Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Relearning Toy

Teaching Ranger K-9 sign has a lot in common with teaching my children to speak. Sometimes it takes a parent to see/hear the very subtle differences. We took advantage of the proximity of the point and shoot with video ability to record some video during one of our unscheduled language lessons.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/33350160@N02/5639592562/in/photostream  or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4ZUkk-JAdE As I watched them later I realized that while to me the distinction between how Ranger signs cheese and chicken is fairly clear it might not be to someone else watching the video. Just like a child learning to speak Ranger isn't always very precise about his "diction." When I'm asking him to identify cheese I see a more pronounced bend to his leg and the leg not being lifted as high. Chicken shows a less pronounced bend and his leg is lifted higher. In watching the videos I'm also reminded that I have higher expectations for the form of the sign than my daughter does. I was very pleased in watching the video to see that even though her signed question, "What is that?" was actually signed as "Is what that?" Ranger was still able to understand the question and respond appropriately. http://www.flickr.com/photos/33350160@N02/5639520152/in/photostream/ or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCju8OWOK6Q

When we moved from cheese and chicken to toy it was obvious that we haven't been using the toy sign much lately. I was amused to see him run through all three food signs in an effort to get the toy.  I also wished that I'd had a clicker so that I could have marked his correct use of the toy sign before he switched to the food signs again. In the video I could see a couple of times when he started to lift the right paw but instead signed with the left. My sense is that he does know toy but that lately he's been rewarded so much for food signs that they have become his default choice. Ranger will be getting to play with the bear of squeakiness (yes it is a silly name) and other toys a lot in the days to come with a variety of edible treats mixed in. http://www.flickr.com/photos/33350160@N02/5639552782/in/photostream/ or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X12_tGo_7rM

In the meantime I'll lament the fact that we would be in a position to video on a day when there's laundry everywhere and plenty of other mess. Not that I'm ever a good housekeeper but I don't always have laundry baskets and boxes for outgrown clothes all over my living room.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


For reasons I haven't yet fathomed Ranger greets our Schwan's delivery guy with wild exuberance. He is the only one who receives this kind of greeting from Ranger. He does bring treats which he gives to Ranger but he doesn't give them to him until Ranger is sitting politely. When Ranger jumps on him all he does is step back then when Ranger sits he fishes in his pocket for a treat. I haven't tried to retrain Ranger from this behavior because I think that secretly the Schwans delivery guy enjoys being the only one for whom Ranger goes crazy. And perhaps that's the reason Ranger does it. Even though he doesn't get an overt reinforcement there's a covert one that I'm not recognizing. That's neither here nor there. I wanted to mention what I saw during our last transaction. Ranger greeted the delivery person with his usual exuberance, including jumping on him. Then he immediately sat and started rapidly signing Food over and over until the treat arrived. He's definitely embraced the idea that the lift and set down of the left paw means food.

We've been working with him on the signs for Chicken and Cheese. My goal is to get him to the point where there is a general category of chicken and the same for cheese. I may be making progress. When we were at Naturally 4 Paws I noticed the treat they were about to give him was labeled chicken so I asked Ranger what it was. He signed Food. I asked what kind of food and he signed Chicken. The clerk was so impressed she had the other staff watch while he did it again. Of course later when I asked Ranger to identify a toy he was excited about he immediately signed Chicken. I asked him if he thought it was food and he switched to the Toy sign. We haven't asked him to use the Toy sign a lot lately but we have been working Chicken and Cheese. The stuffed corduroy bear with lots of squeakers was a huge hit with Ranger so I'm sure he'll find ample opportunities to use the Toy sign in future.