Brindle Girl’s last session. A video that starts out very happy, end ends in a train wreck. I am sharing the uncut video here with you so we can all learn from my mistakes.
Make sure to read the subtitles in the video to follow my thought process!
What can we learn from my choices in this session?
When we want to change emotions, luring can be a BAD idea! When we lure a dog, it is easy to tempt them into doing something they aren’t ready for: getting close to the scary thing isn’t a genuine choice because the food is too tempting to say no.
For Brindle Girl, this turned out to be the case even with the low value kibble: by using food lures, I got her to stick her head all the way through the collar. I knew she wasn’t really ready for this – watch the last start button CC/DS session to see how suspicious she still was of it.
Things could not have gone wrong in this way if I had continued taking things at HER pace: by the time she let me know she was ready to put the collar on, she’d have been comfortable with it. Consequently, she wouldn’t have startled herself if I let go of it, and we would have avoided the subsequent fallout.
+ Since the counter-conditioning strategy has stagnated, I’m curious about how Brindle Girl will repsond if I present the collar loop, and try to lure her into it.
+ I talk about why in general, luring is not the best approach when working with dogs and fear.
When we came back from our walk, Brindle Girl (who we had left sleeping in the shade of the door), was gone. Let’s hope she’ll be back tomorrow – our last day at Cerro de Oro, and my last day of hanging out with my Brindle Friend!
I lower criteria when reaching for her with the collar-bracelet.
This session shows a good set up of treat placement versus direction of her start button look.
Back to actually touching her with the collar (still wearing it like a bracelet/glove).
Brindle girl and I continue discussing how it feels to be touched by my hand versus the collar (hand: okay, collar: weird), and she shows an interest in my treat hand.
+ She starts out lying down in a relaxed position, and I start by just touching her with just a hand before adding the collar back into the picture. + Her growing confidence shows in an attempt to mug my treat hand! + For the last reps of this week, I transition from wearing the collar like a glove back to holding it in my hand. This is harder than wearing it glove-style – but we’ve made progress! + We manage a clear start-button set up (look to her right to request that the collar approach; feed to her left) for parts of this session.
I need to lower criteria a little, and not move the collar quite as close to her face as I did in the last rep of Wednesday’s final session.
I also decide to make a change to her start button behavior.
I try to change the start button from glancing up into my face to looking in my general direction.
Since putting the collar on her will require a combination of accepting the collar near her neck and accepting my touch, I mix things up and have a session of just touching her neck/head/shoulder/ears.
This session is a good illustration of the classical association that has been created: anytime I touch her, she expects food.
I try a new approach: wearing the collar like a bracelet or glove. This works really well!
Working up to touching her with the sleeve of my sweater as a precursor to being touched by the collar.
I go back to touching her with the sleeve of my sweater …
I work up to touching her with the collar worn like a bracelet/glove.
Today’s first session (session #13) goes into what I would do if I *had to* put a collar/leash on her right now (option 2). Then, you’ll see me continue along option 1: counterconditioning her to the collar, assuming that I have an infinite amount of time to reach my goal. I also talk about why in a real life scenario, we might NOT want to choose option #1 after the collar response we observed in last week’s sessions.
Session #14: a single-rep session. When working with a learner who is not particularly interested in your reinforcer and free to leave, some sessions may only have a single rep.
Session #15: continued counterconditioning, and I talk about appeasement signals
Session #16: more appeasement signal musings
Session #20 – the last one for Wednesday, and a lovely one to end the day with!
Session #7: continue with approach – touch – treat – retreat. Things go really well.
Session #8: Touching head, neck, and shoulder with one hand. Short session.
Session #9: Process isn’t always linear when we work with emotions. I mention the importance of respecting the trust established by the start button behavior.
Petting her is going well. I proceed to touch her with both hands in preparation for putting the collar on her.
Her increased comfort level shows: she lies down during the session.
Thoughts on choosing an angle of approach that ensures she doesn’t end up being cornered.
Last rep of this session shows the first time I touch her with the collar!
I start out by moving the collar towards her neck. Her body language shows she isn’t happy with this: my hands were easier to accept than the collar!
+ The element of satiation (more session in a day – the dog is less hungry). + Reasons I use low value food (kibble). + Her discomfort with the collar near her body becomes more pronounced. + I recognize that accepting the collar near her head is harder than I expected – this is not going to happen on the timeline I predicted.
THOUGHTS AFTER REVIEWING THE SESSION ABOVE
The original hypothetical goal was getting a collar on her within a relatively short time. Realistically – if I really had to reach this goal to take her to the vet – I would not spend more than 10-15 sessions of a few minutes each on this. I have not reached the goal!
After reviewing the video above, I asked the FDSA alumni group to let me know which of the options below they’d like to see:
Option #1: I’ll change the hypothetical objective, and show you how I would continue counterconditioning her to this collar, and eventually put it on her. New timeline: we have all the time in the world. I’ll make things easier – not move it all the way towards her – and then slowly continue from there. You’ll see lots of boring sessions: slow and steady for the win! The kind of trainer I am today would probably not continue along this route in a real-world scenario – but this is not a real world scenario, so anything goes!
Option #2: We continue the same hypothetical scenario: I need to put a collar/leash on this dog to take her to the vet; I’ve tried counterconditioning her to the collar, but counterconditioning hasn’t worked in time. I still need to take her to the vet – so I will be pragmatic, and put a leash on her anyways. I’ll show you how I’d do this in a way that keeps her stress low while still getting things done.
Option #1 was a clear winner, with requests to explain how I would work on option #2. Stay tuned for day 3!