Tuesday, April 30, 2013

8 Months: Training - Day 88

It won't be long before I have a picture of Emma
attending a trip to mall with me.
So, this morning Emma left the crate excited and ready to start the day and promptly hacked up some fluid.  It wasn't stress, but upset tummy.  Not sure what is making her tummy upset, but I'll watch her today and see if she continues to do this.  I just love random upset tummies - Max does this sometimes and I spend the day working on settling his stomach when he gets the urps.

Then, just when I had my back turned for 20 seconds while on the phone, she came out of the back bedroom with her nose plastered with cat litter.  It was in her beard, all over her nose and she was happy to announce she discovered cat boxes can be fun.  Technically, this is my fault.  Ever since Attitude died I haven't bothered with putting the gate up right away first thing in the morning.

My diligence first thing in the morning before her death had been due to her habit of sneaking off to my room and peeing on my bed.  She had a habit of peeing on anything cloth - beds being her favorite right after carpet.  In the end she would sneak out of the room when I was training or doing something around the house and would pee on my bed; therefore, it was a priority to put the gate up first thing in the morning.  Apparently, it still is, now that Emma has discovered the cat box.

I have been monitoring Emma's play with Jack.  Yesterday I could hear her teeth snapping together behind me while I worked in the office and then I heard Jack cry.  She's starting to play too roughly with him when they play too long and needs more breaks in her play to keep her excitement levels down.

Teaching Emma self control will aid her throughout her life.  One of those lessons is restraint - as a young dog with blossoming self control she still gets too excited when playing and can accidently hurt who she's playing with.  This doesn't mean she's being bad, just that she's like a toddler who doesn't realize punching Uncle Ben in the groin will hurt him - just that he's over-excited and lashes out with pent up energy.

To teach her self control when over-excited I will be using time-outs and asking for well known behaviors to redirect her.  I also use splitting when she's becoming to exited with a person or dog.  Hopefully, as she matures, she'll gain the self control needed to keep herself and others safe when playing.  Do remember, she's young right now and her play is not so out of control she is a danger, she's just excitable right now.  That excitability can lead to problems in the future if she doesn't gain self control - though she won't get bigger, she will get stronger with age.  She has good mouth control, but she doesn't have good control regarding jumping and stepping before people and that is how she or someone else can get hurt - either by being tripped over or tripping someone.  I am in no way suggesting Emma is a dangerous dog, just a rambunctious pup.

Today's Lessons:


Retrieve

Emma is working on Level 3: Step 2 Retrieve.  In this step Emma is asked to hold an object in her mouth for 5 seconds while I hold it with her.  Today I clicked for solid, quality bites onto the pencil I used.  Each time I felt her teeth clamp onto the pencil I clicked and slowly started to delay the click to extend her hold.  Though we don't have a lot of time built, no more than half a second, I am starting to get a more reliable hold.

I will continue to work on this behavior so we can build up to a reliable retrieve as one of Emma's tasks for her handler.

Lazy Leash

Emma is working on Level 2: Step 2 Lazy Leash.  In this step Emma is asked to wait for five seconds next to me with a loose leash and then take five steps with me with a loose leash.  Today I decided to work on Lazy Leash outside with the power chair.

Emma was more than ready for taking the chair out in the street today.  I choose a time before all the children came home and the neighborhood was fairly quiet.  She raced up to me after I got the chair out of the yard and was sitting in the opening of the gate.  I had positioned myself so I could call her to me and then hook her up.  She saw that I was just outside the gate and instead of rushing past me, ran right to my hand and let me put her lead on (the one attached to the chair) and then worked with me while I worked on shutting the gate and got the chair to the road.

She showed no fear of the chair, trotted at half and full speed of the chair and enjoyed the work.  She was able to do 20 to 30 steps between clicks at the pace we worked and stayed right by the chair and with a loose leash.  She kept her feet free of the chair when I turned, though I am turning slow and giving her a lot of information when turning still.  She was a bit distracted when working and I'll have to take her more places to work on focus when lots of activity is happening, such as the wind blowing or a child down the street riding her bike, but overall, Emma's behavior with the wheelchair was perfect.

We'll work on turning with the chair properly and continue working walking with the chair.  Emma did fantastic today!  She tired quickly though and isn't up for a "walk" just yet.  She is spending a lot of mental energy working with the chair.

Come

Emma is working on Level 3: Step 2 Come.  In this step Emma is asked to Come when called from 20 feet away with the distractions of people or dogs which she must leave to do the cue.  I know I haven't spoken of Come much in her blog lately, but I have been using and working with Come on a daily basis.    Today, because she came at a dead run to me from the back of my property so I could put her leash on she passed Level 2: Step 3 Come and Level 2: Step 4 Come.  Since we've been concentrating on Come as being a good thing in Emma's life from the day she arrived, Emma passed Level 2 Come today and will begin Level 3 Come.

I have called her 5 feet away from me when she's playing with Jack or greeting a person, so I know she's passed Level 3: Step 1 Come, but need to work more on the longer distances in more locations.  Emma's recall is remarkable and she's truly becoming a recall queen! Though I may not set out to work Come as a focused training lesson in our days, I do work it all day, every day she's hear and now watch as she models recall for Jack, who is also learning to come to me quickly.

Emma will continue to work this behavior all of her life.

Observations

Robin and I talk almost daily about Jack and Emma and Max.  She shares her years of experience with me and her knowledge of Poodles and other breeds and their learning style.  Each insight I gain adds to my toolkit of training and has helped in getting Emma past some of her fear stages and reactions.  Emma is a soft dog with a soft personality - which is not a bad thing and will lead to her being a reliable service dog in the future, but I am used to the harder personality of a German Shepherd and find Robin's insight into Emma's type of personality very helpful.

Emma is midway through the worst of her teen months.  Though she'll still be a teen once she reaches a year old, she will be closer to her adult personality and further away from the rip-roaring puppy personality.

In the next few months Emma will be gaining her service dog skills along with her basic obedience skills and increasing her exposure to public locations.  Hopefully, by 10 months of age, she'll be ready for a sit down in a fast food restaurant and accompanying me on short shopping trips.  Hopefully by 11 months she'll be able to lay beside me long enough for a movie at home and by 12 months attend a movie in the theater.  I am hoping by 14 months she'll be up to 1 hour long trips out in public and high stimulation.

Emma is progressing nicely and her behavior in classes has been top notch.  She is starting to develop a working dog switch, which is a more serious manner when actually working as compared to just being a dog, and she's still waving her tail and happy to try new locations when we go.

The next few months will be very exciting for both of us.


Level 1
Zen Target Come Sit Down
Step Completed Completed Completed Completed Completed

Level 2
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step Completed Completed Completed Completed Completed
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 3 2 2 1 1
Jump Relax Handling Tricks Communication
Step 1 1 1 Completed 1

Level 3
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 3 2 0 0 1
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Jump Relax Handling Retrieve Communication
Step 0 0 0 2 0

Level 4
Zen Come Retrieve Target Relax
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Handling Communication


Step 0 0


8 Months: Training - Day 87

Emma is learning to give this level of attention when
walking with my power chair.
Emma gets so excited when she first greets me or she first sees her owners arrive to pick her up.  She can't keep her feet on the ground, lunges on the lead to get to us and is over threshold with excitement.  It's something that also happens when people come to visit in my home.  Her efforts to keep her front feet on the floor are lost to her excitement at meeting a new person or someone she knows.  She simply can't seem to keep those feet on the ground in these situations and I have to think of what more I can do to explain to her that she needs self control, even when that excited, when greeting people.  I'll work out a plan and share it once I have a good idea of the path I'll take.

She also becomes undone with excitement when greeting the dogs first thing on Monday.  She can't believe her friends are here and she's ready to launch into a game of wrestling with Max and Jack the moment she walks in.  Part of this is not helped with the fact Jack and Max are also joining her energy and starting games of wrestling when coming into the house.  This Monday, knowing that yet again we'd have hyper excitement when she entered, I kept her on lead and worked on calming her energy down to the low roar before removing her lead.

Max got the clue I was asking for space to calm her and moved away, but Jack was putting his feet on her and engaging her in play the moment we came in.  I had to convince him and her that we were not starting a play session the moment she walked in and that she couldn't be released from her lead until she sat and looked at me.  We got there, but again, I need to work out a better way of handling this Monday morning greeting, the most charged of the week, and teach all of them to calmly say hi when she and Jack arrive.

Jack's arrival each morning starts minor play sessions with Emma engaging him before I can unclip his lead, so that too needs to be handled with a bit more structure.  Emma is more willing to wait on the weekdays that it's Jack arriving and let me deal with getting him undressed for the day and I think that is because he enters the home very calm and quiet with me.

The difference is, Jack and Emma are six months apart in age and therefore at very different maturity levels.  Though Jack is still a teenager in dog terms, he's heading rapidly into adulthood, while Emma is still firmly entrenched in hyper teen mode.  Another part is the very different personalities of the two.  Jack is, by nature, a calmer dog and more reserved in his excitement than Emma.  Emma is a boisterous ball of energy when she becomes excited and can't stop herself from wiggling and jumping when she gets that way.  Jack, as more reserved dog, only looses his mind completely when Ronda comes home - otherwise his greetings of people, even ones he knows, are quiet and polite.  They may share the Poodle gene, but they are very different dogs.

Hopefully by next week I'll have a full plan on how to deal with Emma's over excitement and help her raise her threshold so she can gain more control.  Time to sit and think and plot on this so I have a plan in place, now that Emma is at an age she can begin truly trying out new levels of self control.

Today's Lessons:

Retreive

Emma is working on Level 3: Step 2 Retrieve.  In this step Emma is asked to hold an object, while I also hold it, in her mouth for five seconds.  I have been slowly working on duration with Emma and finding the solution that works best for her.  Emma as worried when I held the pencil and touched her face also, so I stopped working on Retrieve until I could work out how to build her duration.

Today I decided to work on her taking a new object in her mouth she was more likely to want to hold, a  Nylabone.  She was at first curious about the object, but quickly started offering to take it in her mouth. I was starting to get some nice grips with each clamp of her mouth over the object and finally ended out session when she took it and tried to tug it out of my hand.

On our next session I brought out my power chair, since I want to teach Emma to walk with it so we can work on Lazy Leash with the power chair and later do road work to tire her out a bit and see more of the world by taking walks.  Emma is fearful of my power chair, so I rode it through the house and watched to see what she would do.  She didn't go and hide behind my recliner, but she did go into the entry and lay down to watch me.  She was reserved, but not shutdown.

I then called her to me, asked for Level 1 Behaviors and offered her food.  She refused the food, but accepted my petting her.  I kept a happy, upbeat voice and slowly turned her mind around about being near the chair.  I then took her into my lap and watched TV with her while she lay, stiff, in my lap in the chair.  After a bit I felt her muscles slowly relax and finally she laid, relaxed, in my lap.  I then took her for a ride, in my lap, in the chair and felt at first a bit of tensing of her muscles, but for a short time before they relaxed and she started to just enjoy the ride.  It was right after that she took food when seated next to my chair and we could train again.

I worked the next session while seated in my power chair.  I was getting some great grips on the object I offered her to take and she was waving her tail and engaged in the training game.  We ended with her attempting to remove the object from my hand a second time.

Lazy Leash

Emma is working on Level 2: Step 2 Lazy Leash.  In this step Emma is asked to walk beside me, off lead, and stay in position while I walk around the house.  In this case I choose to use the power chair.  I will, next time, have to tether and crate Max and Jack, but Emma did come up to the chair whenever I stopped it and got a treat, which she took and ate.

After a bit she was following my chair around, curious about the fuss with both Jack and Max, and enjoyed a round of catch the power chair and get food.  Though not a perfect rendition of this step, Emma was willing to try it and found the chair wasn't as scary as she had first thought.

I ended out session by clipping the lead to her collar and slowly leading her around my living room and kitchen with the power chair lead.  Emma was perfect loose leash, relaxed about the idea and kept a good space between my chair and her without being too far away from it.  She is not turning well with it yet, but we'll work on that later.  Right now, being able to be beside it and not be frightened is my goal.

Later, when my son Walter came, I again hooked Emma up and this time she was relaxed and happy to walk with the chair.  She also showed little fear or concern about the chair when I used it off and on during the day in the house.

Finishing School

It is because of this class that Emma's Monday blogs are a day late.  In the weeks class Emma did extremely well.  Cooper, the big German Shepherd in class, came up and put his nose on Emma while she was in a sit and she didn't budge or become over excited.  She did a nice job of remaining on her mat and is now offering a lot of chin down behavior when placed at my feet.  I have been clicking for relax and generally by end of class, when she's got some food in her tummy and is over the excitement of being in the room, she has her head down and is relaxed at my feet.  I have noted it is happening sooner and sooner each class and I am pleased to see this behavior.

When Stanely, Carol's demo dog, was brought out Emma had her back to him and after a glance over her shoulder did a double take at seeing a new dog in the room she didn't know.  She remained calm and didn't break her sit.  She didn't bark or go over threshold.  She was curious, but not frightened by the appearance of a new dog in her area.

We worked on Retrieve for class.  Carol, bless her soul, answered my "how am I going to get duration?" question during class by pointing out I am not clicking for the mouth over the pencil or object, but for the pressure and quality of the grip on the pencil or object when taken into the mouth.  The more I worked on that the better her take behavior became.  I do believe I will eventually have a good grip and duration with her as I teach her that the behavior doesn't end until the click happens.

Observations

With each class Emma has taken with me she's improved on her focus and work ethic.  She is working for me very well, but she hasn't taken any classes with her owners to date.  I believe it is time for them to take her on the weekends.

In May Dastardly Distractions begins on Sunday May 12th, 2013 at 1 PM and on Saturday May 11th, 2013 Loose Leash Walking begins at 9:30 AM.  I have her penciled into Dastardly Distractions, but understand the family may not be able to do Sunday classes with her, so would suggest actually taking her to Loose Leash Walking and working on teaching her to not only walk with people out of a wheelchair but with B and his wheelchair.

Taking this class will be an outing for Emma for the week and one she can have with the family.  It will also help the family to work on taking classes with Emma and give them valuable information on Loose Leash skills and training in a fun environment.

The Loose Leash walking class is the Comebefore for Take It On The Road, a fun and active class during the summer in which the family gets to go with other Diamonds in the Ruff students to parks around the city and work on teaching Emma to walk on a loose lead in exiting locations.



Level 1
Zen Target Come Sit Down
Step Completed Completed Completed Completed Completed

Level 2
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 5 2 Completed Completed Completed
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 3 2 2 1 1
Jump Relax Handling Tricks Communication
Step 1 1 1 Completed 1

Level 3
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 3 0 0 0 1
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Jump Relax Handling Retrieve Communication
Step 0 0 0 2 0

Level 4
Zen Come Retrieve Target Relax
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Handling Communication


Step 0 0


Thursday, April 25, 2013

7 Months, 4 Weeks: Training - Day 86

Attitude and Emma made blogging hard some days.
For the past three nights Emma has slept alone in the crate again.  Ever since Attitude passed I have asked Dieter to sleep in the bed with me; it just doesn't feel right not having a small red body next to me when I am sleeping.  Dieter is adjusting to the new sleeping arrangements, but I don't know how much longer he'll tolerate sleeping outside of his crate and I'll be faced with my very first night of sleeping without a dog in my bed.  How strange that night will be.

This morning she waited patiently for me to release her and headed for the front door.  We are on the same schedule we had when Attitude was alive, except for how often I let everyone out of the house.  Attitude had been on Salix, a water pill, for her heart condition and couldn't go longer than 2 hours before she absolutely needed to pee, except at night - though I had suspected that soon would change as her heart condition grew worse.  In the end, she never needed out late at night, since I scheduled the last outside run at midnight and put everyone to bed - now we are bedding down at 9 PM at the latest with the last run outside just before I crate Emma.

She's doing better with the minor change in routine.  She is sleeping soundly through the night and waking with more energy now that she's getting a longer night without my sitting up with Attitude until midnight to let her out.  Before I would put Emma, Max, Dieter and Attitude out at 9 PM and then wait up in bed with the TV running until the midnight outing for Attitude and then head to bed for the night - that last outing is not needed now and so the whole house is asleep by 9:30 PM by the latest.

The daytime routine for going outside has changed also.  I am sleeping more, but have less energy due to grief.  I haven't been letting the household out every 1 to 2 hours, but every 3 to 4 hours instead and today that backfired for Emma.  She had a potty accident in my kitchen.  It's not her fault, but mine and I will ensure I keep closer to the 3 hour mark than the 4 hour mark for a little while longer until her bladder and control has improved and I have taught her how to ask me to go outside.  She's never needed to learn that skill, since I had the house on a tight potty schedule.

Today's wonderful weather let me do some training outside and Emma enjoyed that.  I hope she gets some practice at home working outside with her owners also - it'll be a wonderful way to add to her already growing skills.

I do wish to announce the Emma has passed Level 2 Sit and Down this week and will begin Level 3 Sit and Down next week.

Today's Lessons:


Zen

Emma is working on Level 3: Step 3 Zen.  In this step Emma is asked to wait one minute at an open door while the handler carries items in and out of it.  I didn't work on this step today, but instead went back to a Comeafter which asks that we re-teach Zen outside.  Today was such a pretty day and I didn't want to waste it by training indoors only, so I took her remaining breakfast and lunch (she didn't want to work in the house much anyway - a bit of cabin fever) and sat on my ramp and worked with her on Level 1: Step 1 Zen.

Remember, whenever you change the location or level of distraction or difficulty for a behavior you need to back up and make the behavior easier.  Asking Emma to do high level Zen in a highly distracting location, such as the front yard, is asking too much of her.  She quickly caught on to the lesson and though she's still doing a bit of nose bumping outside, she's starting to offer the same Zen behaviors she displays indoors.

Emma is also working on Level 2: Step 5 Zen.  This step is called Traps and Defaults.  What kind of Zen traps happen for Emma in her daily life?  Is there a plate of food sitting on the table when she walks in from outside?  How about a cat toy that the cat carried into the room she's just noticed?  What about giving polite people Zen when people come into the home and visit?  These are Zen traps that can be trained over time - and will need constant updates and reworking to help her apply Zen to her life.

What about defaults?  In my home Attitude's heart medication bouncing on the floor was a Zen default.  No dog was allowed to move toward the medication when it fell.  My raised garden beds are a Zen default as is digging in my yard - she's found something near my ramp she wants to dig up and I am teaching her to leave it alone.  What other defaults should Emma have?  This one step is one I never consider finished, but should be marked off once we have some clear signs she's learned how to ignore plates on the floor or tables and give respect to gardens and loose soil.

Distance

Emma is working on Level 2: Step 1 Distance.  In this step Emma is asked to go around a pole.  I have been using different poles to train this concept to her - sometimes a chair, sometimes a small cat post, sometimes a tree - since one of the Comeafters is to teach this step again with a new pole.  Eventually I will get a setup where I can attach a jump to the pole and work on Jump and Distance together, but for right now we are working on Emma offering going around the pole.

Emma is enjoying the new lessons and when I started with the cat post she did target with her nose and foot, sniffed and explored it, did a down and a sit next to it and even rested a foot on it and made eye contact.  Emma understood the lesson had something to do with the pole, just not what yet.  We worked for three sessions with the pole and Emma did well going around it both clockwise and counter clockwise, but is still trying to target the pole as she moves around it.  We'll re-work this again tomorrow.

Socialization

With the new training tool setup in my yard, a board set upon two cinder blocks, I worked with Emma on exploring and getting onto the board.  She did okay with it, but is uncomfortable when her footing seems a bit insecure.  I will use higher value treats next time and build up her confidence on the board and teach her to walk across it and sit on it.

I will next week have a teeter setup for Emma to work with and build her confidence with that as well.

I was working Emma on Focus, which she was starting to offer me when the world around her became to exciting and I changed the game to Look At That instead.  As we were working on Focus and I got about five clicks in a Mom and Pop Quail strutted by my front gate in the street.  Emma began to bark under her breath and then went to the gate to watch them and bark at them.  It was then we changed tactics.

The neighbors, who'd been in their home when we started, had come out to play and Emma started to bark at them under her breath as well.  So, I would click for her looking at them and then stuff a treat into her mouth.  In short order Emma was, on every 5th or 6th click, turning her head on the click and refocusing back on me.  We'll have to do more Focus and LAT games outside as the weather permits at different times of the day so that Emma can focus no matter what is happening around her.

Observations

Emma is doing well with the training and is well ahead of the mark on Focus and other behaviors - so it is time to up the training and take them out to higher distraction locations and build up her ability to work anywhere.  She is also still in a stage where any high level of stress shuts her down and she can't take treats or focus, but instead freezes and shrinks her size to stop the stress.  Emma must be carefully handled and taught how to deal with higher levels of stress otherwise she'll shutdown completely and be unable to continue working toward public access work.  Emma has a very soft personality and only through careful clicker training and very fine splits on introducing stressors can she succeed.


Level 1
Zen Target Come Sit Down
Step Completed Completed Completed Completed Completed

Level 2
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 5 2 Completed Completed Completed
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 3 2 2 1 1
Jump Relax Handling Tricks Communication
Step 1 1 1 Completed 1

Level 3
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 3 0 0 0 1
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Jump Relax Handling Retrieve Communication
Step 0 0 0 2 0

Level 4
Zen Come Retrieve Target Relax
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Handling Communication


Step 0 0


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

7 Months, 4 Weeks: Training - Day 85

Emma and Attitude share my chair during nap time.
Emma was in high spirits when we work this morning.  She's not shaking her head or clawing at her ears and hasn't since I cleaned them yesterday.  I will clean them again today too, just to ensure she's not developing an ear infection, but I think she's okay for right now.  I will also brush her out again today, hopefully before the man from Pet Memorial calls to tell me that he's bringing my little Attitude back home.

Changing up her routine and adding a new item to train into it has sparked her again.  She was willing to work on backing up for Communication training and her tail was waving happily as she worked out the mind puzzle I gave her.  She's getting there.  It's not in her bones yet, but it's starting to happen and I suspect she'll be passing to the next section of Communication without a hiccup soon.

She's about to explore new surfaces this week for socialization.  On the day Attitude died we were taking my old bed frame apart.  I was actually in the bedroom when she cried out as her massive heart attack struck and rushed to her, scooping her up in the final instant of her life.  She looked me in the eyes and gave a huff and was gone - it was so fast and so shocking I hadn't realized what happened at first, then the world seemed to stop.  My Mom, brother and daughter, who were all there to help with yard work and changing bed frames, finished the job of setting up my new bed frame and hauling out my old one while I stood and stroked her tiny body for the next two hours.

Why am I mentioning this?  Because, when they hauled out the sturdy waterbed frame (which was stripping out and would soon collapse under me if we hadn't removed it) they put it in my driveway and this morning I was looking at the long boards for the side of the bed and realized they'd make a great teeter and walking board for training dogs.  I am going to setup a small "agility" run for Emma to work on walking on the boards and going through tunnels to improve her overall confidence.

I am glad to see Emma back in the training game and not scratching her ears like she had been.  I am glad to see the opportunity of using the tragedy of Sunday to continue Emma's training in building her self confidence and understanding of her basic skills and I am glad today I am not constantly leaking tears for the first time.  It's a slow week for this home - but it's still moving forward.


Today's Lessons:


Communication

Emma is working on Level 2: Step 1 Communication.  In this step Emma is asked to back up.  As any good positive re-enforcement trainer knows, you don't cue the dog and then show them the behavior, but you show the dog the behavior and then tell them what it is called.  For Emma, I am using shaping to build up her back up.  Yesterday I taught her I was clicking for foot movement and then added I was clicking for backward foot movement.  We ended with Emma thinking about moving her front feet backwards, but not her back feet yet.

Today we started with Emma offering foot movement and then backward foot movement.  She was quick to move her front feet back a step and got several clicks for just that.  When I waited for another step I got our first back foot to move backward and clicked for that.  We ended with Emma very purposefully trying out backing up two or three steps to see if I was really clicking for her backing up.

She doesn't know it completely yet, but she is getting the idea and trying out side to side, forward and even spinning steps to see if they'll get a click.  Any step that results in her going backwards gets a click, so she's starting to sort out the criteria for this game.  She's learned that downs and sits won't get clicks, nor will nose nudges and eye contact - it is becoming a clearer picture for her.  Once she can take several steps backwards I will tell her what it is called.

I filmed out third session today - Emma is developing a cute foot bounce when she backs up.

video


Observations

Josh is visiting today to continue working on removing the slab before my old garage (which is the next big project of destruction in my yard) and came into the house to get a drink of water and tell me how sorry he is about Attitude.  Emma is still unsure of Josh and though she was quiet and waited in a sit while he came in, she suddenly lost her mind and began barking at him when I was in the office and she was alone in the living room and he was in the kitchen.  I came out and called her to me and played the Look At That game with Josh and got some good solid sits and focus out of her.

My neighbors setup a tent in their yard, less than 5 feet from my fence, and last night when she saw it she lost her mind and barked at it.  It's not the "alert" bark she does - a single bark followed by a pause and another single bark - but instead the rolling alarm bark she does when something is out of place and she's uncertain about it.  I called her to me and asked for a sit and then went with her to the fence to check it out.  It took several requests of coming away and doing a sit and returning before she began to ignore the strange object next door.

This morning she saw it again and again went into an alarm bark, but this time stopped when she saw I was on the porch and came to me and offered a sit.  She needs more exposure to changes in our environment to help her deal with strange and new things - so I will be adding and removing things from the yard for her to explore and discover as we go through this fear period.


Level 1
Zen Target Come Sit Down
Step Completed Completed Completed Completed Completed

Level 2
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 5 2 5 5 Completed
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 3 2 2 1 1
Jump Relax Handling Tricks Communication
Step 1 1 1 Completed 1

Level 3
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 3 0 0 0 1
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Jump Relax Handling Retrieve Communication
Step 0 0 0 2 0

Level 4
Zen Come Retrieve Target Relax
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Handling Communication


Step 0 0


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

7 Months, 4 Weeks: Training - Day 84

Emma and Attitude helping me blog.
I think Emma is coming down with an ear infection.  Some breeds, such as Poodles, Spaniels and Labradoodles have what is called ear carpet, which is ear hair that grows into the canal of the ear.  It is important to pluck the ear hair regularly and maintain the ears, since they hang down and can keep moister in the canal which leads to infections.  I cleaned Emma's ears today and only one of them gave me a bunch of grim out of it, but I fear she may be getting an infection now.  She's shaking her head a lot and scratching that ear a lot.  I am watching to see if just cleaning it fixed the problem, but if not, I will have to take her to the vet and have her ears checked.

Since she will need life long care of her ears, teeth and coat, I want the family to get into the routine over the weekends of grooming her daily and plucking her ear hair and brushing her teeth.  Below I am including maintenance homework for Emma, this homework will be life long and should be something they get used to doing with her daily.

I haven't kept up on Emma's coat like I should over the weeks I've had her.  My energy levels were depleted with caring for a chronically ill dog.  Until today I hadn't realized how much of my resources I had given over to listening for and maintaining Attitude's well being.  She had gotten to the point that she rarely got up and moved unless I was training or she needed to go outside.  I had half my mind and attention on her and had for the past two years.

Whenever she got up from the chair I would stop what I was doing to see if she was seeking a drink of water, looking to get attention from me by joining the training or asking to go out.  I had the entire house on a 1 to 2 hour outside routine because Attitude needed to go out that often and it simply made sense to send everyone out with her.  I also had to listen for when she tried to return to the chair and couldn't make the jump.  It had become routine to walk over and scoop her up by her tiny tummy and aid her into my chair.  On top of that was her feeding and medication schedules.  I had scheduled my life around her - my time home, my rest times (so she could relax against me), my feeding times and everything rotated around Attitude's needs.  She was first and foremost in protecting from rambunctious puppies and wrestling dogs.

I was also working on keeping her stress levels down, of preventing her getting so worked up by storms or loud sounds or other things that frightened her to prevent what happened on Sunday, a massive heart attack.  In the end, I was a care giver of a long chronic illness and the grief, sadness, stress and depression of that job was taking it's own toll on me.  Today I woke with a sadness as I looked at her side of the bed and didn't see her tiny lump, but felt a wash of relief I wouldn't wake to her tiny dead body in my bed - one of my worst fears - that she would pass in the night and I would have slept next to her long after she was gone.

With all of that, I simply didn't have the energy and time to groom Emma daily when she was here and maintain her ears the way they need to be.  A huge part of my time, Attitude's daily care, has returned and I can now devote it to Emma's care.  I brushed her out today and found a lot of loose hair, 3 times the normal amount I get, in her coat.  This means she wasn't brushed enough over the past 10 or so days, and therefore we need to up the number of brushings to daily.  Her shaking her head and pawing at her beard and ears means she needs more personal maintenance also.  I will do my part here, but it also needs to be learned and become part of her owner's routine, so I am assigning that care to them on the weekends.

Today's Lessons:


Zen

Emma is working on Level 3: Step 3 Zen.  In this step Emma is asked to wait 1 minute while I carry items in and out of the house through an open door.  Today I decided to revisit Zen Level 1 and just work on reminding her what Zen is again.  It's been a while since we worked Zen and I wanted to refresh the behavior to keep it strong.  I was working well with her when she started to scratch at her ears.  She was too distracted with her ear to really be able to train much more, so I ended our session.

A little while later my son Wayne came over and began to play Dot with Dieter with a laser dot.  Max and Emma went to wrestle with Dieter, which was causing him stress, so I changed our Zen behavior to Dieter Zen, which meant for both dogs to ignore Dieter and sit by me and let him play.  They did very well with this game.

Communication

Emma is working on Level 2: Step 1 Communication. In this step Emma is asked to back up.  I decided to shape this behavior and worked with Emma's lunch doing so.  After cleaning her ears she stopped shaking her head and scratching at them and therefore could focus again.  She was curious what I was clicking for at first, but soon figured out it was any movement of her feet.  By the end of lunch she was taking small one or two steps backwards each time she offered foot movement.  I will continue working on this behavior with Emma.


Play Date

Jack didn't visit today, since his owner Ronda is home sick.  Jack's German Shepherd sister Deva has been fighting Pancreatis and has been in and out of hospital for the past two weeks.  Today Deva was released from hospital and Ronda, too sick to leave her home, called and asked if I could pick her up.  I agreed, but asked if I could drop off Dieter and Emma before I did.  I didn't want to leave Dieter alone for the first time this close to Attitude's death and Ronda perfectly understood.

I took them over, dropped them both off and got Deva.  When I returned Dieter was in Ronda's lap, something he normally wouldn't do when there was 6/10ths of an acre of  land to explore and sniff.  He's very down and clingy right now and my call to not leave him unattended yet was spot on.  He needs human companionship while he adjusts to his loss.

Emma and Jack did the zoomies and played Catch Me If You Can in the big yard while I was away.  Emma had fun exploring the new yard and playing with Sheba, Chautzie, Jack, DJ, Max, Deva and Dieter while we were there.  She did several recalls from long distances and explored and played for almost an hour.

This is considered an outing for this week, which ups her outings to two this week.  She did class yesterday and a play date today - I would like to take her out again, but will wait until Walter is available to be with Dieter while I am gone.  I am not leaving him unattended this week.  Walter was able to watch him and Max yesterday, which helped - since Dieter adores Walter and could curl up in his lap and soak up his affection while I was out with Emma.

Emma does well with new dogs in many locations and is proving to have excellent dog socialization.  This play date was a huge success for her.

Grooming Homework

When Emma is home on the weekends she needs to be groomed head to toe to tip of tail at least once daily.  Do this with either a rake grooming tool or a pin brush.  I use a rake, since it brings the waves out in her coat nicely.

I have worked up to rubbing my fingers from her canine teeth to her molars on both sides of her mouth without her fussing.  It is time to introduce toothpaste.  For the next two weekends use dog tooth paste on your fingers once daily and rub it on her gums and teeth with your fingers.  This will prep her for getting her teeth brushed daily.

Clear the goop from her tears from her tear ducts and just below them on her face with either your finger or a damp cloth.

Check her nails and trim them if they are getting too long.  If you are having problems seeing her toenails use an old nylon and put it on her feet and push her nails through the nylon so you can see them.  Refer to the chart below to see how to trim her nails.  I have been trimming them myself for the past few weeks and she's okay with nail trimming, but tends to pull her feet back a bit still.  Get power for stopping any bleeding in the event you cut into the quick.



Pluck her ears daily. You want to remove as much of the hair from around her ear canals as possible when you are doing this.  The roots are shallow and a gentle pull will remove the hair.  Do it as she's resting on your lap in the evenings.  Don't try to do it all in one sitting, but a little at a time until her ear canals are clear and then keep them that way over the course of her life.

Clean her ears with an ear cleaning pad to prevent dirt and other debris from building up.  You can use a baby wipe also, but don't have it too wet - moist is okay, but wet will lead to an ear infection.

This is general maintenance that she'll need for the rest of her life - so learning to do it yourself will make it easier on all concerned.

Emma should be groomed at least every 4 weeks to prevent her coat from becoming too dirty or unruly and should be kept in a working coat so she can perform her job and wear a vest without issue.

Observations

Emma is still in the "don't wanna" stage of development, though she's willing to work when in class.  She is able to do a great deal now, but tends to want to tune out of training for play.  I am changing up her training a bit to respark her interest and keep her in the game.  She's grown bored with Sit, Down, Zen and Target behaviors as well as Focus, so I am giving them a rest and just using them in daily living while I pick out Communication, Distance and Jump as a group of behaviors she's not worked much.  This change in training should improve her desire to train and challenge her enough to join the game.

She needs a bit more work on seeing new people and strange people from a distance and not becoming over-stimulated and she needs more work on loose leash walking.  I can now do that work without concern that Attitude will need me, so I can begin it by the end of this week while Dieter and Max play in the yard.

Level 1
Zen Target Come Sit Down
Step Completed Completed Completed Completed Completed

Level 2
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 5 2 5 5 Completed
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 3 2 2 1 1
Jump Relax Handling Tricks Communication
Step 1 1 1 Completed 1

Level 3
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 3 0 0 0 1
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Jump Relax Handling Retrieve Communication
Step 0 0 0 2 0

Level 4
Zen Come Retrieve Target Relax
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Handling Communication


Step 0 0


7 Months, 4 Weeks: Training - Day 83

Emma and Attitude rest with my son Walter.
This was taken the Tuesday before she died.
The house is quiet and sullen today.  On Sunday, April 21st, 2013 Attitude, my tiny Dachshund, lost her battle with heart disease.  I woke for the first time in 10 years without my tiny girl curled up under the covers on her side of my bed.  I woke for the first time in 4 years as the owner of two dogs instead of three.  Max is quiet and watching me like I am made of glass and Dieter is depressed and sedate in his behaviors.  Today my home woke on the first morning after loosing Attitude.

Jack had arrived about 30 minutes before Emma and quickly discovered her body, which lay on the top of his crate, and sniffed it.  He'd been happy and ready to start our day when he arrived, but the moment he circled her body and got a good sniff and realized who he'd found, he lowered his head and came and laid it in my lap and just stayed there while I dripped tears on his head.

When Emma came in she started the game of wrestling with the other dogs and I realized it was the first time this happened and Attitude's sharp "knock it off you kids" bark would never be heard again.  Max and Jack were trying to move away and stop the game - they were still watching me closely and didn't want to play.  I scooped Emma up and took her to Attitude's body and let her smell.  In an instant Emma's head lowered and she too fell into the quiet, give Mom space, mode the adult dogs were in.

It's a quiet and sullen day today.  I chose not to train during the day.  I can't stand the thought of a kibble hitting the floor and my Little Red Vacuum not hoping off of my chair to eat it.  I can't stand the thought of training Go To Mat and not having to pick her up and put her back on my chair so the dog I am training can get on the mat.  I can't stand the thought of training and not having her trail behind me to scoop up the random kibble I drop or stopping her from racing the big dog to the kibble I tossed or even of all of the dogs hovering waiting for her to finish her meal.  It's a quiet and sullen day today.

Emma has class tonight and I will take her.  Until then, this home is in mourning and will spend the day reflecting on a small, but important, hole in our lives.

Today's Lessons:


Finishing School

I left early for class because I wanted to stop at Hunter Vet Clinic to drop off Attitude's remaining medications.  I had just refilled her medications on Thursday, before she died, and had an almost full prescription of Vetmedin and Enalapril and just over a week of Salix left.  Since, by law, the vet cannot purchase back the medication if it had been opened, I decided to donate the medication for another family who has a dog with a heart condition - I know the cost of those medications and know a donated dosage of them will make their lives so much easier when dealing with a chronic heart condition.

I cannot thank Dr. Brian Hunter and his fabulous staff and fellow vets for the amazing care they gave Attitude during this past two years.  The care they gave in supporting her heart when they cleaned her teeth the final time and the way they worked with me to ensure Attitude always had her medication made my life as a care giver of an animal with a chronic heart condition so much easier overall.  They are the best vets in town in my book.

When I was there I weighed Emma and found her to be 25.2 pounds.  She's at the peek of her growth and I suspect she won't get much bigger or heavier than she is now.  I figure between now and 18 months of age when her joints seal, she should put on no more than 2 more inches and between now and 3 years of age I suspect no more than 10 pounds.  It appears Emma will be a small dog and this will adjust how I will train her to pay for items for her handler when that training period happens.

My visit at Hunter Vet Clinic left me in tears.  I was crying when Dr. Hunter came out and he gave me a hug and told me how sorry he was I had lost her.  I dried my eyes and fought the tight, sick feeling in my stomach as I drove over to Diamonds in the Ruff.  I had almost gotten myself together when I entered and Stacy, Carol's assistant trainer for this class, asked if she could give me a hug.  After the hug she said she would not ask me any questions about my baby girl, since she knew how close I was to loosing it.

Carol gave me a gentle rub on the back and gave silent support.  They knew my heart was not into working Emma, but I had to take her anyway.  I was clicking automatically, not even thinking of it, as Emma offered a down with focus on her mat.  I kept that up until she settled her head and relaxed at my feet.  She did a fantastic job during class and truly made me shine.

I want to thank Carol and Stacy for their patience with me when I was reporting Emma's week prior - since the moment I mentioned Attitude and her passing over the weekend I began to cry and had to fight to regain my control.

Emma did some amazing stuff in class.  She relaxed nicely at my feet for an extended period of time, and when one puppy came in and actually touched her and invaded her space, she kept her focus on me as much as she could and didn't get up or engage the puppy!  Great job, Little Girl.

When it came time to show off door manners, she did a perfect down and kept eye contact as I opened the door, didn't twitch a muscle and only moved when I gave her my release cue.  Fantastic job.

When we did the dropped item leave it she caught on quickly and would look at the item and then up to me and made eye contact.  Fantastic job.

In truth, Emma made me look good this class - even when my heart and brain weren't in the training.  I am very proud of her for how she performed in class.

Homework

  • Level 1 and Level 2 Comeafters for Zen.
  • Level 1 and Level 2 Comeafters for Come.
  • Continue Hide-N-Seek games
  • Continue having B cue Emma on Sit, Down, Come and Target with his speech machine.
If you have any questions please call me and ask.

Observations

Many would ask why did I show Emma Attitude's body and I have a very good reason for it.  When a beloved companion dies and it's possible to let the other dogs in the home check and see they have passed it makes their grief period less painful.  They don't go through the prolonged period of searching and trying to locate a missed friend.  Emma and Jack had not been present when Attitude passed, but she's been a big part of their lives - Emma since she was 14 weeks old and Jack for the past 30 training days he's come to my home.  Letting Emma know that Attitude had passed was a kindness to her - it let her know that she didn't need to go and try to find the missing dog in the home.

She's quiet and sad, but she'll recover from Attitude's loss faster than I.  She's also aware now of why Max and Dieter smell sad.  She went to pester Dieter just after sniffing Attitude and after a brief sniff pulled away and has since left him alone.  She is respecting his deep grief.  Dieter and Attitude were as close as Little Ann and Big Dan in Where the Red Fern Grows and his grief is profound.  He was less than a foot away from her when she died and he witnessed the onset of her heart attack - he was shaking and closed in on himself after her loss and wouldn't even look at her body until today.

After letting Emma and Jack check Attitude, I picked up Dieter and took him to her.  He sniffed and checked and looked at her for the first time and I saw that head drop and then he looked up at me.  He's known she died since yesterday, but today he could face it.  Though he's eating, he's not as wound up happy about his food like he used to be and I have watched him decline every time Attitude did.

Emma, Max and Jack may be facing yet another loss soon.  I don't know if Dieter will last much longer after her death or not.  Even Victoria, who's checked Attitude's body, is sedate and quiet.  A hard lesson for all of them, but with Attitude dying at home and my not having to take her away and then never return with her, they at least know why their friend is no longer telling them to cool it or leading the barking brigade in my defense.

It's a quiet and sullen day today.

Friday, April 19, 2013

7 Months, 3 Weeks: Training - Day 82

Emma, being a teenager.
I want to discuss Public Access Training and a dog's age and abilities today.  I have a friend, Robin, who is training a Poodle named Sherman, who is 2 months older than Emma, to be her guide dog.  He'll be taking over the role as full time guide from his older brother, Jonathon, when he's 18 months to 2 years of age.  Robin has been training Sherman since he was 10 weeks old, which is 4 weeks younger than when we started training Emma.

Robin has a set training plan for Sherman, which includes the Training Levels and additional skills he'll need before he learns to guide her, and has been following it since she started with him.  She takes him out for public access outings at least 5 times a week, which at least one of those includes his group classes, and she works with him daily on his basic skills he's learning through the Levels Training.  The same protocol and training methods she used with her current guide, Jonathon, when she trained him.

Why is Sherman out so often?  Robin will be depending on Sherman to safely guide her in public and depend on his keeping her safe - her life depends on his ability to perform under distraction no matter where he is.  Emma's handler will not be depending on her for his life, just his independence, and therefore we can take her through her public access training at a different rate and still achieve our goals.

Sherman is now 9 months old and Robin makes his trips short and sweet.  She and I talk weekly and share our experience and mentor each other.  It's a beneficial relationship between us where we have an ear for our frustrated or confused moments, a cheering squad for our successes and a brainstorming session for how to expand our respective dogs understanding of the goals we are working too.  What we do not do is compare the two dogs - Sherman and Emma are working toward very different goals and are very different ages and though there are similarities between them in emotional growth and basic skills, there are just as many differences.

Sherman is an outgoing and happy go lucky boy who enjoys meeting people (loves meeting people) and has yet to find anything that frightens him.  He loves children of any age and adults of any age.  He's warm and friendly with other dogs and mischievous and playful when not working.  He's a training monster and would rather train all day long than do anything else and when not training he finds things to do that are not always what one would want.  He's not a bad dog, just a very intelligent one who needs a lot of outlet for his curiosity and boundless energy.

Robin and I talk about how she's taught more than one dog the basics of public access.  She and I are in agreement.  Tiny bites of one area many times helps the dog better understand and cope with a new location.  It took her 10 trips to her local McDonald's before she ever ordered anything and sat to eat it. It started with her taking him to the parking lot and asking for Level 1 behaviors and then going home.  She took the time to walk him to the door, but didn't enter the second time and on the third they went in and left after a sit and a down.  She continued this way until she was certain he wasn't over-stimulated and could handle the location before she ever ordered food and sat down.  Ten trips.  Ten times he got to practice his Level 1 behaviors and learn to work and not just bounce around and get over excited.

She's taken him to a local feed store where he's learned to ignore items on the floor that she and her husband set out as obstacles and practice his Level 1 behaviors.  She took several trips to the feed store before they ever stayed for any length of time.

She says he can go to church with her because it's a low stimulation location.  The people at the church respect her enough to not talk to, touch or interact with Sherman.  The stimuli in the church is low enough Sherman can, at 9 months of age, attend the entire service.  She has taken him to Walmart, but they've taken several runs at Walmart before ever entering.  Like McDonald's it started with just going to the parking lot and then home and then to the doors outside and then home and finally into the store and then out.  Sherman is up to walking into Walmart,walking the outside aisles and then going outside. He's never inside the store for more than 5 to 10 minutes and never on a weekend and/or when it is very busy.  Walmart is a high stimulation location with all of the smells, people, sights, textures and more that is happening there.

I mention this because Sherman has considerably more public access training that Emma does currently and yet Sherman is not ready to go shopping for items or spending extended periods of time within a location that has high stimuli in it.  Sherman goes to these locations to train - nothing else.

When Robin takes him she has what we trainers call an exit strategy.  What this means is that she has a way to leave and take Sherman home if Sherman is unable to work in the location she's chosen to train. If she is, by chance, going to pick something up when she's in store she has a friend or her husband attend her and they get it and she works with Sherman; she doesn't do both.

Sherman has more training and more public access training than Emma does.  Sherman can do a sit/stay for 3 minutes with Robin standing 20 feet away.  Sherman can do a down/stay for 5 minutes with Robin standing 50 feet away and Sherman can do a 50 foot recall and sit in front of her.  Sherman has strong loose leash skills and a strong understanding he's working when he's out, but Sherman is not ready to go everywhere she is for as long as she's going.

When I take Emma out I have an exit strategy as well.  I don't have any pressing need to get anything done and I am there for Emma.  I am focused and working on her Level 1 behaviors and giving her rapid rewards for working with me and slowly fading them until she's walking longer distances in zone I want her to work beside me.  I select low and mid stimuli locations to work her and once she's comfortable with them I build up the level of stimulation and help her cope with it.  Sometimes an outing isn't to a building or a store, but just around the corner of my home or the park nearby - these locations afford the level of distraction and stimulation I need to help her learn more focus and strengthen her work ethic.

Both Robin and I are in agreement that Emma is at the age that she can easily be washed out of service dog work.  Too much stimulation or too long in a high stimulation situation can lead to a breakdown and her becoming nervous and unable to work.  I saw some of that this week - today I was working on a mid-level stress exercise and she shutdown on me.  It's her age - it happens - and it's her stress levels.  She's entering a new fear period and she's at the "don't wanna" age in her growth, but only last week she would have enjoyed the mind puzzle I offered while training her instead of tuning out and showing fear signs.

I ask that the family not take her out into public situations for a while and let me build up her public access skills.  I want Emma to succeed and after two reports of her out in high stimulation situations for extended times I am concerned for her.  Please respect that Emma is not ready to be a service dog and needs training, not just tagging along on trips with the family.

Thank you,

CK

Today's Lessons:


Stand

I checked Emma's homework sheet to see what we could work on today and found she is to learn to stand from a sit without moving her front feet.  I have a stand from a sit currently, but her front feet move.  I decided that fine tuning a known behavior would be a good mid-level stress situation and worked with her on that.  I sat on the floor and worked on teaching her to stand without moving her feet.

She was goofy and pawing my hands and flopping around on the floor.  I carefully lured her into position time and again and was just getting to where I had minor movement in her feet when I reached out to block her from stepping forward and Emma wilted and shutdown.  She became fearful and sulked off to behind my recliner where she refused to come out.  I had done nothing more than block her from moving forward and it shut her down - this is not a good sign.

I have been unable to get her to re-engage in training for the remainder of the day.  I ended our lessons as a result.

Homework

Have B work with Emma on Level 1 behaviors - this includes Zen, Come, Sit, Down and Target.  Have him use his speech device to cue the behaviors.  Think creatively and figure out how he can deliver the treats when she's done the behaviors for him.  Can he flick them to the floor for her?  Can you put a bit of PVC pipe on his chair with an elbow at the bottom that he can drop a treat into?  Can he use a button to push and make the Manners Minder work?  If you don't have a Manners Minder I would recommend buying one - they make training some behaviors much easier.  The goal is for B to be able to cue and have Emma help him, this can only be achieved is she learns to listen to him - it's time they begin working together.

At the end of each step in the book there is a section called Comeafters - I had mentioned on Monday to read through and make a list of the Comeafters for Level 1 and Level 1 Sit and Down.  Work on these over the weekend.  It doesn't have to be formal training, but creative application.  If you are in the tub soaking and she comes to visit can she do a sit when you cue it?  If not, train for that situation.  If you are cooking a meal and she's behind you can you cue a sit?  What about if B is on his bed?  What about if you are laying on the floor, on your knees, hanging over a counter?  The Comeafters are vital for her - think of as many ways you can change the picture for her so she truly knows the behavior.

Each Monday I will list what I want you to read for the week to be ready for the weekend's homework. Every weekend I want B working on cuing Emma for her basic behaviors and working on both he and her learning to communicate together.  If she doesn't understand him help her by training her to understand him - you don't have to read the whole book at once, just each step for each behavior.  If she can't sit when he cues her, then read Level 1: Step 1 Sit and help B teach it to her himself.  Let him know that the man who wrote Teamwork I and II also had CP and he not only taught his own service dog when no-one believed he could, he also helped other's teach theirs!  B can do it, give him the confidence and chance at success to prove it to him and yourselves.

Every weekend Emma should be playing the hide-n-seek game I described before - since I was told you haven't kept up on the blogs, which are written to help you know what to do and what to work on, I have included that text here and why the game is important.  After this week this section will be shorter and to the point and any reference to a game or lesson that you don't understand will have been explained in an earlier blog - to get to those posts use the menu on the left which provides each training day we've worked or use the search function and search for the name of the exercise.

From Day 66:

Special Training Assignment



Soon Emma will be able to help B with some of his needs.  By now she should be able to do a Sit, Down, Touch and Recall when B is using his speech machine to cue her.  He should be flicking treats to her or using a drop tube to land them at her feet (Check the attached YouTube video for ideas on how to build something like that for B to use on his chair or bed).  It is time for B to start a game with her called "Find".

The goal of the Find game is to train Emma to find people by name - in our case the names she'll learn are Mom, Dad, Sis and Help.  Chose a person to start teaching Emma to find - let's assume the first one is Mom.

Mom will stand close to Emma and B.  B cue "Mom, Find" and Mom will make a noise to turn Emma's head and give her a treat.  When Emma is turning her head as soon as she hears the cue have Mom move 1 foot away and cue Emma to "Mom, Find" and when Emma looks to Mom, Mom will get excited and give Emma a treat when Emma runs to her.  Keep adding Distance as Emma starts to run to Mom each time she's cued.  Over time Mom should be able to "hide" around a corner, but just enough Emma can find her.  When Emma does, throw a party and give her love and treats for running to Mom when she's almost out of sight.  When she's able to find Mom around the corner when she can't see her start adding distance again, until Emma learns to look around the house for that person by name.  Each time she "Mom, Find" have a big party and play and love on her and give her a reward (a special one only used for the Find Game).

Repeat this with Dad, Sis and then have her find Help by using random people like B's caregivers or visiting family.  The cues will be:


  • Mom, Find
  • Dad, Find
  • Sis, Find
  • Help, Find


In time this will morph into a huge service dog skill for Emma.  When she is older we'll teach her to carry a bumper she wears on her collar to the person she's been sent to find to tell them that B needs them.  We want this cue to be a happy cue for her, so making it a game of hide and seek right now will be fun for her and help her learn to search the house.  Don't go too fast and don't hide to hard at first, but build up to longer and longer finds in different locations in relation to B until she can search and find someone when cued.

Observations


Emma has a long run with the Wilting Willows when she was 5 months old and I took it slow and careful with her to get her out of them and bolster her confidence.  She's entering another long run of the Wilting Willows again and again I will have to take it slow with her and bolster her confidence so she exits this round with a stronger sense of herself.

This means that I need to approach each day as if it was a first day with her.  I need to train the dog who is in front of me and not train the dog I would like to see.  She's not bold like Max or able to recover like Jack, she is herself.  She's a happy and bouncy pup who quickly shies away from situations she's perceives as frightening and the only way to help her through this is to work at her speed and her threshold and give her a lot of success at the level she is at.  Flooding her with stressful or highly stimulating situations will not improve her confidence, but instead confirm she has a reason to worry.

I will work on fun activities next week and see if I can't find a playground for us to play on and build some personal confidence with.


Level 1
Zen Target Come Sit Down
Step Completed Completed Completed Completed Completed

Level 2
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 5 2 5 5 Completed
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 3 2 2 1 1
Jump Relax Handling Tricks Communication
Step 1 1 1 Completed 1

Level 3
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 3 0 0 0 1
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Jump Relax Handling Retrieve Communication
Step 0 0 0 2 0

Level 4
Zen Come Retrieve Target Relax
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Handling Communication


Step 0 0