Intermittent reinforcement

Happy Saturday blogaroos! It’s Squirmy here to give you our latest updates from the circus!

Well, I think I might have told you that the Warden entered the Boss and me in some kind of “trial” next month. Not a criminal trial – although given my behavior, it could be – but a rally trial. So we’ve been practicing and practicing and practicing every single day. I usually get to do my practice first. Because I push my way out the door. So much for obedience.

After a practice session the other day, the Warden had the following thoughts, which she shared with a friend…

“I’ve come to the conclusion that training dogs is like wearing shoes. You have the new ones, that fit OK, but they are going to take some breaking in, and may actually pinch a bit in the beginning. The old ones are comfy and cozy and while they make not look as fresh, they fit perfectly. And when training, begin with the new ones – so after, when you try on the old ones, you decide you won’t go barefoot after all!”

I’m guessing the Boss is the comfy shoes, and I’m the new ones. The Coyote must be socks. They don’t fit with flip flops, and sometimes you can’t get your shoes on with them – but sometimes they work out well. Like in the winter.

So yesterday I had my weekly class, and based on my performance there, the Warden didn’t have high hopes for a practice match I was in last night. Not that I was THAT bad in class. I mean I WAS just kinda distracted, AND after the recall exercise, when she tried to put my leash back on, I rolled on my back with my feet in the air, making it next to impossible to tether me. I did that the first week we did recall practice, and now it’s my signature move. She was a bit discouraged after all of our practice lately. It’s that age old “but he’s great at home” line that probably some other dog training humans can relate to.

So we went to the match and she didn’t have high hopes. Not only was it all new dogs that I had not met before, but she put me in this portable pop up crate, that I had never been in before. She had to watch every movement I made because let’s face it, I can break out of a wire crate. This flimsy fabric thing wouldn’t have much of a chance.

Anyway, when we walked in the ring, she debated whether she should take off my leash. This was an Advanced level Match, which is done off leash and I haven’t even even passed Novice yet – which is done on leash. She decided to take a chance…

She clipped off my leash and held her breath…And guess what?! I rocked it! Well, at last my level of rocking. SHE screwed up one sign by moving her feet- but I did great. Didn’t sniff the ground, the signs or the air. Didn’t go to visit any dogs. I heeled like I knew exactly what to do. The Warden was SO happy at the end! She said she’ll keep me. I think she was joking…OF COURSE she’ll keep me. Who would provide such comic relief in our household if I wasn’t there!

It’s all about intermittent reinforcement. You humans do it with us in training, so we use it with you too. Just when you think we either have a concept ( or don’t) we do just the opposite. I showed her last night that I CAN be obedient. But that’s no guarantee I’ll do it the next time. So lots of practice will continue. We’ll be selling tickets for the REAL trial. Then again, maybe not….

Have a good one. Peace and paws up. Stay safe.

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