Between coming down with a cold and being sick for a week, then being away for a conference, having guests for the weekend and now getting caught up, I haven’t done much training over the last two weeks. I am now re-grouping so that I can get back into a training routine. As I was thinking about what to write, I realized that it has been awhile since I highlighted my training with Marley.
It is so easy to focus on Loki in these blogs. She is faster to pick up new behaviours than Marley, and has a variety of challenges that are constantly being worked on. Marley on the other hand is my beloved dog; he is gentle, good natured, gets along well with other dogs, doesn’t counter surf, the list goes on. The two biggest training challenges I have with Marley are:
- Getting him to focus on me. He absolutely loves the outdoors, watching the world go by and is easily distracted when we train
- He doesn’t handle pressure well.
To have a successful session with Marley I need to keep the sessions short; sometimes as short as one or two repetitions. For me to know how long each session can be, I really need to observe Marley and let his body language tell me. I still struggle with this but am getting better at both observing Marley and then acting on what I observe.
Our current project is to put both our clockwise (Turn) and counter clockwise (Spin) behaviours on a verbal cue. We are making progress with Spin but Turn is presenting some challenges. Prior to adding the verbal cue, he could Spin and Turn easily with a hand signal. Now that Spin with a verbal cue is underway, I am finding that Marley will still offer a Spin (a behaviour that has received a lot of recent reinforcement) instead of watching my hand signal. As you can see from the video, he is confused about what I want and then gets easily stressed. If I don’t clue in and stop at the first sign of stress, he will exhibit displacement behaviours that even I can’t miss! In the video, I ended the first session, trained Loki and then went back to Marley. For his final session, we did two repetitions of Turn and that was it for the evening.
Going forward, I need to think about how I can work on Turn so that Marley can be successful. I may try doing single repetition sessions of Turn throughout the day and use a target stick instead of the hand signal. So new cue (Spin), old cue (hand signal), and new cue (Turn), old cue (target stick) may present enough distinction that Marley’s success rate will improve. I will give this a try and keep you posted.
Thanks for reading and happy training