Playing Catch Up

Whew… the Holidays are over! Life is back to normal, right? Sort of? I feel like I haven’t written a real blog post in FOREVER and that I need to just give you a long catch up entry about everything that’s been happening over here at PLF. However since I don’t want to bore you with those details, I’ll stick to one of the most major commitments in my life right now: the Karen Pryor Academy. I know you’ve read a lot about it over the past few months, but it’s still new and exciting and sort of scary so I want to continue to share my experiences with you all.

It feels like just last week that we had our second testing weekend. Well, it was much earlier than that because this past weekend was workshop #3! That means our next workshop in mid-February is the big exam weekend… YIKES.

This third weekend went much better than I thought it would. Unit three covered a lot of intense material, and I felt a little behind heading into the workshop. Turns out I understood the content better than I thought and had so many *a-ha!* moments that the entire weekend was extremely reinforcing for me. Just like weekend two, I left thinking you can do this, J.  I also left thinking wow, you really, really love this behavior stuff! Talking nerdy dog speak officially gets me going (speaking of: see you in March, Clicker Expo!).

This latest workshop left us both exhausted.

This latest workshop left us both exhausted.

We’ve covered so much in KPA up to this point. We’ve learned everything from proper clicker mechanics so that you’re not bribing your dog to how to build behaviors using shaping and capturing to how to teach cues to fluency (meaning they have precision, low latency, high speed and can be performed around distractions, from a distance and for whatever duration you choose) and put them under stimulus control to why building a relationship entirely around trust is so important for your dog’s ability to learn and be happy. I seriously CANNOT GET ENOUGH of all this knowledge. The fact that it is coming together so perfectly – all the long lessons and assignments and readings are finally all making sense in the big picture – is just so thrilling to me.

It hasn’t been easy though, and it won’t be easy moving forward. Not living with Paco has presented the challenge of scheduling and time. It’s funny to look back at our previous challenges though to the ones we are experiencing now. Before I couldn’t get him to focus on me, I couldn’t for the life of me find a reward that was exciting enough to keep him engaged and he would shut down after two minutes of attempted shaping.

Eyes

Now, I’ve got a bouncy, happy puppy on my hands who will work with me whenever I request it. It’s no longer a matter of what to use to keep him engaged. He’s happy to train, sometimes I just need that little bit of extra yummy to really keep his focus. I especially noticed our progress at the workshop this weekend when we were doing a shaping exercise. Shaping was one of the first topics we learned about in KPA, so Paco and I were still new to each other and never very good at it. He generally bowed out of the exercises pretty early and I would get frustrated – not a good combo. During this workshop exercise I successfully shaped a new behavior in a brief five minute session almost without even realizing. Working together has become so natural to us it’s hard to realize how in sync we are now! I touched briefly on our budding relationship after weekend #2, but holy moly do I love that little dog.

Love

Yes I am aware that he does not look thrilled in this photo. He loves me back, just not when I squeeze him like a teddy bear.

 

For the next six weeks, Paco and I will be tirelessly working on our ten-part chain, the ultimate test of our knowledge and skills from this course. You can see an example of a 10-part chain here on YouTube. Basically I have to teach Paco at least ten cues to fluency and then chain them together (a concept we learned about in our course). While the video you watch might not look *that* impressive, there are lots of technical details that make it the perfect way to showcase all that we have learned and taught our dogs. It is an impressive feat in the end!

While it’s a lot of work and stressful to fit in between my 9 to 5 and training clients, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered something that came so naturally to me (except maybe loving my foster dogs, but I think this is all related). The science behind animal training and behavior just makes sense to me, and I am realizing more and more that it will be yet another opportunity where I can help dogs – and people – in this world. How lucky I am to have discovered this passion (along with so many more) and been given this opportunity so quickly in life!

citydog2

8 thoughts on “Playing Catch Up

  1. fredrieka

    It is addictive. I was not taught the clicker but it is similar. Rather than click/treat, I say YES!/treat. It has been so cold so we go in the basement and work. Even go over things she knows. She has to heal and wait being as therapy dog . I start with that I want her to shadow walk. Also teaching her small things she can do to show the elders. Good for you! Keep up the good work! :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

  2. So many exciting things! I confess I get kind of jealous reading your updates, and sometimes I wish I had taken your career path of training dogs instead… but you are so clearly suited for this, and Paco is one lucky pup to be able to work with you! Wishing you all the best in 2014!

  3. I relate so much to you in so many ways, and so love having you in my ‘life’ so to speak! As per our conversation the other day, I am a little bit jealous of where you are, but also SO happy for you at the same time. It is obvious you are where you are meant to be, and it is inspiring to be around that. So excited to see what amazing things you do to help so many dogs. Thank you for sharing your journey with those of us who aren’t as fortuitous!

  4. annienpaulmom

    Congratulations on finding your passion with animals. If you’re looking for “stuff to teach”, may I suggest right and left? It’s saved me more than once with Annie and Paul in tight spaces.

  5. Lynnie

    You said it sister. I mean, niece. :-) You are so very fortunate to have discovered this so early. You will be wonderfully successful in all that you do. It’s just who you are!

  6. Pingback: Cheers to You, New Year | Peace, Love, & Fostering

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