Behind the scenes


O.k., so let's answer some of the questions I got about LaBuBi Cleaning Team video and/or other tricks videos... People always seem to think that I'm training my dogs 24 hours a day, 7 day per week to teach all that tricks, but it's really not all that complicated, you should try it!


In that last video, I think the average duration for teaching a new trick was about two sessions, so let's say 15 minutes per trick... I think the one that took the longest was closing the washing machine as the doors are very heavy and Bi needed to push it really hard with the nose first and then immediately catch it with her feet, before it felt down again. Another challenge is synchronizing more dogs at the same time. It's no problem with two dogs, I have one eye per each:). But when it comes to three, it gets harder, they need to know their job well enough that they don't need any help from me. That was the case in Labubi Drum Band, for example. In LaBuBi Cleaning Team, it's easy when they do things one after another (washing machine trick), but when I tried scrubbing with all three, it got somewhat chaotic. The major problem is that La makes the BCs go crazy with her frantic "I can do 1001 different things at the same time, look!" attitude.



But tricks as such are all fairly easy, they're all versions of paw and nose touches and a hold. Just for the fun of it, I actually free shaped most of those tricks from zero, I could additionally shorten a process of giving them a cue what I want, but they already know pretty well that when they're presented with an object they can hold&move, they probably should do so, probably in the direction of another object that can't be moved. So putting things out and in a washing machine was a question of very few clicks. This concept, they learn already as little puppies with "put one bowl into another" trick. Packing things in/out suitcase, putting things in/out of drawer/box/washing machine, putting a cover on a dish, drumming with something in the mouth and others are just another version of this original trick, so it's very easy&quick to get those - and it's easier&quicker with every next one from this "pack".


The same goes for all other sets of tricks. Once the dog understands the concept of touching something with a paw, it's very easy to get any kind of scrubbing, closing of the doors/drawers, pushing a vacuum cleaner/skateboard, drumming with front feet, give me 5, walking on my feet, crossing paws and everything else that has to do with front feet. The same with nose touches: once the dog understands a nose touch, it's very easy to get nose touches to any parts of his body (the chicken trick from Autumn Video, touches to hips, tail, paws etc.), pushing things with nose - like La pushes a book in a drawer in my last video, opening of the faucet, pushes of the ball or closing/opening doors/drawers with a nose etc.



As always: the more things you teach, the easier every next one is as the dog already knows some general concepts and very likely, each trick has something to do with one of them. The most useful general concepts you might want to teach your dog if you want to shorten the process of teaching a new trick is nose and paw touches, hold and wait, meaning freeze in whatever position you are. It's the easiest and shortest way to prolong behaviours. 


Mostly, I only name those "general concepts" and will then use my "nose" and "paw touch" and "get it" and "wait" cue for all the different behaviours listed above. So basically "nose" means to my dogs that something needs to be touched or pushed with a nose. I don't name all the different behaviours because it would make too many words for the dogs (and me!) to remember. Whenever there is an object in play, an object as such is a cue for them what to do. If we do different things with the same object, two clicks to put them in the right direction should be enough for them to get which behaviour with that object I want this time. So no, I don't name all the tricks I teach. I mostly only name "general concepts" and the tricks that we do most, either because I use them for a warm up (left&right, jump up, back etc.) or for physical conditioning (left&right legs up, sit up to stand up etc.) or simply because I like them so much (heeling for example).



Most other tricks, I only do once we're still working on them. Once the trick is learned, it's not all that much fun for me anymore and I will very rarely do it again. For me, the most exciting part is thinking of a new trick and ways to teach it. Once the dog gets the idea, I rarely take the time to master it and put it on a verbal cue - I usually just leave it alone. That's why I can't answer a question how many tricks my dogs know... As I don't really know... They were trained for many, but then I mostly don't do them again. Surprisingly, the dogs usually remember even tricks that we didn't do for very long and didn't practice much at all anyway. Their memory really amazes me, probably because I personally have very bad memory and can hardly still remember we did that before.... And they still know! Yeap, they sure have better memory as I do! That's why it's always funny when I get questions on "I won't be able to do agility for a year - will my dog forget how to do it?". - Nope, he won't!


To answer a question if I click for every sock put in a washing machine - of course not! I never click without rewarding after it. Once the behaviour is trained and she can put a sock in a washing machine, I'll add more socks and only reward at the end. I don't click at that time at all anymore as there is nothing specific to mark anymore, she already knows what to do with those socks.


Now on a question why we see some less of La in this video: because of her small stomach... She eats four times a day and if I spend one meal for teaching tricks, that's not much at all, one fourth of what a 7kg dog eats per day... With Bu&Bi it's easy, they eat twice a day so if I spend one meal per day for tricks, that's A LOT. And no, we don't do tricks every day, we usually don't if we do agility that day or go hiking in the mountains, but the uglier the weather is, the more tricks we do, I guess:).



And yes, there are huge differences in how they learn. La is VERY enthusiastic and will do 1001 things at the same time, so it's very hard to click for me and very hard for her to figure out which of the behaviours she was offering was clicked. Considering that, she actually progresses very fast... But very often, at one point, she starts offering something completely different, usually hind/left/right legs up... And the longer I don't click it, the more intense she gets in offering it... And because of her collapsed trachea, she hardly still breaths then and even less thinks, so I sometimes need to stop her, put her in a down to "reset" her.


Bu on the other hand is much calmer and very systematic. She progresses at the same rate all the time and is probably the fastest in learning a new behaviour. Bi on the other hand doesn't have the system at all, but is VERY creative, she will throw the weirdest possible behaviours at me, one after another, or trying them to combine them in one. It makes it really funny to work with her, but it does look pretty chaotic at the beginning. And then, she gets one approximation. And on a next try, she has the final version. She always progresses in big leaps, you never know how&when she got it. Very funny. 


For me, watching them learn is always very interesting. It always amazes me how smart dogs are. Remember the "hold the object with your front legs" trick from Autumn Tricks? I always handled them an object myself, but was then wondering if they can figure out how to get a hold of it if I leave it on a floor. And they got it immediately! Well, Bi's first idea was to pick it up, throw it in my lap and try to make me handle it to her, but after two tries, she saw I'm of no help, picked it up with her month and then tried to grab it with a paw. It did take some practice to be able to do it, but she's got the insight into possible solution immediately. Very impressive!



Anyway, hope you've got some trick ideas! Have fun!


My favourite videos? Probably Dog Tricks, Winter tricks, Heeling Video, Puppy Class and LaBuBi Cleaning Team (as it's just so funny and shows their personalities so well). Who is editing the videos? It used to be my boyfriend, but he trained me well enough to mostly do it myself now (special effects excluded). He is still the camera man and takes care of sound tracks.