Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No prey drive, no problem!

I've been struggling with teaching Summit how to retrieve. I read the methods on Never Say Never Greyhounds and taught him to target a toy but after that I was stumped. He has about 8 toys all together. Every time I see a good sale or something not too expensive that is different I'll buy it hoping to find something that sparks his fancy. Nothing. I tried rubber toys with squeakers, plush toys with squeakers, stuffingless toys, frisbees, plush toys with those honking squeakers, nylabones... nothing. He wouldn't look at a toy never mind picking it up. He simply wouldn't put something in his mouth if it wasn't edible.

Finally I came up with an idea. He has a stuffingless toy that has a cavity for a water bottle. I removed the water bottle and filled it with beef pizzle pieces. Problem solved.

The toy now smelled like chewies and he was VERY interested in it. Any time he showed a lot of interest I would click and treat. It was only a matter of time before he would try to bite it. At first he was puzzled, so I actually unvelcroed the toy to let him get a good sniff so he understood the food was IN the toy. As soon as he made a grab for the toy I clicked, treated, and praised enthusiastically. Near the end of this video you can see he's starting to become obsessed. He started not really bothering with my treats but was trying to chew on the pizzle pieces through the toy, so I was pretty much stuffing treats into his mouth while he was still trying to chew the toy. At that point I called it a wrap.

You can tell that there was a lot of encouraging. Waving the toy in front of his nose. I cut out a lot of dull bits. The next step was to get him to grab it with less encouragement from me. I attached his leash to the tail of the toy and pulled it. This is should work all by itself as a first step for dogs with high prey drive. I still had the pizzle pieces in the toy at this point. Again, every time he grabbed it I clicked and treated and praised. The idea is to get to a point where you can have a motionless toy and still have the dog grab it. You can see a couple of times where I threw the toy away from him a little and he moves over to grab it even before I can begin to pull it.

At this point you're ready to move another step forward. I removed the pizzle pieces from the toy. Now it's flat and doesn't smell as good so it's less enticing and it's harder to grab. He was offering good grabs so I started trying to get him to lift his head with it, as up until this point he's been lying down and grabbing it on the floor. I just started trying to grab it from him any time the toy came off the ground. If he didn't make a full grab I didn't click/treat (unless he became stumped then I went back a step and just clicked/treated for grabbing at it again). Eventually he started making an effort to lift it up to me. I click and grab it as I treat. Once he's lifting his head consistently with it I started to wait until I had the toy in my hand before I click/treat. I had taken a video of this but unfortunately I didn't realize that my camera had fallen over about 10 seconds in, so that video was useless.

I've started being able to get a little distance with him. He gets a little TOO excited and starts throwing it up in the air to himself, so we need to work on that. He sometimes drops it before he gets to me, but he's making the effort to grab it again and bring it all the way to me. I will get a video of him doing that for a future blog. As well I will be trying to switch up toys on him because this floppy stuffingless toy doesn't go very far. Stay tuned!


Elizabeth Singleton said...

Great videos! Ok, so I have a few questions.
1) do you have any suggestions for enticing interest in a toy when your grey won't go near a toy at all? Like, not only is she not interested, but she's scared of anything I put near her including a pizzle that is too big. If we put something near her that she doesn't like/is afraid of (which is almost everything) she will try to get as far away from it as possible, even leaving the room and going downstairs.
2) What is the benefit of the click and treat as opposed to just the treat? What does the clicking accomplish or what is its purpose?

Apex Agility Greyhounds said...

I'll start with the easier question which was your second one.

When training a dog timing is everything. The treat has to be delivered at exactly the right time so the dog knows which behaviour it is that resulted in the treat. If you give the treat too late (much more likely to happen than giving it too early) then the dog may already be doing something else and now associates the treat with whatever it is currently doing, which may not be the behaviour you wanted. Especially when you're doing something that requires more hands than you have, such as in the second video where I have a leash in my hand and treats in the other, or in the video that didn't work out I was trying to grab the toy when he lifted it.

The click becomes a marker. It tells the dog "THAT. That is what I wanted" so even if you're having trouble with coordination it doesn't matter anymore if it takes you a few seconds to get the treat to him. Once he understands what the click means (you do this first called "loading" the clicker) he will actually stop what he is doing and look for his treat when he hears the click. Hope that makes sense. Maybe I'll do a quick entry about loading clickers at a later time to make this more clear for everyone unfamiliar with the clicker.

Your second question is more difficult for me to answer since I've never dealt with a spooky dog. I think your best bet will be to try a clicker. I'll make that entry about how to get started. Once she understands what the click means, keep your clicker and treats handy at all times. Any time she approaches (or even looks at if she's that nervous) something that she is afraid of such as a toy or chewie, click and treat. As she begins offering to look at or approach things more often, begin only clicking/treating when she starts to go a step further, like stretch her neck towards it or sniff it. Now she will start to offer that behaviour more often. Once she is comfortable with something in particular (a specific toy for example) take that toy and teach her to target it. I may need another entry about this to make this more clear. You're a fair way away from targetting anyway, so try the first bit out first and that'll give me some time to get a video of Summit targetting. I will try to get an entry up about how to start using the clicker soon. Maybe even today if I procrastinate enough!

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

I love that someone actually is using my videos! I wondered if anyone would actually try and it! :-)

Apex Agility Greyhounds said...

Absolutely! I was so excited to try it and then totally stumped and disappointed because nothing I did could convince him to grab the toy. I had to get a little clever, but your videos gave me the start I needed!