Thursday, March 14, 2013

Eliminate The Negative

UntitledI do better with my dog when we're in training. You'd think we would just train all the time. I have some skills and I could put them to use, say, 6 days a week in the comfort of our own environs. As with a lot of things the accountability is important for me. Even if I take a class once a month, the fact that I have to show results helps with my consistency. When you're training a dog you can't just cram all the work into the night before. There are not enough colored pens in the world to fake this particular homework journal. No matter what kind of class I take I usually learn one over-arching lesson about my work in the process along with the specific lessons we're there to take in. That's the part that's priceless. We took six classes last month and I worried about how much money that cost, even though I knew it was good for Eddie. I wondered if I shouldn't have spread that money out over a longer period so we'd always be accountable. I didn't, though, so what's done is done and what that intense work got for me was an interesting lesson.

I told you about finding out that Eddie could catch in the last session of our recent tricks class. Though we didn't wind up exactly needing her the exercise called for two handlers per dog. Once the dog understood that the treat was going to be awesome and that someone would be giving them a pretty unlimited amount of that awesome the trick was not to let them get a treat unless they caught it. No letting it land on the ground and then hoovering it up. One person to toss and the other person to use the leash to keep the dog from scarfing up something that was dropped. The idea here is to highlight and reward only the right choice by the dog. You just don't let them do the thing that's the wrong choice and, eventually (usually), they make an independent decision to do the thing you're hoping for.

Untitled Meanwhile back at home I've been trying to get Ed to jump up on a chair in the entryway to get his leash and clothing on or off when we go out. He's short, I'm bundled up, it's a pain to bend all the way over and scramble on the ground and he's a good jumper so it's not physically a problem for him. For a while he did it but he doesn't love leaving the house and he hates having all the clothing on as much as he hates being cold and the training was going poorly. I'd tried really good treats and waiting him out but after a few sessions of sweltering in my own outerwear while standing stock still next to a chair I gave up. I got sick of tromping across my (not at all) clean floors in my dirty winter foot gear to take off Ed's layers so for a while now, I wish I could tell you how long but I don't know, it might be measured in months but probably weeks, I've just held on to the leash while I lock the door so he can't get far and then I heave him up into the chair so I don't have to crouch down in my own seventeen layers to disrobe him. It was kind of a blow to me because I was so proud of the fact that I'd trained him to sit at the door and wait for me to unlock and open it before going in and I had to give up proving my winnery on that front every day but it was better than the fucking Amazing Chase all the time. Eventually, bored of waiting for me and unable to go elsewhere to make trouble, Ed would jump into the chair and be there waiting for me when I was ready. (You probably know where this is going now but I, of course, did not.)

Coming home from that last tricks class (and our first teeters class as well) that night I noticed that the leash didn't go taut before he jumped into the chair. Over the course of about a week I've kept an eye out and it never does. He's choosing, of his own accord, to get into the chair and wait until I get his stuff off and reward him lavishly for the privilege. Yesterday I was even bold enough to drop the leash as we came in. I dropped it gingerly and silently and with great trepidation but I did it and he came through!

The light bulb finally went off for me. The other half of offering the right choice is eliminating the wrong one. Why would I be surprised that he doesn't do something I need him to do if I know he's not a fan and I'm allowing him the opportunity to do something else? Why would it ever be a good idea to set him up to, in essence, fail?

I really think this is going to make me better at this game. Eventually I'm going to win more of these than he does.



The New York City Listen To Your Mother Show is happening on May 12, 2013 at 5pm at Symphony Space. Ticket and venue information can be found here. I hope to see you there! If you aren't close to this show please check this site to see if there is a LTYM show near you.

1 comment:

  1. ahahahaha, i don't miss THAT aspect of having a dog. at all.