Saturday, January 17, 2009

21 D Using the Zipper Part 2-Pulling Up

Once your dog can pull the basic zipper on a pack, progress to real clothing.

1. Choose a zipper than is sturdy and slides easily. If the zipper tab is small, you will need to add an extension to make it easier for your dog to grip with her mouth. This can be a shoelace with a large plastic or wooden bead, thin cotton or nylon rope, or even a commercial zipper tab as long as it is comfortable in your dg's mouth. (see part 1 video for ideas)

I recommend against using a partial zipper (such for a pullover the head type fleece or shirt) for a couple of reasons.
a. It is too short to really give the idea of a zipper.
b. The dog has to work very close to your face, unless you can figure out a way to rig up the garment on a piece of wood or thick cardboard. 
c. It will be more challenging to get the dog in correct position to pull up as the zipper is higher. 
It will be easier to teach this to your dog once she understands the basic concepts up pulling up and down on an easier zipper.

2. Place the dog on a surface so that her nose is at zipper level and you are positioned comfortably. A low chair worked well when I was kneeing. A pad under the knees is more comfortable than on the floor. You could stand up if you have a higher surface like a crate top or grooming table to place the dog on. or the dog could stand on a footstool in front of you while you sit on a chair. (see later videos)

3. Connect the zipper at the bottom of the garment and zip it up an inch or so. Start shaping a touch, take and pull as before with the new zipper.

Hold the base of the zipper with one hand to make it easier for the dog to pull against. This will be faded at a later date, after the dog learns to manipulate the zipper and it's direction with her mouth.

4. Have the dog target and grab the zipper tab as with the backpack.  Once she is consistently grabbing the zipper tab, lower yourself a little so she has to lean down and pull up. Really focus on marking the upward motion from this point forward. Try to time your click for when the zipper is actually moving, or if your dog is tipping her head upward. This indicates she understands that pulling up, not tug, is the desired behavior.  Reset the zipper to the bottom after each pull. With practice keep asking for a little more distance until she can pull the zipper all the way up.

In the video below, I show two dogs learning.
The second one I use wait time to get more of the pulling up behavior. 
You could also use a repeat cue, (such as 'again') to double the pull if your dog knows it. 
See this video.

Using my approach, we are starting with successive approximation and progressing to shaping. I bet you thought they were the same thing! Successive approximation involves changing environmental criteria (the trainer's position, dog's location etc) where as shaping is keeping the environment the same but changing the dog's behavior incrementally.