The Puzzle Week – Part 15: Superbowls Wrap-Up

In part 14 of Puzzle’s Superbowls series, we reached our goal: Puzzle is now fluently taking me to bowl #5 and back, and doesn’t worry about the vacuum we’ve plugged into the pattern. This video is a 6-minute review of the training process (explaining the pattern to Puzzle) to the first scary stimulus she conquered with its help (the vacuum).

If you are familiar with CU, but new to the Superbowls game, this video should give you a pretty good idea of how it works:

Will it always take 25 sessions to reach the goal?

We worked on the Superbowls game for 25 sessions. Will it always take this long?

Not necessarily. Remember that the first few sessions were an explanation of the pattern itself – they were not about the vacuum, but about teaching Puzzle how she could make the next treat appear (eye contact), and where that treat would show up (in the next bowl of the line). The first nine sessions were all about the pattern rather than about a specific trigger.

Now that Puzzle knows the Superbowls pattern, we can plug different triggers into it. Say, for example, Puzzle was scared of the coffee maker. I could start my work with the coffee maker right away, and plug the coffee maker in the same spot where the vacuum sits in the video above. Or if Puzzle was scared of grandma, I could ask grandma to calmly sit in a chair in the spot where the vacuum was in this session. I won’t have to start over with a trigger-free line up.

Unless I plug something excessively scary into the pattern, it is also likely that Puzzle will reach the goal faster with each new trigger: in the vacuum series, she wasn’t just learning about the vacuum – she was also learning about the fact that within the structure of the Superbowls game, she will never, ever directly have to interact with the trigger. Every approach will be followed by a retreat, and there will be no touching of or being touche by triggers. This is HUGE. With every new trigger we work with, Puzzle’s trust in the pattern itself will grow, empowering her be braver faster.

Want to learn more?

To learn more about the Superbowls game and other pattern games, make sure to get Leslie McDevitt’s book Control Unleashed: Reactive to Relaxed. You may also want to follow the Friends of Control Unleashed group on Facebook to kearn about upcoming CU-related events. And make sure to keep an eye out for Julie Daniels’ CU classes over at FDSA!

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For more dog training tips and videos, join Chrissi’s February class at FDSA: Calling All Dogs!

The Puzzle Week – Part 14: Reaching Our Superbowls Goal!

Puzzle makes it all the way to bowl #5/5! I release her when she doesn’t offer eye contact quickly after the fifth bowl. The amount of time I waited her is out right for this puppy – this is what we’re aiming for.

I’m curious whether she can approach again, and give it another go after the treat toss release. She doesn’t make it back to the last bowl. This is good information: my gut feeling was right. With Puzzle, I should end sessions after a treat toss release, and try again after a break. (This may differ depending on the dog you are working with! Some will do better in later approaches within the same session. Others struggle more and more as the sessipn continues. Always train the dog in front of you (as Denise Fenzi would say)!

Puzzle goes all the way to bowl #5 in the first round of the session. We approach again after the release, and only make it to bowl #4. I don’t want to push too hard – at this point, Puzzle is a one-approach-at-a-time kind of puppy. However, eventually, I want to get to a point where we can cheerfully approach and retreat several times in a row. That’s when I’ll know that Puzzle truly understands that she will never have to directly interact with a trigger in the context of the Superbowls game!

Puzzle makes it all the way to bowl #5/5 AND BACK! YES! You go, puppy!

Puzzle leads me all the way to bowl #5! She hesitates at the fifth bowl, and I opt for a treat toss release rather than waiting for her to give me eye contact. Since she was so brave, we do another approach. At 00:36, right after eating her release treat, she offers eye contact again: “Let’s keep playing!” So we start over with the first bowl. She’s being a superstar, and makes it all the way to bowl #5, and then back to bowl #4. On her way back, she starts feeling uneasy about the vacuum. That’s okay – treat toss release, and end the session! A well-deserved break!

The most amazing puppy makes it all the way to the vacuum – not just once, but twice, and if I didn’t run out of treats, she’d have kept going! You go, Puzzle!

This ends our Superbowls adventures with the vacuum! Tomorrow, I will show you the Leslie-approved video I submitted for my CU instructor certification, and share some wrap-up thoughts. No worries though: the fact that we’re almost through the Superbowls videos doesn’t mean there will be no more Puzzle posts. Stay tuned!


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For more dog training tips and videos, join Chrissi’s February class at FDSA: Calling All Dogs!

The Puzzle Week – Part 12: Braving the Live Vacuum

We stay at the very first bowl, and then end the session. Puzzle lets me know she wasn’t ready to approach the live vacuum any further, and I listen. CU is all about communication!

In her second session with the live vacuum, Puzzle is being very brave, and takes me all the way to bowl #4. At that point, she does not make eye contact again. I listen to her, increase the distance, and end the session.

Followed by another short session:

We make it up to bowl #4/5 again:

… and again:

In the next session, you’ll see Puzzle reach the fifth and last bowl for the first time! Stay tuned!

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For more dog training tips and videos, join Chrissi’s February class at FDSA: Calling All Dogs!

The Puzzle Week – Part 11: Plugging the Dead (i.e. Silent) Vacuum into the Superbowls Pattern

Now that Puzzle has shown me that she can predict where the next treat will show up in the Superbowls game, it’s time to add the trigger into the pattern. In Puzzle’s case, that trigger is the vacuum. She thinks it’s quite creepy!

When working with fear or anxiety, raising criteria slowly (rather than starting with the trigger at full intensity) is always a good idea. In the case of the vacuum, I’ll start with a dead – i.e. silent – one before asking Puzzle if she wants to approach a roaring, growling live vacuum.

Doing SO well! Puzzle is ready to face the live vacuum in her next session! (And if she isn’t, that’s okay, too: she’ll be able to ask me to stop approaching at any time.)

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For more dog training tips and videos, join Chrissi’s February class at FDSA: Calling All Dogs!

The Puzzle Week – Part 10: Adding Movement to the Superbowls Game

We’re starting to move between bowls! My first click in this video is late.

Puzzle still has to figure out where the respective next treat is going to show up! The wheels are turning …!

An excerpt from Puzzle’s second session involving movement between the bowls:

The subsequent session resulted in a blurry video – that’s what you get for not cleaning the lens of your phone before hitting record! I’ll spare you that video. Below is the session after that one:

Now things are starting to get interesting! You can see Puzzle look ahead to the respective next bowl in some of the reps below: she is starting to predict the location of the next treat! Smart puppy!

Towards the end of the session below, we are getting some lovely looking ahead/prediction. That’s it, Puzzle! You’re a superstar!

In our next session, we’ll be plugging the silent vacuum into the Superbowls pattern! Stay tuned …!

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For more dog training tips and videos, join Chrissi’s February class at FDSA: Calling All Dogs!

The Brindle Girl Series – Day 10 (Session 43)

Session #43

+ 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!

The Brindle Girl Series – Day 9 (Session #42)

Session #42

  • I get a wag hello, and Brindle girl licks my fingers to start us out!
  • I make things easier for her to prevent her from moving away from the collar: approach with the collar – no touch – retreat my hand – cookie.
  • We’ve got an audience today: look at the top of the stairs in the background. It’s Dude Dude Who Wants to Knock Up My Dog!
  • I conclude that I’ll have to rethink my strategy before the next session. Our progress seems to have stagnated – it’s time to change something up! Stay tuned!

The Brindle Girl Series – Day 8 (Sessions 39-41)

Session #39

  • Approach with the collar from above – making things easier than yesterday to not cause her to back up.
  • Rainy season thoughts!

Session #40

  • More collar approaches from above.
  • I talk about wanting to avoid negatively reinforcing the behavior of backing up.
  • Thoughts on classical and operant conditioning always going hand in hand. (I meant to say light can be seen as particles or waves, not particles or rays – oops!)

Session #41

  • Review of my reasons for using a low value treat (kibble).
  • A reminder that my work with this dog is all about the journey – I would not take this approach with a client’s dog, where the goal (putting on a collar) was actually important.

The Brindle Girl Series – Day 6 (Sessions 33-35)

Session #33

First session of brindle girl’s third training week (May 3rd, 2021).

Review: touch without collar – bracelet/collar – holding collar like an object.

Session #34

Holding the collar like an object (rather than a bracelet) is obviously more difficult for her!

Session #35

  • I start easy now that I’m holding the collar like an object: not approaching her all the way.
  • I end up with a nice start-button set-up, and while she isn’t yet comfortable with the collar up close, she gives me several quick start-button looks in a row.
  • Thoughts about patience, and Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince.