Less is More, 3-4-16

Sophie scratches with right paw 2It is interesting to me that I keep having to relearn the value of doing less.  Especially when it comes to training my animals.

Ollie really was the first one to finally get through to me that maybe, just maybe, I should stop while I was (we were?) ahead.

In my rather stuck world, it’s easiest to figure out the 80% rule if I do sets of ten reps.  Unfortunately, it’s easier for the learner sometimes if I do fewer reps than that.

With Ollie, he didn’t like his feet handled, especially if the foot was taken from him before he was ready.  And being a fast-training type of horse, he’d also throw in extra behaviors just because.  But I found out (finally) that he’d prefer it if I’d just ask for – better, yet, wait for him to offer – his foot only a couple of times.  Maybe five at the most.  Our training progressed much faster that way.  His training and comfort level also improved tremendously when I finally (again!) asked the trimmer to wait for him to offer his foot rather than just demanding it.

With Atticus, we both have more fun if I don’t drill a particular behavior, but move from one to the next to the next.  Maybe we’ll repeat one that he chooses.  That is, he goes over to an object and wants to play in that area rather than doing something else.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “Make haste slowly.”

With Sophie dog, I’m working on trimming her nails.

I’ve tried to use clippers.  Nope.  No way.  No how.

I’ve used a scratch board and still do.  Although now it 60 grit sandpaper glued to the inside of half of a mailing tube in the hopes that we’ll get the side nails done, too.

I’ve tried sitting on the floor and doing some counter conditioning using food and just going for a conditioned emotional response.  Unfortunately, she gets too excited.

I’ve tried letting her be on the couch while I sit on the floor.  Nope.  She still doesn’t want me to hold onto her paws.

She loves belly rubs so whenever I can, I gently hold a foot and then start the belly rubbing.  If she pulls her foot away, I don’t rub.  The touch of the foot has to come first so that it becomes a predictor of nice belly rubs coming.  If it went in the opposite order. I might inadvertently poison belly rubs!  I don’t want to do that!

Currently, I’m using a Dremel tool as she sits in front of me.  Again, my hang up on doing ten reps in a row is not actually helping.  Once again, it finally dawned on me that I should stop sooner.  AND I should do a few paw holds, with no Dremeling, click and treat.Dremel

Zoos who use R+ training repeat pretend needle sticks 100 times for each real needle stick.  If the vet messes up, there’s no repeating the procedure until the handlers do 100 more pretend ones.

With that in mind, and doing fewer reps over all, and trying to watch Sophie for when she’s ready (I don’t ask for the paw), this is what I now do:

Sit in the kitchen doorway with the Dremel tool on and hold it horizontally, hands close together, my elbows on my knees, and my knees wide apart.  I wait for her to offer a paw, I hold it, click, let go, and treat.  I might do that a second time.  Then on the third time that she offers that same paw, I will make a quick swipe of a side nail.  Treat.  (Somehow I can’t seem to manage to tongue click this!)  The next time with that paw is a freebie click treat.  Then a swipe/grind.  Then a freebie.  Then the last swipe/grind.

She changes paws when she chooses to so I have to keep track in my head where we are with each foot.  Sometimes she offers her preferred foot (her left) several times in a row.  Then I tell her I want the other one and she’ll switch.

After three actual swipes with the grinder with each paw, I stop for the day.

I consider it a triumph when Sophie runs to me if I turn the Dremel on!  I love clicker training!IMG_2474

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About Laurie Higgins

I play with clicker training - with my horses, dogs, and cats. I also attempt to grow vegetables with the hope of one day being able to feed my family from my garden. My daughter and I are learning ballroom dancing. Well, we were. But she left me for a paying horse job, so now my husband and I are learning ballroom dancing. I'm also now helping Peggy Hogan, of Clicker Training Horses (and The Best Whisper is a Click) to teach people how to train their own horses using "clicker training".
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