Seelie and I went to a trick-training seminar today. Seelie was probably very happy to be ‘the dog’ – time with me all to himself!
I don’t usually do much trick-training with the dogs. I’m not the most patient person in the world; it’s always seemed to me that the tricks were complicated and likely to take a lot of time. The trainer, a woman with many years of experience training animals for movies as well as competing in agility, made the process much more streamlined and simpler than I expected.
It’s really all scaffolding. That wasn’t her term; she referred to the process as ‘thin-slicing.’ She demonstrated how to build a complex behavior step-by-step, and made it seem a lot easier than I’d expected. Thinking of each step as a slice made sense to me.
We worked on a lot of different tricks: backing up in a straight line, shake, bow, crawl, dog puts his feet on my feet when sitting in between my legs while facing forward (I don’t have a simple name for that one), put toys in a box, and toss a ring over the dog’s head to have it end up around his neck. Seelie had an easy time with all of them, except the toys in a box. I’ve mentioned the box game in a previous post… he couldn’t get past the idea of stepping in the box or kicking it, and me having treats in my pocket didn’t help. His entire focus was on the food; he couldn’t think. This was toward the end of the seminar, so we had the added problem of him being tired. The trainer helped me out a bit – she showed me how to get him to stop using his feet on the box, but he wouldn’t interact with any toys, so that’s something we’ll have to try another time. He did well with the ring toss, except that we didn’t quite get to tossing… he had no problem sticking his head through the ring to get treats, but didn’t like it touching his shoulders, so as soon as he got the treat for putting his head through, he’d scramble backwards.
The funniest part was after I’d put Seelie in his crate in the car for a while, letting him relax away from all the activity. Another woman’s dog decided to use Seelie’s mat in the training room as his own bed. After I brought Seelie back into the building, he sniffed the mat very carefully and then refused to touch it. I was trying to get him to lie down, the way he had all morning. He danced around that mat, not wanting even a toenail to touch it – the expression on his face clearly said ‘ewwwwww.’ The mat’s in the laundry.
It was a fun time – nice to add something to our ‘toolbox’ of thing to do, especially with all the snow still on the ground. I’m going to try working on some of this with Merlin too. He could really use some confidence building.
Seelie’s going to sleep very well tonight.