February 17, 2009

Fundraising Training

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Yesterday I spent about a half an hour teaching Dazzle to do the fundraising trick I have taught my other dogs. They will take a dollar (or $5 or $10 :-) from a person and drop it in a bucket/bowl. To see them in action at Bass Pro raising funds for the local disaster response team for animals, view this YouTube video I made last year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bee17QsDGPg
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As you can see, they enjoy their "jobs" and have raised thousands of dollars for various organizations and projects like the disaster team, search and rescue dogs, providing bullet proof vests to local police K-9's and our Dog Scout troop.
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The first video starts with targeting a crumpled, fake dollar bill. After he targets it a few times with his nose, I start tossing it and clicking him for touching it. He offers picking it up on his own. I used fake money because it's normal for the dog to occasionally tear the money during practice (and sometimes even when they are good at the behavior.) I crumple it in a ball at first to reduce the chances that it will get torn and to make it easier for the dog to pick it up. As you'll see in later videos, when it's less crumpled, he tears the bill a few times.
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I did edit the video to remove the barking dog distraction, cat distraction and when I jiggled the camera trying to move it, nearly knocking it over. But other than that, I included everything he did in the following videos from start to finish.
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Dazzle had the advantage of watching Coyote cleaning up his toys (putting them in the toy bin) and helping me pick up various things I had dropped, and Dazzle enjoys retrieving toys and other objects, so if you try this with your dog, it might take longer.
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I stayed mostly silent and you can hear the clicks and what I say on the video. The gate you see part of was up to protect the video camera and block access to the toy box, but I don't think I really needed it.
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Video 2 was after a very short break and it is just over 8 minutes long so it might take some time to load. In this video I introduce the bowl. I use a bowl with as wide an opening as possible to give the dog the best chance possible. At first he seems to get some lucky shots, but I don't know! If he tries to remove a bill from the bowl, it gets no click. Tearing a bill also gets no click and I simply remove the pieces and start again with a new bill. Funny note: when I'm out with Bear and Coyote doing a fundraiser, Bear will sometimes take money out of Coyote's bowl when Coyote's not looking and put it in his own bowl! LOL

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Video 3 is only 2 minutes and is filmed after a short break. In this one, I start using a new bill for each retrieve (as will be the case in a real fundraiser.) The bills are a bit less crumpled. There are a few times he is clearly deliberate in his placing of the bill in the bowl. There have been several times when he checks the bowl for the bill right from the start. When I started using different bills and leaving previously retrieved bills in the bowl, he got a bit confused. It's like he was saying "but there is already a bill IN the bowl!" or maybe he thought he hit the bowl.
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Video 4 is the last one of the training session and is only about a minute and a half long. I start with the bowl where it had been, but then move it farther away from me and to the side. For most dogs, this is a big change and a difficult step. Dazzle just took it in stride and we ended on a positive note. The entire session from start to finish used 1 cup of kibble and lasted less than 1/2 an hour.
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From here, I'll start working with real money, having him get it from other people and practicing in different locations. I'll do this by starting with the level of behavior he is doing well and working him up to the level I want to work on.
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