The Training Corner
In this space, you will be able to learn what I am training on with my own dog and see my approaches in the videos. I like my clients to know that trainers have to train their dogs consistently and over the course of their life too!
Lira and I are training on how to wear dog booties. My hope is that she will no longer have to endure painful ice balls on her feet or frostbite when we go out in the Colorado snow. This training will be over multiple sessions (number unknown) and includes forming a positive association with the object (in case dog booties) to see if Lira will be okay with wearing them—and maybe even enjoy being a part of the process of putting them on. Some helpful reminders when we train something new:
Context: What happened today? What has been happening this week? Any new triggers, changes in routine, should be taken into consideration when evaluating whether or not your dog may already be stressed. For instance, Lira and I normally walk every morning, and this week due to weather have not been able to get that exercise together. How does that impact how Lira is feeling today, two days in a row without a long walk?
Criteria: Lira dictates where she’s at in this process. If I try to put the bootie closer to her foot and she moves away, I lower my criteria to again waiting for her to offer the target touch to the bootie with her nose and click/treat. Always move at your dog’s pace. Back off and make it easier if they are telling you (e.g. through their body language) that you are asking for too much.
Reinforcer: As I am trying something more difficult (e.g. putting the bootie on her foot) or even before then (to create a strong positive association with the object) I may elect to use even higher value treats. Higher value treats are the treats the dog finds the most rewarding. Maybe they don’t get hot dogs, cheese or freeze dried liver very often. I will be trying different treats with Lira to keep things interesting and see what she finds most reinforcing.
Incremental steps: My training plan should be divided into clear steps, but I also keep the training plan flexible. Steps include: Lira gets a reward for showing any interest in the bootie, Lira gets a reward for targeting it with her nose with the bootie a short distance away, reward for targeting with the bootie closer to her, etc. as we work up to more constant contact (bootie laying on top of her foot, foot inside just the opening, etc). I may need to think outside of the box at some point for something that works to help Lira, for instance, be a part of placing her foot in the bootie rather than me trying to put it on her. Or, I may see Lira move from one step to a higher step in the training plan and adjust for this. Or as it happens often, I may need to spend more time on a certain step and to lower my criteria. Keep training sessions short in duration and always end on a positive note with lots of rewarding! I like to ‘jackpot’ my dog at the end of a training session, while giving them praise and use verbal cue ‘take a break’ that we are ending for now. Note: These sessions were done in winter of 2023, date and time stamp on videos was initially incorrect.
Lira has some familiarity already with the bootie, as well as target training. She knows how to target my hand and a target stick. Here she is getting used to targeting the bootie and lots of reinforcement.
More reinforcement for targeting. I reset her a few times away from the bootie so that she goes back to target it, making this a little bit of a fun game. I also had her go to a down position. I'll be playing with positioning as we train to see what might work best for her given her age.
More simple targeting, now with the bootie right on her leg. No forced contact, she can move away if she wants to. So far, she appears to be okay with it touching her and continues to seek reinforcement for targeting it with her nose.
I tried to put the bootie on the first part of her paw and she wasn't ready, so took a step back. Now I'm eliciting some cooperation from having her target touch the bootie by cueing her to 'paw'. I am not able to click my clicker due to holding the camera, but each time she paws off camera she gets a click and treat.
2/22/23: (No video--Picture to left is a day we spent at the lake)
Today we worked on covering paw with cloth and click/treat for keeping her paw in the cloth. I put Lira in a down on her mat, and gently wrapped a small towel around her foot, simulating what the bootie would cover. She got treats for not moving her paw out of the cloth and seemed to have no problem with this. Basically conditioning for her to get used to the sensation of something wrapped around her foot.
I also worked on me holding bootie with left hand outward, asking for ‘paw’ with right hand and click/treat for offering the paw touch while the bootie was outstretched toward her (open end toward her). I am trying to elicit cooperative care and ask her for behaviors rather than force her foot into the bootie and give treats. Could not do a video due to both my hands being busy. She still is not at the point where she will accept laying down with her foot placed in the bootie, she pulls away. Though she did get to the point about ¾ into our training where she let me place the very first part of her paw in the opening of the bootie while she was laying down.
Please note that we usually train for no more than 5-10 minutes at a time before taking a break and I am constantly assessing whether or not she wants to participate. I can tell when she is getting tired and even if she is working well, I keep the sessions short and end on a positive note with a ‘jackpot’ by giving her a handful of small treats and saying ‘take a break!’