Thursday, October 27, 2005

Progress With Tika--Not Even Agility

I tried many things with Tika over the past 3-plus years to try to get her to leave me (or us) alone while we sat at the table and ate, or to not go into a frenzy when people came into the house to visit, or to leave the people alone after they were in and settled down to chat. One thing I tried to teach her was that the big mat inside the back door was her spot to go to, that on command she should go there and not move her feet off it until told to. I tried. I tried. I really tried. I used the clicker and everything. I could not make it stick. I finally gave up on that.

Well, one thing that Nancy said Tuesday was that I need a place for her to go, like a dog bed or a stool or something. Click! The lightbulb went on. I went ahead and moved the smaller raised bed up into the kitchen eating area (where Boost's crate spent several months until recently--a small room without much extra space at all) and then used the clicker to reward her when she climbed onto it.

She's very "operant" with the clicker--tries things until she gets the click and the reward, and then usually quickly repeats whatever it was. In our first short session yesterday morning, she was already getting onto the bed on command from across the room and staying on it even with excitement like dinnertime. Just having that strong physical delimiter of a raised bed has made it so much easier for her to figure out. By the end of the day, she was going onto the bed by default and didn't want to get off.

We worked at it all day yesterday and all day today. She was doing so well that I invited my sister (whom Tika adores) and spouse over for pizza tonight, and ordered the pizza delivered. She had a very tough time with their arrival; got off the bed maybe 3 or 4 times but with one or two loud (to be heard over the excitement) reminders from me ("Excuse me?!") she got back on. She broke again when the pizzaman rang the doorbell and I opened the door; I had to excuse myself to the pizza guy while I closed the door and waited for her to get back on her bed.

But then she pretty much stayed there the whole time we indulged our pizza fantasy. She even lay down a few times, although it was definitely a full-alert down that didn't last very long. And she perched her front feet right on the very edgy edge of the bed most of the time. But there she stayed like a good girl. No more repeating "go lie down" over and over or having her pace pace pace or sticking her nose all over the place in an annoying manner or having to shut her out of the room away from us and the other dogs or have a big crate in that small room. It was very nice.

So I can teach things fairly well when I know what it is that I'm supposed to be teaching. I just can't always figure out what that is.

I've also been doing recalls over and over and over like Nancy suggested ("a hundred times a day"). Yesterday I still couldn't call her off chasing a squirrel down the fence; today I could, which I've never been able to--progress has been that fast when I heeded the advice to do it hundreds of times. Well--it hasn't been hundreds, but many many times anyway. (I had actually been doing it a lot more since I got Boost and started always having food in my pocket around the house, and she has gotten noticeably better over the last few months, but I wasn't doing it more than a very few times a day, so progress wasn't as quick and it wasn't as solid a result. I needed an expert to tell me how often to do it!)

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