Monday, November 16, 2015

When things don't go as planned... Part 2

Catty wants to know "What are we doing? I'm sure it going to be a ton of fun"

As I've said, Catty loves and I mean loves to train.  Watch her tail in this quick video.

So after the goob stick debacle I decide to take the gross sticky tripe and put it in the baby food jar.

So my thoughts were again wrong.  Viva just isn't into this particular game of "touch".  Even with a great food reinforcer.  You can see that Viva does the behavior I'm asking but, without the excitement that I like a to dog to have.  It's that excitement that I want her to carry when we "touch" outside of the house.   Catty on the other hand loves any game and she's happy to train showing off how she can be patient, stay seated and let another dog be rewarded with a very high value food reward.  Catty is being rewarded with freeze dried rabbit.

I needed to step back and evaluate my plan.  Think about where I want to get to with Viva in using "touch".  I'm not one who gives up easy and I thought and thought about this.  So that's what I did and came up with an adjustment in the way I was teaching Viva "touch".  I needed to change the environment - basically me standing up an moving around rather than just sitting like we were doing early on.  I had thought early on the issue was the environment but, I didn't realize that me standing up and moving around was the difference in the environment for Viva.  And all that thinking & evaluating links back to the first in this series post: Viva mastering hand targeting  You can really see a difference in Viva's excitement in the different videos.
So the take away from all of this is that yes food reinforcers are important but, the human needs to ensure that the  environment is set up in a way that works for the dog.  None of what was going on for Viva was because she was dominant, stubborn or stupid it was because I hadn't come up with an environmental setting that motivated and engaged her.  But, I kept at it and I came up with a plan that she had fun with and she did lots of thinking about this new twist on the game.  Best of all, we are both having fun as a training team!  And final bonus was how much Viva taught me about the environment, reinforcers, motivation and aversives.  Yet again I am amazed by how much one can learn from our dogs.   If we just slow down, pay attention and evaluate while practice reward based & force free training we all become better observers and training partners.


If you are looking for a good book on motivation this one is excellent:  Dog Sports Skills, Book 1: Developing Engagement and relationship by Denise Fenzi and Deborah Jones
Don't be put off by the fact that it's a Dog Sports Skill book. There is tons of wonderful information in this book even if you don't do dog sports. You can also buy it on Amazon.

If you missed any of the posts in this series, here they are:


  1. That is really a great reminder, Julee, about taking a step back and reassessing things. We have a special boy who is also conflicted about people. It's really reassuring to read about the way you approach things. I also love the information training tips from 4Paws - great stuff!

    1. Happy to hear you enjoyed the series! I do love training with my dogs, they teach me so much - way more than I teach them.