Reality slaps me in the face this morning. I’ve been sloppy AGAIN, and she’s had a whole day to think about it. If she offers me Sit and I click right away, great, it was a Sit. If she offers me Sit and I DON’T click right away, it was obviously a Down. I notice another little thing I’ve been missing. When she offers me a Sit, and I click right away, she stays sitting until I toss the treat. But I toss the treat fairly close to her (because she’s still a baby and if I toss it far away, she can’t usually find it). That means she can leave her butt on the ground and just squooge her front end over to get the treat. In some circles, a butt on the ground and a squooged front is called… um… oh yeah, a DOWN. Duh. So I’ve been rewarding her for a Down when she Downs, and rewarding her for a Sit AND a Down when she Sits. Duh. Grrr. Whap on the forehead.
There are now 200 kibbles in a meal. So we spend the first half JUST on Sit, and I’m careful to have her commit to an actual Sit before I click, and then I toss the treat as close as I can while still far enough away that she has to get up to get it. I have completely abandoned the Sit and Down cues. She’s had a fair idea of what they mean, but she’s confused about EXACTLY what they mean today, so they’re out for now. Once she’s getting seriously into Sit, we start using Chutes & Ladders on the Sit Stays. We get up to 7 seconds fairly consistently. I start the count from the beginning for breaking the Sit and offering me a Down. She never breaks the Sit to get up. The difference between Sit and Down is something I never paid attention to with Scuba, and it’s about the only thing keeping her out of the obedience ring, so I’m resolved to teach Stitch that Go To Mat means do what you want on the mat, but Sit and Down are separate and distinct events.
We spend the second half of the meal on holding the dumbbell. At first I click only the mouth coming over the bar, not looking for duration, simply clicking the dumx\bbell hitting the correct place in her mouth without the tongue showing. When we’ve got that I start asking for duration. Another little while and I think maybe I’m getting a chain of BITE off HOLD c/t. BITE off HOLD c/t. I go back to clicking the initial bite, which eliminates the “off” part and we start getting some decent actual holds with a good grip. Then she puts the bar too far back in her mouth and starts getting a couple of chews on it instead of a hold. Man, somebody said we’re not driving Fords anymore, but this little squirt is a Harrier jet waiting to happen.
The next meal we start on Go To Mat, but this time I use a bath towel folded up instead of the dog bed. Isn’t it cool to be working with operant conditioning? That means the dog is really REALLY trying to figure out what makes the click happen and get it done, so I can see that there is pretty much ZERO correlation in her mind between the dog bed and the towel. Granted I put it in a far corner of the room, but I’m prepared to shape the whole thing – and that’s what I have to do. It takes 40 kibbles to get her standing on the towel. Then she tries sitting near the towel. Then she thinks maybe this DOES have something to do with the dog bed, so she goes back up the stairs where the dog bed was two days ago. Then she comes back and stares at the towel. Then she does Sit and Stare at me. And I start back at the beginning. Thank you for looking at the towel, for walking toward the towel, for being near the towel, for touching the towel, and this time she gets it. We do ten more successfully.
Then we go to eye Contact with me sitting. If I toss the treat to the floor off to the side, she’s coming back to the centre, right off my knees, indicating that she’s thinking about centring on my face, which is what she was missing a few days ago when we worked on the Get Lost game. This is nice.
We get up to 8 seconds of Contact very nicely, when “suddenly” she starts barking at me when the count gets to 4. Which makes me think back about what was actually happening between 4 and 8 before. Geez, she was whining. And the whining worked, so now she’s barking. So I have to back up to the one count and restart the count if she whines. It takes 8 clicks to get rid of the barking and another 11 to get rid of the whining.
She can have her supper in peace. I think that’s about all the humble I can take for today.