Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dempsey grabs the spotlight

Hey all,

This past weekend I went to a flyball practice for the first time since mid-May. Back then, Dempsey was having trouble getting 3 feet on the box for his turns, and was doing recalls in side by side lanes. There is some video of Dempsey learning his box turn on youtube, and if you're interested, you can look back in the blog for the links. I expected Dempsey to be able to do his recalls, and I thought he may get 3 feet on the box again if I were lucky.

Dempsey did as expected in his recalls, and he hated being touched by the guy holding him. Nothing new there, Besides giving Dempsey a goodie every time the man touched him, I think he will start looking forward to lining up because that means the start of the race. But that requires some experience, so we'll just keep plugging along with that concept.

A little later, Dempsey came back out for his box work. I decided to use a tug to reinforce good offered turns, because I think he needs to be a little more "up" to get better turns. I didn't use it earlier because I wanted him to offer the behavior, and in order to do that, Dempsey needs to be thinking. In any case, once he decided the man standing on the box wasn't going to touch him, Dempsey got right back to offering 3 feet on the box. Within a couple of reps, he offered a beautiful 4 foot turn! Seriously, it was gorgeous! Every once in a while something will just click for Dempsey, and it is such a beautiful thing. I am planning to film next time to hopefully get some record of our progress and how we are doing.

Bungee needs a mention here - he was his normal stellar self, and just did his job like he knows how to do. He even demo'd the steps we took when I shaped his box turn with a clicker for a couple of people who were interested. He really is a neat little dog :).

I also took Peepers out to the barn this morning. It's time to start filming these sessions, as he is getting more and more confident, and I am now ready to start working on introducing a pole for him to fly around. In this session, Peepers was flying when cued pretty well, even though the barn was creaking a lot from the wind. He was offering his bottoms up behavior a TON, I guess he likes that trick, and I will be trying to use it as a reinforcer for other behaviors. He also did something that was good, but not right, that I have to think about. I cued him to fly to a perch, and on the way, for the first time, he decided to land on my arm. I like the idea that if he feels the need to abort a mission, that he lands on me, but I want to encourage him to go where cued. So I let him land, then took him to the perch I had cued him to. When he stepped down onto it, I gave him a pine nut. I think this gives him a pretty good balance to the problem - he can land on me if he wants, but the big reinforcers happen when he gets to where I ask him to go.

I got kind of excited after this morning's training (Peepers just did so well), and was home this afternoon, so I decided to do another session out there, and I thought it would be a good idea to bring Sparky out and introduce her to the barn also. I also filmed it, because I started 2 new things: Sparky's intro to the barn, and Peepers learning to fly around a pole.

The session didn't go quite as planned. Peepers seemed to be a little upset, I suspect because Sparky was there and on my shoulder. He offered exactly zero bottoms ups, lol, and did I think one on cue. Sparky wasn't interested in being anywhere but my shoulder, so what work I did with Peepers was done with her right there. I was able to introduce the pole to Peepers, and we did get to the point where he has to think about the pole while he flew from one perch to the other, but he really didn't have to change his path at all. He did of course notice the pole, and it affected him in that he wasn't able/willing to leave one perch for the other, so I just asked him to fly from my hand, as you can see from the video. One or 2 times I felt like I had to kind of dump him off my hand - I feel like I can no longer allow him to sit on my hand and regurgitate, so when he starts to do that, I rotate my hand around to force a different behavior. I suspect this isn't the best idea, and I am going to try and avoid the situation entirely as best I can in the future.


There's also some other kind of interesting things to note. The parrots are left loose in the house overnight, and in the morning, Peepers has the option of eating to his heart's content, with foraging everywhere and all sorts of goodies. When I took him out to the barn in the morning, the poops he did out there had almost nothing in them. It could be that he had already digested the stuff he ate in the morning, or he could be a light eater. I have no idea, but for those who are interested in the whole food management thing, it's worth noting.

I also have been concerned about all the pine nuts and almonds Peepers has been getting from all the training. Today after both sessions, I cleaned up the bird room, and there was a pile of regurgitated pine nuts in a pile on the floor. I think they were from the second session, just because the young dogs would have cleaned them up if they had had access to them, but I don't know for sure. So, I am going to keep an eye on this and see if he's stuffing himself to the point where he can't keep it all down on a regular basis. I don't know what I would do about it, but hey, I at least want to know if it's happening :).

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