Monday, July 29, 2013

Motivating Perri

It seems like forever ago that I decided to abandon lure-based heelwork training in favor of Silvia Trkman's clicker and perch-work based method for Perri.  I have not been the most diligent when it comes to Practicing Everyday, I will admit that.

But over the last two weeks, and especially over the last week I have been trying so hard to work with Perri at least once if not twice every day.  But Perri does not always want to work with me.  

After Ein's anxiety and Molly's wildness, Perri seemed like a dream to me.  But I am getting to know this curly dog, and it's not always easy.   Ein?  Pretty consistently will work work work for Bil Jacs and my approval.  Molly?  Will work for absolutely anything and until the end of time.  She is not afraid to be wrong.

Perri is absolutely not a confident dog.  I think that "this too shall pass", but in the meantime it is my job to build that confidence.  Perri definitely seems to enjoy perch training, but only sometimes.  And if I raise the criteria?  Oof.  That is very overwhelming for Perri.

This all comes to mind because Perri has been doing great with her perch work, and I finally got her to rotate around the perch in both directions.  I decided that it was time to add a new challenge...Finding My Leg.  Perri would have to rotate counter clockwise until she comes to my left leg (in the beloved Heel Position that I am dying for her to love.) and that gets her a click.  We stepped up (literally) to this new challenge two days ago.  Perri was so overwhelmed by my standing next to her perch instead of a foot away from it that all she would do was sniff the surrounding area obsessively on our first session.

I am getting better at just putting my toys away and trying again later when it comes to Perri.  Molly may be maddening in a dozen ways, but if there are edibles to be earned, that girl is THERE.  And I have been spoiled by that.  My dogs challenge me in new ways all the time, and I never imagined that Perri would add a third dimension to that so thoroughly.   But there it is.  As much as I've always called Molly a frustrating pain in the ass button pusher, she completely caters to my "drive it into the ground" personality when it comes to working towards goals.  Perri?  Slow and steady wins the race with this girl.  I have recently seen at least three different dogs belonging to friends of mine whiz past where Perri is progress-wise on their perch work, and that has been hard for me.  We have to take everything super slow because Perri just isn't willing to offer and offer behaviors because she Might Be Wrong.  Some days, some sessions, I may only get one or two clicks into Perri before we have to quit for the day.  End on a good note.  Short but sweet.  That's tough for me. (A new game that we are going to pursue is "101 Things to Do With A Box" so that Perri can grow more confidence-wise when it comes to shaping.) 

The other thing I am learning about Perri is that her motivation is all over the place.  She definitely enjoys toy and play rewards more than food rewards.  Off the subject of perch work, I reward her purely with her squeaky tennis ball or tug toy in agility - and she has improved a whole lot since that.
Just in the last week Perri has alternated between wanting to work for: her squeaky tennis ball (number ONE reward, usually.), her destuffed crab toy, grilled chicken, pomegranate sorbet, running around the yard with me, meatballs or hot dogs.  It's a lot of work, sheesh!
If I don't find the correct motivational object, or choose the wrong time of day temperature-wise, Perri is simply not into it.  That piece of mulch needs sniffing, thank you very much.

It's a learning journey.  But just tonight Perri was wild working on her perch, finding my leg and smiling at me for just the joy of chasing her squeaky tennis ball.  Tomorrow it may not be that simple.   But tonight I ended our work with her wanting more and both of us having fun, and those aren't bad goals to work towards.

We have an Obedience Fun Match this Sunday and I am looking forwards to it.  We have been working hard on Recalls and hand-signal-only Right Finish and I am eager to see how she will handle those exercises during the "stress" of a match.  

"I'll get there when I get there.  And I will be awesome when I do."

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