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Discussion Starter #1
Click encouraged me to start an Asta training thread. It is humbling to post in this subforum. So many of you are excellent trainers and I really am just a beginner.

Click suggested Asta might be trained to get my medication. Can't do this - I am on 5 different medications and even I have to put the pills in a big pill box once a week so to ensure I get all my meds. Could never ask Asta to distinguish between the bottles, they all look the same.

Next suggestion have Asta bring water to me. This one might be possible.

Steps:

I give the command "Water" - Asta goes to the kitchen.
Asta picks up the water for me
Asta returns to me with the water.

Step one is very doable. Steps 2 and 3 may be difficult.

Step 2 - Pick up water bottle. I tried to get Asta to retrieve for me. He had no interest, just played with the ball or frisbee - keep away. How would y'all suggest that I train him to pick up the water bottle.

Should I start with a dumbbell and try to get him to pick that up, or just try to have him pick up the water bottle.
Do I need a separate command to pick up (which I would gradually phase out if he gets it) Should I just start with using the pick up command for cookies and treats,so that hopefully he will learn to pick up the good things first and then phase into the water bottle?

Then step 3, assuming he is good with the pick up. Return to me with the water bottle, which means he must move with the water bottle in his mouth.

Anyway, this would be very useful and I think it will be a training challenge. I like challenges.

Any advice from you super trainers would be appreciated.
 

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I saw Click's suggestion and am very glad you took her up on it. This is how we can crowd source ideas to help get things happening for each other. I think you might do very well with starting Asta on a dumbbell. since it is new to him he won't carry across the keep away he does with balls and frisbees.


I think I have a thorough discussion of how to teach a forced fetch dumbbell retrieve woven into Javelin's performance training thread, but I will give an overview here for you. Sit on a chair with Asta facing sideways in front of you with his head roughly between your knees. This way you can see what he does. Hold his collar to keep him with you. Start by showing him a cookie just out of reach in front of his nose. Push him towards it using your hand on his collar to help him understand that reaching for the cookie and later the dumbbell and eventually other objects is not optional. This way you will be able to correct him if he makes a mistake.



Now you will be ready for the dumbbell. If he likes peanut butter or squeeze cheese put a little smear of that on the bit of the dumbbell and then if he investigates and licks at it, give him a very nice treat. Repeat until he will touch the dumbbell without anything on it and fade the treats. Then you will hold the dumbbell a little further away from him and at his head level. Keeping your hand on his collar you will now push him towards the dumbbell as you did with the cookie. This will transfer understanding that the fetch is not optional to the dumbbell. Gradually hold the dumbbell closer and closer to the floor so he has to reach down to pick it up and eventually have him take it off the floor. You should also practice having him take the dumbbell from different places.


Separately teach Asta that coming to you with the dumbbell is not optional. Put him on a leash and give him the dumbbell. Stand facing him while he holds it just a foot or two away so he has to move towards you with it and tell him to come to front. Reward nicely for not dropping the dumbbell and coming close in front of you. If he drops it you will put your hand on his collar and tell him to pick the dumbbell back up and restart the come to front with him holding it. Keep him on leash and work this over short distances until he is reliable for holding it until you take it from him. Now you can add distance for him to get to you. Eventually you will take off the leash.


Once you have those things installed then you can work on sending him to get the dumbbell in different rooms and such much as you taught him to go find your DH when you need him to help you.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Catherine, thank you for the detailed instructions for teaching him with the dumbbell. I can see that this could be a good way for Asta to learn this skill. I will also revisit your Javelin thread as it chock full of information on training. Thanks a lot.
 

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Bring me a bottle of water is a useful SD skill, one I will be training Noelle to do in the future. I trained my SD Honey to go to the kitchen, open a cupboard, retrieve a Pepsi, bring the Pepsi anywhere in the house, hand the Pepsi to me, return to the kitchen, shut the cupboard door.

How did I teach this? I started with a sock. Yes, a sock. I taught Honey that she could trade a sock for a treat. First I teased her with the sock, waited for her to bite it, popped a treat in her mouth, and said thank you. We did this a whole lot. Then, oops, I dropped the sock. Well, Honey wanted the sock game to continue, so she picked up the sock. I gave her a jackpot. Soon, I only rewarded her for picking up a dropped sock.

What this did was teach Honey to trade whatever was in her mouth for a reward. And she learned to help with laundry, as a bonus.

Once we had the idea of trading anything she picked up for a treat, we moved on to a can of Pepsi. Pick it up and give it to me for a treat. I used liverwurst, which Honey loved. I rolled the can on the floor, and made the can seem like something worthwhile. I put liverwurst on the can, so she got the idea she could put her mouth on it. Soon, Honey was picking up the can and handing it to me for treats. It's essentially the trade a sock game, only with a can. Once that concept clicked in her head, and Honey was getting the Pepsi every time, I abandoned the Pepsi.

We worked on open a cupboard door with a tug. I started by dangling the tug and making it interesting, and waited for her to put her mouth on it, C/T. Slowly I raised the criteria until she was pulling the cupboard door all the way open.

Then we went back to the get a Pepsi game. I alternated between get a Pepsi, and open the cupboard. Then I showed Honey the Pepsi, put it inside the cupboard, and shut the door. I said nothing. I just waited to see what she would do. Honey's tail almost wagged off her butt. She yanked open the cupboard door, grabbed the Pepsi and handed it to me. She was so proud of herself! We had the best party together after that.

Over the next week, I moved farther and farther from the cupboard door. I moved about a foot at a time. It took about two weeks before Honey would leap off my bed, run to the kitchen, get me a Pepsi, run through the house with it and hand it to me.

There were a few glitches in the matrix, though. Once we were out of Pepsi and the cupboard was empty. Honey went into the recycling bin, got the empty Pepsi box, and dragged it through the house to me. I laughed until I hurt something. For the next week, every time I asked Honey for a Pepsi, she brought me boxes from the recycling bin. Another time, she brought me a bag of carrots instead of a Pepsi. Honey was a character, and I still miss that girl.

Start with trading objects for a treat, then move on to a water bottle once the idea is established. A dumbbell, a sock, a dish towel with a knot in it, the object doesn't matter. It's the concept of trading for treats that is your starting point. This is a fun trick to train, so keep it fun.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
What a smart girl Honey was. I like the idea of trading with a reward. Will try to think of something other than a sock as Asta thinks socks are for keep -away. On 2nd thought it might be good to associate the sock with a treat and not something to run away with. It'll have to be a good treat - I know Asta really likes chicken so maybe I will cook up some chicken and make some jerky for him. Thanks Click
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Pick it up

Asta is now very reliable about picking up treats. Stay, ok, pick it up. I am going to train him on the dumbbell next as Catherine suggests. I decided to go with the dumbbell as it will be something totally new to him, where socks are decided fun.

Catherine gave me some very useful measurements to help me select the dumbbell. Her Javvy and my Asta are about the same size (and they both are black-LOL) I did end up ordering it from training treasures - a little bit pricier than Max200, but felt more comfortable with their measurements (inches instead of cm.)

So am awaiting the dumbbell - for the next step in our training adventures.

Big shout out to Catherine for all her help - here and in PM's.
 

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You are very sweet! I hope your dumbbell comes fast and that training with it is fun and successful.
 
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Our first big outing

It is so wonderful to have y'all for mentors. Really encourages me. So today we went on out first real outing. He has only been out with me to go to the vet. We went to Tractor Supply (about a 20 minute drive from home) He was very good in the car. We stayed in the car in the parking lot and played Look at That. It was successful so a short time outside the car (no further) and more Look at That accompanied by lots of praise. He is a very praise driven dog and was very happy with lots of Good Dogs, hugs, and licks. He managed to do a Jump Up on command and covered my face up with kisses. Good boy Asta.
 

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That sounds like a great outing. It is truly better to do small steps like that than to just fly through the front door of the store. Both of my spoos love a jump up on command (give hugs is my order) as a reward.
 

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Good job going out on your first outing. That was successful. Look at that is my favorite way to help Noelle remember to engage with me in distracting situations. I'm glad you chose to take your first outing in a tiny step, rather than trying to go too far too fast. It reminded me of a Donna Hill video that helped me understand how important it is to split dog training criteria into small pieces. As you move forward with training Asta, I hope you'll keep this in mind. You're going down the right track and heading in the right direction. Yay for you!

 

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Thanks for the video, Click. Am a splitter - Asta does so much better that way. Try not to do too much at any one time. Once I get him reliable in the Tractor Supply parking lot, I will try to move to an introduction of shopping carts outside the store.
 

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While waiting for the dumbbell to arrive we have been practicing the basics again - Asta needed a refresher course, especially on stay.

We went back to Tractor Supply and made it to the scary shopping cart area, then just into the front of the store. People of course wanted to visit with Asta and he very much wanted to greet them. I put him in a sit several times and it was wiggling butt and up off the sit. Stay didn't seem to work. He wouldn't take treats at all (he is very praise driven) So we had a good, longer sit and it was time to fly away. When we got to the SUV, it was time for jump up and lots of kisses.

I think next time, I will just reinforce what he has learned so far.
 

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This all can feel like the one step forward two steps back game a lot of the time. I think you did well to get something better of a sit and stay, and then leave on that. A lot of training is to know how not to push things too far and how to make sure there is something wonderful to praise in the last thing you did!
 

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Since sit/stay is too difficult in that environment, work on Look at That. What I found useful with the Look at That game was it gave Noelle permission to feel distracted, and trained her to re-focus on me, at the same time. It's a brilliant game. Look at that extremely interesting thing over there, now look at me for a reward. Noelle is now able to nod at interesting stuff and then turning back at me. Train Look at That. Donna Hill on YouTube has the best video I've ever seen on how to train it. Look at That is in my top five most valuable things I've trained Noelle.

Loud banging cart? Look at that!
Screaming toddler? Look at that!
Barking dog? Look at that!
Squirrel running past? Look at that!

Acknowledge that the environment is full of interesting things, and at the same time, connect with me. That's what the Look at That game does for your dog. Instead of fighting the dog's distraction, nagging for sit, sit, sit, sit, and getting frustrated, you have a chance to use distractions to your advantage. As a SD, you also have something you can use if you're presented with a suddenly challenging situation for your dog.

Noelle and I went to a shopping mall recently. There were stylized mannequins in all the windows. Vaguely human shapes, all in black, wearing clothes. They were kinda creepy for me. Poor Noelle stopped in her tracks and just froze. What the h3ll are those? She was getting freaked out, so I laughed and said, "Look at that!" And as soon as I did, the spell was broken. Oh, those are things I should look at, and then... oh, that's right, Mom's here. I'm not by myself. We're ok, let's go shopping.

Next time you're at the store, practice look at that. Sit/stay can wait. I'd like Asta to tune into your wave length outside the store, and Look at That helps with that a lot.

Now, about training around cooing strangers. This is the hard part. Cooing strangers are not helping you train your dog. Cooing strangers are actively sabotaging what you're trying to do. They get in your space, and try to pet your dog, and now your dog is more cranked up, and everything falls apart. Practice taking steps to avoid the cooing crowd.

The protocol for training service dogs around the cooing strangers.
(If Level 1 doesn't work, move on to Level 2, etc.)

Level 1. No eye contact with strangers and treat them like a kitchen table, eyes on your dog.
Level 2. Take several quick steps in the opposite direction while telling you dog to heel.
Level 3. Turn your back to the stranger (if safe, if cooing stranger is scary, do not do this.)
Level 4. Pretend to scold your dog, "No flirting!" (Train this at home with high level rewards so "No Flirting" actually means, "OMG, Mom's got chicken!")
Level 5. Make a stop sign motion with your hand, "We're training right now. We need space."

There is no level 6. Level 6 is you leaving the situation. Asta is training to be your SD. SD's are trained to ignore people who want to say hi and focus on their handler. Training SD's to ignore strangers starts with you learning to ignore the cooing public. I basically treat cooing strangers like furniture. Most of the time, Level 1 gets the point across.

I've trained myself, a cooing strange is my cue to pay closer attention to Noelle. Classical conditioning works on people, too!
 

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Guess what arrived today - Asta's dumbbell. It is the perfect size (Thank you Catherine) Now a new training adventure. I have already been luring him to my hand and he had a really good sniff at the dumbbell. Happy.
 

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Progress report: Have started on the dumbbell. Am grateful that he does not seem to think it's a toy. He will now pick it up and drop quickly. Next will try to get him to, as y'all say, go to front so he knows I am serious and try to get him to drop into my hand.

Outings: We have had another visit to Tractor Supply and he did much better than he was before. A little out front of me, hard to make him heel but he will turn his head back to me to check in. When he does that I tell him to come and get him back by my side.

I am finding that so much depends on me being calm and patient. Look for the little improvements and build on them .

Once again, I thank y'all for your training/performance posts. PF is awesome.
 

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New command for my depression

"Stay close" is my new command for Asta to come and stay with me until he is released. Asta already had a good basis on the behavior so I just put the command with it and taught him to stay until release. Having him with me really helps me with depression. I pet him (which is very relaxing to me) and he will situate himself pressed up to me. He often will put his head on my leg and look up at me with his beautiful questioning eyes.

Otherwise we are still struggling with the dumbbell. Working now on getting him to "hold" the dumbbell. He is very good with "pick it up"
 

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Claire try having Asta take the dumbbell from you while you sit in front of him. You can hold one hand under his snout lightly and pet him with the other while soothingly telling him "good hold." Start with just 3-5 seconds of that and then tell him "give" and take the dumbbell with one hand while giving him a cookie with the other. Gradually increase the duration as his hold improves. Try not to let him drop it. If he does say oops and have him take it right away then shorten the duration a tiny bit. Once he is good on the hold then you can start to add some movement while he holds it. I would put him on a leash for this and just back away from Asta one step while you tell him come and hold. After that have him take it off the floor and come one or two steps to you with it. Be patient with working each of the parts and gradually combine them and he will get the idea.This is essentially what I had to do with Javelin for the dumbbell and am doing now for gloves (and other things). You are doing just great!
 
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I love "stay close!" What a beautiful task for him to do. Keep taking Asta on training missions. Remember that loose leash walking is what you need for SD work, not formal heeling. Calling him back to you when he's distracted or out of position is the right thing to do.

Are you going into the store, or still working outdoors?
 
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