Chai’s formal recall, iteration 5.2: the barrier level(s) – higher value distraction (liver) in 3 containers and different locations

I’m calling this post iteration 5.2 because it is (still) the fifth stab at distraction recalls and we keep playing at level 2 (barriers).

The plan

After consultandolo con la almohada for a few days, I decided that my next step was going to be a high-value distraction in a container rather than a lower value one without a barrier. I came to the concusion that repeating 3 different parks with 3 different containers, each holding a high-value distraction Chai would gain access to with my help, would best prepare her for taking another stab at off-leash distractions. Below are the next steps: 3 locations per container (not always the same 3), resulting in a total of 9 challenges at level 2 (off leash dog, distraction C – difficult – behind a barrier):

The reinforcer would be the same value as distraction (liver) from my hand, followed a release to the distraction itself which I would then open for Chai who values distractions more than treats from my hand. The reason I treat from my hand rather than using just the distraction as a reward in this scenario is that treating from my hand teaches the dog to come all the way back rather than predicting an immediate release – and in an emergency situation, that’s what I need.

Container 1, location 1: liver

August 12, 2023

As always, I use a tongue click when Chai turns towards me – and as almost always, in the video below, my microphone isn’t picking it up. The treat from my hand is a piece of liver – same as the distraction in the container she then gets to eat. I love how she doesn’t treat the container as a food toy anymore but waits for me to open it for her! She knows the drill!

Kiba’s Park:

Container 1, location 2: liver

August 13, 2023

Toy Play Plaza

Today, Chai started towards the container while still chewing on the treat from my hand. She already knows she’ll get the distraction, and she is waiting for me to open her containers! I love it! I’ve been hiding my camera behind trees or bushes so it doesn’t become too much of a set-up cue. However, I suspect Chai still knows when things are set-ups. She’s just too damn smart to trick.

Container 1, location 3: liver

August 14, 2023: Dead-Poultry Park1

I didn’t film this one and am happy about this session for two reasons: one, Chai didn’t come across my stealthily set-up liver container right away. We had to stroll past it several times until I called her, almost nose on container, and got a beautiful response. This tells me that the tripod is a cue to look for a distraction and recall. Going forwards, every container will have at least one session I don’t record. The other thing I’m excited about is that I finally made it to an environment I haven’t done any distraction recalls in so far. I love mixing things up to help generalization!

Container 2, location 1: liver

August 15, 2023: Kiba’s Park

We mastered container 2 in its first location! I handled things the same way I did yesterday with container 1 at the Dead-Poultry Park: rather than filming, I set up the distraction stealthily and casually came across it. No tripods, no big production that may have given away that we were training. Chai nailed it and got both liver from my hand and from container 2! I’ll try and record the next recall again.

Container 2, location 2: liver

August 16, 2023: Toy Play Plaza

I tried setting up as casually as possible: first the tripod, then walk away, then walk past it, then place container #2 while Chai wasn’t watching. Of course she turned and saw it, moved towards it … and did a beautiful “Schnee” recall. I had planned to loop another loop before encountering it, but this worked too. It was lovely to see the recall work just as well in Game’s presence.

Container 2, location 3: liver

August 17, 2023: Dead-Poultry Park

After running around and working on other things for half an hour, we did …

Container 3, location 1: liver

… on the other side of the Dead-Poultry Park:

Container 3, location 2: liver

August 20, 2023: Chapultepec

The video below shows two sessions. In the first one, you’ll see Chai coming from a different direction than I do: left of screen. This is the first time in a while she didn’t give me a single-rep success on the first try! You’ll also notice that in both sessions (the second one was half an hour later and successful), Chai noses the container more than she has in the past. This is new as well. Part of it may be that we’re out here with a dog friend and Chai may be a little overstimulated and therefore more impulsive. OR yesterday’s “Schnee” recall failure at Fancy Park I (a recall that wasn’t part of my training set-ups) may play a role! I already know this puppy learns FAST and exactly what you teach her – which isn’t always what you want her to learn!

Generally, according to my recall protocoI, I would have a second go right after the first one and only take a break after getting a success. I didn’t do that in this case because Chai was very excited and my friend was waiting and keeping their dog from joining the fun. Taking a break felt like it was more likely to set Chai up for success – and my patient friend as well.

I can’t wait to find out how our NEXT mouse trap session will go: when Chai isn’t over-stimulated, will she succeed right away in our third location? Will she be as nosy as she was at Chapultepec? Stay tuned!

Container 3, location 3: liver

August 24, 2023: Kiba’s Park

Achievement unlocked at the first try! Party for the puppy!

… which brings us to the last check mark! We’ve made it through all 9 container challenges:

What’s next for Chai?

I do not want to go right to unprotected distractions. I’ve been there, done that and failed at it before. I’m thinking I’ll do liver (or maybe chicken to mix it up) behind a real-world barrier (fence) in three locations. Reward with something even higher value (cream cheese)? And then do unprotected low value distractions (dried fish?) in the real world and, once again, reward with something REALLY high value (cream cheese)? Maybe even go back to the long line stage before trying off leash? I’ll have to think about that one some more before taking the next step, becaus there is one thing I know for sure:

We will have to approach Chai’s off-leash distraction recall beast carefully. This dog is lightening fast when it comes to learning what is accessible to her and when! Stay tuned (well, if you’re into this kind of stuff. If you’ve read this far, I suspect you are!) The paragraph above is just my first thoughts; i.e. it’s musings, not a training plan and subject to radical change.

  1. Named in honor of the impressive number of dead roosters or chickens in various states of decay – but always rotten enough that I couldn’t tell whether they were roosters or chickens and giving off a deliciously disgusting smell – that Chai has found and rolled in in this particular park. ↩︎

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