Monday, 11 February 2013

Zazu Clicker Training - Week 1

We have recently started a new clicker training class with Zazu.  This a distance learning course at  Every couple of weeks we have new tricks to learn.  We film our attempts at the tricks and send videos of them to the trainer.  She then looks at the videos and gives us tips and advice on how to improve.

For those that don't know what clicker training is, it is a method for teaching dogs tricks:  Basically, you have a 'clicker' and a pile of treats.  The clicker is a small device that clicks when you press the button.  The idea is to condition the dog so that when they hear the click they receive a treat.  So when trying to teach them new tricks, you use the click to tell them they have done right, then give them a treat.  Using the click is more accurate than using words to let the dog know that they have done something you approve of.

We are given 5 tasks every two weeks to work on.  To start with we had to condition Zazu to the clicker by clicking and treating lots.  The hardest part about starting is getting the dog to think.  The whole point is that the dog has to think about what they have to do to get the treat.  When we started with a touch lid on the floor, Zazu would just look at, sit, squeak, and walk off.  We had to show him a little then give him a treat.  After a few goes he would go back on his own accord.  He the learnt to try things out to get a treat.

The first week we had 5 tasks:

1. Recall
2. Not looking at treats
3. Feet in a box
4. Touch pad with feet
5. Frog legs

Here is the video of Zazu training the basics of these tricks.  It's quite long but shows how Zazu has gone from nothing to starting to understand the tricks.

1. A recall is fairly self explanatory, get the dog to come back!
2. This is requires a pile of treats on the floor with the idea being the dog to not focus on them.  When the dog looks away from the treats or at you, the they get a click and a treat.  Zazu picked this one up quite quickly.  It is a good start to clicker training as they can get lots of treats by not having to do too much.  It is a big start to condition the click-treat reaction.

3. This is trying to get all four feet in a box.  We started with a big box and progressively get smaller until the box is only just big enough for his feet.  We are down to a lunch box size now.  We would start by clicking every time he showed any interest in the box, then for putting a foot inside, then for getting all feet inside.  This did take a few days to get his feet in.  We reduced the size of the box to a lunch box size and went through the same routine, all be it a it quicker.  It did still take a while for him to get all four feet in as he had to think about what he was doing.

4. The touch point followed a similar routine to the box, clicking whenever he showed interest in the pot lid, then for one foot, then two feet.  He did get there with two feet on a Tupperware pot lid.

5. This trying to get the dog to stretch out their back legs whilst lying down.  We haven't had much time to do this with Zazu.

He is working nicely now and has started to think about what he is doing.  It took him a while to get to that stage but a bit of perseverance helped get him to a point where ha can now learn.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Zazu and Storm Training at Little Revel End

Today me and +Susi Cooper went for another training session at Little Revel End.  We hired the kit for 30 mins as there were a few things we wanted to train with Zazu and Storm.

We started training Zazu with a few jumps in a row.  He is still bunny hoping over jumps so we are trying to get him to stretch forwards more.  We are also trying talking to him less to let him think about what's going on.  He was starting to get better after a few runs of throwing a toy full of treats forward.  This also helps him to focus forward rather than running at our pace.  We then moved on to the dog walk.  The first time across he was looking back at Susi but ran down and got his treat.  After that he flew across not looking back at all to get to the frog.  Lastly we moved on to the A-frame.  He scrambled the first couple of times then decided it was quicker to run round.  We went back a step and just the the A-frame and it reminded him what to do. he ended up with good A-frames and contacts.

With Storm we were mainly going in to train contacts.  We had decided not to use any touch points as we wanted to simulate the environment at a show.  Normally at training she has good contacts as she runs down to the touch point.  With the touch point gone, like in the show environment, she jumps off the contact as there is no point in stopping.  We started with the A-frame.  The first few times she flew off just like at a show, which is a good start as we know she is running with a similar mind set to being at a show.  I put her back on gave her lots of treats and praise.  The treats came from me so that she wouldn't just run off.  After a few attempts she was coming down and stopping at the bottom.  We moved on to the dog walk ad we started with a similar problem, but after a few attempts again she was beginning to stop.  I would also walk around a little with her staying on the contact and giving her treats after.  This makes it easier when you get to a show so that you can get into position before releasing them from the contact.  We finished back on the A-frame going in the other direction coming out of a tunnel.  She was much sharper this time.  I need to remember to run slightly beyond the end of the contact to get her to stop in the 2-on-2-off position.  This is where the dog has their front two feet on the floor and their back two feet still on the equipment.  Getting the dog to stop in this position makes sure that they have hit the contact area whilst still being under control.

I also did a few jumping exercises.  We had a couple of issues at the beginning of course where Storm would follow the line of my feet.  If my feet were pointing slightly to the side in the direction I wanted to go next, Storm would miss the first jump and run in that direction.  This was also the case mid-round if I turn too soon.  To combat this, I set her up in front of a jump, walk to the side and point my feet away slightly.  I would then say 'go' and throw a ball in the direction I wanted her to go.  This is to show that I want her to follow the line of my arms, if I'm pointing towards a jump, I want you to jump it.  After a few attempts she was always moving forwards no matter where I was standing.  A few more sessions on this and we should be in much better stead.

I think I've managed to talk for longer about our training session than we actually spent there!  It was a good session, we will probably be back there next weekend to continue the good work.

Barking Mad Indoor Show

Back to Keysoe this week for our club show, Barking Mad Indoor show.  We had a busy Friday night again   helping with the set up, but it's worth it come Saturday.  I was running Shadow (small G6) and Storm (large G3), while +Susi Cooper was running Doople (small G3).

First up for the day we had Storm running in grade 1-7 jumping.  This was a relatively tough course, especially for the lower grades, and showed with the relatively low number of clear rounds across all the grades.  We both ran a really nice, clean round and it was so satisfying running a complicated course successfully.  The fruits of our labour was a second place!  Across all the grade we were fourth fastest which is brilliant.  After this we had two agility rounds.  We have decided to start training contacts in the ring, so making sure we stop at every contact, rerunning the obstacle as necessary, and praising lots when she's in position.  So that meant that we weren't going to get any clear rounds in agility.  Hopefully after a few shows of this she should start to act the same at a show as she does in training.  After a few contact obstacles she was beginning to stop at the bottom.  The last jumping round, grade 3-5 jumping, was interesting to see how Storm was listening and reacting to my body movement.  The downside was my timing was wrong!  I turned too soon a few times and pulled her off the jumps, but I'm pleased that she reacted the way that she did.  We  had a good day overall and ended with a 2nd place.

Next up we have Shadow.  We started with a relatively simple grade 6-7 jumping.  She ran nicely and we went clear, but as it was quite straight we just didn't have the legs on the faster dogs.  The next grade 6-7 agility was trickier.  Unfortunately, we missed the A-frame contact and also the weave entry.  I needed to give her a nicer run into the weaves.  We did manage the complicated jumping section that most others failed at so all was not lost.  The grade 5-7 agility round was tough.  And keeping true with a theme at the shows for this year, we were eliminated after the first jump! There were some good bits (tunnel under dog walk) and some bad bits (tunnel under A-frame).  The last round we had was grade 1-7 jumping.  This was a different course to the large grade 1-7 jumping, but was equally as challenging, not helped by the fact that we didn't manage to walk it!  I gave it a go any way and we ended up with a first place, not bad!  It was a good end to the day with Shadow.

Last but not least was Doople.  Doople also ran very nicely today.  First for her was the grade 3-5 agility where she ran forward well, we'll gloss over the debatable dog walk contact!  Doople did get a fourth place overall, any placing with Doople is always a good run.  In the grade 3-4 agility that followed she did catch Susi out by running faster than expected.  Unfortunately, Doople promptly forgot how to weave.  She ran straight past them a couple of times with out noticing.  The grade 3-5 jumping had a similar problem.  Both sets of weaves were right hand weaves.  By that I mean that the dog is on the right hand side of the handler.  The dog always needs to enter the weaves with the first pole at their left shoulder.  This is something that we need to work on, but Doople is always far more confident with these at training.  The last class was the grade 1-7 jumping, the same class that we managed not walk for Shadow.  I ended up running this as Susi thought that I ran Shadow in it well before, so I did.  We worked well together, especially considering I haven't run Doople for a long time.  The only problem we had was again the weaves.  This time it was more my fault as I haven't practised with Doople.  She ran everything else really well though.  Doople ended the fay with a fourth place.

We always like going to the Barking Mad shows.  The show is well run and the courses are always a challenge, which is what we're after.  All dogs ran very well all day so we were both very happy by the end, albeit tired!  The day ended with us loading a truck with three rings worth of equipment, what fun!