Thursday, July 1, 2010

101 Things to Do With a Box

Karen Pryor came up with a game called "101 Things to Do With a Box." This is a really excellent tool for teaching a dog about what clicker training really is - really, it's about teaching a dog how to learn on its own. Since Bug had been previously trained largely with methods like luring (luring a dog into a behavior with a treat) and modeling (physically moving a dog into the position you want it), she was at first stumped when it came to this game.

So first, I started simply by teaching her to leave a treat in my hand - "hand Zen" as Susan Ailsby calls it. Every time she would leave my hand be, she would get a click and the treat would drop onto the ground. After she had the hang of this, we started on 101 Things to Do With a Box.

Bug started by just sniffing at the box and slowly, through shaping with clicks and treats, she eventually climbed in and sat down - one step at a time, we got there. It took about three separate sessions and a total of maybe 20 minutes. I'm now working on putting that behavior on cue, but for right now the activity served its main purpose - to get her to start offering behaviors on her own.

I decided to just go for broke and try teaching her something I've always wanted to teach her but never tried - how to walk on a treadmill. Being that we live in Wisconsin, winters here can be harsh and, being a pit bull, Bug is sensitive to the cold and can't go on very long walks, even with her booties on. Being able to exercise her in the basement in the winter is a huge bonus.

Anyway, I took her down into the basement with some treats and a clicker and started shaping her to get onto the treadmill with it off (I followed the guidance of Maggie Ouillette - you can find her video guide here). That took all of thirty seconds - she offered paw on the treadmill a couple times, then I upped the criteria since she caught on so quickly, and within just a few more seconds she had all four feet on. I then got her to walk to the end (albeit, with a little luring, but I was able to fade the lure very quickly).

After that, I turned the treadmill on and set it to the lowest speed. I expected her to be a little wary of it now that it was making noise and moving, but it took her only a few seconds to figure out that this was the same game, just with new rules. I was amazed at how far she progressed. So far, about three minutes had passed. She still seemed 100% in the game, so I kept going. By the end of the training session (about two minutes later) she had gotten on the treadmill while it was moving and walked a few steps. I couldn't believe it!

The next day, we picked up where we left off. She remembered right away what this game was and was back on the treadmill in just a few tries (sometimes she would playfully "attack" the treadmill with her front paws, as if it was something to catch - it was cute, but she didn't get an click for it!). By the end of this session - about three minutes - she was consistently walking in place on the treadmill with occasional luring. I was able to increase the speed a little, as well.

I can't describe the feeling of being able to experience this kind of success in training her. I taught her (or rather, she learned) a relatively complicated behavior without any physical contact from me, and she learned it in two short sessions. We were on a roll!

1 comment: