Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mind Your Manners

Go Dog Goes Techie!

That’s right, why be all old fashioned and pass out dog treats with your hand when you can have a treat gizmo do all the work for you!

Meet… The Manner’s Minder!!

Please, Manner's Minder is my father, call me Marvin!

Besides the convenience and laziness-enabling features, you also eliminate ‘Piranha Syndrome’ with chompy dogs, food crumbs in pockets which make dogs eat your pants later, and can avoid long-lasting unsavory treat smell on your hands.

Basically it is the coolest thing ever.

The Pup agrees. Five paws up (or four paws and one tail). 

Actually, she agrees a little too much.

It’s turning rather… ah… unhealthy at this point. 
Pup, do you have to make-out in front of everyone???

When we first borrowed Marvin the MM from our friend for a test run before buying our own (those of us what do things the old fashioned way yet are wary of all this new fangled technology and hesitate to buy into it until we can poke it with a stick a few times to prove it won’t explode in our face) The Pup was quite perplexed.  I guess her reaction was normal (“AUUGGGHHH NOISY!” followed by “MMMMM FOOD!” transitioning quickly back to “AUUUUGGGHHH NOISY!!”) but it took her several exposures to stop cowering in fear before the almighty Marvin.

Now she is living on the other side of the coin. Now, she won’t leave the dang guy alone. Stalker, much?

If I leave him on the floor, she lays in front of him trying to impress him (Down? Sit? Butt in the air? How do you like it, Marvin?) and barking at him when he doesn’t produced food (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO MAKE YOU HAPPY??). Then I put him on the counter and she starts boinging up and down and scratching stuff trying to reach him (THEY WILL NEVER KEEP US APART MARVIN!!) If I shut him or her away in another room, she chills out, but you just know she is thinking of ways to go all Fatal Attraction on me.  If I had a bunny, it would so be boiled. 

Enforced time out- spent contemplating boiling... something!

Seriously, last night I used him to try and reward her for not going in the dishwasher.  She didn’t go in the dishwasher, but she was so frantic by the end her eyes were bright red and she was out of breath.  I tried the ‘continuous stay’ dispenser mode, but every time he said BEEP she jumped about six inches in the air and whipped her head to look at the tray (MARVIN??? My Marvin, what do you NEED??? What do you WANT???). Unhealthy.

So I have my doubts that he will get me what I need for her running contact training.  I will do a test run with the weave poles, but if she can’t use her brain AND stay hopelessly devoted to Marvin its back to boring old target training for her.  (This is the part where she reads this over my shoulder and the next thing I know she’s packing her bags to run away with Marvin and there is a scuffle and I end up dead ‘accidently’ from knife wounds.)
However- in a rather pleasant surprise, Marvin has brought out the best in The Dog.  She and Marvin seem to be the perfect fit. She didn’t let him intimidate her and needed no real intro period like The Pup (HO HUM. So food goes in and comes out, big deal my dinner bowl does the same thing). I did spend some time value building the beep, and doing some send work, but that was about all she needed.  Surprisingly, the send work was nice. REALLY nice…

So, feeling a slight twinge of optimism, I crossed my fingers and tried beginning plank work with her again. I went to the very beginning with her where the goal is Find Board, Go Across Board. And… it actually worked.  With a toy, she never noticed the board much on the flat, and certainly never really made the effort to get on it and scurry across. If she did, for whatever reason she would leap more often than not (it’s a springboard, right? It must be a springboard…). But Marvin was the perfect reward. Exciting and novel, but not TOO exciting or novel.  She LOVES food, but understands that food equals brain time and you have to offer behaviors to get it. The beep brings her to the shaping mindset.  If you are wondering, gee, duh, why didn’t you try food before? The answer is of course I did- but since she had already been introduced to targeting alongside her 2o2o contact exposure the connection was there and trying it simply brought out that underlying behavior; no matter what I did she crept along with uncertainty, never truly believing I wasn’t trying to proof. So that’s where the novel comes in- Marvin looks and acts nothing like the target. He is super cool, but she’s not infatuated (not like someone we know…).

The plan then is to slowly restart from ground up. As I have her entered (really, not much though) and don’t intend to pull from competition, at this point she can do what she wants there.  We will work on the new behavior on the side. I’m trying to make it as different as possible- I am switching to “run up” for the command in hopes that will prevent reversion.  We are working on her driving her own contact and complete, obstacle-focused independence. We will use Marvin, possibly add toys in as super jackpots, but for now just Marvin.  I feel tentatively good about this plan. (Soon, the running dowgalks will all be mine!! Mwuahahaha! Really, it will! The hinges are ordered, the supports are done and I found the perfect planks for $30!!! And now we even have a hope of a training plan… SO CLOSE!!) 

Ta-daaa! Two supports! Just need planks!!

Here’s a video of the very first attempt (sorry, too lazy to edit out the time to reset her, but you’ll live):

Yes, I rewarded every attempt she made to get on the baby plank.  She went around once, but reset happily after noting the lack of treats and tried harder the next rep.  With toys, if the reward is withheld, it results in creepy carefulness the next time- not the case here.  There was one rep, not on video, where she tried to stop and stared at me expectantly. I held out and did nothing until she chose to move along the board on her own- then giant jackpot. That was the one and only time so far she made any attempt to offer the old stuff, and she seemed to get that it wasn’t what we were going for.  I like her pace better too, she has a nice trotty stride going on rather than the inconsistent leapiness that the toy got us. I can really see why some people more strongly advocate the food thing.

Anyways. Big difference. I’d put up a comparison video of her last summer trying this with a toy to prove it, but again, I am too lazy so you need to take my word for it.  (What??? So Marvin is turning me into a lazy blob? I don't see a problem!)
So even though Marvin is causing some cat (dog?) fights for the love he bestows (two dogs plus one treat gizmo...uh oh), he is a welcome addition to our home for the time being.  I wonder if the girls will notice if I replace him with a permanent version of our own? I may need to buy him off our friend- these attachments The Pup is making are looking more than plastic cover deep…


  1. Dear Pup... twelve steps.... twelve steps!!

  2. Love, Love, Love the Manners Minder. Ok, maybe not as much as the Pup. Ours is called "the robot". River will do ANYTHING for the robot. He will also take crappy dried up treats that have been in there for 6 days, from the robot, when he would never take anything like that from me. It has to be removed if I'd like his attention on me. I'm pretty sure if the robot told him to jump off a bridge.. he'd do it. The sad look on his face when he has not earned a treat from it is priceless.

  3. I love our robot. I use it for the corgis running contacts since he doesn't care for toys and I've used it for the toller during his crate work as a puppy.

    The only thing I worry about for your RCs is that it's not that far back for her to really get up to speed and thus her striding will change when she's flat out running.

  4. I have a manners minder too but haven't used it and now I am afraid to take it out. I sure don't want to introduce another obsession in the house. UGH