Today was a much better day! My sister’s lost dog was found safe and he’s back home. That made my day. I didn’t learn of this until about 1pm so the morning was still a downer.
I didn’t work with Gypsy a lot this morning because we had a slot tonight at Four Paw so I saved most of her food for later. We still did some sits and good behavior sessions.
Most of the day, I worked in the backyard on the agility table I’m building/painting. Gypsy stayed outside with me, munching on her bully stick. She barked some at neighbors and I worked to give her alternative behaviors of looking at me and getting cookies instead of barking. It worked but it was a lot of maintenance. It is definitely not a default behavior yet, which is my goal.
Tonight we worked recalls at Four Paw, plus some agility. It went really well. For a few experiments, I threw some treats, and told her to leave it. She did. Then I released her to the treats. While she was eating them I walked the other direction and then called her. She came flying and she got massive and rapid rewards. We did this a few times and each time was successful. I ran her over some agility obstacles too and rewarded her for focusing on me. At first she wandered off, like it’s a habit of hers. She ran to the ring gates like she was looking for someone, but no one was there. She didn’t come back right away (this was before we practiced recalls). But she eventually did as soon as she realized no one was there. I didn’t reward her for the come per se, but I did reward her by sending her into a nearby tunnel (she loves tunnels) and rewarded her for that.
I was given some great advice that when you need to recall a dog off of inappropriate behavior, you don’t reward them for coming because it is a behavior chain of them taking off to begin with. When they do come back, you give them something else to do, even as little as a sit, down, hand touch, etc. Then reward massively. So you’re giving them something rewarding to do and so they WANT to stay with you. So you reward heavily for the activity they do when they decide to not take off again. So when she came back, I praised but did not reward. She got rewarded for the tunnel, which she loves. So she’ll learn that staying with mom will give her something rewarding. However, it has to be carefully administered so the act of taking off, coming and then doing something fun also doesn’t develop into a behavior chain. Sitting, down, hand touches are generally safe enough.
So we had some good successes at our session at Four Paw tonight. I was proud of her over the last few weeks of going in the changes I’ve seen. When we first got there, she generally goes exploring. Tonight, she didn’t. The only time she left me was when we were doing an agility course on the teacup side and she took off out of a habit that I’m working on changing to a new habit of staying with me.
Today I am thankful for a warm spring day with sunshine and that Banjo is home safe.