Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kayaking with Winnie (Part 1)

I have set the lofty goal of teaching Winnie to ride on the kayak with me.

"But Ed, what ever happened to Fetching a Beer, Part 1 and Fetching a Beer, Part 2?"

Okay, I deserved that. You're right. I have set lofty goals for Winnie in the past that have fizzled out along the way. Hunting birds comes to mind, in fact. But the beer thing probably had less to do with Winnie not being capable of the trick and more to do with her trainer consuming the test subjects until he lost interest in the game.

But riding along in the kayak is - if you can even imagine - even more useful to me than fetching a beer.

Okay, let's go with as useful.

I decided to break it down into small steps and use clicker training and lots of praise. I think if I keep doing this, she will be excited around the kayak. Then hopefully it will translate to the water. At first I had her approach the kayak and touch it with her nose. Click/treat. I started with that really basic step because you never know with her or any dog, really. She could have been afraid of a big piece of plastic in the yard that wasn't there yesterday. But she was fine with it.

Next was to put her in a sit on one side of the kayak while I went to the other. Then I'd call her and when she walked over it, click/treat.

After a few of those it was time to show Winnie her seat. Note the special custom 'W' just for her!

One paw, click/treat. Then two paws, click/treat. This was honestly about as far as I expected to get in this first session, but we had only spent about four minutes to this point, so we kept going.

It was surprisingly easy to get her to climb all the way up and sit there. My friend and fellow HWV owner Chris emailed me today and we were chatting about how great the clicker is for stuff like this, and how the dog seems to really have fun trying to figure out which behavior you want, what will make you click that clicker!

Finally I sat in the kayak and had her repeat the exercise a few times!

I know there is a lot of work ahead of us, but this first session just couldn't have gone any better. And I have to admit, after some frustrations over the past few months, it warms my heart to be reminded that this special dog does whatever I ask her to.


Anonymous said...

Way to go Winnie!! the fun part is yet to come!!! Wires are so smart!! (that part was from Cassie!)
Enjoyed the pictures...there must be some kayak company that would love them too!

Laila said...

Love it! Looks like you're going to have a great time out on the water this summer.


cleavers44 said...

I can't wait to actually see this on the river...

Ed. said...

We were out doing stuff around the yard today and started looking at the kayak again. Sandy and I both think that Winnie would fit better and be more comfortable behind me. I'll get a picture of our next session, but there's a recession large enough for her to lie down in. Thinking of getting a couple boat cushions to put down for traction and comfort.