Sunday, October 18, 2009

Trick and Treat

Nikki and I have been taking an advanced dog obedience class since mid summer. It has been a really fun and good for Nikki and I as a team. I have learned a lot about positive dog training and the instructor has given me names of several “trick” books to add to Nikki’s repertoire of tricks. Tricks are good – they impress anyone from 3 to 103! We use them in every classroom and during every therapy session. They can motivate a child better than anything else I have tried!

One of the first things we have had to learn was to use a “clicker”. Clicker training is a proven method of dog training. You use a clicker with a “treat” when training a new trick. The click of the clicker marks the exact moment the dog does something right. When the dog hears the click they know they get a treat. Sounds simple, right? Well I am sure it is for some that are less sound sensitive and more coordinated. First I had to find a clicker that I wasn’t offended by the sound. The metal clickers make (in my opinion) an obnoxious sound. I tried to tell my instructor that it was Nikki who didn’t like the sound – “she seems nervous around the sound and leaves the room.” And the metal clicker, you hit this piece of metal with your thumb – how was I suppose to hold the clicker with one hand, the leash in the other, click at the exact moment and give her a treat all at the same time? It wasn’t happening. So the instructor gave me a different kind of clicker. This one has a softer sound and a raised button. I can hold treats and the clicker in one hand and the leash in the other. Oh and Nikki – she likes this clicker much better.

So we have found the right clicker. Now were starting to train with it. The book says play the “attention” game. Every time Nikki looks at me, click and treat. This is easy. Nikki has it in 3 tries. Next we try the “touch” cue. Each time she touches my hand she gets a click and treat. That is really simple too. I can put my hand any where and say touch and she touches it. Eventually I will use this to train more complicated tricks. The book also reviews the commands Nikki already knows. Since I can’t follow the training sequence – I attempt to make up my own. We work on her new commands from class – “front”, “finish”, “around”, “heel”, “side” and review many of her old commands. She is smart, smart, smart! Nikki does anything for food.

I think I am ready to step it up a bit. I am getting a little cocky with my training and think I have Nikki and this clicker all figured out. I think I am ready to teach her the trick I think the kids will love…”Say your prayers”. All she has to do is put her paws up on a chair (in sitting) and put her head through her arms and touch my hand. She bows her head to say her prayers. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. We have been working on the putting the paws on the chair for a week. It says start with one paw, click and treat. Once she has that get her to put two paws up, click and treat. Well this is where we are stuck. She’s got the one paw up but puts it down to put the other paw up. It is this constant paw up paw down routine. She is trying hard but we are just not getting it. It is almost comical to watch….she tries so hard to please. I believe I have totally confused her! I think I will try it from a stand. Maybe it will be easier since she already has an “up” command. Stay tuned….I will let you know how it goes. And if we get this trick – I will take a picture for this blog!

Nikki has also been working hard in the classrooms, the PT clinic and the Hospital. She has resumed many of the classrooms we were in last year. We have been reestablishing relationships and working on new student goals. Nikki facilitated something last week that was a total surprise to all of us involved. We went into a preschool classroom with Lindsey one of the physical therapists that I work with. Lindsey wanted to use Nikki with a 3 year old girl that had just started preschool. The girl was a little frightened of Nikki and relied on the teacher and eventually Lindsey to help her warm up to Nikki. Eventually, the little girl took Nikki for a walk and when we returned she sat next to Nikki on the floor and hugged her and even posed for pictures with her. But the neatest thing was when we were about to leave, the little girl went over to Lindsey and hugged and kissed her. Both the teacher and Lindsey were very happy about this little show of affection. I hadn’t realized it but up until Nikki’s visit, this little girl was a little afraid of Lindsey! Nikki facilitated the bond between the little girl and her PT!

Thanks Kyria for my new blog layout. It looks great!