Ashley says I should teach Idgie to free-stack for the breed ring, and so of course I decided to free-shape it.  But I don’t even know enough about free-stacking to begin free-shaping free-stacking!  So she busted out the Happy Feet (that funky box with four dumbbell looking things in it that you teach your dog to stand on) and we decided she should be totally shaped to get up on the posts, no luring or molding.  Brilliant, and challenging!  Idgie and I shaped it for a solid 45 minutes (yeah, I know, she is 17.5 weeks old and can free-shape for 45 minutes).  She started by hopping in the box, backing up in the box, spinning in the box, barking at me, hopping in and out of it, and finally a foot hit a post.  I decided my first criterion would be, touch a foot to a post, any foot, any post–with my goal being get the front feet on the front posts, then get the back feet up.  Through some serious frustration and strategic placement of reward (with head pointed high, to encourage front feet lifting) she finally had both front feet on the same post.  Then Ashely had the brillant idea of placing the post pairs right next to each other to essentially create two platforms instead of four.  This made our lives much easier and soon she was hopping up and putting both front feet on the front platform.  When she was consistent at this stage (I periodically pulled her out and grabbed her collar, got her revved, and released her back to the happy feet to see if she would resume position, which she did) I started selecting for rear foot movement.  She figured her rear feet should balance on the crease between the two halves of the box (very clever), and at first I reinforced that but soon upped my criteria to back feet touching the back posts.  I decided to end the session with a big payoff when she had two front feet on the front platform and one back foot on the rear platform.  I can’t wait to give it another shot tomorrow!

Non-Reinforceable Behaviors Offered Throughout Session

  • Spinning in the box
  • Hopping in and out of the box
  • Reversing in the box
  • Sitting and lying down in the box
  • Barking/jaw popping
  • Biting posts
  • Digging on top of and beside posts

My final thoughts for this training session:  Idgie rules.  I should not have shaped her so long, and I will try to keep her sessions shorter from now on, but I honestly didn’t notice it went that long until the conformation drop-in people started to leave and I realized our hour was up!  Baaaad dog trainering on my part:)  I am delighted with her progress but will do more pulling her out of the box next time to see that the true behavior has been established.  I am hoping to get all four feet up on the two platforms in our next session, and hopefully will quickly progress to spreading the posts apart to teach all four feet where to go.  Exciting new training project!