Sunday, January 02, 2011

Let fury have the hour

A shiny new training challenge for the new year, whether I want it or not.  Strummer may be named for a rock icon but it turns out he hates the guitar.

No sir, I don't like it

It's kind of a long story but at Christmas brunch some friends and I decided to form a rockabilly band.  Now the Cambodian singer doesn't know yet that she's in the band because that's what happens when you leave the party early to go to some Karaoke thing.  And the drummer doesn't exactly have a drum kit or know how to play drums but he claims he can knock out a rhythm on the dash board when he's waiting at stop lights and that's good enough for us.  The stand-up bass player has only just started taking lessons and I haven't touched my guitar in about 14 years.  And I only got as far as sort of learning the 3 power chords you need to play 90% of punk rock songs when I gave it up for reasons I can't quite seem to remember but probably had something to do with short attention span.  Doesn't help that I'm completely self-taught though I did have piano lessons as a kid so I have some clue about how to read music.  But that was a looooooong time ago.

Anyway, I dusted off the guitar, somehow managed to find a pick and my old 'how to' books and commenced to re-learning the guitar.  Because how can I pass up the opportunity to play in a rockabilly band with a real honest to goodness stand-up bass?  Plus we just recruited a French horn player over New Year's and now maybe we'll be ska/rockabilly.  It keeps getting better and better.  Except for the part where Strummer, after several days without incident, suddenly decided out of the clear blue that he hates the guitar.  Yesterday I'd had many short sessions throughout the day with nothing more than a single whine and a quick odd look from Strummer but the first session after the sun went down sent him into a fury.  He started off howling which is not something he typically does and at first I ignored him thinking, 'Oh well, everyone's a critic', then he progressed to loud, angry alarm barking and then charged the guitar and started biting it.  Oddly enough there was nothing in my 'Guitar for Beginners' book that addressed this issue. 

So today I set about training Strum not to attack the guitar.  I taped my training sessions for laughs and I'm glad I did because even though what I was doing seemed simple enough I noticed some improvements I could make and some bad timing though overall my timing seemed pretty good.  I think the running contact training has sharpened those skills a little bit.  I edited the training sessions heavily but I think I've got a good representation of the methods, execution, results and mistakes.  I also included a 'before' clip of him attacking the guitar.  It wasn't as bad as the night before but still you can see how this might be distracting to me and not so good for Strummer's mental well being never mind my poor guitar.

One thing I'll do differently next session is to continue to play while the treat gizmo is dispensing the treats.  No reason to stop and I think the more I can pair the noise with the treats the better.

Why can't I have a normal dog?  As if trying to teach yourself guitar at age 46 isn't enough of a challenge.


  1. LOL, sounds like you need the squirt bottle attachment for the guitar!

  2. LOL! He just wants to make your dog training life interesting :-) Love the slippers by the way!

  3. Hmmm, a squirt bottle attachment, wonder if there's a market for those or if maybe I'm the only one with a psychotic guitar hating dog.

    Funny, I almost didn't post the video because I was so embarrassed between the Scooby Doo slippers, the state of my hair and my crappy guitar playing. The personal indignities I suffer in the name of sharing my dog training. Maybe one of these days I'll remember to consider my fashion choices before pulling out the video camera.

  4. I don't think there are any normal dogs out there. We don't get snow here very often. There was a left over snowman at the park and that freaked my dogs out. "Danger, Danger Will robinson", was my dogs reaction. So guitars , snowman, it's always something. Lol. I thought your video was very good. I never thought of using the MM for something like that. Thanks!

  5. Anonymous8:45 PM

    Oh, yes, dogs and musical instruments. My son plays trumpet in the symphony, and whenever he rehearses at home, there are certain composers, phrases, pitches or whatever that will encourage our dog to sing. At first we thought maybe it was hurting her ears and she was protesting rather than singing. Then we realized she was coming to sit beside him and was actually keeping tempo, complete with dynamics and pitch changes.

    It's really the oddest thing -- we've tried to get video of her, but she is scared of cameras (she's definitely not the diva) and leaves the room when we attempt to record her. Maybe I should try some Scooby slippers :)

  6. Maybe set up a hidden camera?

    I wish all Strummer was doing was trying to sing along, that I could deal with. But I'm not o.k. with teeth marks in my guitar. He's such a freak.

  7. Now how's that for multitasking! Playing the guitar -- no, *learning* the guitar, even harder -- observing your dog, and pressing the remote at the right time. Nice job -- the before and after pictures are pretty darn different.

  8. I never even noticed you *or* what you were wearing. Clearly I'm an obsessive dog lady, not a normal human. Maybe I should be getting clicked for actually looking at and identifying people.

    Pairing the noise with a treat I think is a good idea, then quickly move on to random rewards instead of every twang--but you know that, of course, being an obsessive dog lady, yourself. ;-)

  9. I did the pairing the noise with the treat just to try to build a good association with the noise so I wanted to do it every rep. That training session was very short since he had no problem with it. The next session with the treat gizmo was where I started building duration, first a twang or two then moved up to a bar. That's as far as I got and as you can see from the last rep it was a little too long because he left the gizmo and started going for the guitar. Next steps are to put him in a position, probably a down, and release him to the treat gizmo periodically then fade the gizmo. Or put him outside whenever I want to play. That seems the easiest option at the moment now that the weather is nicer.

  10. Well, in general, it looked like it was helping. Keep at it. Poor, sound-sensitive Strum.