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OBSERVATIONS OF MARY AND SALU
I read the other student instructors’ comments, but haven’t read Kristin and Alana’s.
This is a great session; such great progress from start to finish. As an overall observation, Salu gained a much better understanding of his part of the “game” by the end of the session. At the start, he was checking in with Mary so much, that he was bypassing boxes and not actually searching through them. By the end, he showed some confidence to work a little distance from Mary and venture forth on his own, and he showed an increased understanding that he should be searching through the boxes to find the right one.
More specific observations:
I really like the repetition that begins at 2:12 is one where Salu shows increased understanding of his task. I think it is great that Salu is staying at the source even after the reward. The truffle odor hasn’t gone away, so he is doing just what he’s been asked. I especially like the very nice re-alert at 2:31 where he gets up, then sits back down right in front of the box. This shows a great understanding of his task, and clear motivation to do it: sit and stay at the odor. Though Mary now knows to pick up the box with odor, if she forgets or for some other reason Salu re-alerts and stays at the source, I would reward Salu every time this happens. Nice job Salu!
The repetition that begins at 2:55 is interesting, as he gets slightly backed off of the search by wanting to follow Mary. This is a guess, but I suspect that the obedience and therapy dog work that Mary did with him for his first 13 months involved heavily rewarding eye contact and staying with Mary (whether in heel or just leash-close proximity). If this is true, this may explain why Salu looks to Mary and follows her movements here and in some earlier reps, rather than venturing forth and sniffing the boxes.
And this ties into another observation: it seems to me that Salu works better when Mary stays more still. Salu really looks to her, so Salu wouldn’t want her to be far away at this stage, but it may help Salu realize that this exercise is not about moving with Mary’s movements. I agree with my classmates that Salu would probably be better off with the leash removed in this scenario. Removing the leash would help change the context and would remove the item that is associated with staying close to Mary and being heavily rewarded for checking in, looking away from distractions, and moving with her. Removing the leash will also prevent Mary from inadvertently backing Salu off should she accidentally apply pressure. If it would be best to keep the leash on for this exercise, then perhaps a lighter weight leash, and with a couple more feet of length, would work well.
But back to the 2:55 rep, once Salu starts searching again, he finds a distraction in the carpet. It was great that he went back to the search—on his own, without a cue–when he was done sniffing the carpet. This was another moment that showed some good understanding of the task at hand. I think a jackpot would have been appropriate at the end of this rep. Mary’s tone and enthusiasm were much lower for this specific rep, and it is reflected in Salu’s motivation. Her tone for the reward was also much less happy than for the others. Perhaps she didn’t feel that this was a very good repetition since Salu showed a little confusion then sniffed the carpet for so long. But I would tell her the opposite! Getting back on task after getting inadvertently backed off, then getting back on task again after the carpet smelling, then finishing with a beautiful sit-alert with eye contact is FANTASTIC. Totally jackpot-worthy!
Lastly, it looks to me like sitting at the source is Salu’s alert, both by what he offers and what Mary rewards most heavily. If this is the alert she wants, then I think it is developing beautifully and I love that he usually sits with correct box right between his paws. Very handy for the field!
Great job Mary and Salu!