Thursday, December 16, 2010

1st Treadmill Session/Lucky/Maxie/FoohFooh

It's 65 degrees today but overcast, dreary looking, and breezy.  Not enticing.  So it's a perfect day to start treadmill training my dogs.  Yesterday I came up with some preliminary Line-Up training, described here.  Today I took it to the next level.
  • Standing beside the treadmill (turned OFF), I lured Lucky onto it and gave a treat for every 4-on contact facing the right direction. "Get On, Off, Get On, Off, Get On, Off". 10 repetitions, she had no hesitation, understood and enjoyed the game.
  • Then we practiced our Line-Ups on the floor beside the board, with treadmill running to desensitize for the noise.
  • Turn treadmill off.  Practice Line-Ups on the board, with me straddling the belt.
  • After several reps, with her lined up between my legs on the board, I grasped her collar and began the treadmill turning very slowly, barely moving, constantly praising. She was confused for a moment but with encouragement just walked along, focusing on the high value treats in my hand. Lots of praise and treats as she walked. I increased the speed one tick at a time until she was walking along at a slow pace, for about 5 minutes. Then I turned it off. We dismounted. Exercise finished.
A few hours later, we began training in earnest. 
Lucky first.  Thaw out a whole bowl of liver treats. Crate the other dogs.  Maxie goes wild thinking Lucky would get the first turn at whatever it was we were going to do.  Good.  Lucky feels the spotlight on her.  Good.
I straddle the treadmill.  I say "line up" and Lucky lines up between my legs just like we practiced yesterday.  "Line Up. Off. Line Up. Off" a few times.  Then, with Lucky in Line Up position, I turn on the machine at 1.1 mph., hold her collar in one hand and a treat in front of her nose with the other, and she walks along trying to take nips from the treat.  Within 3 minutes I get off the treadmill, hold a treat at her nose, and let go of the collar.  She keeps walking, sometimes going close to the back end and sometimes putting a front paw on the guard, but adjusting each time.  I am VERY CAREFUL to pick a single spot to deliver the treat, and never vary my hand position from that spot, such that her front paws land about 2" from the top end of the belt.  If my hand is too high, she lunges up for it.  Too low, she loses her focus and gait.  I learn to position my hand at her shoulder height, and make precise movements.

When I run out of treat and remove my hand to reach into the bowl for another, she seems to understand another treat is coming so she keeps walking.  I extend the time it takes for me to get each treat from the bowl.  She keeps walking.  I speed up the machine, hold out my hand in same position but with no treat.  She keeps walking, touching my hand for a treat. Within 5 minutes I can remove my treat hand completely and just give verbal encouragement.  "keep walking, keep up, walk along, stay on, good walking", etc.  I walk across the room to the treat bowl, and deliver a treat now and then.

A few times, at first, she hopped off when I removed my treat hand because her nose was following my hand.  I just said "get on" and she hopped right back on, belt going.  Wasn't a bit scared. I reached 1.5 mph within 10 minutes, then slowed it down another minute, then stopped it.  Off.  Exercise finished. Lots of praise, then outside for a pottie break.

Maxie's turn.  I never practiced Line Up with Maxie, but he is a quick study.  Just from watching Lucky he knew exactly what to do.  Because he is so tiny, I used a slip leash to hold him in place between my legs as I started the machine.  He just walked along between my legs as I fed him wee little kibbles of Purina Kitten Chow one at a time.  Within 3 minutes, I got off, belt running, and sat on the floor beside him with the treat bowl hidden behind my outstretched leg.  "Walk, Maxie, keep walking, stay on, good treadmill."  Such verbal encouragement, and reaching behind my knee for a treat and bringing it to his nose every so often, in one precise location, he walked right along.  I sped up the belt so he was almost trotting, and he kept going and wanted to please me but was getting a bit anxious.  I slowed it down to a walk. When I got up to try walking away, he hopped off, but hopped right back on at my signal.  I stopped after about 6 minutes, before he was ready to quit.

So those were my two agility dogs that I've worked with frequently since they were puppies. 

When John got home we did a "demo for Daddy" and both Lucky and Maxie did great, same as above.  Next we tried FoohFooh, who was whining for his turn.  Fooh Fooh is just as smart but much less trained and now getting older. We never turned the machine on.  I just had John straddle the belt and train the Line Up command.  FoohFooh was so excited and snapping for his treats, and John's hands going all over the place, it was not very successful.  I coached from the chair and we finally had some success.  It was interesting to see another person trying to train, getting frustrated, etc.  I'll try again soon on my own.

I didn't even bother with Willow, but I will because if I can train her to do this it will be a big boost to my self-esteem.  When I got her she was already 6 years old and stubborn, so if I can train her, I can probably train any dog.

Upwards and onward!

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