Monday, February 11, 2008

Chains (continued)

SUMMARY: Oh! I forgot back chaining!

When I had my first dog, back around 1980, a lady neighbor had a pomeranian that she'd tell "Pick up your toys" and he'd run around the room, picking up his toys and putting them in the toy basket. I was floored. This was just the neighbor lady's lap dog, fer crying out loud! I thought that someday I'd try to figure out how to teach my dog to do that, but had no clue where to start and never did get to work on it. Remington (my 3rd dog) was a great trick dog but not big on picking things up to begin with, let alone on command, so we never worked on that. And Jake, who loved picking things up, had the learning capacity of half a grapenut, so I never tried it with him.

Last month, Elite Forces of Fuzzy Destruction posted a video of her dog picking up his toys. Wow, I said! (I say "wow" a lot sometimes.) I know how to do that now! Plus I have a Booster who fetches the newspaper every morning and will work really hard to do stuff for me! (I suspected I'd have to write off Tika, who also works hard for the clicker, but who had to spend months in remedial retrieving school because she loves to hold onto things if you're playing tug of war but won't bring them back usually.)

After the first session, Boost looked like she was getting a clue. Tika figured out that I wanted her to put her mouth on things, but since she never actually picked them up, progress was slow, although everything in sight was heavily salivated. After the second session, Boost was starting to deliberately take things into the vicinity of the basket, although she'd hover over it and then toss the toy beyond it (perhaps a clicking error on my part that I didn't detect soon enough). Tika was starting to move things, one salivary inch at a time, towards the basket, but since nothing made it more than an inch above the ground, nothing was going INTO the basket.

After the third session, Boost was actively starting to look for the basket and would pick up any objects when I pointed to them. Tika and I had decided that it would be funnier to teach her to stand IN the basket, since that's what she was trying to do anyway to get closer to the food.

On the fourth session, I dared to demonstrate it for the housemate. Boost still needs a little encouragement to pick some things up; needs some discouragement from picking up things that are already in the basket and dropping them back in; and a little reminder that a basket 4 feet away is no different from one 3 feet away, but wow (!), she was really doing it! And Tika was up to having 3 feet IN the basket; I'm having a tough time making the transition to 4 feet just by shaping, but I'll try to be patient.

When both are more consistent and complete in their behaviors, I'll videotape it.

And, yes, I did Boost's behavior using large dollops of backchaining and clicks/treats.

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