Distraction recall round 4 – chuting back to a closed container, or: Chai’s formal recall: the barrier levelS (plastic kibble container #1)!

Enter: a new reinforcement strategy

After returning to our headquarters to strategize, I decided to start over with the last successful step: a closed plastic container taped shut. I also changed my reinforcement strategy: not only would Chai get a handful of chicken – I’d also open the kibble container for her after the “okay” release. She has taught me that she needs both reinforcers for me to be successful: knowing that she can reach a distraction, even if it is lower value than what I have, trumps coming back to me unless she also gets that distraction. So we’ll try for a compromise: what, little Border Collie, if I reinforce you from my hand AND give you access to the distraction after?

A closed plastic container!

July 18, 2023

Another barrier attempt at distraction #3 at the park! The reinforcer: a handful of chicken (rather than a single piece), “okay” release, and I am opening the plastic box for Chai to eat the kibble distraction as well: look how powerful your person is! That opposable thumb thing is quite amazing!

5-rep session:

In the session above, I set Chai (or rather myself) up for success in all the ways I could: we haven’t done any impulse control work today and she has already had some time running around to get out the cabin fever. I also made sure she acclimated to the space I was going to train in before setting up.

When acclimating, Chai met two toddlers (human kids her age who were fascinated watching her). Nice experience! They just watched each other; no direct contact, which is perfect.

Then our first session with the closed see-through container taped shut took, as you just saw, FIVE reps until we got a success! Good timing: after rep #5, I was both out of kibble and chicken.

This is fascinating to me! Chai clearly learned yesterday that in this situation, she can blow through her recall because she’ll get the kibble – and this set us me back in the sense that she now also tries going for a closed container that she used to succeesfully recall away from in the past!

With the adjusted reinforcement ritual, I hope Chai will learn that she’ll get everything (chicken AND kibble) if she comes back, but will not get chicken if she doesn’t. With the closed container, she still got the chicken after trying to open the closed container in vain. Once I use freely accessible kibble, if she doesn’t come back before reaching the kibble, she won’t get the chicken (but still get the kibble if she blows through my recall). We’ll have to see how good the pragmatic little Border Collie’s mental accounting skills are!

Tomorrow morning, we’ll try for a single-rep success at this same location, repeating today’s set-up and reinforcement ritual!

July 19, 2023: will we get a single-rep success after a night’s break?

We changed the direction of the recall … away from the piano mural rather than towards it … because the piano mural stage had a dance class going on. Now if you were a student of mine, I’d tell you to just wait and try for your single-rep success some other time. But I am me and with my own dogs, I LOVE to experiment. Since I knew Chai wouldn’t be able to help herself to the distraction without my help, I decided to give things a try with this slightly different location. I had no idea if she’d succeed the first time – but I wanted to find out! It took her two reps:

Would she have been able to do it in a single rep if we had kept the environment exactly the same (not changed recall directions because of the dance class)? Maybe! Maybe not. There’s no way of knowing! One thing, however, I know for sure: tomorrow we’ll go for that single-rep success again!

July 20, 2023: single rep success with the closed container!

Woohoo! Now just to decide how to proceed from here … I don’t expect the previous strategy of the open container to work – at least not yet. We need another, more different dragon plan! Time to take a break and strategize, little Border Collie …!

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