Monthly Archives: January 2012

Molly, Get The Light

Last time I wrote here, I was showing off Molly’s “Easy Trick,” wherein she would push a Staples button on command, triggering it to say, “That was easy.”

Soon after she was rock solid on that trick, we began training her on a new one. One day, when I was sitting on the floor, tying my shoes, I noticed Molly sniff a touch-activated light on a table, causing the light to turn on. She hadn’t done it on purpose, it was just sniffing things. Still, I rewarded her with lots of praise for it. This gave me the idea to teach her to turn on the light on command.

Since she already understood “target,” pressing her nose to a plastic Frisbee used only for the targeting exercise, it wasn’t hard to get her to target the light. At first, I propped the Frizbee up against the light and had her target it a few times. Then, I took the Frizbee away. She was having a little trouble figuring out what I wanted, so I switched tactics. I place a treat on the base of the lamp and told her to get it. She did, and I clicked and rewarded her. As there was just a treat on the base of the lamp, she went back to sniff it. Click. Treat. Now we’re getting somewhere.

At first I rewarded Molly for any interaction at all with the lamp, whether the light came on or not. She figured out to go for the lamp in a matter of minutes. Things got difficult, however, when I made actually activating the lamp a condition for getting a reward. Fur, it turns out, doesn’t lend itself well to the use of a touch activated lamp. Poor Molly would try so hard to get the light to turn on, and would get frustrated. This was a problem that we could not continue until it could be fixed.

The solution is an odd one. I bought some beef-flavored dog-food sauce from the pet store a few days prior, and Molly had been happy to have it in her bowl. I spread a small amount of it on the lamp (ew, I know. I cleaned it afterwards.) When Molly licked it, her tongue would activate the light, and I’d reward her with a treat. By the nature of what she was doing, gradually there was less sauce to lick up. By the time it was gone, it didn’t matter because she’d learned that licking the light got her the reward.

You’ll notice in the video that I’m no longer clicking. I learned from the button game to use the effect of what she’s doing (making the button sound) was the indication she was about to be rewarded (I learned this after recording the button video.) I still use a clicker in early stages of training, but once she’s good at something, I let what she does be the reward indication. In this case, the light coming on became the replacement for the “click.” This is what works for my dog, your results may vary.

Molly’s “Easy Trick”

In Molly’s puppy training, we taught her “target.” For her, “target” means touching her nose to a hard plastic Frizbee used only for this exercise (her play Frizbee is soft and looks different.) It took her a little while to figure this out. In class, she didn’t get it at all, and focused on the instructor instead. So we practiced at home.

The problem was that, while Molly associated hearing a “click” with getting a treat, she didn’t seem to associate the click with what she was doing. I’d click her for looking at the Frizbee and give her a treat, and so she’d pay attention to me, hoping for another, and ignore the Frizbee. Eventually, I started to place the treats on the Frizbee. I also discovered that she was motivated more by attention and praise than by treats alone.

Molly is smart, so she figured out the game very quickly. Within a few minutes, I no longer needed to cheat. I could say “target” and she’d go for the Frizbee. It took us a few sessions for her to figure out that I wanted her to touch it with her nose, but she soon understood. Before long, we started hiding the Frizbee for Molly to find. It became a fun game.

Since she was doing so well, we started looking for ways to build upon “target.” I remembered once seeing a therapy dog in a hospital push a Staples “Easy Button” for the amusement of patients, and decided we’d try that. Molly figured it out in one session.

First, we did some review with targeting the Frizbee. Then, placed the button on top of the Frizbee. When that wasn’t a problem for my pup, I took the Frizbee away, leaving the button. At first, I rewarded her for showing any interest in the button at all, just as I did when first teaching “Target.” Then, I rewarded her for touching it. I rewarded her extra if she managed to actually activate the button, causing it to say, “That was easy.”

Presently, we’re tying to teach her how to activate a touch lamp. She figured it out in about 1 minute, but the problem is that she isn’t always able to activate the sensor and actually turn the light on and off easily.

Congratulations Molly!

Despite my chronic tardiness and occasional laziness, Molly has graduated from Puppy Education at PetSmart. Woof! They grow up so fast.

She’s really learned a lot! I never knew what a smart dog I had until I started training her. Among her classmates, I believe that she may very well have the best “sit” and “leave it,” although she lags behind a few other dogs when it comes to focus. It’s OK pup, we’ll work on it! :)

Next, Molly will be going to Click-A-Trick classes before tackling intermediate and advanced classes each in turn. Molly is a people-pleaser and loves positive attention. She also loves using her brain and trying to figure out what I’m asking of her – it’s a game! And now that she understands the clicker, training her is much easier. Not only that, but Molly loves getting out of the house to go on a special trip, going for car rides, meeting different people and dogs, sniffing around the pet store, and class itself and all the games and treats that come with it. Training makes for a happy pup!

So far, she knows:

  • Sit (she actually already knew this before we got her.)
  • Come (she knows come, but the reliability varies depending on distractions.)
  • Lay Down
  • Target (touching an object, in this case a plastic Frizbee used only for this purpose, with her nose.)
  • Stay (She’s not rock solid on it yet, but we’re getting there.)
  • Leave it (not touching a treat or object even if I set in on the ground in front of her or hold it in front of her nose until I tell her “free” or “take it.”)

We’ve also been able to use what we’ve learned about clicker training to make bath time a bit better for her. She still doesn’t like baths,
but I can now wash her without having to tie her leash to the shower bar. Everything’s better with treats, it seems.

She also knows “button,” which was not exactly taught in the class, but the class definitely helped. Since Molly already knew “target,” learning to push a Staples “Easy Button” on command with her paw was a snap (or a “click,” really,) for my clever puppy and only took about five minutes. Like the button says, “that was easy.”

The “button” trick is simple, but I actually got the idea to teach that from a therapy dog who I saw when I was in physical therapy back when I was in the Army. This big Malamute mix named Kodiak pushed his easy button, along with doing other neat tricks. Since Molly learned target from the class, we built upon it with “button.”

Maybe she’d like to be a therapy dog some day.

ETA: I love the trainer’s penmanship. :) She wrote the certificates for us while we were there, rather than having them prepared beforehand, because she wanted to be ensured that she wrote each name correctly. She told us that she once came across a dog whose name was pronounced “Fido,” but turned out to be spelled “Phidoux.”

I told her Molly was spelled “M-O-L-L-Y… X.”

Parenting Fails: Don’t Let Bigotry Win, Buy Girl Scout Cookies

Last fall, a Colorado Girl Scout troop admitted a 7-year-old transgender child, Bobby Montoya, after excluding her for some time. In a refreshing turn towards progress, the Girl Scouts of Colorado released a statement welcoming transgender children. I’d call that a major win. Cheers to the young GIRL, and to her family, friends, and other supporters. 

Oh, but did the Chicken-Littles of the world ever shit their pants. Three Girl Scout leaders in Louisiana had a hissy fit and disbanded their groups (because they evidently didn’t give a shit about their own scouts,) and even described the inclusion of the transgender child as “almost dangerous,” as ridiculous as that is.

But the bitchfest didn’t end there – Oh, no! One transphobic scout, Taylor, out in California is trying to organize a boycott of Girl Scout cookies because she can’t stand that the girl scouts includes all girls including transgirls. Yes, this transgender child is a girl, despite the body that she was born in. And of course, Taylor, like the other Chicken Littles, also implies that including transgirls is somehow unsafe, yet declines to actually explain how. So much for “girls of good character.”

In some remarkable irony, she cites a publication stating the importance of girls being able to talk to other girls about things they couldn’t talk about to boys, and also the importance of someone being free to be themselves. Somehow, she doesn’t see how these same things apply to the young transgendered child.

I don’t care how old (14, evidently) this little bigot is, Taylor is a nasty bitch. Either her parents have utterly failed to raise her with any common sense or decency, OR her parents actively coach and encourage her intolerance. Either way, this is a mighty disgusting parenting fail.

Fuck this little brat’s cookie boycott. I’ll be buying plenty of extra Girl Scout cookies this year. Cheers to young Bobby Montoya.

Support the Girl Scouts. Support equality. Support Progress. Support LGBT rights. Buy some damned cookies. 

ETA: Please check out this awesome plea to not support the cookie boycott made by a transgendered former Girl Scout.

Tranquilizer Guns, A Childfree Fantasy

This ad made me giggle like a maniac. 

I found it on the page of a childfree discussion board, which is what made it stand out. Um, talk about wrong demographic. Fussy babies that won’t go to sleep are not a problem that childfree people have to deal with, normally. But no matter, I’m sure it wasn’t intentional.

What made me laugh was how ridiculously vague the ad itself was. It just advertises that the baby will be asleep in 20 seconds (which is an absurd claim as it is) but doesn’t give you any hint as to how. Being a fucked up individual, I started making up my own ideas. 

I remember when I was in the Army, our combatives instructor showed us a few blood choke techniques that put people out pretty fast. Hey, I admitted to being a fucked up individual, didn’t I? Nah, it couldn’t be that.

Maybe it was sleep meds. That would be believable, considering how eager modern parents are to medicate their children to manage their behavior, rather than actually putting fourth any effort to raise them properly. So why couldn’t it be sleep meds?

Or, better yet, maybe it was a tranquilizer gun? OH! Then it wouldn’t seem so out of place on a childfree site, at least. I know I’d buy one. A tranq gun would make my next trip to Denny’s so much more pleasant. Hell, if I could get one fitted with a scope I could enforce “nap time” on the greenery in front of my house and actually enjoy quiet afternoons.

Excited about the possibility of a baby tranq gun, I clicked the link. See, this is why I shouldn’t let my imagination run wild, my fantasies always set me up for disappointment. It turns out it’s just a book and a soundtrack.


I really shouldn’t have to write this here, but some people really do take things way to seriously. THIS IS A JOKE! I DON’T ACTUALLY WANT TO SNIPE KIDS WITH A TRANQ GUN FROM MY BEDROOM WINDOW, OR FROM MY SEAT IN RESTAURANTS.

Ok, well, maybe I do want to… sometimes… a little.


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