Distractions as cues, day 15: a new Game plan

After pondering my behavior chain, I’ve decided to take out the recall cue and try to break the chain: I switched the very fluent recall cue out for the less fluent long line (reaching the end of the long line is also a cue to reorient/return, but I haven’t used the long line in forever). So I let Game approach the familiar kibble pile, did not say anything (she reached the end of the line and hesitated), clicked the reorientation and reinforced with a hot dog from my hand, followed by a release to the kibble pile.

Two things may happen going forwards: I might get a new behavior chain of run to the end of the line to get clicked and come back, eat a hot dog and then the kibble. OR Game may start hesitating before reaching the end of the line. That’s what I’m hoping for: prediction (cue transfer) based on reaching the end of the line. We’ll see. I’m just experimenting here, and I don’t know what is going to happen.

I’m also considering doing some marker cue work around my outside kibble pile, and CU Give Me A Break (GMAB) with high value treats around the pile of kibble … but only a few long-leash-stop sessions further down the line. First, I want to see what effect the long line is going to have – or not have! – on Game.

Session 1, breakfast in location 2:

Session 2, dinner in location 2:

WOW! I did not feel the leash tighten the way it did in the morning! Which is a little bit crazy; I’m suspicious of this working so fast and exactly the way I hoped it would. Reviewing my video, the leash looks less loose than it felt. I am going to stay at this stage for at least one more session to see if I can replicate the result.

Reasons I’m suspicious here:

(1) the intermittent cat must have been around, because Game stops eating to look for the cat. She may already have been smelling the cat when we approached our kibble pile. And animals are already a cue for her to stop. So I may be seeing her response to the presence of a cat, not her response to a pile of kibble. Cats trump kibble. (I can’t see the cat, but Game either smells them or thinks she sees them. If she didn’t, she would not stop eating mid-kibble.)

(2) The kibble pile is smaller than usual because I’ve already worked on a bunch of unrelated things today, and this is all that’s left of Game’s dinner.

(3) I changed kibble – not on purpose, but I ran out, and couldn’t get my usual brand. So this is a different brand of kibble and may be lower value than my original pile. I don’t think it is lower value, given how enthusiastically Game has been working for it today and yesterday. But then again – who knows. Game loves to work, so kibble offered to her within a training session she enjoys may have a different value than kibble found on the street. (While the behavior of eating food found in the street is pretty high on her list of priorities, working with me is usually even higher. It wasn’t when she was a puppy and adolescent, but it is now that she is an adult.)

(The breakfast kibble in this session was the same as the dinner kibble. The reinforcer from my hand is still an entire hot dog. When she reoriented a second time, I would have rewarded again, but I only had that one hot dog on me.)

In any case – tomorrow morning, I’ll repeat and see what happens!

Distractions as cues, day 13: more whole hot dogs, and time to change the Game plan

Session 1, breakfast in location 2:

She actually didn’t eat any kibble even though my recall happened late – she just touched it and then turned on a dime right as I called. I waited till the last millisecond to call her this morning, hoping she’d choose to do an auto-return! But … not yet. Let’s see what tonight holds in store for us!

Session 2, dinner in location 2:

A relatively slow approach the first time (trotting rather than running). However, this doesn’t necessarily mean anything. We’ve had an active day of hiking and training. No auto-return – so we will change gears!

I might take a day off this project as I think up the next strategy I want to use (and ponder where I want to take this behavior, and whether I want to keep working on it). I’ll keep you updated! Btw, what I say in the end is that Game just had a street meal, not a straight meal. No straight meals for anyone – streetfood only! This little town has the best Quesadillas I’ve had in all of Mexico!

Distractions as cues, day 11

Session 1, breakfast in location 2:

This video is a bit grainy because I had to turn the brightness way up – it’s early today and still dawn out.

Session 2, dinner in location 2:

Nothing much to remark except the speed: trotting rather than running towards the kibble. (And yes, I have two sweaters, not just one.)


Wanna work on this or similar behaviors with your own dog? Join me in Out and About at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy!

Distractions as cues, day 10

I just realized I published my write up for day #10 before day #9. So I’m switching around the order these posts will appear on my blog so future readers don’t get confused! Day #9 – the one I skipped! – can be found here.

Session 1, breakfast in location 2:

This time, Game started hesitating before reaching me when I called her: she is starting to expect the “okay” release to happen! This is excellent information: I want her to keep thinking “Come all the way back” thoughts after her recall. So next time, I won’t immediately release with “Okay,” but do a tossed “Get it” or click hot dog. The positives: Game is continuing to approach the kibble in a trot rather than a flat-out run. Thoughtfulness is what I expect to happen before the cue transfer.

Session 2, dinner in location 2:

It’s raining men! Hallelujah!

I’m doing two “Get it” hot dog tosses to ensure Game keeps coming all the way back after my recall cue.

If the above video doesn’t work in your country due to copyright issues, here is the same video without the song:

Unless I’ve got something interesting to say after releasing Game to the kibble, I’ll cut my future videos once she gets there to keep my videos fast and easy to watch!


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 are having fun in Nicole Wiebusch’s Heeling class at Gold this term! The plan was to also follow Sara Brueske’s Bomb Proof Behaviors at Bronze … but we’ll have to catch up with this one during the break! This term is a good reminder for me that when I’m teaching, podcasating, writing daily blog posts and house hunting, there really is only one class I can keep up with as a participant. Otherwise, I’d have to skip my daily long nature walks – and they are non negotiable. I need my off-leash time!