Friday, August 31, 2012

Elka, now and for the future (400th post!)

So, here we are. 400 posts! It sounds like a lot, doesn't it? I think it sounds like a lot.

I certainly didn't (and still don't) have a finite "arc" for this blog in mind, so I guess it was inevitable I'd make 400 and beyond. I just wanted to mark the milestone!

So, what to talk about? Woefully unprepared, I asked on Twitter what the topic ought to be, and maggie68d helped me out. Elka, obviously. Her achievements and what we've been working on. I thought it a splendid plan!


So, what have we been working on?

A year ago is when Elka earned her Novice Trick Dog title! I should say that we've really been cracking at that Intermediate Trick Dog title, but it isn't entirely true. See, they changed the list of tricks, just a bit, but enough to derail me. Elka is really still only a few tricks off of her second title. For reference, it's things like "shut a door", "hold an item for 5 seconds", and "roll over" (seriously, this dog does not like going on her back, and I'm not going to force her for the sake of a trick). She's sleep like this:


but lure her into rolling over? Nope. 

"Shut the door" is one of those ones that mechanically, I have a notion of how to get things going.  There's just another step that I need to add: target training. This is when you use an item (frequently a washed yogurt lid, apparently), and shape your dog touching it with a nose or paw. When you move the target, you can then teach other behaviors. So, shut the door? Once your dog is comfortable targeting the lid, you put the lid on the door. Easy peasy, right? Well, yeah, unless a suddenly moving object freaks your dog out. Which it sometimes does Elka. Not always. So, something to work on, because who wouldn't love to say "Elka, go close the door" when you don't want to get your butt off the couch?


Other, less gimmicky things: Elka's loose leash walking, and focus on me while we're walking, is getting quite good. There are times where she looks at something exciting (squirrel, toddler, bicycle, other dog), and looks right back to me. I'm very proud of her! This is one of those instances where I really want to bugle about positive training methods. If I corrected Elka every time she got excited about another dog, or a bicycle, it would only confirm to her that these are things to be wary of (not that other dogs have been doing a very good job of that image themselves, what with all the barking/lunging/snarling we frequently see). Toddlers are something Elka is extremely fond of, and I certainly don't want to kill her joy of children, I just need her to not assume every kid wants to love her and be loved.

Her automatic sit, and wait (especially on street corners) is also fabulous. I like not having to worry about what it is she's doing, when I'm already worried about what crazy drivers are doing. 


In the house, we work on things like barking, sometimes. Elka doesn't really nuisance bark; she alert barks, which one day is going to cause me to choke and die, I'm sure. If she hears a car door slam down the street, or people talking all of the sudden, she will bark once (but OH! What a bark it is!) and then go to the nearest thing to look through, be it the front door or the window. I would love to take my own advice on this and put barking on cue. Arguably, I do want to know if somebody's in the driveway or the yard. I just need Elka to understand that even though she can hear things from a block away, it doesn't mean they're pertinent. 

We're also still working on getting the perfect "Out" from her when she needs to go out, and getting her to say "Hello". I'm not sure Elka is going to be one of those Talking YouTube Dogs, but the talking that she does do amuses me. And really, that's what it's all about. Elka makes me smile and laugh every day, without fail. Am I sometimes frustrated with her too? Sure, but that's the way it goes. There's the whining, which we also work on. There's the language barrier as well. There are times she's so close to getting what I say to her, but she still misses. There are also times that I swear she's trying to say something to me, and I don't get it either. So, we muddle through.









44 comments:

  1. Woohoo! 400! I'm barely at 250. Apparently you talk a lot.

    Elli's eligible for her Intermediate Trick Dog title, I just need to find the money and the gusto to sit my witness down and get it done. I also really dislike that you have to have the books to know what the criteria for each trick is. How obnoxious. Do librarians get to bring books home before regular people do? I sense a conspiracy.

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    1. Yeah, talking a lot is something I used to get in trouble for at school. Back in Kindergarten, I got to sit next to the teacher's desk!

      Library staff don't get to bring the books home before regular people, at least not at my library! I own one of the books (the newest Do More With Your Dog! purple covered one) and the others are (or were) in my library system. It is kind of obnoxious because you look at some of the tricks and go "pull a rope? You mean like playing tug? Is that a trick?" and, theoretically, it is. You could dress it up by having "pull a rope" mean "pull a rope to open a door" but "open a door" is its own trick.

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  2. You could try a post-it for transferring the target work to a door--that's how I taught Juno "close". Then you can tape it down so it's a contrasting obvious target but doesn't move around. Loved the big update post, yay Elka!!

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    1. I do have a single yogurt lid (most of the yogurt I buy comes with foil lids), but a post-it is a great idea! Thanks!

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  3. happy 400th guys!!!

    that was a great update, i love all the things i learn from you. keep it up :)

    xxx

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    1. Aw, thanks! In addition to shamelessly pandering my dog, I do hope to be helpful ^^

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  4. Have a fantastic Friday and happy 400.
    Best wishes Molly

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    1. Thanks Molly! Happy Friday to you too!

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  5. 400 posts is a lot. I'm not even at 300 yet and I feel like I've been blogging forever.

    Learning how to speak Dog is tough! Have a great weekend :) x

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    1. Learning how to speak Dog IS tough! There are times I really feel like I get it, which is fantastic, and other times I don't have a clue.

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  6. Congratulations on reaching 400 blog posts! That's awesome! It sounds like Elka has accomplished a lot. It reminds me that I need to work on Linus and Stetson's training while I'm in between guide dog pups.

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    1. Thanks!

      There are times when Elka is just so good and responsive with day to day stuff, that I forget that I wanted to teach her to do more! Then I do thinks like go "Oh yeah, a year ago I wanted to teach her like, 3 more tricks for this title....but I haven't." and I feel guilty. It's very strange.

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  7. Congratulations on 400 posts! Elka's tricks and accomplishments sound so impressive!

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    1. Thanks! There are times I feel like we could be doing more, like finding a CGC, and there are other times I feel like we're already doing more than some people do. I'm reasonably happy with Elka like, all the time. Considering my grandmother feel a dog is "trained" when she doesn't potty in the house anymore, this "training is a lifelong act" is a little bewildering to some of my family members.

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  8. Congratulations on your 400th post and congratulations on all of Elka's achievements!

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    1. Thank you very much! Sometimes, she really makes it easy.

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  9. Congratulations!! that sure is a lot of words, BOL
    Benny & Lily

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    1. I'm not sure I'm going to run out of words! Sometimes they might be harder to find than others, but they still always come out eventually.

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  10. We did targeting with a wooden spoon in obedience class, but the teacher also mentioned the post-it as an upgrade--the dog knows to touch your hand, then learns to touch the spoon as an extension of your hand, then to touch a post-it on the spoon, then to touch a post-it on a cabinet door or whatever.

    I have given up on teaching Silas to roll over. Elka may have some of the problem that Silas does--as a thin, deep/narrow chested dog, rolling over just doesn't work with his center of gravity somehow. Sometimes he will lie on his back on the sofa, but if you watch him he has to push off the sofa back with his feet to get there. We settled for teaching him to "relax" (lie on one side with his head down.)

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    1. With a wooden spoon? That's a neat idea! I know that they sell fancy-schmancy targeting sticks, but I couldn't really imagine people buying what was essentially a ball on the end of a stick when there were probably any number of things in the house that would stand in just as well.

      Yes, it has seemed to me that Elka's monstrous rib cage was a big factor in her not wanting to roll over. She'll roll onto her back on the couch or in bed sometimes, but that's it. She never even rolls in grass! On the side is a great idea....that's good enough for "play dead"!

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  11. Wow, 400 posts.... that's a lot... I can only open all doors, but I never close them :o))) Have a wonderful Friday!

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  12. Congratulations on your 400th. You seem to have gotten into a rhythm and your subject continues to fascinate. My dogs are all small and it's interesting to see how different it is to work with a large dog.

    My dogs don't roll over either unless tummy rubs are promised. My Poodles don't roll over at all. I think it's a dominance thing with them. :)

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    1. I'm definitely happy and grateful that I have regular readers, and new ones! It's certainly a great incentive to keep posting.

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  13. Congrats on the 400th post!!
    I like to 'alert bark' too!! Ma's says I'm goin' to give her a heart attack one of these days, because I might only be 50lbs, but I sound like a pack of Saint Bernard's! Ma has been tryin' to get me to stop barkin' when she gives me a cue, but she usually ends up makin' me sit next to her while she holds my collar. She's tryin' but I do have a mind of my own, and I have my Ma well trained!

    Kisses,

    Ruby

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    1. Yes, Ruby, Elka has a "big" bark too when she's doing the alert! I hope myself and your ma are able to work things out amiably with you two.

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  14. Congratulations!! 400 posts is very impressive. That's a lot of writing. I look forward to 400 more. If you have come this far imagine how far Elka will be after 800 posts. You both have so much to be proud of. I hope you celebrate!


    I've not heard of this trick dog title you speak of. Can anyone earn such a thing or is it part of a course you and Elka have taken in your area? I am intrigued...

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    1. Thanks very much! We went to the park today, and Elka was happy to find that the creek had water in it again. That was pretty celebratory!

      The trick dog title is through Kyra Sundance, who has a few dog training books (tricks) and a website: http://www.domorewithyourdog.com/

      I trained Elka myself, both obedience wise and trick wise. Once she has the Intermediate title, I can take the test to become a trick dog instructor myself, which might be a goal down the line.

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  15. What an amazing resume! You must be very proud of all the Elka has accomplished. I'm a huge fan of trick training and am determined to teach Fozzie some more neat ones someday here soon!

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    1. I am very proud of Elka, and love showing her off (can you tell?)! Trick training is a lot of fun!

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  16. Congratulations on your 400th post. It sounds like Elka has learned a lot of tricks.

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    1. Thanks! Yup, lots of tricks...some of them are even useful! ;) Really it was a way to keep her busy as a puppy in the winter, when I wanted to sit on my butt at night.

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  17. Congratulations on your 400th post. My mom person wishes I was trained half as much as you would be.

    Nubbin wiggles,
    Oskar

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    1. Thanks Oskar!

      Tell your mom that different dogs learn at different rates...and are motivated by different things. Maybe try peanut butter? ;)

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  18. Congrats on 400 posts!
    I taught Nola target with my hand first than an index card. She can shut cabinets now! Doors are a bit heavy for her ;)
    Nola's Mom

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    1. An index card is a great idea too! Awesome ^^ Sometimes I just need the fridge door closed....others the front door!

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  19. Congratulations on the big milestone! You'll have 500 under your belt in no time.

    Great idea to get the training update. I'm making some new training goals for Honey and you've give me some great ideas.

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    1. Thanks! 400 seems like such a big number...and so does 500!

      Glad to give you some inspiration! I love reading about Honey (and Cherie!)

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  20. I should try the trick dogs thing. I'm not usually a big trick trainer, but I've seen a couple people talk about it recently and it sounds like a fun thing.

    You should have seen me teaching Steve the Border Collie to roll over. He would NOT be lured. No way, no how. I ended up modeling him- I'd physically roll him over, and then c/t. It was the most awkward thing ever and probably broke a hundred clicker training rules, but he rolls over happily these days. He's not graceful about it in the least, but he's enthusiastic!

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    1. The trick training is pretty fun. In a way, it's good training for the person, as well. Tricks are kind of a no-stress thing, as opposed to something like loose leash walking. Granted, that's on there (on the Intermediate level), but so are other things, like the "shell game".

      Hah, yeah, when I try to roll Elka over, she turns into a sack of cement. I can still do it, but she's far too unhappy with it (and so am I by the time it's done!)

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  21. Congratulations on your 400th post! That is quite an accomplishment.

    We work on having Sampson and Delilah sit when cars approach, which is great in the area that we live but wouldn't be so great in a city environment. :-)

    I have been working the target command with them too, although I had no plans to implement. Perhaps I need to to figure out how to use 'target'? I don't think the refrigerator is a good place for Delilah! LOL

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    1. mmm, yeah, I don't know what she should target. Maybe you can get an "Easy" button from Staples or wherever? ;)

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