Friday, August 12, 2011

On/off drill: declining vocalization

Today was the first day I've felt I had a clear, unambiguous indication that if Laddie is confident on a water blind with points, he doesn't yelp. The alternative, that yelping was becoming operant and possibly reinforced by success, does not seem consistent with today's results.

After I checked out the trial's water blind (which I think Laddie could have done, possibly without yelping), I felt the best use of time would be to use Gaby's technical pond, about half an hour from the test site and on the way home, for our On/Off drill: a water blind with a point, a highly visible LP, several bumpers (I used Laddie's beloved puppy bumpers), and two SLs, one bypassing the point, one crossing it.  The pond had swim-depth water in front of the point, which I believe is a requirement for the drill.  It had running water on the back side of the point, but our drought in this region is making it hard to find deep ponds.  I didn't see running water on the far side of the point as a problem.  It might even be +R for negotiating the point correctly.

We ran the retrieve a total of twenty times, ten from each SL, random alternation, with lots of rest breaks.
Laddie never once tried to veer to the point when running the bypass line, and also remained quiet for those the whole session.

When running the point-crossing line, he was noisy in the early reps: He yelped as he leapt into the water, he yelped quietly as he swam toward the point, he yelped when I had to cast him to the point if he attempted to veer off it, and he  barked when I cast him off it.

Once he began getting on the point without help, at first I was still stopping him to cast him horizontally off the point, and that would elicit a bark.  Since he clearly knew where he was going, I decided my first priority was to get a quiet dog, and stop casting him off the point.

His noisiness declined on a nearly linear curve.  He was nearly quiet on the next-to-last set of four.  And he was entirely quiet on the last set.

Oh, also, in the early going, he did some popping. That went away by the end, too.

To me this seems like promising results.  I have not yet proven the whole path to a solution.  Will we ever be able to avoid yelping if handling is required?  Will we ever be able to avoid yelping on new setups with the LP?  Will we ever be able to avoid yelping on cold water  blinds?  Will we ever be able to  graduate to high-difficulty blinds without the yelping coming back?

A long road, but a good first step, I think.

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