Archive for November, 2009
I recently posted about the training I have been working on with my two shop dogs, Trooper and Ammo. My original plan was asking them to sit quietly when someone walked into my shop. It started off rather well – but Ammo eventually started barking even more in order to get his “reward” for then sitting. So I decided to take a different approach.
I read up on clicker trainer, Karen Pryor’s, method of teaching opposite cues. In my case I was going to use the Speak and Quiet commands to teach Ammo to be silent when someone entered my shop. I decided that working with Ammo first would be best, as Trooper’s standing on the gate is not as frustrating to me as Ammo’s barking when customers enter.
So last Friday night I set out to train Ammo – starting at home. I was worried if I did it at the shop (and did it wrong) he would just end up barking all the time, and I didn’t want him to associate the shop with any sort of barking. I sat Ammo down infront of me and made a knocking sound on the table – which immediately set him off barking. I clicked him, gave him a treat and as he was eating (in silence) I lurched forward towards him, he sort of lifted one leg and looked at me – I then clicked and rewarded. We repeated this for a while until I was fairly certain he had the gist. I then added some cues to it. For barking I said SPEAK, for silence I said QUIET. I had originally started using BARK as the barking cue, but I quickly realized it sounded too much like Ammo’s BANG BANG cue where he plays dead. When he started flopping around on the ground instead of barking I quickly changed the cue to speak. So we did this process for a while longer then it was time to test it.
I had my husband go outside and re-enter the house (thus creating a situation for Ammo to bark). As soon as he started barking I yelled QUIET. Ammo looked confused for a moment but immediately stopped barking. Click and treats again. We did this a few more times and each time I waited a little longer to reward him. When we were done I carried the treats and clicker around with me for the rest of the night. Anytime Ammo barked at something (usually any noise will set him off) I tried my QUIET cue. I occasionally asked him for SPEAK as well.
The next day it was time to try it at the shop. I opted to have my parent’s keep Trooper for the day so I could work on Ammo without Trooper interfering. The first customer came and Ammo let out a bark – I quickly yelled QUIET from the back of the shop and Ammo came running to me and sat at my feet…what a good puppy. We continued with this throughout the day – and a few times he actually didn’t bark at all (he got rewarded for this big time).
We did and have had a few slip ups where Ammo just couldn’t control himself and it took me a little longer to get him to listen…afterall he is a Dachshund, and if I have learned anything about the breed – its how stubborn they can be. And man can they be stubborn. Below is a video of Ammo “speaking” notice how at the end I try to knock on a table (which normally would of set him off barking) and he behaves nicely by not barking at all.
Here is a video of the QUIET command:
Overall I think the method is working fairly well. I’m not sure if I will ever eliminate his barking in the shop, but at least now I have a semi-foolproof method to silence him. I’m just going to keep rewarding when he does it correctly and hopefully over time he will only get better (fingers crossed). Next I will have to tackle Trooper’s jumping on the gate!
So how about you? Has anyone else trained any opposite commands like this? Did it work for you? Any other suggestions for me?
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The Trick Ponies of Chincoteague are going to allow a special post about the dogs today – because even though its not “pony” related, it is clicker training related.
Everyday two very special dogs accompany me to work. Ammo (who appears a lot on this blog) is my 1 year old Dachshund and Trooper is my parent’s 2 year old Australian Shepherd/Lab mix. Both dogs have been coming to “work” at my shop since they were about 8 weeks old. Ammo is at the shop 24/7 with me and Trooper gets dropped off and picked up at different times depending on what my parent’s schedules are like. I taught both dogs at a young age what it meant to be a shop dog. This means being quiet, staying out of the way – basically just being a well behaved dog. Most of the day I get dogs that lay around sleeping and when they do play wrestle its very quiet. Being a shop dog also means greeting customers – its pretty much their main job other than to keep me company.
Trooper (being the first and only shop dog for a long time) has always been great with customers – he greeted them with an enthusiastic tail wiggle (minus the tail because he doesn’t have one) and he would NEVER bark at customers, not to mention he had free reign of the shop and wouldn’t ever dare leave even if I had to prop the front door wide open. Enter Ammo. I love him dearly – but he is a dachshund afterall – and if you know nothing about Dachshunds…all you really need to know is that they are STUBBORN. They are hard to house train, they bark a lot, and they love to hunt. I think that if you can train a Dachshund…you can train any animal.
So with the arrival of Ammo came the puppy gate. Ammo didn’t care to listen to the boundaries of the front door and being a pipsqueak at 3 lbs. he easily snuck out with customers. With the gate came some new issues. Trooper (being used to greeting people at the front door) started standing up on the gate to greet people – and it didn’t help any that my customers loved this and would pet and reward him. And as Ammo got older he started to realize what Trooper’s excitement was all about – and he developed a barking habit. As soon as someone entered the door he’d let out a few quick barks (mostly over his frustration about not being able to see over the gate as to who/what was there). But after 3-5 barks he’d settle right down.
So now I have a dog on the gate wiggling like crazy and a dog that barks (not to mention customers who are so excited to see dogs that they don’t realize they are rewarding what I deem to be bad habits…whats even worse is some of them bring the dogs cookies). Its not the greeting I want people to get when they walk in the front door – despite the fact that most of them love the dogs. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve sort of let this issue slide for a long time. In an effort to help the customers and not look like the crazy dog trainer I sort of cover up the situation. I usually pick Ammo up so he can see who is there and will stop barking and Trooper I push off the gate after my customer’s give him a pat.
This has gone on too long now and I decided that on Wednesday it was time for Shop Dog Bootcamp. My plan was to get the dogs to sit (quietly) when customers entered. To do this I decided to use clicker training to reward them when they sat as someone entered and slowly increase the duration of time I asked them to do this. My hope was that by the end they would associate someone entering the door with sitting (and then being rewarded).
So I placed a jar of dog treats by the front counter and waited for my first customer. I decided that even if my customers thought I was crazy I’d simply explain to them what I was doing. The first few times I showed the dogs the cookie first so they knew that complying to my request would be totally worth it. I tried to be aware of when I thought someone was coming in the front door so that I could have them sitting and waiting before they even entered. This started to work, but occasionally I would be in the back and someone would come in before I noticed. But I was successful in getting them under control much quicker than I ever was before.
By Thursday I was noticing some improvement. I successfully had “no issues” for maybe 2-3 customers and even when my husband came to pick me up (people they KNOW always get a really enthusiastic hello) they both sat quietly and never made a peep. My husband was quite impressed because he knows how they can get.
Below is a short video of the boys in training.
We had some small setbacks throughout the day – afterall my main goal is to help my customers and sometimes if I get too many people in the store at once its hard to then also try to train the dogs at the same time, but I’m trying my best.
So hopefully soon I will be able to report that the boys are well-behaved shop greeters. But if anyone has suggestions on how to help the boys learn their new task at the shop let me know!
Sharing some photos today of Boomerang’s latest trick…well sort of. You may think by the photos that I taught him to lay down (which I do fully intend to to). But in actuality this little photo op happened by accident.
I was working with Boomer in the ring on his leading (while not trying to bite off my arm) when I walked away from him for a few minutes to get something. When I got back I saw that he was about to lay down and roll. Probably not the best idea when he has a saddle on. But rather than freak him out and run at him with flailing arms – yelling get up – I decided to use this opportunity. Instead I approached him slowly (before he rolled onto my saddle is the key here) and offered him a treat. Intrigued Boomer layed there trying to figure out what he was doing to warrant the treat. I gave him a few more rewards then proceeded around to his backside so I could sit on his back. (at which point I yelled to my little sister to get the camera – I never pass up the chance for a good photo). After several minutes (and photos) later I asked him to get up with me on him. I then made a big fuss and gave him another treat.
The goal here was not to teach him that laying down with a saddle on would get him food because I’m sure you can imagine how that will end. The goal was to get him used to having me around while he was in his most vulnerable position and make it a positive experience for him. So that when I do go to officially teach him the cues for laying down he will see it as a positive thing. I also decided to give him a big reward for getting up because I wanted him to know when I ask him get back up there is a reward for that as well. That way just incase our little session prompted him to lay down right again I would have asked him to get up quicker and then rewarded – I really didn’t want him confusing being saddled with laying down.
But – as I suspected – after Boomer got back up he tried a few things to get more treats (offered a few behaviors like giving me a kiss and saying no) but he didn’t think to try laying down again. Which is fine, because I’m not to the point with him where I want him to learn to lay down yet.
Laying down is in Blitz’s and Boomer’s future for sure, Minnow…I’m not so sure. Minnow has a lot more trust issues…and I’m worried laying down will undue a lot of training I have done with him. But perhaps one day we will be able to master this feat. Maybe little brother Boomer can show him that its ok.
On Friday I did something I haven’t done in a really long time…but was long overdue.
It was a surprisingly mild November night, and after finishing all of my barn work and chores I decided to spend some time with Minnow. Armed with a few brushes (and the dachshund bundled in his winter coat) I settled myself into the pile of hay in Minnow’s stall. Minnow munched around me, occasionally giving me and the dachshund kisses (he’s so sweet like that). I scratched his itchy spots, brushed his muddy coat (from all the rain we’ve had) and basically just enjoyed being with him. I sat in his stall for about an hour before dragging myself away.
I’ve always known the importance of just enjoying my horses, not asking for something specific from them, just letting them be horses and observing. Its of huge importance for horses to bond with their owner/rider/special person – and to be undemanding of your horse helps to accomplish this. But, in actuality its always hard to find time to do this. You carve out time to go to the barn – and you want to “do” something. I know the feeling, I’m guilty of this all of the time. But horses don’t feel this same need, and sometimes its better to do nothing.
I think I spent the most time doing nothing with Minnow when I was in college. When he was in his most intense part of training with me I decided to bring him to college with me. Needless to say I think I spent more time at the barn evading school work than anything else. But it brought Minnow and I much closer.
I’d just sit in his stall and watch him eat hay, or I’d lay in the grass with him while he got his fill. I even studied in the pasture while he was just “being a horse”. Most of the time he ignored me, but occasionally he’d wander over and nuzzle my hair, or tug at my boots – signs that he was interested in me and what I was doing in there with him. Getting a horse interested can sometimes be one of the toughest things to accomplish – and for Minnow especially, these steps were huge. He was a pony that was easily terrified of everything – but rather than touching it to see what it was he opted to completely ignore the situation – to the point where when faced with a strange object he would turn his head all the way around so he didn’t even have to look at it. So bringing curiosity out of him was always a major struggle for me. So with each time Minnow CHOSE to touch me, or my books he was becoming more and more curious – curiosity that helped me to get him over his fear of the mounted games equipment, fear of noises, fear of pretty much anything.
So on Friday night as I sat in Minnow’s pile of hay I thought back to those wonderful days we spent together in college and I vowed that I MUST do nothing with my horses more often.