What to do when a cue is ignored/responded to in her own sweet time?

Discussion in 'Labrador Training' started by Lara, Feb 16, 2017 at 6:09 PM.

  1. Lara

    Lara Registered Users

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    First of all, I apologise in advance for the flurry of questions I am going to post in the next few days - decided to get myself sorted with a clear plan for indie's training finally, as currently am training bits and bobs and feeling stressed about all the other things I am not working on/am letting slide. So I thought a clear plan would make me feel less overwhelmed by it.

    Anyway, this is a general question about how to deal with ignoring a cue/responding slowly or sloppily. For example, if I blow my stop whistle out in the field where we train and Indie carries on sniffing about, or stands and stares at a bird in the distance instead of turning and sitting, what should I do? I know I should take it to mean that the distraction level is too much for her, but given that she has a 90% success rate with stop in that field (and at some point she has to get used to performing when there is a bird in the sky), should I blow the whistle again? Go to her and ask her to turn and sit? If I give the cue again and she does it perfectly, do I reward her? Or is that showing her that it is fine to respond to the cue whenever suits her and she gets the treat regardless? If I should only give the cue once and if she ignores it, and I just wait and then give up for a while, will she learn that she can ignore the cue and happily carry on with what she was doing? What if she does respond but wanders about sniffing first and then sits grudgingly after 5 seconds? Reward or not?

    I used stop as an example but it applies to pretty much anything I ask her to do outdoors - she listens to me almost all of the time now but I'm a bit confused as to what to do on the odd time that she doesn't. I am only talking about behaviours she knows well though, and fails to do due to innattention - not behaviours that she is learning and gets confused about in the outdoor setting, or times when an obvious big distraction has appeared like another dog. In those cases, of course I would realise that I needed more teaching at home before asking for it outdoors, or more careful proofing. Any advice would be gratefully received :)
     
  2. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    If she doesn't respond - or responds slowly, then the level of distraction is too high for her, right then and there, for whatever reason you probably can't see. So, there's no point immediately blowing your stop again, because nothing has changed, unless you think either she didn't hear the first time, or she has tuned into you more since you blew it (eg moved away from the smell she was sniffing at). Instead, go and get her, engage her (play some focus games, maybe) and then practice your cue again. You can work on things like stop from a hunt separately - pretend to place a dummy, send her to it and blow your hunt whistle, then blow the stop, throw a dummy and send her to it. If she doesn't stop hunting, she won't get to self reward because there's no dummy there and she'll learn that you know what you're talking about so are worth listening to :)

    So, to answer your questions, if your criteria haven't been met, then don't reward. But think carefully about those criteria in the context of the distractions she's obviously faced with (I say "obviously", even though they may not be obvious to you!). So, under that level of distraction, is a slow sit actually pretty good and just something to be worked on to make it snappier? Or, do you think she needs to have some repetitions where you only mark and reward the sharper ones? You really need to make that judgement yourself.
    If she doesn't respond to the first cue, but does to the second, then absolutely reward at that point. Take the cue and behaviour as a single unit; when you give a cue, you need to forget what happened before that cue.

    In general, it sounds like you need to do more work on keeping her engaged with you, so she always has one ear/eye focussed on what you're doing. The hunt/stop game above can help with that, but also fun things like "sausage tree" and similar will make sure she is always aware of what you're up to.
     
  3. Lara

    Lara Registered Users

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    Thanks so much that is very helpful! So, these times when she ignores me, the distraction seems very transient and never something I am aware of. I think it's sometimes a bird flying past, the sound of a distant tractor (which she is scared of), a fleeting sniff of something on the wind. Almost every time that I have repeated a command in these situations, she has reoriented to me and done what she was asked. When she hasn't, I realise it's a more pervasive distraction that isn't going away, like a bird in a tree or a fresh rabbit scent right next to her. So from what you say, perhaps in those situations it is ok to repeat the cue, or get her attention and then repeat the cue?

    When deciding on my criteria for a given situation, it's hard when I don't know what is distracting her and how distracted she is at a certain moment. I don't really know whether I should be pleased with any sort of sit, for example, when a crow flies past, or whether I should expect a quick neat sit because crows shouldn't be that distracting. If I continue to reward a slow sit when crows are around, will I ever be able to up my criteria? Or will crows carry on being the same level of distraction? I think I have a fundamental confusion of what 'proofing' really means...

    I've been working for a few months now on keeping her attention on walks. I squeak and caper from sausage tree to cheese tussock like a mad sardine-scented mud witch. We bounce around doing off lead heel, a few retrieves, recalls, stops, running together, changing directions, and it has made a world of difference. But we do still have transient moments of 'wait a minute I think I smelled something...oh no it's not that great...ok what did you ask me to do?'. But the stop from hunt sounds a good one to add (although her drive for retrieving is sometimes a little bit weaker than I'd like...that's another future thread :)) and I will try to think carefully about my criteria before I go out so I am clearer in my feedback for her. Thank you :)
     

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