Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I'm a Mean Mean Mommy

No, you can't do this to me!

Well we knew this day was coming. I put it off as long as I could. I thought, 'hey, when I get a new puppy they can both start on the program together. It will be a shock, but good for them.' But its gotten to the point where its the best option I have. All the toys are going away.

I know! I know! It sounds so harsh. How could she? How can a dachshund that has lived its entire life with the ability to squeak a squeaker whenever he pleased live without that sacred privilege? Well if I have to watch Gaius stubbornly stare at one more agility obstacle, and then freeze like some disinterested statue, until little pigeons come nest on his head cooing lightly, while I wait a few feet ahead doing a silly looking fake run, I'm going to tear my hair out. So this act of aggression signals the start of the war on Gaius' lack of Drive.

What is Drive you might ask. Well that's the little fires under our butts that make us want to do something. Not just to do it, but to do it quickly, precisely and enthusiastically. What creates drive? (Well other than being that one in a million High Drive dog that just dose everything absolutely the best it can do no matter what... these dogs are not commonly dachshunds) REINFORCEMENT! That's right reinforcement creates drive. And lets face it things are more reinforcing when they are special.

So Gaius struck the first blow in the war on drive. He decided working (at a reasonable speed, aka faster than one inch every ten million years) to play with toys outside was only for lame-o dogs (like border collies and golden retrievers) and not for super cool dachshunds. Nope, dachshunds only work for food, and in their own due time, thank you very much. Which makes sense. I mean why work your butt off for a tennis ball when after class you can go home, and causally walk over to your toy box and fish one out. Why run a sequence for a tug toy when you can go home, pull out a tug and shove it in daddy's face and have free tug all night long. It's like asking someone to work an eight hour shift for high fives and hand shakes.

Since toys are a much more effective than food to create speed in agility dogs (More on this later, also Gaius isn't that much faster for food and he already gets that on a ' you work for it or no yum yums ' basis) I was left with no other recourse than to usurp this land of milk and honey and enact a strict NO TOYS WITHOUT WORK program. That's right, he is allowed something to chew on during the day (The last picture shows Gaius with his consolation prize) but that's it all day until I come home. Then I will decide when we play. I will decide what toy he plays with. I will decide what he has to do to earn being played with. I will decide how long he gets to play with any particular toy (never over 15 seconds between new cued behaviors) and I will decide when we are done playing. Look how many Is are in those last sentences. Who's in control now?

That way toys will be worth a lot more in his tiny puppy world and he will have more fun playing with them. It's mean, it's harsh, but its the only way. And this way when I pull a coveted squeaky toy out of my pocket at agility class, I will get a response of unbridled enthusiasm, instead of a blank stare and sarcastic yawning (I'm not sure if other dogs are capable of sarcasm but dachshunds certainly are).

Now before all of you concerned Dachshund owners call your local animal rescue organization to save my poor deprived dapple buddy from the jaws of owner tyranny, let me reassure you. Gaius will still get plenty of toy time a day, and he'll probably like it more because it will be with mommy and totally more exciting then lazily squeaking a loofa dog under the couch by himself. And he will continue to be spoiled in many other ways. I'm guessing you can tell by now that he is well loved, happy, safe and privileged in all the ways he should be. It's just tough times call for tough mommies.

Anyhow I came to this decision after a private lesson with Cindy this morning to work on the big five letter word DRIVE. This is when she sternly told me to cease and desist with the unlimited access to toys. Ok, it wasn't so firm it was more like,

Elizabeth: -sheepishly- "Do you think I should pick his toys up and only let him have them while we are working?"

Cindy: "Oh, yes defiantly. That will really help."

Elizabeth- -Sigh- "Ok. I'll do that I guess..."

Actually that was pretty much the existent of which we talked about it. It wasn't really a huge part of the lesson for her, just a big blow/ wake up call for me and my little one. She gave me a bunch of other stuff relating to building drive and that's what the rest of the post is about (I have to write down all this stuff now before I forget it).

This is madness, madness I tell you!

Race Ya!

There are many times in dog agility when you want to send your dog out in front of you, or encourage your dog to run faster than you are running. This is an important skill because, since most dogs are faster than us (My dog certainly is even with one inch long legs) and the sport is timed, we don't want them milling about waiting for us to catch up. So to encourage Gaius to run ahead of me I'm suppose to play this racing game with him. I'm to play it at least three, no more than five times a day plus meal times (it sounds like a medical prescription). Anyhow the gist of the game is a put Gaius in a sit stay then walk a few paces away (not too far at first). There I will place something desirable (his food bowl hence with meals, a toy...ect). Then I'm to walk back and place my hand firmly on his chest. Then I will give the 'get excited cue' (more on that later). Next I will shove him backwards, say his release word and run as fast as I can to the object (Since when did agility mean I had to get exercise?). If I beat him, I scoop up the object and throw a big party for myself which doesn't involve Gaius (play with the toy by myself, pretend to eat the food...ect). If he gets there first, he gets the reward. I'm also to race him to anywhere I'm sending him (ie. the crate, the bed, the couch)

Ready Steady Go! : A Cue for Excitement

Cindy wants me to put excitement on a cue. Its sort of a weird concept but it makes sense. It's like if someone says to you, "Hey a think there are donuts in the conference room" (I'm a grad student, we think in free food). Just hearing that makes you excited, even if you can't see or smell the donuts (man I skipped lunch, I'm starving). Well Gaius needs a word that means 'dude get excited, something totally awesome is about to happen'. So the racing game above is one way to build that as a cue. I'm going to use "You Ready, You Steady?". I like it cause a lot of cool agility kids use it. Oh peer pressure. But building this as a cue means it HAS to go BEFORE the reward (more on pavlov and associated theories later). That means I have to be tricky. After he's got the racing game down pat. I have to start sneaking toys into my pocket. Then I'll but him in the sit stay, say his cue of excitement, then push him back and take off running. (This next part requires dexterity) I'm to watch him to make sure he's running full tilt. If he dose just one stride at a dead out run, I'm to dig into my pocket and throw the surprise toy! And I have to keep running (I'm going to fall, I know I am). this way he doesn't have to see the reward to go fast, he just assumes its going to be there. So I can say it at the start line of an agility course and have a totally pumped dog even if I don't have food or toys.

How will I live without them?

Reinforcement in Strange Places

The last part of my private lesson was all about reinforcements. And you thought I made that list yesterday for nothing! I knew she'd want a list. See, I do homework before its even assigned to me (Wish that was true for school). Well guess what I'll be bringing to class on Thursday? Balloons... that's right, because running a dachshund in agility didn't look silly enough anyway. While we are building drive for regular toys I'm to use something that sends him over the top in the mean time. So we pulled out some balloons and blew one up and wouldn't you know it, he took a jump tunnel sequence tunnel quicker than I've EVER seen him move outdoors. Who can argue with those results in an hour! But the toy thing should get easier with time, so looking silly is only temporary (hopefully).

Taking Education into my Own Hands

Another thing we talked about was more something she gave me permission to do. Which means if a sequence in class isn't going to help Gaius with his issues, just tell the teacher that I'm going to take my turn doing something else. For example, yesterday we did lead out piviets in Linda's class. That means leaving Gaius in a sit stay, moving far away, and then waiting for him to take the jump while I'm not moving. It was like molasses, the worst thing he could have done at that point. I've seen other students make there own curriculum and the teacher always look really irritated. And I understand, they spent time thinking about what to teach us that night and what we needed to learn. So I always did what I was told. I mean come on, I'm a novice here. But Cindy owns the place so if she says I'm allowed to do my own thing I guess it must be true.

A Tuga Tuga

The last thing we talked about was tug. Now Gaius LOVES tug... when he's at home. He likes it well enough inside in other places. He doesn't acknowledge its existence outside. This should get better a bit on its own now that toys are limited (See why I needed to go to extremes, look at all the things this will help fix). But Cindy says Gaius needs to learn that tug is not a choice. To help fix this she recommends making Gaius tug while I hold food in the other hand (Yikes!). If he can tug effectively inside doing that, he can probably tug outdoors... so yeah... I'll work on that. No doubt hilarious videos to come involving tugging (or not tugging) in the presence of food.

Well now to head home and see if Gaius has scratched and pried the lid off of his toy box in my absence.

I guess I will except this consolation prize...

P.S. More videos to come! I should be getting a flip camera soon!


Lorenza said...

I have to admit that I am a wild girl!
And I have a bad trainer!
I hope my mom can learn something from you!
Kisses and hugs

Elizabeth said...

Welcome Lorenza :)
As a first time Doxie owner I'm sure Ill learn just as much from you >.<
I love your blog, your outfits are adorable!