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.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Got a kick out of our favourite playwright's email to me telling NYeDC that he is using one of our Drama Night pix from last year as his profile photo for his Facebook fan page. ZX and his angry bird companion look sufficiently goofy to warrant such a distinction.

In the meantime, I said 'yes' to Sirius who offered me a role in one of this year's Drama Night plays. She later also offered me the Director's role and gave me the freedom to choose my own cast. Um... thanks. I think I've been had.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Exercise for a small dog

Tasha is doing her homework. Her recommended schedule is one 40-minute block or two 20-minute blocks per day for 10 weeks.

She's wearing her choke collar and we've attached a 15-foot leash to it. That's a lot of slack, if you ask me. The idea is for us to set up three or four checkpoints about 50 ft from each other to mark out our training route. Q: Where in S'pore can we find a 50 ft square space? A: Nowhere. We are walking an L-shaped route back and forth in a vacant void deck, and that'll have to do.

So the exercise: Starting at the first checkpoint, walk to the next without looking at your dog, or inviting her along. If she's good, she'll follow you, else at the end of the 15-ft leash, she'll get a tug and she'll come trotting up to you when you arrive at your destination. Hold for 30 seconds, then move off to the next checkpoint, again without inviting her, calling her or even looking at her. Repeat checkpoint to checkpoint in sequence for the duration of the exercise period.

The idea is to set a routine. When you walk, dog should automatically follow. When you stop, dog stops. This should happen with or without a leash, as yesterday's demonstrator dog so competently showed us. After a day, Tasha learned to follow, though she has no idea what to do with herself when we stop. Ideally, she should just sit and wait... but that's probably going to be another exercise for another time.

Lesson for us: let her poop before commencing training. When we were purposely not looking at her, well, let's just say that there was an unnecessary interruption to her lesson as I rushed around with baggie and tissue paper, picking up after her before any human traffic -- and her trailing leash -- could contact a landmine.

Here we have an emo shot of a dog in training

And this is Ginger George, the high-class freeloader who will only accept a canned Friskies from us. He's causing a premature distraction to Tasha, who should be exercising with distractions only from Day 4-6.