I already posted about the beginnings of the 4-paws-in-a-container trick here, but just discovered that I actually followed my progress in real time in THIS draft. It has more nerdy details that go with videos you may already have seen. If you’re the nerdy-details kind of trainer, it may be worth reading and watching again. If not, just skip this post and come back for the next one!
July 14, 2023 (day 99)
July 15, 2023 (day 100)
Experimenting with a marker cue system for shaping!
The philosophical conclusion I came to after watching my video back is to withhold food if the dog moves between a room service marker (“good” in my case). This is NOT what I do in the video above. That video is messy and experimental. What I would like to do, in retrospect, is wait Chai out when she takes her paw out of the box after I’ve said “Good.” What I actually do in this video (e.g. 01:16-01:29) is repeat the marker cue. This is not good practice – but hey, it’s a messy session. An experiment. No need to be perfect. To quote Silvia Trkman again: “confusion is just a step on the way to true understanding.”
Video compilation for Silvia
Here’s the edited 4-in (“Four!”) compilation I submitted to Silvia’s class on July 16. We’ll keep working on smaller and smaller bowls, of course!
In this video, you’ll see how I attach the cue anytime I am sure Chai will be going into the container with 4 feet, then take it off again when I change the angle or container, then put it on again once I’m sure she can do it again.
When should you name behaviors?
It’s okay to name behaviors that are still under construction. The trick is to only use that cue when you are absolutely sure the dog is about to do the behavior! When you go out in a new environment or change something about the equipment or your position relative to your dog – simply take off the cue again, then put it back one once your dog has shown that they can still do it! With a behavior like this, you’ll see me volley back and forth between using and not using verbal cues. (Not every trainer agrees with this approach and that’s totally fine! You do you – this is just the way I do it! Some folks only put verbal cues on a behavior once the dog has mastered it in all environments and from all angles and with all relevant objects. Neither approach here is better or worse – you just need to find the one that works for you and your dog. (One important thing excellent trainers of any approach of philosophy genderally do have in common is that they will only use the a verbal cue when they are sure the dog will perform the behavior.)
July 20, 2023
From bowl #2 to bowl #3 (there will be 6 bowls altogether)
We went from bowl #2 down to bowl #3! This is difficult and Chai is doing really well!
July 21, 2023
Today, I went in with a clear plan: I would not use the “Four” cue throughout the session and repeat yesterday’s se-up.
Next time, I’ll start with bowl #3 right away (and again: no cue in the next session. Maybe in the one after, depending on how the next one goes!)
July 22, 2023
Starting with bowl #3 right away! As planned, I am not using a cue in this session either. Turns out that not using a clicker is a good idea too, just like I’ve been doing with the single-paw target behavior: not using a clicker, I can withdraw my food hand when Chai steps out of the bowl with one paw without breaking the promise of food.
For the next two sessions, I am not planning on adding the “Four” cue either: one of these sessions will be me standing up and tossing treats after each click. The other one will be building a tiny bit of duration by means of using the marker cue “Good” and feeding one treat after each marker rather than feeding continuously. We’ll see how this goes tomorrow!
July 23, 2023
I changed my training plan mid session and added “Four” in after going once around all angles of the click-toss session. Chai was ready and I could see it!
In the “Good” session, I could see her work really hard … but the slippery surface of the bowl made it almost impossible for her to keep standing upright. Her back paws were just slipping forwards, placing her into a sit. She did really well though and showed lovely understanding of my “Good” cue!
I decided to try and experiment with bowl #4. Bowl #4 is, unfortunately, quite a bit smaller than bowl #3. There should be a size in between them but I couldn’t find it at the market. Going from #3 to #4 was clearly too hard. I ended the session with a cheerful scatter right after I started it. I need to find a bowl size in between before continuing!
July 24, 2023
I cut circles out of a roll of non-slip material that (I suspect) is meant to be put into kitchen drawers. In any case, it works great as a non-slip surface for my smaller and smaller bowls!
Speaking of smaller bowls: I’ve found bowls #4 and #5 that fit between what I originally had as bowl #3 and bowl #4. Bowl #4 is now bowl #6. #4 and #5 were sitting in my kitchen all along – I didn’t even have to go out and buy new ones!
Bowls #3 and #4 with their new non-slip surfaces!
With their new non-slip surfaces in place, I repeated yesterday’s sessions. Really happy with what a difference better traction makes and how Chai’s confidence has increased between yesterday’s and today’s sessions! Reviewing the video, I noticed that I missed a back paw coming out of bowl #4 a few times. I’ll set up a mirror tomorrow to have better vision of all paws at all times! Here’s a video of my favorite reps and a mistake (missed one paw) that I need a mirror to avoid: sometimes Chai’s body blocks my view of her back legs and I miss one of them coming out of the bowl.
Tomorrow, I’ll start with bowl #4 in bowl #3 and then ditch bowl #3. I’ll feed one treat in position and toss the next one out.
I’ll put a tape marker where I want to place my in-position treats to remember to feed low and close to the bowl (encouraging Chai to stand rather than sit because the treat placement will cause a weight shift forwards). Tape markers are simple and make it A LOT easier to be consistent – no matter what you’re working on! I usually use masking tape (easy to get on and off without pulling paint off if placed on a wall).
I’ll also lean a mirror against the wall on the other side of the bowl: that way, I’ll be able to see Chai’s back paws at all times even when her body is blocking my direct view. This should lower my rate of clicking 3 instead of 4 paws further. (I sometimes can’t help it because I make prediction errors – you need to start your clicker thumb motion as you predict what will happen next if you want to be on time. The mirror won’t eliminate prediction errors, but it’ll make sure I won’t make errors because I can’t see!)
July 25, 2023
Sessions #1 and #2:
Sessions #3 and #4:
The cue will have to wait for tomorrow! I’ll repeat today’s plan: first work all angles, no cue. If Chai does well with that, re-attach the “Four!” cue in the subsequent session.