Reply To: Week 6 Assignment


Commenting on Curt & Mo, video in post #5659

Hi Curt,

You and Mo have much to be proud of! It has been a delight to watch Mo learn and progress in the game of nosework, and it has been more than adorable to see him grow physically from a wee pup into his current “all legs” phase!

Without a doubt, Mo well understands what odor he is being asked to find, and he seems to know well your cue word “houby”. Even if the cue “houby” isn’t totally solid yet, he does understand the game and gets right to it! So continuing to pair the word with the game will solidify the verbal cue before long. He also alerts very consistently and accurately with an identifiable alert, be it a paw touch or nose touch, or both. You are to be commended for your excellent timing (with the clicker), patience, practice, and close attention to his behavior and progress throughout the class. You and Mo are both “A” students and are ready for the next level!

Your timing with the clicker is excellent. You are also very good at moving in swiftly to the odor source once Mo has alerted. Great job! This helps Mo know that he has found the right thing, and that you are excited about his find. This can heighten the reward and make the game more fun since games are always more fun when Dad jumps in and is excited about what was found!

Your patience and calm manner when Mo is working on re-locating the target in the blanket (2:30) is beautiful, and your choice to unfold the blanket to expose the target was fantastic. This was a beautiful resolution to the problem, and allowed Mo to achieve success before any stress, frustration or waning of interest could set in. A lovely assist!

Mo’s paw alert is wonderful—clear and gentle. One thing that seems pretty consistent is that he uses his paw when he can’t directly access the target, then once the target is exposed, he alerts with a nose touch. This is great and he is showing clear restraint from pawing when the target is exposed. I know for my dogs, it is actually harder for them to refrain from pawing when the target is exposed, so I think you and Mo are headed in the right direction! Since you are aiming to eliminate the paw placement and have only a nose touch, one tip that may help is to click as soon as he sniffs or noses the source of odor (even if it is covered), so that you are able to mark and interrupt the alert before he follows up with a paw touch. By clicking quickly, before he is able to get a paw on the target/object, you will soon let him know that nosing is what earns the reward, and that there is no need to proceed to pawing. Your excellent clicker skills and timing will really pay off here since this will require a very quick click within a very brief moment in time. Something you are already very capable of!

The only suggestion I have at this time to work on before the next level begins is the reward type and delivery that you offer to Mo. Though dogs love pets and scratches, most dogs don’t really enjoy a lot of handling when they are in “work” mode. Particularly around the head and with both hands. Holding and rubbing the head with both hands can feel very invasive and feel more like restraint to dogs, and they typically don’t enjoy it as much as we think they do. As you review your video, watch his body language and posture when you hold his head between both hands and rub enthusiastically. Compare this with the petting you offer at 1:51. The pet you deliver at 1:51 is very different: you are using one hand (so no restraint is involved), you are scratching UNDER his chin (so no hands approaching head-on or from above). You can see how he leans IN rather than away, and is really enjoying the cuddle. It is a much freer type of pet and is inviting rather than overbearing. In my experience, as puppies grow into their more adolescent and independent phases of development, they become much more reluctant to receive head-petting, hugging and holding—especially during times when they are training/working. For this reason, you may want to start introducing a toy reward or switch to a higher value food reward. (Higher value food reward can come in 2 forms: a better treat, or feeding for a longer duration such as breaking off pieces and feeding continuously for 10-15 seconds.) Petting may still be something he loves to receive as a reward, but how it is delivered may have to be adjusted. When thinking about what kind of petting dogs value during work/training sessions, I liken it to the way a high school coach rewards a teenage kid. At that age, the teen gets some nice pats and “great job, kid, you’ve done well” kind of recognition. Compare this to how a toddler is praised for doing something well: with cuddles, holding, and lots of rubbing and kisses. Soon Mo will want to be that teenager that gets patted and pumped up rather than babied with cooing and kisses.

Toys can also be of great use here since they can provide a very high value reward that eliminates touch, yet still includes you (as in tug or fetch). And not only do most dogs love to play as a reward, it can serve very well to build enthusiasm and ultimately hasten learning.

Don’t worry that you will lose the opportunity to give the kinds of cuddles that we humans enjoy giving to our dogs. When training/work time is over and you are back in normal “family” mode, Mo will still love his cuddles and rubs from you! 🙂

Truly, you and Mo are an amazing team and it is so impressive to see how far he’s come and how well he understands the game of finding the truffle odor. You are a fantastic trainer, supportive in just the right ways when he needs it, and able to communicate to him very clearly. His level of understanding and lack of stress is a real testament to your skills! I am excited to watch you both continue this teamwork and success in the next level of classes! Kudos!