This morning a brought Laddie and an assistant out early for our second devocalization session.
Though we worked without nearby water, otherwise we repeated similar steps to our previous session.
But we had a number if changes:
- Laddie had learned to run from beside me to the lining pole when I cued "back", so that didn't need to be retaught.
- We were able to increase the size of the setup.
- I was able to remove the lining pole about halfway thru the session. That made the setup more consistent with a real handling situation, and more important for our present purposes, it removed some pressure since Laddie did not have to run to a precise location when I sent him, just the general area where the lining pole had been.
- I asked my assistant to run Laddie on the exercise a few times. That added a bit of confusion for both if them, which short-term was disadvantageous for our goal. But I felt that long-term, it might help Laddie to clarify his understanding of the cue by removing extraneous factors such as facial expressions or clothing that the girl and I do not have in common, so that Laddie could learn that such extraneous factors are irrelevant. Because of the girl's inexperience, we didn't do much of this today.
- I experimented with using just the whistle for "sit", and like yesterday, it elicited a bark, so I returned to a verbal cue. But later in the session, I tried a whistle immediately followed by the verbal cue, and Laddie was apparently comfortable with that because he didn't vocalized. I think we can eventually fade the verbal without, hopefully, noticing or being bothered by it.
- Sometimes Laddie distinctly and loudly vocalized, and like yesterday I called him back so he could not complete the retrieve. He did no-go a couple of times, but with persistence, he began taking send cue again. Sometimes he only faintly vocalized, and I elected not to stop him, but when he brought me his bumper, I just took it and tossed it in the ground, saying "leave it", and started the next rep. However, usually he was complete silent as he worked, and when he brought me his bumper for those, I excitedly threw his bumper and/or played tug with him before resuming our work.
- Finally, this was the most important change. I discovered that if I leaned slightly in the direction that I was about to cast, and then after a second or two gave the cast, Laddie seemed more comfortable then for a sudden, explosive arm motion, and never vocalized when I did that. I believe this was a major discovery that I will attempt to leverage as we continue our devocalization work.
Laddie has had a lot of physically demanding work the last few days. I'll rest him today and most of tomorrow, and in the late afternoon, we'll drive with our assistant to a training property and continue our work, once again with water in the picture.