With the new school year I start my semester-long project with a group of boys from Lad Lake -- a non-profit organization that provides services to at-risk youth. Twice a week five boys from their Day Education Program come to HAWS to learn about dog behavior, training and other topics and actually do some hands on work with our adoptable dogs.
The goal is that they will develop empathy for others, learn patience, and get motivated for academics back at school.
The boys had their first two visits to HAWS this week. The Monday their visit consisted of an orientation to HAWS. They also got to meet Niya -- one of HAWS adoptables.
On Wednesday they watched a PowerPoint presentation on clicker training, had an opportunity to practice their clicker timing with an exercise, and were able to clicker train Mystic to put his toys away.
This is a trick I've worked with Mystic on a few times, but never seem to find the time to actually take it to the next level. The completed trick consists of dog toys scattered around the room -- the dog picks up each toy one at a time and deposits it into a box. By Wednesday's session with Lad Lake I had Mystic to the point where he could pick up a toy a few feet from the box and drop it in most of the time.
At Wednesday's session I warmed Mystic up by familiarizing him with a new box and getting him somewhat consistent with picking up a toy I'd dropped on the floor and putting it into a cardboard box. Then each boy took his turn with the clicker while I gave suggestions as far as when they should click.
The boys did great, however Mystic had a very difficult time when I placed two toys on the floor. He loves carrying around multiple soft toys in his mouth at the same time (his record is 5 at once!) and he just didn't have it in him to drop one toy and leave it behind before he picked up the second. With a little brainstorming the boys and I decided that once he had deposited one toy I would throw a second toy away from the box. This seemed to work better for him.
The Lad Lake boys may be very new at this, but they have excellent timing, and seemed to understand at one point that Mystic wasn't misbehaving, but was a little stressed out. I think this is going to be a wonderful semester.