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November 13, 2013: Chunking Things Down

The hardest part of dog training isn’t doing the training, but rather, finding the time to do the training. For instance, I’ve been on a rather tight schedule the past week or so. I have been working on my proposal, dog walking, horseback riding, and tending to all our animals. And I’ve been putting additional time into my proposal in the evenings. So dog training has sort of fallen by the wayside. This morning, before I even got out of bed, I realized that dog training is going to have to happen in between doing other things. With realization came acceptance.

This isn’t going to be multi-tasking, because I can’t multi-task. (Some people do this, but not very well.) Rather, it’s

between-tasking. After my first day of this, I’m confident that this is going to work.

Today I worked on something I’ve been thinking about–the concept of chunking things down. This is a term used to describe the steps one takes in attempting to get a specific behavior. Working with Ryder has gotten me to thinking a lot about when she clearly doesn’t get it. It’s not at all because she’s stupid or being duplicitous. Rather, it’s because the task I’m initially asking her to do is in its entirety too complex.

An example–Ryder has since we arrived home, given herself permission to squeeze under the horse gate and herd the horses. This includes nipping at their heels. Quite obviously, this is an unsafe practice, because she has no idea what she’s doing, or even why she’s doing it. And I have no idea as to how to teach her to do this correctly. Ryder is also all about herding. This is in her DNA. So my asking her politely to cease and desist is not going to work, nor is screaming at her to do the same.

Pete suggested attaching boards to the enclosure gates, this way Ryder cannot get inside the pen. I told him that this was not the best idea, for Ryder would not learn to keep her distance from the horses. Also, she might still squeeze inside when I am entering or leaving the pen, especially if I have an armload of hay in hand. And she might still mix it up with the horses when they’re outside the pen.

It took me a while to figure out what to do. This is because I’m not an animal trainer. So I’m exceedingly slow on the uptake. However, I am well read on the subject of dog training. I decided to chunk things down with the end goal of having Ryder, with a down/stay command, stay outside the gate when I’m inside of it. Claudia had said that Ryder must earn the right to be free, and this complemented what I ended up doing.

Pete put a long line on the tree yesterday. (This is like the lines Claudia has in her facility.) This would provide her with one boundary. And I then put a wood covered pallet under the tree. This would provide her with another boundary. This morning, before I was even awake, I walked her on the leash over to the tree. When she began pulling on her leash, I distracted her, and had her touch my hand. (I clicked and rewarded this behavior.) I then hooked her to the line and had her first sit, and then lie down. I of course rewarded both behaviors. I then took a few steps back. Ryder remained down, so I rewarded her. I then took a few more steps back. Ryder remained in place, so I again rewarded her. I walked around the tree, around the horse trailer, and over to the horse gate. I jiggled the gate latch. Ryder remained in place. So I again rewarded her.

This afternoon, I did the same, then unclipped her line. Again, I gave her the down/stay command. She did really well. This evening I began doing the same, but I knew that she would not stay put if I unhooked the lead. There was just too much going on. So I rewarded her for a good on-line stay/down.

I have put treats and clickers in various places in the house, so that I can work with her on other things at other times. For example, in the mornings, when I’m working, she goes on a tear and distracts me when I’m working. So my having the treats and clicker here will enable me to be more proactive. I guess one must be proactive when they are dealing with a very active border collie.

Next: 233: 11/14/13: Pete Weighs in on Mr. Siggi