Thursday, 25 May 2017

Go Bone Review

GO GO Gadget Go Bone!

One of our latest gadgety arrivals at GearedUpGreyhound is the Go Bone.  We happened upon the Kickstarter last July thanks to a friend sharing it on social media.  It did take several months for our model to land as the makers fine-tuned the product and the scaled-up processing.  However, it has definitely been worth the wait as it is clear from the moment I opened the package that the designers spared no effort in ensuring the final device would meet the promised quality.

Pre-orders at a special reduced price are now on for the next production run!  So if you fancy trying one of these for your own dog after you finish reading my review, hop on over to My Go Bone to secure yours!

The GoBone is a bit like having a radio-controlled car just for your dog.  Using the associated free app (Android and iOS compatible options) you can send it racing around the floor either on an automatic play function (with manual speed settings to suit your pet--Ali hound does best with FAST!) or a Freestyle Play function that allows you to control direction, speed, and spin manually using the intuitive circle control or the independent wheel controls.

The device is pretty much plug and play once you have installed the app and charged the GoBone with the included USB cord.  A solid double tap on the shaft wakes the unit and the app will automatically pair with the GoBone allowing for rapid start of play.  You can toggle between the control options just by turning your phone to orient it for the desired control.  And to make sure you can capture the unbridled doggy joy happening in front of you, the app included a video feature (the red button) that will allow you to record while you play and then save the video to your smart device or share immediately to your favorite platform.  Here is Ali with her first in-app video posted to Facebook.

The test versions were subjected to rigorous trials with many different types and sizes of dogs, including shelter dogs, and contributed to developing a number of key design features to ensure the commercial models can stand up to quite vigorous attentions.  The brains and drive mechanisms are completely encased in a protective housing made of food-grade nylon and synthetic rubber.  The modular housing includes a shaft and the wheels, giving it the classic "dog bone" shape.  All of the modular housing components can be removed to allow for easy cleaning and replaced if they become worn or damaged.   The GoBone is not designed to be thrown like a fetch toy, although in testing the makers have found it can be dropped from heights of 10 feet without noticeable effects, so it will stand up to a bit of tossing around by a dog.  It is splash and slobber resistant so real drooly dogs will be able to use it.  Caution should be exercised with heavy chewers and it should always be used under supervision to ensure the dog does not crack the housing or consume parts of the device.
The wheels have been designed with a recessed groove along the inner edge to allow small treats or kibble or gooey incentives such as peanut butter to be spread to further reward interaction for dogs that may be unsure of the toy or not immediately motivated by it's exciting movement.
Being able to search, stalk, chase, grab/pull/dissect, and then eat forms the full predatory sequence in our dogs' wolf ancestors and many of our modern breeds will continue to express parts of this sequence, sometimes in a strangely fragmentary way.  Retrievers, for example, may obsessively grab and carry a thrown toy.  Collies can obsessively stalk sheep.  Greyhounds like Ali have been highly selected to chase.  Many progressive behaviorists recommend that we find ways of engaging our dog's innate drives to help them feel mentally and physically fulfilled in their lives.  The GoBone provides an excellent way for a dog with a strong prey drive to engage in those predatory sequence behaviors in a controlled manner.  Being able to engage these behaviors through socially appropriate outlets and teaching the dog when, where, and how these behaviors are acceptable (especially if a strong Premack cue is developed) can assist with helping them to learn impulse control around other potential prey-like stimuli.  If you notice in my video, I am frequently encouraging Ali in a high-pitched voice as this is part of our play strategy to encourage impulse control (ie we chase/grab when provided with the verbal encouragement (premacked) but don't when the verbal encouragement isn't given)
Here's some more photos of Ali loving every moment with her Go Bone, and creating lots of movement blur for my camera with her racing around!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Ali PetTutor Timing mode

We've worked out one of the additional (and very useful) functionalities on our PetTutor--the timed delivery mode. This mode allows you to set up the PetTutor to deliver single kibble at intervals of 5seconds up to 30minutes apart.  You can also set it to do this for a number of kibbles (such as a meal's worth) and to even have variation in the timing delivery--so it can be a bit unpredictable to the dog how frequently they'll get the treat (variable rate reinforcement--key for supercharging behavioral responses).  So now that Ali's meals take roughly an hour to get through with her "whack a a wobbler" game, we can extend them even further and make them last an entire day.  This can be an immensely valuable function for pets who may be on crate rest due to injury or because they are traveling, or who may be bored or anxious at being alone or in their crate.  It could also be particularly helpful for dogs/puppies that are undergoing crate training.  Ali is so chilled out she's nearly going to sleep between her breakfast kibbles.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

PetTutor Review

We have finally gotten in our long-awaited PetTutor for Ali--so now I have two teched-out Greyhounds!  For anyone considering a smart device for their pets, this one would definitely be at the top of my list for it's expansive adaptability and excellent performance.  We have started out with just the PetTutor Blu unit and a smart clicker--I have quickly realized that the optional base will be very helpful to freestanding applications and portability, so I would definitely recommend getting this at the outset.  Our base is already on order.
The PetTutor is, in essence, a smart feeder.  However, it's design enables a huge range of applications that many other smart feeders may not be able to achieve.  The current model is Bluetooth enabled, and requires a (free) app from the manufacturer to run.  This means that the device can be activated (and the pet rewarded) from a distance with remarkable ease.  This is great for those of us that are lacking in aim on our treat throws!  Plus the activation can be precisely paired with stimuli, making it a great tool for addressing issues such as resource guarding or reactivity.  On a larger scale, multiple PetTutors can be linked together to allow for immediate reward for multiple dogs at once, which can be very helpful in kennel situations.  The PetTutor website has some excellent examples of some of the varied uses that the PetTutor has been adapted for.  
The instructions that come with the device are relatively minimal, however, the website and user Facebook page have a reasonable library of guides, FAQs, and tutorials to help you sort out common queries and customer service is prompt in replying to any individual concerns.  Some of the guides do reference activities relating to the original model which came with a smart remote (these are still available for individual purchase), so users do need to keep this in mind.  Also, the manufacturer and third parties are continuing to develop additional programming and allied apps and devices, so these libraries can be expected to grow as new options and functionalities become available.  
Once you have downloaded the app, setting up the PetTutor is as simple as plugging it in or inserting a few D-cell batteries if you prefer to go wireless (worth considering to prevent pets from chewing on cords or if they will be left unsupervised with it) and pressing the power button.  

The app will use the Bluetooth on your smart device (tablet or phone) to identify the PetTutor, and allows you to connect with the press of a button.  The PetTutor can then be activated to dispense treats through the hole in the base by pressing the Feed button on the app or by linking in an activating device.  The PetTutor can also be manually triggered by using the arrow button on the side.  This is also a good way to test the sound volume, which is played whenever the device is triggered by the app or manually.  Sound volume can be adjusted using the speaker phone button on the side of the PetTutor.
The innards of the PetTutor are a very clever design with treats dispensed by a set of turning silicon brushes.  These can be removed for cleaning.  A "magic eye" assesses the treats as they pass by it to help calibrate the brushes on how much turning they need to do to dispense treats.  This device has been able to take literally everything I have put in it!  Everything from my dog's square-shaped kibble to ZiwiPeak flakes to a dried meat crumble (looks like wee threads) known as Nature's Nutrients from a regional pet treat company.  Treats are dispensed in minute amounts, which is ideal for training.  The large reservoir (can hold 5cups) is suitable for putting a pet's meal in, which is ideal for slowing down gulpy eaters and utilizing a pet's daily rations for training--a practice highly recommended by most progressive trainers.  Due to the effects of contrafreeloading (I highly recommend reading up on the concept), most pets will find this way of eating more enjoyable, anyways.
The Pet Tutor can be easily activated by use of the app, kind of like having a clicker in your smart phone.  However, we elected to get a SmartClicker to aid us in some of our intended training plans.  The Smart Clicker appears very similar to a normal clicker, however, it emits a Bluetooth signal to communicate to the app, which then triggers the PetTutor.  This means you can leave your smart device on and somewhere secure (eg putting your phone in your pocket) while you use the clicker as the actual cueing device.  Even more exciting, this SmartClicker can be toggled into a tilt mode.  This means it can be activated by movement.  For example, if you are working on grooming related training such as toe nail trimming, you can pop the clicker in your sock to leave both of your hands free and just tap your foot when you want to reinforce the pet.  Alternatively, you can pop the tilt-activated clicker into a Kong Wobbler and the pet can then play an independent game of "whack the Wobbler" where knocking on the wobbler will trigger the clicker which will trigger the PetTutor.  If the PetTutor is positioned to release it's food onto a snuffle mat, the pet will get even more enjoyment (and a longer meal time) snuffling around for the dispensed treat in the mat.  If the Wobbler is located across the room from the pet, then they'll get a fair bit of exercise walking between Wobbler and the PetTutor.
Currently we're primarily using the PetTutor balanced on top of Ali's crate to work on building positive associations with the crate (she tolerates it, but I would like to get her to the stage of enjoying it so much that she desires it so travel is a bit more fun for her, plus means it's not annoying for her if she ever has to be on crate rest for anything).  The design is remarkably stable with the bulk of the device weight in its base.  And it handily doles out perfect treat allotments right onto her bed or snuffle mat for interactions with the Wobbler.  I'm also using the clicker function to reward her for staying in the crate when I'm walking around the room or working in the kitchen.  As you can see in the following videos, Ali is having a great time and getting lots of reinforcement for quiet, calm activity and wholly enjoying herself.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Ricky level 7

We've been rather absent from the blog thanks to having spent pretty much the entire month of January recovering from a dog attack over the holidays.  Then February we were catching up with training, starting some nosework with Ricky and continuing Ali's nosework (subject for another post) and just generally catching up with life.  Oh, and we also had a bit of an adventure getting Ricky's heart ultrasound done--we did confirm the leaky mitral valve that we expected, but it looks like his heart meds are doing the trick and his measurements were otherwise adequate for his breed.

So back to the Hub.  We're still on level 7, have pretty much plateaued there.  Ricky is still getting meal fed so he doesn't have a lot of hunger drive to really advance the levels.  I'm happy enough for him to go and have a wee play when he's feeling a bit aroused or in need of entertainment.  It's certainly fulfilling my needs for something to occupy the genius hound and keep my house intact.  In some ways I actually wonder if he's outsmarted the machine in terms of finding the least effort way to get the treat.  He generally seems to realize that he has to hit one of the two lit buttons, however, rather than exerting himself to work out which one to hit, he just hits whichever one he feels like knowing that if it doesn't work, then he has to hit the other one when the device re-activates.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Ali Foundation Behavior

Being off sick has been a great opportunity to get into our first Lisa Mullinax webinar and start some application, and my, Ali has been a fast study!

The webinar we have just completed was focused around cooperation training particularly with regards to husbandry and medical care--so teaching behaviors and approaches to doing things like nail trims, ear cleaning, eye treatments, and even injections.  Greyhounds are such tolerant and docile dogs, most of the procedures are relatively easy to accomplish with them which makes them delightful patients for us vets.  However, Cooperation Training has so much to offer in terms of moving us beyond tolerance and into the world of patients and pets who are willing participants in their care.  The skills and trust they learn in the process has great potential to augment our relationships with our dogs, and for those dogs that do have concerns about care procedures it offers a positive way of building their confidence and provides us with a framework for them to communicate when they have reached their tolerance and need a break.

One of the core components that the webinar dealt with was training a Foundation Behavior.  This can be something new, or a modification of something the dog already knows or offers.  Things like sustained nose targets, lateral recumbency on cue, chin rests, or even offering feet (shake) or placing their feet on your leg were all presented as examples--really the options are only limited by your imagination.  Once you develop duration in the foundation behavior, you can start adding in "distractions", remembering to break things down into simple components and build up gradually.  If they stop the behavior or move away, it means they have had enough and need a break.

Ali has a remarkably soft mouth and loves to rest her head in my hands and have me play with her face. So it was pretty easy to get her to start chin resting to my hand on the training mat.  She also does a lot of "face" game where I have her put her face in openings like her collar and halti or her muzzle.  Once I started shaping to "Start" (the cue I've picked for this behavior) without my hand, she decided to offer placing her face through the space at the back of the chair.  I was stoked as such flexible thinking is a great sign of her growing confidence in general!  Plus it gives her more precision in her placement.  Once she was offering good duration, I started adding in distractions--fingers in ears, touching around the eyes, some foot and tail touching and gentle skin lifts such as you would do for injections--and she's holding throughout!  I can't wait to start doing tooth brushing this way!

My kudos to Ricky for keeping up some good boundary behavior on his red disc during our video!  It's such a good way to keep his nose out of the treat cup while I'm working with Ali, plus works on some turn taking and boundary duration for him.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Ricky Challenge 7

It took us a few weeks, but Ricky did finally succeed at Challenge 6 and is now working his way through Challenge #7.  On this challenge, he has to differentiate between two lit touchpads and pick the one that is brightest, so it is important that this is in a dim room where he can see the difference in the lights easily, so this sometimes means keeping the blinds closed.  Also, according to what I have picked up on the Explorers Forum, the Hub will be doing some experimenting with the dog at this challenge level to determine what level of brightness difference they can differentiate, which will help inform how it plays future challenges.  So I expect this one to take a wee while, as well, especially as Ricky's impatience still means he does a bit of double touching that affects his success at each play.

In other news, my behavior vet seems to have found a suitable anti-anxiety medication for Kate.  We've been on it for about two months now and have really noticed a difference.  She is much more playful with toys and the other dogs than she has been in ages, is eating very reliably, and overall seems to have a whole new lease on life! Here she is playing with one of the dog toys while Ricky is occupied with his Hub and Ali is waiting for a rally-o training session.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Housekeeping and the Blue Screen of Death

Ricky is still working through Challenge #6, which involves 2 touches to get food.  He is getting better at watching for the lights, and in his typical frugal manner of expending energy, he has figured out he only needs to tip his nose down and back to see over it rather than bouncing back and forth like you might see from videos of other users. He still gets a bit ambitious and occasionally holds his nose in place as, on a random basis, he has a 1/3 chance that the light right under his nose will be the one to light up.  He also still plays it a bit like a keyboard while waiting for the lights to alert, again, probably due to the odd occasion when this has resulted in faster reward due to the chance circumstance of the light under his nose going off. Check out his progress here

Our progress has been slowed this week by a couple of key learnings on my part.  Number 1--the importance of good housekeeping!  We have had a few occasions where a light doesn't seem to respond to being touched. A good clean up of the light board seems to set it right, so it appears the aberrant device responses were due to a build up of nose drippies (as Ricky doesn't really slobber) on the light pads.  I have heard of other users on the forum I follow experiencing aberrances in the device's responses associated with excess wetting/drool. So we will be instituting a strict regime of wiping it down with a damp cloth twice daily.  Easy to remember--whenever Ricky gets his twice daily heart meds, his machine gets it's twice daily wipe-down to keep his happy heart entertained.
Our second complicating factor this week has been the "blue screen of death".  Much akin to this event when it happens on our own desktop computers, when the dark blue/indigo light shows up, it means we're having internet connection issues and the device has fallen into off-line mode and is minimally functional.  The high winds have been jostling our internet antennae a bit, and good connection can be challenging enough on a fine day on our rural internet connection.  So I have had to do a fair bit of resetting of the device, and one day even just had to put it away for most of the day as our internet was playing up quite badly--that was the day I had to do mobile tethering to get internet connection on our desktop!  We hope for better internet access options in the future, although that may be fairly distant as the fiber cable currently runs down behind our neighbour's dairy farm.