Distractions as cues, day 8 – the first outside pre-recall hesitation!

Session 1, breakfast in location #2: we’re celebrating the first slow-down pre recall cue!!

Today is the first time I get a moment’s hesitation – Game’s body or her mind (but probably not both) consider turning around before I call! Watch closely to catch that moment. The slow-down happens right between seconds 00:02 and 00:03. This is amazing and shows me that we’re moving in the right direction!

In the commentary of the video, while Game is eating, I mention that this session was extra difficult because we just saw the intermittent neighborhood cat, which likely upped Game’s arousal. But! Retrospectively, I wonder if seeing the cat actually made things easier rather than harder.

Here’s why: I do a lot – A LOT! – of recalls reinforced with access to chasing critters (mostly alley cats who don’t care or will jump out of reach and then give Game the finger, squirrels, and birds). She already knows that the fastest way to get to chase, which she loves, is to first check in with me and perform … whatever I’m asking, but usually a recall, a hand touch, middle position, or a sit. There was no cat recall reinforced by chasing today, but the cat thoughts on Game’s mind may have put her into more of a mindset of “distraction – check in with handler” than she’s used to having around food.

(As I mentioned in an earlier post, I allow Game to scavenge freely and rarely require behaviors of her when she finds food in the street. She scavenges every day, because finding food is very common here. I’d guesstimate that every day, she encounters between 2 and 5 steet meal. There is more free scavenging than kibble recall cue transfer training).

Going straight for food has a long and strong reinforcement history – but going after cats doesn’t because I never let her go after a cat without giving me a behavior first! It’ll be interesting to see what happens in our next session, when there is no pre-meal cat!

Session 2, dinner in location 2 (no cat, and no slow-down)

We didn’t meet the intermediate cat before this session, and Game didn’t slow down before I called her. We’ll see what tomorrow brings!

In today’s video, I explain my game plan for now:

+ Immediately release to the distraction with “okay” after the recall …
+ Unless Game predicts the “okay” relase. In that case, click or “Get it.”
+ If I do not have to recall her at all, but she turns around on her own, I will mark the moment of turning with “okay” (not requiring her to complete her return to me).

I’ll stick to this plan for the next few sessions.

If you want to work on this or similar behaviors with your own dogs, join me in Out and About at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy! Or check out any of our other classes … Game and I, for example, will be doing Nicole Wiebusch’s Heeling class at Gold this term! And we’ll be following along with Sara Brueske’s Bomb Proof Behaviors at Bronze!

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