Friday, February 6, 2009

Wait For It

I am currently teaching two greyhound clicker training classes. About three or four times a year, I offer a basic obedience class for greyhounds using the clicker.

One of the things I have noticed is that handlers are sometimes desperate for their greyhound's attention. Class is a distracting environment. The dogs are pulled in all directions by the attractive treats, the other dogs, and the sound of clickers.

This time, there is one hound in particular that is very stressed, but she is working really well for short bursts despite her anxiety. She can be very frustrating to work with because she is either jumping on her handler or pulling away from him and putting 55 pounds of pressure on the leash. The handler tries to get her attention by repeating her name and pulling her back.

I experience something similar with Riley at times, especially at PetsMart. The squeaks, chirps, and small animals smells are almost too much for her to handle. It is stressful for Riley to not be able to get to what she is hearing and smelling.

When Riley has switched to high prey mode, I know that her training has taken a giant leap backwards. Instead of asking her to do things she may fail to respond to (such as her name), I simply wait for her to come back to earth. I let her look, listen, and smell from one location (I do not let her lead me around the store). Since she is not given access to the animals or the toys in the store, the looking, listening, and smelling behavior never leads her to a reinforcement.

Eventually, Riley starts to realize that her action is not working for her and she may turn to look at me... click and treat. She makes eye contact again... click and treat. She might offer another behavior, a down perhaps. Click and treat. Now she is listening and I can start to make requests.

I much prefer to allow Riley to exhaust her curiosity and then "choose" to see what I have to offer. Some trainers teach a "watch me" command. I have never done this with my greyhounds nor have I felt the need to. I find that eventually they become quite attentive and just eventually keep their eyes on me without being asked.

I think a similar strategy would work for the greyhound in my class. Just wait for it. Let it be her idea. I am eager to see how she and her handler progress over the weeks.


IHateToast said...

if you ever have kids with real ADD (vs self-described ADD), you'll be great. i used to teach at a school for those types. people think ADD means you can't pay attention. no. you pay attention to everything, so what you need to focus on (ME!) seems ignored. you just had to be patient. let the kid think about that firetruck that just screamed by your classroom... wait. then return.

a classroom full of them would be like a big day out with riley. you'll be great. just don't be seen using the clicker on the kid in public. sh!

Chris said...

oh, my. You should use a "censored" image instead across her butt.

BrittBeah said...

Such a good doggy whisperer.
Love the edited pic, funny.

Life With Dogs said...

This is great advice - a good reminder of the patience required to properly train dogs.

dogstaracademy said...

What a great post!

I teach two rounds of Control Unleashed each week, and one of the big foundations of that class is teaching the dog to CHOOSE to pay attention, rather than asking (or begging!) for it. Since I started using that as one of my foundation exercises everywhere (we've recently added 'boxwork' to our beginner obedience class's first night), I've really seen an improvement in focus for my beginner dogs.)

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Chris, I'm not that talented. I do not have the slightest idea how to censor :-).

Wish we had some Control Unleashed classes around here. I did read the book though. I liked the exercise where you C&T the dog for looking at scary things. Suddenly the dog only glances at things that used to spark huge reactions.

Thanks everyone!


greytblackdog said...

Are you talking about me and roxy. LOL! J/K. No wait. Are you?

I'm going to try that method with Rox at Pet Smart this week. She has a hard time there. She totally gives up and assumes the fetal position on me with all the noise and people.

What is this book you speak of - Control Unleashed? Sounds like something Rox needs.

Zan said...

Great advice. Nick and I wanted to make it to your class this time - too many already full sun afternoons though. Next time I hope!!