I mean a Corgi to Drop on Recall, sure felt like a chicken, though J As some of you know, I’ve been training with Bob Bailey and Parvene Farhoody at their Operant Conditioning workshops this summer. I’ve been training chickens, or more correctly “chicken models” (no swimsuits needed!). It’s been an eye opening experience for me. These girls are quick, and you don’t get to make one mistake that they’ll let you slide by on and cover for you. Those first couple of days in class I was seriously missing my good old dogs that make me look pretty good.
A couple of weeks of having my mind blown as I trained chickens have now resulted in me looking at dogs completely differently. So, this leads to my training my student, Trisha’s Corgi, Ros. Ros is quick, Ros gets frustrated, Ros will go and make her own reinforcement somewhere else if you are too slow, another words she is a chicken/Corgi. You have to love that in a dog, she is not going to make you look better than you are, she will not cover for you and wait patiently as you try to tell her what you want, she is Ros, and you must tell her what you want clearly and make it very worth her while to stay and train, or you will be talking to the mat and Ros will go find something else to do.
Ros needed a Drop on Recall exercise for obedience. I’ve taught this different ways over the years, and it takes a while, making sure that the dog doesn’t take steps after cueing the down on the recall is always a concern. I started with making sure Ros had a solid verbal drop cue, here’s what that looked like:
You can make the drop in motion easier by slowing down. This was the second session that I worked with Ros that night, so I walked backwards a little faster than I did the first session. Notice I don’t do anything when she misses the cue. She gets to learn that not dropping has a consequence, no reward. I also am careful to not change my posture or slow up when I drop her, I want her to really start to listen to the drop cue and not look for some body language from me to drop. I never correct her for missing the drop cue, but as she gets better, I will add some time before giving her another cue, make her work a little harder and want that next one a little more.
Next I start adding a little distance between us after I drop her. This helps her learn that I can be backing away from her, and she can still maintain position.
I wouldn’t move on to a recall with a drop until my dog was solid on letting me back up after they dropped.
Now I add a recall to the mix. I make sure I don’t go to far away; I don’t want her at a full run when I first drop her. I decided to keep the mistakes in the video so that you can see I have to problem solve as the training session goes on.
I wish I would have ended after that second drop, but I didn’t and then there were some distractions that happened and we worked through those. It was a hot night at the building and this was the end of the evening, and she still did great.
Training with the chickens has taught me patience and the confidence of letting an animal work through failing to find the path to reinforcement. No corrections on my part needed, and the animal is never worried about making a mistake, and so they try harder to find the way to the reward. For me it’s a win/win for both of us.
I’m back to train again with Bob and Parvene in a few weeks, looking forward to training with the birds again! In the meantime, I have to say goodbye to Trisha and her Corgi’s, Einstein and Ros, as they are headed off to grad school next month. I’m going to miss our Sunday night training times!!