Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Misc. Updates 1/24/12

I've been neglecting the blog again while finishing up my current nerdbook (the Pathfinder Tales novel Nightglass, which is pretty much done except for the epilogue -- of course, when I say "done" what I mean is that the first manuscript draft is done; the long haul of revisions and copyedits still lies ahead) and working on my newest dog project, the WAGS wiki.

I'm dumping most of my opinions regarding best fostering practices and what I've learned while doing this into that wiki, in the hopes that it will prove useful to foster parents, prospective foster parents, and adopters of rescue dogs. It's definitely very much one of those things that should come with a "views expressed herein are not necessarily those of the parent organization" disclaimer, and I'm not even sure anyone is really going to read the damn thing (no exaggeration to say it'll be as long as a novel when it's done. I have written novels, I know whereof I speak), but whatever, I'm doing it.

So that eats up most of my writing-about-dog-stuff energy, and that's why the blog has gone relatively neglected these past couple of weeks. But things proceed apace with Crookytail's integration into the house.

Team exercise from Friday:

Also I've been using Crookytail as a demo dog for some of the clips I'm making for the WAGS wiki. Crookytail's a pretty good demo dog: he's just slow enough to demonstrate that sometimes you have to wait the dog out for the manners exercises, but performs reliably after a couple seconds of delay. Pongu's not as useful for these demos because he knows all the games so well that he does them even before I prompt, so it's actually kind of nice to have a half-trained second mutt in the house.

Manners exercise ("Nothing in Life is Free," Level 1):

Manners exercise ("Nothing in Life is Free," Level 2):

The main difference between Level 1 and Level 2 is that in the more advanced version, the dog actually has to move away from the thing he wants (here Crookytail's meal in the crate) and toward you in order to get the ultimate reward. This is hard for many dogs to grasp, and they will waste a lot of time pawing at the crate and ignoring you at first. But it pays off in the end because it teaches the mutt monster (a) better impulse control/more patience; and (b) that You-the-Person are the source of all good things and that politely paying attention to you is the way to accomplish everything in the world ever.

Training two dogs at once:

Version 1 (easier): crate one dog (Crookytail), work with the other (Pongu)

Version 2 (harder): put one dog on a Stay (Pongu), work with the other (Crookytail)

Notes on the video:

0:20 -- Pongu totally blows me off when I ask for a Front (he's uncomfortable about the camera again -- that's why he's scratching on the mat when I first look at him -- and thinks we're doing a Stay drill, where he's supposed to ignore the distractor [which he thinks is the camera] and maintain a Stay. He figures this out a second later but THANKS FOR MESSING UP ON TAPE, DEMO DOG).

0:36 -- one of the foundation mini-games you can play for building better recall is throwing the treat away and asking the dog to chase it, instead of just handing the treat over directly. This encourages the dog to move away from you and then immediately re-orient back toward you and return (which builds toward a recall) so you can play another training game. So that's what I'm doing here.

0:46 and 0:57 -- in the alternative, you can reinforce a correct position by feeding the dog in exactly the place where you want him to be. This is particularly useful for (dur) position exercises like Heel and Stay. Also, when you're doing a two-dog exercise, always remember to reward the dog who's maintaining the Stay in addition to the dog you're actively working.

Pongu's posture at the end of his Stay is pretty terrible. We need to work on that.


  1. I just took a look at the WAGS Wiki - what a great idea!

  2. Thanks! I hope it will be useful to people when it's done. If you have any comments or suggestions, please let me know -- I think your group has a slightly different population of dogs (we don't get as many puppy mill survivors in ours, for one thing) but the basics of fostering are pretty universal, I suspect.