SERIES A. Wetfoot Drill (Lumi and Laddie alternating)
With an hour available for training, I took Lumi and Laddie to the pond behind Stadler's Nursery for our third session of the Wetfoot Drill. I had time for each dog to get two retrieves.
With the four ducks planted at water's edge, I alternately sent each dog on the 40-yard swim to the now familiar location. As each dog arrived at the duck, I cued "Shake", then blew CIW, and almost immediately followed up with "Here".
Both dogs performed well on all their retrieves, with grades in the range of B+ to A.
SERIES B. Wetfoot Drill (Lumi and Laddie alternating)
Later the same day, I brought the dogs back to Stadler's pond, this time with Austin along to videotape for us.
Series B was another session of the early stage of the Wetfoot Drill, with ducks planted at water's edge and with me using both a CIW and verbal recall ("Here") to elicit the desired speedy pick-up and water re-entry.
In Series B, each dog had three retrieves, but Lumi ended up being sent five times. On her first and third bird, she dawdled too long over the bird so I called "Sit", then walked out to pick her up. After the first time, I put her on the tie-out and ran Laddie next. After the last time, since Laddie seemed to be struggling a bit with his last swim, I simply walked Lumi back to the SL and ran her again. In both cases, after my Walk Outs, Lumi performed well the next time she had a chance.
Except for Lumi's two interrupted retrieves, I was pleased with both dogs' performances, all of which I'd grade in the range of B to A. Each dog had at least one pick-up and water re-entry that I would guess is near the best that dog is capable of at this behavior.
In the dog-training paradigm as I understand it, the first step is "get the behavior". Once you find a way to do that, the next step is to build reinforcement history for that behavior. As the behavior becomes well established, you can then raise criteria (gradually move the birds a few feet further inland), proof for distractions, and generalize for location until at last the behavior has become fluent.
The Wetfoot Drill still has some question marks:
- Are the dogs finding their correct performances sufficiently rewarding that the desired version of their LWL retrieves is becoming increasingly more probable?
- Will the behavior hold up as we increase criteria, proof for distractions, and generalize for loation, or will we find that no matter how gradual the process, one or both dogs revert to an undesirable version of the behavior when certain conditions are present?
- Will some form of instinctive drift come into play, so that instead of the dogs getting continuously better, exposure to competing reinforcers turns the learning curve around and their behavior begins to deteriorate the more we practice?
Here's a video of Lumi's first attempt on Series B, when her slow pick-up, including some shopping, resulted in a Walk Out and me switching dogs before Lumi had another chance to retrieve:
Here's a video of Laddie's first retrieve on Series B:
Now it's Lumi's turn again:
I had additional video footage, but did not have time to edit it. For videos from a later session, showing significant progress on the Wetfoot Drill, click here.