Good day yesterday in Vancouver. Again a really keen group working in masters handling and luckily for me I had a large number of observers at the workshop as well (I think there was about 20 or so of them). Being day two of the two day workshop I started out as normal, answering questions that may have come up overnight. Then I made a plea to the group to help me with Feature and Encore’s “seminar crap.” I had many people keen to help, so it worked out great. My idea was to move the table the girls had being perched upon and expand it. I moved it closer to where I was teaching plus added another table to go side by side. That way when Feature decided to “kill” her frisbee shaking it like crazy, she wouldn’t bump Encore off of the table. Also there was plenty of room on the two tables for both dogs to sleep (they actually did that at one point during the day). I looked at my problem and realized these poor dogs had been watching other dogs work for two of the last three weeks. Rarely did they get to do a “demo” or get a turn to work and even rarer yet was me giving them a cookie for staying put for an entire day. So a few people donate to a heaping bowl of various types of yummy dog treats and I placed the bowl nearby. Each time a dog ran there was at least one volunteer standing near the girls to feed them for acting appropriately. At first they just got fed when any dog ran. Then I put Feature on a leash. If she jumped off the table while a dog was running, whoever was on patrol at the time would take her leash and hold her off of the table. This meant she could no longer watch as she had a row of chairs with bodies in them in front of her. Within a few repetitions she was no longer jumping off the table with every dog. By the end of the day my dogs (who were likely stuffed full of treats) where much, much quieter and actually relaxed on the table. At the end of the workshop I ran each dog on the final sequence while the other waiting and didn’t make a peep. This reinforcement crap really does work eh?
Today I am grateful to the slew of people at the workshop that spent time with my dogs in order to help me alter their behaviour. Great people here in the west!