If you’re just joining us, I am in the process of using clicker training to get my dog to happily wear a muzzle instead of forcing it on her. We are going on a trip to Venice next week and dogs are required to wear a muzzle on public transportation. You can catch yourself up by watching step one and step two.
I start today’s session by refreshing yesterday’s session. All I do is ask her to stick her nose into the muzzle. You can see there is a hitch in the start of our session. I “clicked” Mattie for jumping onto the ottoman, but I never put a treat down, so the first 10 seconds is her slightly confused of not having a treat and trying to look for one. Once we got past that, we moved onto her sticking her nose into her muzzle.
So here we are, step 2 in training Mattie to wear a muzzle for our trip to Venice. If you’re joining us for the first time, you can catch up with step one. Short recap as to why I am training my sweet dog to wear a muzzle, is that it is required for her to wear a muzzle while on public transportation in Venice.
We’re going to Venice for a long weekend and our dog, Mattie is coming with us. We leave not this weekend, but the next, so I have just under two weeks to get my dog trained. For what, you ask? In certain parts of Europe, dogs are required to wear muzzles when on public transportation. It doesn’t matter if you have the sweetest dog on the planet, it is still required for your dog to wear a muzzle. Venice just happens to be one of those cities. So my job is to get my dog comfortable wearing a muzzle. Sure, I could just force her to wear one and hope she handles it while we are on public transportation, but why do that? Instead, I’d like my dog to enjoy wearing a muzzle. So I’ll be using positive reinforcement training to get her to accept wearing a muzzle.
Clicker training is essentially a form of positive reinforcement training. This way of training got its roots from marine mammal trainers. They needed to develop a way of communicating with the animals they worked with. It’s not like you can just jump in the water and show a dolphin what to do and it’s not like you can physically force these animals to do anything either. Marine mammal trainers generally use a whistle. If you’ve ever been to an aquarium and watched any type of dolphin show, you’ve most likely heard and saw the use of a whistle. A clicker, works in much the same way.
Conditioning: The term conditioning is used to describe both operant and respondent behavior. It refers to a change in the frequency or form of the organism’s behavior as a result of the influence of the environment.
In Respondent Conditioning, a neutral stimulus comes to elicit a response as a result of pairing it with an unconditioned stimulus.
(Both definitions are from the book, Animal Training written by Ken Ramirez.)
When I take my dog out for our morning hikes, we spend most of our time either in open, agricultural fields or in the forest. Vehicles are very limited in these spaces. Unless you’re a farmer, or work for the forestry, you’re not supposed to be on the roads leading through these places.
As most dog owners here, I love letting Mattie off leash during our walks and in these places, I know she is safe from traffic. Occasionally, however, we run into the random vehicle passing through. When this happens, I respond consistently with her. I stand off to the side, call her to me, and when she approaches and stands on her hind legs, I hold onto her collar as the vehicle passes. Once cleared, I tell her she’s been a good girl, give her the release command of “ok” and our walk continues.
After the last few attempts, I decided to try something different with the puzzle box. I did not film this, however. What I did was have a training session with treats in my hand and the puzzle box on the floor. It has become clear to me that the puzzle is not very reinforcing and so Mattie, doesn’t want to put any more effort into it. I have to make it interesting again.
All I did was give her a “good” and a treat every time she just looked at the puzzle box. I’m hoping to make it a more positive item again.
This evening, I decided to up it a bit and I put a much larger and desirable treat into the puzzle. I’m kicking myself because earlier I cooked some chicken breast (a favorite of Mattie’s) and didn’t think to put that into the puzzle box. Oh I am failing in this thinking thing but acing hindsight!
So the introduction to the puzzle box didn’t go swimmingly, how did other attempts go?
Her 2nd attempt:
Recently, I was in the states. I always find this a great opportunity to find cool stuff, especially for my animals. If you follow my ferret’s Tumblr, you’ll see some great videos of him playing with his new stuff. This post however, is about my dog Mattie, and introducing her to some new behavioral enrichment.
Mattie has a lot of toys. She is not a destructive dog, so all the toys we have bought her are still around today (unless the ferret snagged them and hid them underneath the kitchen counters, never to be seen again). She’s not a ball chaser or a frisbee catcher. Her toys of choice are stuffed animals with squeakers inside. The more squeakers, the better.