Monday, March 11, 2013

trick of the week: 4-in

Hello, welcome to trick of the week.

I've recently had a couple of people ask me to set them 'assignments' to help with training their dog, so hopefully it will make me more diligent about updating the blog, about filming our training, and about thinking of new tricks.
Feel free to share this around for anybody else who might enjoy it.

I think first and foremost, before trying any of this, your dog needs to have a pretty solid understanding of what the clicker is, and what a click means.... That being said, this was one of the very very first tricks that I was teaching Lumen as an 8 week old pup, so it's definitely do-able, even if it looks complicated!!

This is one of my favourite tricks for a number of reasons: it helps your dog's balance and strength, teaches then amazing rear-end awareness (absolutely necessary for agility training), looks freaking cool,  and really requires them to think about what their job is.


You'll need:
A LARGE bowl, box, or plastic tub - I used those see-through plastic storage tubs for puppy Lumen, made her job easier.
A smaller bowl, box or saucepan (see photo above, Lu at probably 12 weeks, so keep in mind that the saucepan is relative to her size (e.g.. still pretty big. You might want to use a large tupperware container or slightly smaller box than the first).
An even smaller bowl - I use a plastic tupperware bowl which you'll see on the video above. The edges are a bit sharper than I'd like so you can use whatever you have lying around, or get a small metal dog water bowl from the pet-store. I've been meaning to do this, but I've been slack.
The idea is to step it down gradually- if that takes 4 sizes, then it takes 4 sizes! Set your dog up to succeed, don't make it so impossible that they (and you) get frustrated. 

How to do it:
First, shape your dog to get in the largest box. This doesn't usually take long, though for some, getting their back legs in takes longer than their front. Click for one front leg, the other, then any movement of the back-legs - this will start them thinking about their rear-end, and eventually they'll lift them up and get them in the box. Jackpot for all 4 feet in the box.
Great. When you've done this step (and most dogs should find this relatively straightforward especially if the box is big enough to fit them), get your next smallest item. Repeat the process as above. This time they might struggle with the back-feet, so it'll take longer. Again, click and reward back-feet movement, especially movement that suggests they're trying to work their feet toward the bowl/box/saucepan. Don't be surprised if this step takes a while - sometimes it's worth jackpotting three legs in the bowl, just so they get the idea that their hind legs are really important and exciting. 
Last step, you guessed it, small bowl. Start all the way from the start, but because of your pre-work, it should be pretty easy. 
Then you want to start extending duration but keep in mind that to balance in this position is quite tricky for dogs- I haven't got much duration at all with Lumen (and I haven't really been working on it since she 'got' the trick). 
Cues? The bowl is the cue. I don't tell Lumen to 'get in' or do anything, she just sees the bowl and knows her job (after a little trial and error sometimes).


Dog doesn't put hind-feet in, ever. 
Ok, so you need to back up and train more tricks. A great one for rear end awareness is circling on top of the saucepan. I'll post this one next week. Once you have that, the dog should have more understanding of its hind-feet and give that a try.

My dog got in the big box with all legs, but won't get in the next smaller box.
I'd either alternate between the big box/bowl and the littler box/bowl and try and help them generalize between one and the other, or get a less small box as the 2nd one, to help them 'step down' in size. I know this is really frustrating because Mallei (my older boy) wouldn't get in the smaller one even though he understood getting in the bigger one. 

My dog only touches its 4th foot in for a second then gets out.
That's ok, I think your dog just doesn't have enough strength to hold the position for a while yet. Keep working on the trick and also do other tricks for strength and balance (watch this space) and conditioning your dog through hill walks, running through the forest, over roots, etc, tugging and playing. Possibly your smallest bowl is too small- I know Lumen finds it tricky to stay in position because her feet are standing on her feet... Possibly if I used a slightly bigger bowl she could build strength and balance, which she could transfer to the smaller bowl. 

Let me know how you get on! Post your videos in the comments, or ask me if you're having any other problems and I'll add it to the trouble-shooting section.

Good luck, happy training!

Next week's trick: circling an object keeping front paws still.

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