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Closing the Door
Galen
tiger_spot
Today I started teaching Galen how to close the door. (I figure, if he can open it, he may as well learn to close it too. It's a useful skill, closing the door behind you....)

This morning we did a quick session starting with "touch the door," and this afternoon we got up to "give it a good big push in the correct direction" in another few minutes. I am pleased. This is clearly a task that plays into his particular skills. It is possible that the final little hump into "close the door so it latches" will present trouble of some sort, but a couple from this afternoon were nearly there so I think if we have any trouble with that trying a few from a position where I'm holding the door nearly shut to start with so that the initial push is enough to get the latch and then working backwards from there should be enough to get around it.

It's funny teaching Galen things. The usual idea with shaping[1] is that you don't put a cue on a behavior until the dog has it down pretty thoroughly, so that it's clear the cue means the finished behavior and not some kind of muddly half-attempt. Dogs that started out with clicker training and shaping as a learning method are (I am told) generally very enthusiastic about offering different behaviors or behavior variants in the presence of a clicker and the absence of a specific cue, so it generally goes quite quickly. Galen, however, wants desperately to be told what to do, so he just stares at me until I say something, and then if he doesn't recognize the instruction he'll try whatever seems to be working at the time. I suppose if I sat very patiently and tried playing 101 Things to do with a Box I might be able to get him trying more new things all by himself, but really on a daily basis quietly waiting for instructions is not a bad default behavior. So I wind up being very talkative and guiding ("Yeah! Give it another try! What got the click? How'd you do that? ::tap the door:: Was it something to do with this? YEAH!" when I'm trying to show him things, which is not in the abstract ideal but seems to work well enough for Galen.

He seems happy to have something new to work on. We haven't done any classes or anything recently, and he gets bored. I should go back to setting up little practice Rally courses in the park now and again. (He got kind of burned out on the Rally stuff because we were doing so much of it, but I bet he'd be interested again now.)


[1] Shaping is where you reward things that are increasingly like the desired behavior, starting from whatever the dog is doing that is most similar already. So in this case, I started by rewarding touching the door (because Galen is very willing to touch things -- if he hadn't been doing that right off I would have started by rewarding looking at or moving towards the door), then only touching it hard enough that it moved, then moving it in the correct direction, and once we get a few closed-all-the-ways I'll just be rewarding that, not the intermediate steps. It is distinct from luring, where you try to guide the dog into doing the correct action by, e.g., holding a treat where they can only reach it from the correct position/location (a lot of classes will start you off this way, because it's an easy technique for the human to learn), or physically manipulating the dog into position.
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This is the proper order! Ista is too small to open doors, so the fact that she can sometimes close them is not really an optimal thing. We will hear the small and disgruntled woof of a poodle who has accidentally shut herself in the bathroom again.

(The other places have enough space to maneuver, so knowing not to do it is good enough. The guest bathroom, however, has a door that tends to swing shut on its own, and most of the ways she can try to get leverage to open it when it's not latched shut run the risk of latching it. So the insight, "Hey, this risks latching the door!" is not very helpful.)

Galen is generally unwilling to go in the bathroom. There's water in there. There could be more water at any moment. Very dangerous; best to steer clear.

Hee. Poodles are water dogs. Ista is somewhat concerned that we will drown in the shower, but that is only because we are such FOOLS as to not put her in there WITH US.

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