Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Working with distractors

It's Day 4 of Tasha's daily dog obedience training. It's actually more like obedience training for US and conditioning for her. As we obey the routine we're committed to, she gets used to our new strange habits and learns to respond accordingly.

Starting today, we are introducing distractors to her usual walk-rest-walk regime. Now at every checkpoint, we set up something to catch her attention and make her wander away from us. As soon as she moves over to investigate, we wheel and walk in the opposite direction, forcing her to pay attention to us and follow our lead.

Today, we brought her favourite toy: a little, hollow, purple ball with a bell in it which we could shake and bounce in front of her. But at the same time, the one playing with the ball must not gesture or otherwise invite her to play along. If she accepts an invitation, it would not be fair of us to drag her away.

It turned out that she was already distracted enough with so many other void-deck stimuli, from litter and debris to the occasional passer-by that we didn't need the ball at all. Every time she got ahead of us, we turned and walked the other way.

This exercise is certainly more tiring than the previous one as rest stops are dictated, not by us, but by the reluctant trainee. If she didn't decide to stop and sit behind us, we just had to keep going.

Tomorrow, we'll try with the ball again as she finally seems to understand the rules of this new boring game: don't get ahead of your handler. And on Friday, maybe some food as well, just to be evil.

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