Saturday, April 7, 2012

Duration Lab with Kay Laurence Part One- stillness

This lab was subtitled Duration in Moving and Static Behaviors, yet Kay broke it down even further (part of a clicker trainer's M.O. obviously). I am actually working on this behavior as I type this- with Eloise the dog, not a horse, but the correlations are obvious.

Kay broke stillness behaviors down into "calm stillness" and "contained anticipatory" stillness. The first is when you want your animal to chill out and relax, such as Eloise lying on her mat next to me as I type right now. The other is when you want the animal to wait for the next active cue- a start line in agility or perhaps the start box for XC?? In all instances you may want the animal still, but the difference is the accompanying emotion- sleepy? or taut like a rubber band pulled tight?

Kay uses a specific body position to differentiate which type it is. She uses the type of click and the food delivery- both style and placement- to help shape the behavior. And she uses follow up
behaviors which correlate. In this first photo, Eloise was still wanting to jump up when she heard me click. Continued slow clicks and methodical feeding gradually calmed her to stay in position.

Dogs have many positions they can lie down in. There is the sphinx like position from which they can launch up into activity and there is the position when they are rolled over on one hip- a more relaxed position in which they would be more likely to sleep. There is also the flat out position ("dead dog" in our house). When I pulled Percy's mane this Spring (I had let it get quite long and thick over the winter out of sheer laziness), I reinforced him for longer and longer durations of standing while I worked. I do this when I work on his mane and he's quite good for it (I use a cheater comb so no pain involved!). But this year we added a new twist and I'm thinking that I can use Kay's methods to a specific "stand" while I pull his mane. The twist was that he yawned fairly early on in the process and I clicked because it was a relaxation sign. So he yawned again....and again. But he made himself sleepy in the process! Pretty soon his eyes were drooping and his head was hanging (he was loose in the aisle). Just exactly what I wanted while working away at his mane. Not the "stand" I'd like for a halt in the dressage ring- this was a different behavior. So I think I will intentionally ask for the yawning type of stand in many little sessions while I keep his mane short this summer.

Kay also stresses the importance of watching your animal to know how he or she functions normally- WHICH hip does your dog sleep on most? Observing the dog sleeping on its own will help you determine which position she's most comfortable in and therefore more likely to stay in when put there on cue. Once you get the dog to lie down in front of you- perpendicular to your knees such that when they curl, it is toward you, you then treat by placing the food toward the dog's tummy so it encourages them to relax over onto the far hip. Likewise, while working on Percy's mane, I did not ask him to step back or turn to get the treat. I reached out slowly (but promptly) and delivered it to the low position his head was in. Kay quoted Skinner as saying, "the way the reinforcer is delivered is more important the what the reinforcer is".

Ever know you could click differently according to the behavior you're working on? I do this subconsciously with a tongue click when I'm working with horses- quiet behaviors get a very quiet little almost "tic", whereas active behaviors get a loud "KLOCK". One encourages maintenance of a quiet attitude, the other keeps a horse jazzed up. Kay even does this with the clicker. Using a box clicker, she showed how you can rest your finger flat on the metal piece to quiet the sound (and you can also muffle it behind your back or in a pocket) vs using the tip of your finger to get a louder click. For still behaviors, she also separates the two parts of the click- holding for a bit before releasing the tab. Usually I do this when I click by mistake and wish there was a way to stop mid-click!!!

How you end a training session matters as well. I chose to work on Eloise's "settle" behavior while typing because I knew that Eloise would eventually doze off as she relaxed next to me. She did. Her eyes are open in this final picture because she heard me click the camera.

So alternately, if you want to work on stillness that contains excitement, you feed while they are still in the sphinx position, you use a clear, sharp click, deliver the food fast but in a position that reinforces staying in position and end the behavior by cueing an active behavior or releasing for a wild play session.

This is the type of halt I'd like for a dressage test. Square and collected, ready to spring into the next gait requested.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Clicker Expo!

I finally got to attend Clicker Expo. I've wanted to attend several times and last year even made plans to before life got in the way. You'd think nothing could actually meet the expectations I had built up over all that time but Clicker Expo did. One of my anticipations was actually meeting people face to face that I had befriended via The Click That Teaches yahoo group list and on Facebook. It was great fun and as someone else said, just like seeing old friends.

I also got to see The Great Minds of Clicker Training, hear some of them speak, and even ask a question or two. An added bonus was that a surprise birthday celebration was given for Karen Pryor who will turn 80 in May. I truly hope I am as physically, mentally and emotionally active at that age as she is. What an inspirational woman.

Now I can see the Herculean task that people like Katie Bartlett, Mary Hunter and Amanda Martin take on when reporting back to others about the talks and labs at Expo. Neither Katie nor Mary were at Expo this year (they both attended the ORCA conference - the Organization for Reinforcement Contingencies- this year and wrote reports). So I still have meeting them to look forward to at a future Expo. Amanda Martin did attend, however, and I had the great pleasure of rooming with her. Katie, Mary and Amanda all have websites and/or blogs that are well worth looking at to find reports of past Expos, ORCA and other helpful information.

Since they do such a fabulous job of reporting back, and since this blog is really about my experiences with Clicker Training, I thought my approach should be one of sharing tales of putting what I've learned into use. Hopefully that will allow me to stretch my shared experiences over time and encourage me to continue going back to my notes for inspiration. For now I will tease you with the names of the lectures and labs I attended. A lecture is just that, and they were an hour and a half each. The labs were opportunities for those who brought their dogs to get direct instruction from The Greats on the topic just presented and for the rest of us to see the reality of attempting to put skills into action. They were also an hour and a half in length and I really admire those who shipped dogs long distance and were willing to get up in front of a large group AND a great mind, to try their hands.

Friday I attended:
Hang in There! Duration in moving and static behaviors with Kay Laurence (a very entertaining woman in addition to being brilliant)
Generalization- scientifically explored with Jesus Rosales Ruiz. (the man actually put generalization into an algebraic formula!)
Positively Solved, a complete approach to common behavior problems with Debbie Martin and Tia Guest (this was a very practical lecture and a relief after the former head spinning talks)

Theresa McKeon presented a great talk on TAGteach. Theresa is one of my heroes and is a teacher of people that we should all aspire to be like. This talk was for Academy graduates and students only so it was an extra that I felt very fortunate to attend.
1+1=3 Adduction & Combining Cues- Ken Ramirez is a fabulous speaker, teacher and trainer whose day job is the VP of animal collections and training at the famous Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. He showed videos of amazing training of sea animals....and some of his adorable pet dog :)
1+1=3 in action- this was a lab where he helped individuals with the challenge of taking two different behaviors and adding them together to get a novel behavior. What follows is a brief video of one of the attendees whose dog quickly caught on to adding "spin" and picking up his leash, to spinning with his leash.

I topped off a full day with Ken when I attended his Aggression Treatment and Context lecture at the end of the day.
From 4:- 5: there was a panel discussion with Kathy Sdao, Karen Pryor, Jesus Rosales Ruiz, Alexandra Kurland, Aaron Clayton, Ken Ramirez, Julie Shaw and Michelle Pouliot.

The guest speaker that night was Clive Wynne, canine cognition expert from the University of Florida

First off was a presentation from Helix Fairweather on utilizing the module format for designing dog training courses. On the flight home, I scribbled it into a translation for horses and look forward to giving it a try very soon!
The AL-Lure of Luring lab with Kay Laurence- an interesting concept to compare to work with horses.
Smart Reinforcement lab with Ken Ramirez- the use of various reinforcers (play, or tactile reinforcers for instance) and how to be sure that they are truly giving you the reinforcement you desire
Seeing the Future with Alexandra Kurland- a lecture where she showed the advantages of utilizing video and replaying it at various speeds in order to see "what happens before" so that you can predict it the next time.

That will keep me busy for a while, don't you think????