tends to act more like herself.
Ginko is looking at a dog across the road. Our neighbor had some workmen over, and one brought a dog. Lilly is completely ignoring the dog, which is a victory. But, full disclosure, there’s a creek, a pasture, a fence and a road between her and the other dog.
Still, it’s a pretty, calm, default down.
(I’m having all sorts of embedding problems this week. My software button for it is not working, so I tried sticking in the HTML coding manually. It doesn’t show up, so I don’t know if it’s going to work until I post. I got an email from tech support on Friday saying they’d successfully embedded the video for me, but I certainly don’t see it … Do you? So, just in case, here’s a link to the video.)
I do not know Lis’ Kristoff, but I heard about this video and her story through an online agility group I belong to for people who train and run rescued agility dogs. It’s a very sad story because Lis’ was recently given just 3 weeks to live. But, it’s also an inspiring story about dreams coming true, even at the last possible moment. (If this doesn’t make you bawl, then you’re stronger than I am.)
I do not have outside confirmation, but I believe the story to be true.
A while back, I wrote about the the case of a dog named Rolo. Last week, he avoided a death sentence at his hearing. He was found guilty of running at large and being a dangerous dog, but a day later the judge did not feel that he is a clear and present danger to the community and did not uphold the euthanasia order. So after 6 months, 2 weeks and 5 days, Rolo got out of doggie jail. There are many conditions his owner must meet in the coming weeks and years, but it’s better than death.
The trainer we did our initial obedience with with, Ted Terroux, testified at the hearing and will oversee Rolo’s training in the coming months to solve the issues that led to the incident. Reports say he’s already showing good progress.
Getting off doggie death row led to an appearance on the Today Show.
I guess there were even comparisons to other media-circus trials, including a sign that said something like “If you can’t prove he bit, you must acquit.”
How funny is that?
Yet, it seems like it has been a huge ordeal for everyone involved.
Here’s hoping Rolo spends the rest of his years as a GOOD boy! And, here’s wishing that none of us face such a terrible situation either with our own dogs or with someone else’s dog.
One of the ideas in Leslie McDevitt’s book, “Control Unleashed,” is to allow dogs to look at things they might react to. It’s something I wanted to try shaping in a low-stimuli setting, so as recommended I placed an X of duct tape on the wall. I closed the door, got out some treats, manned my clicker and waited to see what would happen.
Lilly threw all kinds of behaviors at me, including poking the X with her nose, pawing it with her feet and laying down below it. At first I clicked any interaction with the X, but eventually she got frustrated and ripped it off the wall.
Clearly, I wasn’t doing a good job shaping in that scenario. So, after a few attempts over several days, I stopped trying that method. (Plus, the wall was taking a beating.)
Then, last Thursday night, just before I was set to leave for a party, I realized that Lilly was intently looking out one of my office windows. So, I clicked it. She looked at me took the treat and did it again. So, I clicked it. We were on to something.
Over the next few minutes, I watched her try to figure out exactly what head position I was rewarding. Since the window is near my trash can, she thought at one point that I wanted her to stick her head in the can. Nope. She tried looking up, looking down. Nope.
Essentially, I was clicking any lateral head move where she shifted her gaze from me to something else … in this case, out the window. I even tried putting her X on the window, but she just ripped it off and went back to wiggling her head.
Like an ostrich with a neck spasm, she experimented, lolling her head here, tipping in there, hoping to find the right thing. That’s when I knew she sort of understood the game.
Once she began looking away consistently, I realized that she was making the movements smaller and smaller. By the time we stopped, she was barely moving her head, but darting her eyes off to the side.
We’ve tried it again with similar results, but I’m still not sure she knows what exactly the head movement means, so I haven’t named it yet.
Our neighbors had guests over the weekend, so I clicked her for looking at them (without reacting) through the fence. That seemed to work OK too, but I’m still not sure she gets it.
Gigi recommended dropping something novel on the floor and clicking Lilly for looking at it. So, we might try that.
I’ve also started a few sessions clicking her for blinking so that we can working on making a sleepy/relaxed face on command. Unfortunately, Lilly tends to lick her lips when she blinks, especially if I have the clicker and treats. We’ve already put lick your lips on command, so if my timing isn’t perfect, then Lilly thinks she’s being rewarded for licking, which she already does a lot because it makes me laugh and because she’s nervous.
So, I try to wait for a blink that isn’t paired with lipwork, but it’s hard and slow, and Lilly gets frustrated, which prompts more lip-licking.
While giving Lilly time to settle in at Gigi’s new indoor training facility, I sit on my tailgate next to Lilly’s crate and click when she relaxes her mouth. Again, I haven’t put a word to it because Lilly isn’t offering it consistently.
Go to Mat
We’ve worked with a go-to-place command before, but I backtracked. So, I’m doing open shaping sessions. Lilly gets the idea pretty quickly and races to her bed and throws herself down for clicks/treats. She doesn’t quite get that she’s supposed to stay there until released, unless I give a stay command, but we’re working on it.
I just re-read that section in the book last night, and it seems I’m doing things a little wrong, but here is some video of us training. I just learned how to embed clips from YouTube, so let’s hope this works. If not, then here’s a direct link.
She also lays on a small rug in the kitchen while I make dinner. I even got her to lay on another blanket in the basement while I worked out this morning. Maybe it was all the motion, but she didn’t offer it. She only did it if I gave the “Nest” command.
I still need to find a portable mat to take to classes and in public, but we used a blanket on Saturday during our solo get-used-to-the-new-place time. I laid the blanket in the parking lot at Gigi’s and had Lilly go from her crate in my car to the blanket a few times. The only way I could get it was to jackpot the blanket. A plain click/treat would not work in this new setting.
Then, I had her just sit and relax on the blanket for a while. I sat with her and massaged her ears like the book recommends.
So, yes, as my husband said in TOTAL dismay, I drove 75 miles round trip, an hour each way, just to have Lilly sit on a blanket in a parking lot for about 15 minutes.
But, if I want Lilly to be able to attend classes inside this winter, I need to work her toward feeling comfortable there when the stimuli is low. Either that, or let’s hope it’s a mild winter, and we can continue having classes outside.
A couple days ago, Tom shot some video of
Lilly running her home agility course. (Last week, it took 3 tries to get this to work. The solution was to post the videos to YouTube and link to them there. So, to simplify, I’m re-posting this and deleting all my mistakes.)
Remember … I classify us as sub-novice
since our agility training went great for 6-9 months, before going to
crap. So, the patterns we run at home are EASY because I just want her
to burn off some energy, work a bit and have fun and because we don’t
have much equipment.
Our home training space is about the size
of a small round pen, like what horse trainers use. It’s flat, fairly
rock free, but that’s about it. I may work on weeding more and adding
sand next summer.
Notice, also, our make-shift teeter. It’s a
plank balanced on the crossbar of a box dolly that’s turned upside
down. It’s not very high, but it makes a good metal banging sound,
which I hoped would help with our teeter issues. To catch you up, if
you haven’t been following our saga, Lilly indeed can do a training
teeter at nearly full height, but she avoids the competition teeter at
all cost after a bad experience. (To read more about that, circle back
to this post from May.)
see her slip a bit on our teeter in one of these videos, but she
recovers and is no worse for wear. Notice too (if you can pause it),
how she checks in with me as I clear her out of her two-one/two-off
contact. That’s my girl!
For those who regularly follow our
training drama, feel free to comment if you see anything in her
movement or attitude that sheds light on our struggles … other than I
sometimes miscue the weave pole entrance. And, yes, watching these
myself I realize I still do a groan/laugh thing when she misses
something. Bad, mommy!
This first video is just under 1 minute, I believe.
Thanks for tuning into Lilly TV. :o)
The first time Lilly played with her new Tug-a-Jug, it took her more than 2 hours to figure it out. She tried everything she could think of, every toy method she’s learned to date, but still the mysteries of the Tug-a-Jug endured.
Essentially, the Tug-a-Jug is a food-dispensing toy, but the harder the dog pulls on the rope, the less food comes out. Actually, no food comes out with that method.
It’s like that Chinese finger puzzle, where the more you pull the tighter it gets. Only by pushing in can you get relief.
But, it look Lilly a while to figure it out.
She tried the Buster Cube method … rolling the jug around with her feet and nose, hoping food would fall out.
She tried the Kong method … poking her tongue in the narrow end, hoping to pull food out.
She got mad and tried chewing open the big end, with no luck.
She tried dropping it.
She tried swinging it.
Eventually, she figured out how to tip the jug over and push the rope in to get the food, but even that takes a long time.
So, if you need to keep your dog busy for a while, I highly recommend the Tug-a-Jug. But, I do suggest starting outside, away from anything breakable since the plastic jug is really hard. Now that she understands it better, I let her play with it inside (supervised, of course).
I first heard about it last year from Animal Behavior Associates. They even have a video on their website, showing the toy in action with their pets. Check it out.
Lilly is extremely travel worthy. She’s pretty quiet. She doesn’t throw up. She mostly sleeps when I have to leave her in the car at the mall or whatever (windows down, sunshade up, etc.). In the way-back of my 4Runner, inside her hard-sided crate, she’s perfectly happy to motor along even though the first 20 minutes and the last 20 minutes of every trip include a windy canyon drive. If you’d like proof of her intestinal prowess, check out this video I found on YouTube.
It shows some guys on sport bikes (aka crotch rockets) blasting up the canyon at dangerous speeds. (Notice the speedometer in the foreground.)