I met with a new trainer (who I absolutely ADORE!!!) and she taught me how to put a relax cue on command. So I’ve been working with Inara, trying to teach her that she gets a click/treat when she sprawls flat on her side. It was a long process because I didn’t use luring at all, just shaping.
I decided she would start earning every piece of her kibble for dinner. I started with clicking her for a down, then waited until she shifted onto one hip while down. This didn’t take too too long. Then I hit an impasse – she wouldn’t scootch any more onto her side unless she was completely throwing herself onto her back and then jumping back up to see if that earned a click. It was very hectic and not at all what I wanted. I was getting super frustrated and very close to emailing my trainer – “WTF am I doing wrong???”
So I changed tactics. I noticed that before she threw herself onto her back, her head went down towards the ground sideways (cheek-first). So I ignored her hips and started clicking when her cheek turned towards the floor. She caught on pretty quickly, so I raised the standards and waited until her cheek was facing down and close to the ground. Then I waited until her cheek was on the ground. This was an amusing stage as she was doing her best to lay straight but with her head all twisted so her cheek was on the ground and she could still watch me. Very funny.
So I clicked/treated the cheek on the ground several times, and then one time she just calmly rolled flat onto her side. Click and treat treat treat treat treat, a whole bunch in a row, while she was on her side. Then I tossed a treat away from her to get her up and moving, and when she came back, I said, “Inara, relax” and she paused for a minute…and then gently laid flat on her side. I clicked and dumped out the treat bag for her as a jackpot and we ended.
Tonight we practiced it in different areas of the living room, and alternating between me sitting and standing. Sheesh, what a difference each change made! Regardless, she was figuring it out quickly. Each of our sessions is approximately 30 minutes long, which I know is long, but she’s earning her dinner and staying engaged so I think it’s okay.
I’m pretty excited. Once she gets this solid inside, I’ll take it outside and to pet stores. My trainer even said she’d be willing to let us come practice it outside her classes, which would be fantastic. Eventually I’ll combine it with a mat and hopefully she’ll learn to associate the mat with relaxing. Very neat stuff, this shaping.