How a hot dog plays

January 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’ve just signed my dog Tuhi and myself up for a 12 week online Tricks course with dog agility champion Silvia Trkman. It’ll start on 21 January. As part of it, participants send in videos training the current lesson with their dogs.
I’ve never before videoed anything, let alone edited clips, so that’ll be a whole different level of fun. So I’ve taken my phone on our walk this afternoon, and now just had my first video editing session. If there is anything fun among the videos I’ll make for the course, I might share it here. Or I thought it might be fun anyway to start ‘collecting’ the many tricks Tuhi already plays with as vids and share them here. We’ll see.

But if I do that, I want to start it all with a video of Tuhi just playing. I love training with Tuhi, but I love most us just walking together and playing around while we are out and about, and watching Tuhi and seeing what kind of play she loves.

It’s also a good reminder for me when I train with her that a lot of behaviours we use in tricks our dogs actually don’t really technically have to learn. They know how to ‘sit’, ‘down’, ‘dig’, ‘jump’. As Karen Pryor writes in her book Don’t Shoot the Dog, the difficulty in learning skills (such as required for tricks or agility) is usually not caused by physical requirements but by the absence of good shaping procedures*. Working on my training skills therefore for me comes first, before I can be my dog’s coach. But training for me also is about how to get these behaviours into our interactions with our dogs and be able to share them for whatever activity we do together, whether it’s agility, obedience, freestyle, or just fooling around together with silly and funny tricks. So that the fun and the skills become part of a mutual vocabulary we develop and share with our dogs.

Tuhi is just playing at the beach on a hot Wellington summer day (yes, sometimes that happens) — and look at that focus and motivation and fun. That’s how I want her to look when I’m working with her.

The video is a little bit long. But that’s just a good excuse to listen to that song. I haven’t listened to that song in such a long time. It still makes me think of summer-time and wanna jump on a skateboard and eat ice-cream. Yes, skateboard, not surfboard; I’m scared of sharks. And just to add to my bad video editing, I’ve left the wind in the soundtrack. Because it still is windy Wellington, even on a nice hot day :)

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* Shaping is a process in positive reinforcement training used to get all those cool performances and behaviours, such as a dog doing a summersault, or a human iceskating and learning to glide on one foot, or a dolphin jumping through a hoop. The technical term for it is “successive approximation” and it consists of taking every little step, movement, etc. in the right direction and shifting it, step by step (and behaviour by behaviour) to an ultimate goal, rewarding/reinforcing every single step on the way.

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