Wednesday, November 27, 2013

14 Months: Training - Days 224 - 226

"It's Yer Choice" by Susan Garrett


Excitable Emma has been learning calm behaviors
all her life, but she didn't understand how we were
explaining them to her.
When my son Walter was born he was scooped up by the nurses and rushed out of the room right after they stuffed a hat on his head.  It alarmed me enough I sent his father after him to find out why they'd taken him away.  It was a short time later that Patrick returned and told me Walter had a birth defect.

I remember the nurses working in the background trying, but not succeeding, to look like they weren't listening to our conversation.  Patrick explained the birth defect could be corrected with surgery and would not affect his motor skills, vision or speech.  When I was carrying Wayne, Patrick and I had spoken in depth about birth defects and how we'd feel about one if it happened - in the end we concluded it wouldn't change the fact the child was ours and we loved him or her.  I could see the nurses almost holding their breath when Patrick finished telling me about Walter and then their stunned look when I said, "Well, at least it's correctable."

I think they expected me to breakdown and cry or something.  Little did any of us know, that birth defect was the small part of what would make Walter our special needs child.  He had been born with a brain tumor and autism, though we didn't know it at the time.  The first clues on the autism came in the hospital.  The nurses had to wake him to feed him, he didn't cry and he wouldn't open his eyes and he had almost no startle reflex.  The indications of the brain tumor was there too - his apgar was low and the doctors didn't believe me when I said he was born 29 days overdue.  In the end I proved my point about his due date, but they still didn't believe his apgar meant anything.

It did.  It was the brain tumor affecting his gross motor skills.  Over the next two years I would be told by many I was over reacting and imagining things when I said something was off about my son.  I would be led to believe I was crazy by most everyone except his doctor.

Walter's gross motor skills were drastically delayed, but his fine motor skills were drastically advanced.  At 4 months of age he had his first seizures.  It would be the first time I spent 9 hours in the ER and one of the times he had a spinal tap.  By 23 months he had 9 seizures and between 23 months and 24 months he would have over 40 seizures.

Resting in the office when I am on the computer is a
default behavior taught to her at a young age.
When the brain tumor was found I was no longer the crazy mother, but the mother who recognized something was off about my son.  But that wasn't the only thing.  I felt a wall between him and I and actually spent one afternoon making him mad at me by taking his toys away just to get him to look at me when he was 10 months old.  By age 5 he would be diagnosed with high functioning autism and I would be told my intruding in his world and bringing him part way into mine changed his life forever.

I spent years doing physical, occupational and speech therapy.  I spent years walking backwards up and down stairs to teach him to alternate his feet and working on his taking care of his basic needs.  The outcome is a functioning adult who lives on his own and manages his life with success.

Because of Walter I understand looking at a problem and finding a creative solution to it in a way that builds up the child and is fun for both myself and him.  I understand odd reactions to normal situations and I understand that it can be difficult raising a special needs child and planning anything is a challenge.

I was the parent that people worried about if I was late.  It was before the age of cell phones and easy updates, but if I wasn't 15 minutes early I was late according to doctors, therapists and instructors.  I had gone through my always late phase with Wayne, but Walter's needs and making appointments were vital and my planning skills for getting to a location with not one, but three children ranging from 4 to newborn became well honed.

Sitting for petting was taught early too, but she had a very
hard time with this lesson.  We are explaining it better now
that she is older by teaching self control over all points in her life.
I had Walter's sister in between the 4 major surgeries he had when he was 2.  Three of those surgeries were brain surgeries.  I could pack a newborn, a special needs child who was at a developmental age of 10  months and a hyper active, attention deficit 4 year old son up and be to any appointment for any one of them 15 minutes early.  If I was 12 minutes early I was asked if I had a problem by the secretary, instructor or doctor I was going to.  Generally, those appointments I had my two nephews with me which meant I was packing up 5 children under the age of 4 for an appointment.

Why share this?  Because I had 3 distinct personalities in my children.  Wayne was a Velcro child who needed a lot of input from me to feel secure.  Walter was a happy go lucky child who never met a stranger and needed a lot of supervision to keep him from going to and hugging perfect strangers.  Rachael was an independent child who problem solved how to get what she wanted and didn't want parental assistance with anything.  My daughter drove me to distraction some days because she would and did wander off to do something in the split second I turned my attention on one of my sons.

Today I am not herding children but dogs, and again I have a set of distinct and unique personalities.  Malcolm is very much like my daughter was - he problem solves and doesn't really need or want my input according to his world view.  Jack is Velcro and needs and desires my input on a minute by minute basis.  Emma is like Walter in many respects - she tends to go and hug strangers or finds her little corner and doesn't cause a lot of trouble and can easily slip your mind while you are redirecting a bold and independent puppy.  Max is fine as long as he knows where I am and happy to do his own thing, but always right on the sidelines when I need him.  Dieter just wants to color in his book and not play with the other kids.

Staying calm when working is important and
she's been working on it in her public outings.
But like kids all of the dogs desire my attention when it looks like I may be free to give it and they all desire it at the same time.  There is a bit of sibling rivalry and brotherly love and school house playground going on all at the same time.  It's exhausting, so by Friday I am not only looking forward to a house with fewer "kids" in it, but craving it.

Today Emma arrived happy and ready to tackle a new week.  Things were already a bit wound up when Jack arrived, but went into overdrive when Emma arrived.  Emma and Malcolm are like the two buddies that can't wait to meet on the playground.  It took a bit to get the house calm and required tethering Malcolm and reminding Emma that wrestling in the house was no longer allowed.

Once breakfast was fed and the house had calmed I went to work on Emma's nose nudge task.  When her handler gets tired his arms hang off the sides of his chair.  There is a risk he'll hurt his fingers in the wheels of his chair or pull the muscles in his shoulders if he does, so Emma is being trained to gently put his arm back onto the armrest of his chair.

I had mentioned on her Facebook page that we were having a problem with this due to her height.  She is a bit short and finds it hard to get his arm all the way onto the armrest.  Today I asked and confirmed that if she gets his arm started he can finish the move to place his arm on the armrest.  This makes training the entire task for her easier, but I was having a slow rate of success in teaching the move I want and getting a consistent push upward of the arm, so I contacted Donna Hill, a fellow trainer in Vancouver BC who has more experience than I do training these skills, and asked how to better break it down for her.

She suggested I use a sock with rice in it.  I don't have any spare socks to do this with, but I do have a door snake I can use and a sleeve I can put on it and later use on my arm as a targeting bridge.  I pulled the wheelchair out and parked it close to the crate and recliner and Emma gladly came out and nudged the snake.  I went to get a treat and shifted my weight and the snake dropped on her a little and then thunked to the floor.  That was it, Emma bolted like I had struck her with a cattle prod and hid behind my recliner and then peer out from between it and the crate.  I was looking again at that 6 month old pup who was afraid of her shadow and it broke my heart.

Quiet play in the yard is as important as busy play in the yard
to help Emma understand calm behavior pays.
I encouraged her to come to the more open side of the chair and saw her slink over and glare with fear at the door snake I had retrieved and was again hanging on the tight side of the chair.  Not good.  I don't want her afraid of the training tool.  I asked for a sit and gave her a treat, but she was still very fearful.  It took five minutes of asking for basic Level 1 behaviors and rewarding them and working up to targets and then slowly re-targeting her to the side of the chair where the snake was before she started to stand more upright and show less fear.

I removed the snake and chair from the picture and played some quick Level 1 skills in different parts of the house and worked back to the chair and asked for a quick touch on the snake and she did, now up and happy with an up tail that was wagging madly and her head up.  She did a quick and confident touch on the snake and we ended there.  I would spend the rest of the day playing targeting games with the snake in different positions with and without the wheelchair before she was happy and no worried to see the snake.  Poor girl is so sensitive!

I also spoke with Marge Rogers of Florida who specializes in hyper dogs and teaching them off switches and self control.  I asked her for an easier way to teach her and her family self control.  I had used all of my natural instincts in my house, which included leashing her when company came over, having my company be consistent on not paying attention to her until she was four on the floor and calm and waiting her out when she got over threshold when we were about to go somewhere and not putting her leash or harness on until she was calm.  The problem was, she understood what I wanted in my home well enough, but it was not translating to her family home.

The owners were leashing her and having the company not pay attention until she was sitting and trying to wait her out for leashing her, but both of us were finding she reset to zero each week and we were restarting.  Something wasn't clicking for Emma and we had not explained it well enough for her.  Marge suggested "It's Yer Choice" by Susan Garrett and shared some videos with me and discussed how to work a soft dog.

Relaxing in the house is important too.  She has been working
on a default calm behavior in the house since infancy.
I started the protocol for Emma today.  She calmed notably with this version of explaining self control and didn't shut down at all.  She became more and more confident and her self control overall seemed to improve with just the first step.  How wonderful.  I will continue to work it with her and the other dogs - but for her I am hoping it helps her keep her mind in many situations.

For her meeting her family we'll have to work it a bit different.  Instead of insisting she give us control we are going to give her to the choice to make it.  If this means that my being at my front door and the person picking her up at the base of the ramp it too close, then I will go into the yard and put more distance and slowly work her toward them until she imposes her own self control and understands the only way to the reward she wants is to be calm.  This means we will need to bundle up for this part of the training and make certain we are not in a hurry to rush somewhere - it could take up to 20 minutes to transfer her calmly the first time, but each successive time should go faster.

The same will be done in the reverse - when she is dropped off we'll again give her time and a choice to calm down and choose to be calm to get her reward.  So drop offs at the top of the week need to be done with plenty of time available to let her be successful.  Hopefully it will go quickly since she is smart; it is possible this will be the hardest thing she'll ever learn - she is very excitable.

I have included a video showing some of the protocol for your enjoyment.  I will be emailing her family and letting them know what we need to do to calm her down and if they want me to instruct them on it to show up with time for me to show them so she can be successful.


It's Yer Choice with a toy.

Enjoying play in the yard is important and Emma is learning that
running and wrestling in the yard is okay.
With my income so seriously limited now by loosing my day job to budget cuts, I must find new ways to put food on my plate.  I cannot take care of the dogs if I do not take care of me, so today my Mom and I planned on going to the Spokane Arena to pick up the turkey dinner food items that was being given to low income individuals and families.  We had discussed it over the weekend and I was expecting Mom right around the dog's breakfast time.

I set my alarm (something I normally don't need to do since Malcolm arrived) and got up in time to shower prior to Jack arriving for the day.  I was very pleased that Emma was not only calmer from the training from the day before, but was more compliant about going out on a leash and going to the bathroom.  I had taken her out most of the day prior to have her practice that skill, but she had refused to potty all day long.  She was let out off lead before bed when my ex-husband dropped by to sign paperwork to transfer the title of my home to me and as he left I just let the whole house out for a last play run in the yard before bed.  I was a bit frustrated that she's holding her bladder and refusing to potty, but planned on waiting her out the next day and was more than happy when she simply went to the bathroom first thing in the morning.

One note:  When Patrick arrived he tried to pet her before she was ready and she became worried about him.  No growling or barking, but she did lower to the ground and tuck her tail and was clearly very concerned about him.  He apologized to her for pushing her too fast, and the more he ignored her the more she was willing to explore and figure out if he was safe.  It was, in the end, his hat that was truly a problem for her.  Once he took off his hat she was willing to sniff him and though she didn't make best friends with him, she did stop worrying as much about him.  She needs more experience with people wearing hats.

Four on the floor little girl, good job!
The dogs were outside when Mom arrived and as Emma began to think about alerting the neighborhood to the fact I called her to me.  Where she has control, mostly, at greeting people in my home, she doesn't when outside in the yard.  I am constantly wearing a tether now and simply tethered her to me.  She was hyper but unable to practice jumping on my Mom.

In the house I waited until she was calm and released her so she could go visit with my Mom.  It took less than 2 minutes for her to calm down.  She attempted jumping once on my Mom but caught herself and spun and sat at my Mom's feet.  Mom praised her immediately for her self control and Emma did not go over threshold when Mom gave her attention.  Mom commented at that point that she was truly surprised by how much Emma had improved since she'd seen her two weeks earlier!  What a wonderful thing to hear - the little changes I have been making has been working and Emma is learning.

I fed the dogs and let them outside again so they could play while I went about setting up the house for Emma's success at being loose in the house.  We had decided to leave all of the dogs home, so I made certain I had several bones and chews on the floor and put out a puzzle toy with kibble in it.  I picked up anything she might consider chewing I didn't want her too and closed off the rooms I didn't want her in.  I have done this a lot with her when leaving her alone in the house and she's been fine; this time she was not.

I mentioned in a previous blog that Emma had chewed on some molding in my living room, so I was crating her and rebuilding her slowly on time to be loose in the house without incident.  She had two chewing incidents in a single day when I made that choice.  I had several good days of 10, 20 and 30 minutes alone in the house and she was fantastic, when I broke the 30 minute mark she shredded a coaster in my recliner.  I began rebuilding her time alone in the house again from scratch and she was up to 1 1/2 hours without incident.  This trip would take us 2 hours and the result was a disaster.

Cuddling in bed good, wrestling in bed not good.
Emma shredded a board in my living room flooring.  She pulled up a 4 foot section and shredded it in my recliner.  She also peeled up the linoleum in my entry and shredded it.  This is the first true signs of separation anxiety and I must deal with it carefully or she'll never be able to be left alone without causing serious damage to her families home.  For a while, Emma will need to be crated when I leave the home and cannot take her.

I once again worked It's Yer Choice with Emma, but this time I used a toy instead of food.  I brought out a tug and played tug with her, said "Okay" when I was ready for her to release and then waited for a sit.  If you remember, in an earlier blog I talked about getting her excited in playing with me, but I wasn't using toys or food, and then stopping the game and waiting for her to calm down enough to give me a sit and then starting the game when she did as a reward.  This was a version of It's Yer Choice but I hadn't thought of it that way.  A lot of my training (natural instinct) is to give the dog a choice and rewarding the choice I want.

Pull on the leash?  I stop and wait for the dog to loosen it and/or look back to me and reward it with moving forward.  Jump on me?  I wait for the dog to put their feet on the floor and reward that.  Come and check in with me?  Yep, that gets rewarded.  Settle and relax in the  house?  Yep, that too gets rewarded.  Want outside?  Choose to sit and not bolt out the door and you get that reward.  It's instinct and I have done it with all of my dogs all of my life - I just never could explain it well to others.  This program is exactly what I do, but in a way that both explains it to the dog and other people very well.

Emma did well on the food yesterday and today she did fantastic with the toy.  She promptly stopped playing and sat and made eye contact.  This increased her rate of re-enforcement for choosing a good behavior and even when she started to get really riled up it only took a little bit of wiggling and dancing around me before she remembered to sit and look up at me.  How fantastic is that?

The games have made a whole household change.  Emma is happier, calmer and more confident than I have seen her in ages.  She has had her head up, her body tall, her mouth soft and her eyes bright almost all day long.  The only time I saw the frightened Emma was when Malcolm did something to her behind my recliner that made her yelp.  Normally, when that body language happens she gets stuck in it, but with a bit of friendly talk and reassurance she was back up and happy again in less than 5 minutes.

But it is more than that.  She's not bounding off the chair the moment you look her in the eyes and talk to her.  She's not ripping out of my door like she's been shot from a cannon when let outside.  She's walking around the house and even if another dog gets excited she's staying calm.  Its like she suddenly got it - but I suspect she just "got it" in my home and this needs to be transferred to her families home so it becomes a life pattern.

Hey you two, no wrestling in the house.
For the first time in her life though, I saw the "Lab wiggle" and the calm "Lab  hello" when dealing with me and others in my home.  When Ronda came to pick up Jack she was the calmest dog of all of them, thus the first released from her lead to say hello and she WALKED up to Ronda and TURNED to SIT beside her and didn't jump or even think of it until petting her for more than 15 seconds happened, but when she started SHE chose to sit and got a reward for that too and not once did she fly over threshold.

Same with her leash and her harness.  They are highly charged for her and when I pick them up she goes into 15 minutes of jumping, barking spasms before she can get them put on.  She did put her feet on me, but she quickly got herself under control and waited for me to clip her lead on or fit her harness.  She is down to 1/8th of the energy level she normally puts into saying the leash and harness make her very happy.

It's almost like telling her she can be happy AND calm helped her settle.  She's a happier dog and as a result she's making more good choices more often.  I will contact another trainer who specializes in separation anxiety and talk about Emma's behavior when left loose in the house and find a better way to help her understand my leaving the home is not the end of her world.  Next week promises to be very productive with how well Emma is doing this program.  I will study on the next stage and work her toward higher levels of distraction and excitement with self control.  I am very happy for her and her progress.


Crate Games: Part 1 by Susan Garrett

Emma is not a fan of the camera.
Emma is to be picked up prior to 3 PM today so I can go to an appointment at 4 PM.  Since she's going to Seattle for the weekend and will be staying in a hotel, I wanted to do a public access run and re-enforce that calm behavior is a great choice.  I had hoped to get some crate games in, since her crate skills are still touchy, but that didn't happen after our public access run.  She needed play to relieve stress and sleep to recover before being picked up and I chose to give her that instead.

When she was in her formative weeks she was crated exclusively in a wire crate.  This happened until she was 14 weeks old and she went to live with her new family.  They bought her a molded crate for their home and to bring to mine so she could be safely crated at night and when I left.  During the first four days she spent in her new home and before she came to me she threw a mighty protest in the new crate and totally disrupted her family.

All ready to go home.
They love her and didn't want her that upset and thinking they were doing right by her would release her while she was in high protest and try to calm her before returning her to her crate.  In the end, their daughter, a very gentle woman, opened the crate door and laid on the floor with Emma and slept with her so she wouldn't be so upset.  Please understand, they thought they were doing the right thing for her, but in truth Emma learned that if she screamed and protested in her crate long enough and loud enough she would be released.

Emma came to me with that mindset and learned I am not as willing to play the game.  I would spend the months following with Emma running from me at bedtime to avoid the crate or hiding from me when she realized I was going to bed to avoid the crate then screaming from the inside of her crate for hours on end with the only release a walk outside to potty and returned to the crate.

If you go back to when Emma started with me you'll read about the mighty protests she gave.  Giving her a stuffed Kong or a chew or a toy in her crate did not help in the least.  At one point I simply put a blanket over the crate to decrease her stimulation by seeing Max or Dieter or me outside of the crate which only made it worse.  I would also speak to her and reassure her she was not alone.

The crate was in my bedroom facing the end of my bed and even that was not enough to help her calm.  If she got so worked up she was frantic I would go to her and reassure her she was okay, but never released her from the crate, just opened the door and calmed her and then closed her back in.

She learned to just enter her crate at night and eventually the all night long protests did reduce and become only when she was first crated; even then it could last up to 30 minutes of ear splitting screams of protest.  She was always worse on Mondays and almost tolerable by Fridays.  I personally cannot blame the family for wanting to let her out and stop her protests just to get some sleep - I was on the edge of it myself.

Ah c'mon, smile!
Quiet, peaceful crate rest would not happen until I put her in the wire crate in my bathroom.  Emma never adjusted to her molded crate, but the very first night I put her in the wire crate she looked about and curled up and went to sleep without a peep.  I had put her in there simply because I was at my wits end and was about to strangle her if she howled one minute more in her other crate.  It was then I asked them to keep their crate at home and stop using it for a while until I could work out how to solve her problem.

At her families home she was tethered to her handler's bed at night, which gave them their first peaceful sleep since adopting her and I used the wire crate, which gave me mine.  What's funny was she could not see me from the bathroom, but she was fine in the wire crate.

I used the wire crate until I started teaching her how to sleep in the house without a crate or tether. In the meantime I ended up with two molded crates in the house to train with.  One is in my bedroom by my bed and the other is the big crate in the living room (previously in the kitchen).  I left the door to the big crate open and just gave Emma and Jack time to explore and find out the crate can be a good place (after Dieter recovered from his spinal injury right after Attitude died).

In time I could close the door and open it and cue her into and out of the big crate and she wouldn't be fearful of it.  Sometimes I would crate her in it when I didn't have Jack for the day.  I would crate her when I left for an errand and return to find she was actually calm and relaxed in the crate.

Though I haven't worked crate games with her yet and built up her crate behaviors fully, she is willing to go into and lay in the crate and not panic now.  She is quiet in the crate if I am in the house, but gives a "are you there" bark when she can't see me and protests when I first leave.

She is about 50% of the way to learning about different types of crates.  For me it hadn't been a huge rush to finish that part of her crate training because I hadn't gotten to it in the Levels yet and she wasn't traveling.  I was, unfortunately, informed of the trip to Seattle late and didn't have time to polish off her crate skills before the trip.  I will, when she returns, begin working on crate skills and build it up so she feels safe and secure in any type of crate.

I really wish she took goo pictures!
Meanwhile, I knew Seattle on a holiday weekend would be wild and wanted to gauge how she is doing with her public access under very busy situations.  I had to purchase dog food today and knew that I would be no more than 10 to 15 minutes in Costco (even busy) and decided to take her.  My son Wayne came over while I was out trying to potty Emma on the lead.  Unlike the day before she was again in refusal mode for going potty on lead and had yet to do so when he came over at 10:30 AM.  This is not for lack of being offered - I had taken her out every 30 minutes since 7 AM to give her a chance to pee.

I had her on lead, so when she tried to jump on him (remember, her calm when greeting has primarily been worked in the house and not outside) and couldn't because she couldn't reach him she finally defaulted to a sit!  YES!

After that we went in and she sat and wiggled, moved closer and sat and wiggled and when she got too excited because he didn't want her attention she caught herself when she tried to jump and sat and wiggled.  Wayne recognized she was really struggling to choose the right behavior and finally gave her a tiny pat on the head.  She got very excited, but didn't jump on him.  Good GIRL!

Wayne knew a dog was going with us, but didn't know which one I had chosen to bring.  I informed him it was Emma and it would be a moment before she got over her excitement of seeing me pick her gear up.  It did, but it was 1/3 of the time it normally takes.  She was already fitted to the martingale collar I am using to remind her to pay attention to the tension in the leash (it doesn't have to tighten, the sound of the slip chain clicking when she's starting to pull brings her to a stop and she looks back at me, but it doesn't cause her undue stress).  A martingale is a collar that tightens when the dog pulls, but doesn't choke them or cause them pain.  I was sent two that had a chain for the part that pulls the collar ends together (the chain does not touch her neck when it's pulled) and makes a nice little click sound to give her more feedback when on the lead.  She had grown pretty insensitive to her collar and pulling against it and the slight tightening and the sound of the chain gave her the feedback she needed without my having to ever do a leash correction.

It will also allow her family to hear her pull on the lead before it becomes tight and stop before she gets a chance to pull.  It's a win/win and I love it.  The martingale went with her today for her holiday in Seattle.  I put her harness on and then let her calm herself while I crated Malcolm and Jack and closed the house up so Max had a limited area to wait for my return in.

Sleepy baby.
She loves to ride in the car and normally shoots out of the gate like a rocket, but with the gear on she was staying loose lead and paying attention to me without going over her excitement threshold. She rode, as per normal, nicely in the van to Costco and when we exited the van I gave her time to get over her excitement at being at a new place and refocus on me.  It was her choice when she was ready - something I do naturally and never realized until I became a trainer is not what most people do so would never have thought to mention it to anyone before.  It took less than 2 minutes to take in the very busy parking lot and start toward the store.

She would be on a loose lead the entire time we worked - only making the martingale click when she would try to go and sniff someone we were passing.  I was using the 6 foot leather lead and had it short to keep her in a working position.  When she would shoot out to put her nose on someone it would click and she would turn and look at me and I would call her back to me and praise her for it.  She soon stopped trying to sniff people, though she tried at least 10 drive by sniffings before she got it.

It is Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, so you can imagine how Costco was.  She was a bit worried by the number of people, but not fearful.  She surprises me; she can be a wreck at home and a star in public - I don't understand, but she does very well with public access.  When Wayne started to walk on her left, which put her between him and I, she totally relaxed and walked with her head up and a spring in her step - that is Emma's "I can handle this" strut and I was happy to see it.  She had a couple of startles as we headed to the aisle with the food, but recovered very well.  For early working public access training, she is doing very well.

When Wayne picked up the food bag she jumped and it took a bit more to calm her, but a quick treat and praise and she managed to regain her control.  We had been in the store less than 5 minutes by this time and she was settling into handling the busy atmosphere.  As we headed to the aisle I saw a penny on the floor and asked her to pick it up.  She did, twice.  It focused her and she was very proud of herself.  She never got it to my hand, but the fact she tried was more important than her success in delivery.  Wayne was impressed.  We started for the front of the store with a bag of food on Wayne's shoulder and a package of dog toys in his hand walking behind us.  This was the spot Emma had troubles with.

She tucked her butt so it was rolled a bit under and her tail shot under her and went tight to her bum and she started whiplash looking behind her.  This is, by the way, expected and normal behavior when first learning about people walking close behind them in a store and I have dealt with it before.  I just moved her a bit to the right and told her what I wanted ("This way, good girl") and then dropped in behind Wayne by slowing our speed and then followed him instead.  The instant I did that she relaxed and happy Emma returned, but I could see the stress was building on this trip.

All groomed up.
She parked at my feet as I taught her and let me pay without incident.  When we started out I could see she was on the end of her endurance.  Her head was even with her shoulders, she was walking with a mincing step instead of a spring and there was a stillness in her overall body language.  I told Wayne she was done and it was good we were leaving.  The moment we stepped outside her head came up and her spring returned, but after getting her into the van I had to spend a few minutes cuddling her to reduce her stress because she didn't want her reward for being so damn good in the store.  Before I pulled out of our parking spot she ate her treat.  The trip in and out of Costco was 10 minutes total and she was exhausted.

I gave her the rest of the day in play and rest.  She had done enough.  She played hard for 30 minutes when we returned and then slept like a rock for 2 hours when we went in.  It wasn't the "I'm taking a nap now" nap, but "I need a power nap, I am exhausted" nap and was clear to see by her body language while sleeping what it was.  She was a little low when she woke, but another good play session fixed that and she was in great spirits when her family came to get her.

See ya next week little one.
I had her suited back up (again, she was happy to see her gear) and leashed and took her almost to the back of my property to get her to calm and start working on walking to her family with a much lower criteria on It's Yer Choice.  She barked and bounced the whole time, but when I stopped the sat promptly at least 60% of the time and achieved at sit 100% of the time given a chance to choose.  She had two penalty walks from the gate for putting her feet on it when we got there and then walked calmly through the gate and spent 10 minutes working on getting calm enough to have her leash transferred and another ten minutes working on total calm before she was able to head out for the weekend.  The 20 minutes gave me time to explain what we were doing and how to achieve it and why it was important.  She did stop her barking when we got close to her family and I'll work on eye contact next time when she sits and quiet after that.

Emma made great progress this week and did a fantastic job learning to control herself.  I am very proud of her.

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 Completed 2 Completed 2
Jump Relax Handling Tricks Communication
Step 1 3 Completed Completed Completed

Level 3
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 3 Completed 2 1 1
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 Completed 0 4 0
Jump Relax Handling Retrieve Communication
Step Completed 2 Completed Completed 1

Level 4
Zen Come Retrieve Target Relax
Step Completed 0 Completed 0 0
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 Completed 0 5 0
Handling Communication

Step Completed 0

Sunday, November 24, 2013

14 Months: Training - Days 219 - 223

If you look, she's not taller than my end table.  She's fully grown.

Poor sweet Emma is uncertain what her role in the house is.  She can move from up and happy to down and mopey in a flash and has whole days where she is uncertain and worried.  She's in her final major fear period and it's like raising a teenage girl in the house.  She is, for the most part, a happy girl, but she is so sensitive to people's moods and emotions and even the slightest rise in their voice that she ducks and covers and then peers out to see if returning is a good idea.  She's been this way since her infancy and I don't see it changing much.

When she learns a skill and knows what is expected of her she stands tall and shows true confidence and there are a lot of areas where she is very confident, but with people and loud noises she has a fluctuating response.

When she wasn't much older than Malcolm I accidentally dropped a bowl right before her which clattered and clanged and sent her flying for the hills.  It took almost 6 months for her to recover from that single instance and I spent a lot of time talking with my trainer friends on helping her recover and regain her confidence with metal bowls.

The difference in her reactions to the world at Malcolm's age and Malcolm's is night and day.  Malcolm is not Emma and Emma will never be Malcolm.  That means I need to deal with Emma for who she is.  She is a loving, trusting girl who enjoys cuddles and needs fine small slices and slow approaches to new ideas to build her confidence.

Monday was not the day for that.  Not for anything Emma did.  She arrived in a happy and upbeat mood and was feeling her oats as a young dog.  She gleefully ran through the yard and played with Malcolm and Jack and tried to bring the play session into the house with her.  She loves play above and beyond anything else.

But with all of that playful youthfulness comes a high spirit of energy and bouncing and getting so excited she gets beyond being able to listen.  With a young, high energy and playful puppy in the house she's twice as likely to forget her manners.  Having her and Malcolm in the house together is like having two toddlers with a pound of sugar in each one.  Its a lot of management and I am exhausted before the day even begins.

As you know, I write up both Malcolm and Jack's blogs as well and have detailed Monday in them - I will simply copy and paste what I wrote in Jack's blog regarding Monday to share it with you.  It was a day unlike any I have had in a long time.

On Monday I was in so much pain I couldn't function.  Emma and Jack are both very sensitive to people's emotions and their natural reaction is to provide comfort, but what I truly needed was for them to either lay near me or somewhere other than on me.  They both wanted nothing more than to be on me.

It started with my arms burning and feeling heavy.  They felt like someone had put a spike through my wrist up to my elbow.  Nothing relieved the pain for almost 2 hours.  Both Jack and Emma wanted nothing more than to make me feel better by cuddling, but their touch was more than I could handle.  Poor babies just didn't understand why I kept asking them to go elsewhere.

Shortly after my arms stopped hurting so badly my left leg started.  It was after only a few steps that it felt like I was tearing the tendons and muscles on both sides of my ankle, my right ankle felt much the same but not as sharply.  Soon it was a sense of swelling on the outside of the leg, followed by the same burning and throbbing my arms had done.  It was right after that it felt like someone had run a spike from my heel to my hip and every step was pure agony.

I was using my cane, which makes Emma a bit nervous at first, but shortly I had her and Jack following me like I was their mother.  Each turn and each step was met with both of them glued to me.  By noon I was near tears and by 3 PM I wanted to scream.  Training was not an option for any of the dogs - though I had made an effort, I simply hurt too much to do anything.

At 3 PM I took a hydrocodone, even though I knew it would knock me into next week and leave me with a grumpy hang over the next day.  I tend to not take it unless I can sleep it off, but I didn't have that option.  I had, by 1 PM given up on walking - I simply couldn't take another step.  I was using the power chair and was truly happy to see that it seemed to relieve Jack and Emma's stress.  They no longer were trying to hover on me and were happy again.

I was happy to see their heads up, instead of held in the "apology" position.  Their tails were up, which was a marked improvement from the tucked position they'd been until then.  They were giving me soft mouths and relaxed bodies and their energy was up.  I hate seeing them in the "I don't know what to do" body language.  It is sad to see and hurts my heart.

So, for all of them, they had a chance to practice working around different mobility equipment.  Emma and Jack are no longer afraid of the wheelchair and have learned how to move out of the way and not cause issues when I use it in the house.  This was the longest I have ever used it in the home and the more I used it the more comfortable they all became.

At one point Malcolm dropped my cane, which had been resting against my recliner by the crate, on his head.  He looked at it, took it by the strap and raced across the house with it.  Emma had jumped and bolted behind me, but quickly returned to watch Malcolm pick up the cane and run off with it.  The normal "that was too much" reaction she gives when something falls and she wasn't expecting it was replaced with curiosity as she watched Malcolm turn the cane into a toy.  How interesting Malcolm is showing her that loud or scary things to her are not and she's gaining confidence seeing it.

Malcolm had class that night.  Ronda decided to take me to class since she was afraid I would be too out of it to drive safely.  I fed the dogs and was once again proud of Emma for moving the metal bowl across the floor without flinching or being worried about it.  I then setup the house for success,  placed a couple of puzzle toys out for her and Max and headed to Malcolm's class.

When I returned Emma had enjoyed the puzzle toys with Max and was in a relaxed and happy mood.  She had not chewed on anything she shouldn't.  I rebuilt her being alone in the house loose and was happy to see she is once again back to be okay when I go.


This makes fun ice cubes for the dogs
and can be purchased on Amazon.
Each night when I put the dogs to bed I give them a ice cube made of chicken broth and water (50/50 mixture) which I freeze in a tray called a Kong Easy Freeze tray.  They love them.  It's like doggy crack for them.  Emma loves to try to eat them in my bed.  I tried to stop her after she went to get on my bed with her ice cube last week and she has been shy about the ice cube ever since.  I want her to enjoy the treat as much as my boys, so I am setting her up for success by walking her into the living room and making a big deal out of her getting her ice cube.  She's still shy about them, but she enjoys her cube and comes to me afterwards all wags and smiles.  It will probably take me 2 weeks to get her excited about her cube when I hand it to her again.

She enjoys the nights having freedom in the house and I find nothing out of place or chewed when I wake, so she has, since the beginning of November, had the run of the house at night.  She does get up and leaves my bed when I sleep.  I know because I will find a toy in my bed in the morning that wasn't there when I went to bed the night before.

I have not, yet, left socks where she can get to them when I am sleeping, but will start that in December.  Ever since she learned to retrieve she's started chewing on socks.  I am working her slowly to having access to socks (some are on the crate by the bed, but not on the floor) and will start one night a week leave her worn socks on the floor to give her a chance to make the right choice once she's okay with worn socks on the crate.  The socks on the crate now are clean socks without my body scent in them.

As expected Tuesday was a hang over day from the medication from the day before.  I was not in pain like I had been, but I was exhausted and my tolerance level was low.  Remember, the dogs are not doing anything more than being dogs and not getting in any real trouble, I was just beyond able to care for them unless they were resting quietly in the house.

Emma doesn't do well with this.  I curled up in my recliner to rest while Malcolm napped and asked Emma to join me.  She curled against my belly for a while and then let herself out of the chair and slept by me.  Later when I took a second nap she was able to curl up on my hip and sleep with me for a bit.  This seemed to help some, but what she really wanted was outside play and what I really couldn't provide was supervised outside play.

By the end of the day I was feeling a bit better.  After Jack had gone for the day I trained Malcolm the idea of finding the mat and parking on it.  I then took the lesson to the living room and worked until he was planted on the mat and waiting for me to toss him treats.  This gave me the chance to work with Emma on lifting my arm onto the arm rest of the chair.  She's short, even for my chair, and finds it hard to get my arm up and onto the arm rest.  I believe the last time I measured her height she's only about 19 inches tall, so the mechanics may be wrong for her height.  I need to ask the family if she gives his arm a boost can he use it to finish lifting his arm onto the arm rest or if she needs to completely lift it up herself.

I then worked on Left and Right with her again.  She's finally figured out what focus is for and settled in.  She's getting it, but we are early in the training.  For the 3 minutes with Left and Right and Malcolm on Mat behaviors.  It was a wonderful training session and Emma was alert, involved and happy.

At one point I went to let her and Max and Dieter outside for a quick potty break and she charged down the ramp and rolled Dieter, who yelped.  I stepped out and in a gruffer than normal voice told her to come back to me and then gently put her into the house.  I shut the door to time her out for a moment and when I opened the door she had peed a circle around my recliner.  It took almost 20 minutes to reassure her she was not in major trouble, but she wasn't allowed to charge and roll the 15 year old dog with a spine that can easily be injured.

I hate it when she goes from happy to sulky!  It just hurts to see her roller coaster between the two extremes.  She almost acts like I had her boyfriend arrested.  The moment I see her head ducked I need to back up and reassure her that my frown, raised voice or quick movements have nothing to do with her.  She is getting better at dealing with my emotions, but it's a balancing game to keep her up and happy most of the time.

I know it sounds like Emma is sulky or sad a majority of the time and that simply isn't true.  She has this happy relaxed smile that I cannot seem to capture on camera (because cameras are scary) and I see her tail up and wagging a lot.  She loves to run and I love to watch her do so.  Her outside times leave her breathless and joyful when we come back in the house.  She runs at top speed to me when I call and she spends a lot of her time following me with her head up and her eyes bright waiting for me to offer her a chance to help - but there is a disproportionate amount of time she is tucking her head and lowering her body when I stand or move.  I really want her confidence up enough that she doesn't feel like she needs to do that and I haven't found what is causing that emotion, outside of the fact I am in thought and I am frowning when it happens.  I cannot possibly smile all the time and expect people to be smiling all the time around her, so I am working on letting her know that just because I am in thought and frowning or I am upset with something it has nothing to do with her.  It's slow, but she's recovering faster and I am seeing her flash the tuck and duck more and the tuck and hide less, so I know I am making progress.

My goal for Emma is not only for her to be trained to do her job for her handler, but to enjoy it too.  When we were struggling for months with retrieve I was worried that the one most important part of her job would the one part she hated the most.  Once she learned what I wanted, how easy it was and that it made me happy, she was suddenly overjoyed to retrieve.  I am hoping for a emotional breakthrough with various, normal, moods in her humans and her being more stable in her moods herself.

Wednesday - Friday

She loves to run!
With my not feeling good at the top of the week Emma moods were hot and cold.  She was up and down and I wanted to stablize her.   I worked on her understanding that she's a good girl and she is making good choices.  I worked on that with her.  I also wanted her to work on simply doing things calmer.  Walking out the door, getting her leash on, greeting me or anything else in her life.  Calm meant a lot more time was involved before she could do anything.

She tends to jump and bounce and bark and dance and be wild when something excites her.  The moment she did that I disconnected from her until she calmed and then reconnected.  If reconnecting sent her over threshold again I did a quick disconnect.  By disconnect I simply pretended she didn't exist.  I talked to Malcolm or watched TV or took care of something I needed to do and waited until she calmed.  The moment she calmed she got my attention.  For Emma, this is a huge reward.

She started the week barking, bouncing and being flighty; she ended the week calmer and able to calm herself in less than half the time she had the week prior.  I had not picked up her leash for 2 days and when I did on Friday she was excited, but not barking, bouncing off of my bladder and bounding about the house.  She did raise her feet off the floor, but within 2 minutes (remember, least week it was 15) she calmed down and started walking calmly, but happy beside me.

I took her out twice during the week and leash relieved her and when she succeeded she got freedom to play in the yard.  After the incident on Tuesday she was calmer across the threshold and by Friday she was trotting halfway down the ramp before bounding off to play.

On Friday she had two very long play sessions in the yard.  She enjoyed Catch Me If You Can and wrestling in the yard with both Jack and Malcolm.  She was standing tall with an up tail and happy as ever.  It was a great day.

I have been looking for a definition between a soft dog and a hard dog.  A soft dog is a dog whose moods can be influenced by the people they are interacting with.  They can be confident, but they can easily go from happy to worried or appeasing when they believe they have made their human upset.  A hard dog is a dog whose moods are not influenced by their humans moods.  They will give appeasement signs when they become aware they have gone out of line, but most of the time the humans moods do not change their mood.  Emma and Jack are soft dogs; Malcolm and Max are hard dogs.

A soft dog who lacks confidence can shift from happy to outright fearful in a heart beat.  Emma, who is younger than Jack, is gaining confidence.  Jack came to us with rapidly shifting moods like Emma is now demonstrating.  He's six months older than her and his moods are still affected by his humans, but not as dramatically as they were at Emma's age.  With age Emma should gain confidence if I continue the confidence building exercises I have been doing with her.  It's just slower going for her than Jack because she's softer than he is.  That is okay, it makes her a sweet girl and there is nothing wrong with her.

Next week is a short week for both Emma and I and a busy one with a holiday coming and my needing to pick up food packets from various locations to keep my pantry stocked.  I am functioning on much less money (IE, I am functioning on well below poverty level) and trying to keep the household working.  This means I have to take advantage of what is available to put my food on the table so my limited funds can put the pups food in their bowls.

Next week promises to be lines to get food that I can store in my pantry that will keep me fed and allow me to designate a portion of my funds for a bag of food for the dogs.  Its a balancing act, but I am still managing it, but not without the added stress that comes with worrying about money.  There are days I wish that wasn't part of the equation in my life, but it is and I must deal with it.

I am hoping that Emma's mood is up enough to have a positive run or two out with the wheelchair so we can practice some basic skills regarding working with her handler.  I am also hoping to build up more of her directional cues so she can learn to go and get something when he wants it and it's not right by his chair.  I will also work on her light switch skill set and researching how she can help him lift his arm with her height issue in regards to the chair.

As always, I am working on self calming skills and researching more ways to clearly explain the behavior I want her to display when presented with something exciting.

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 Completed 2 Completed 2
Jump Relax Handling Tricks Communication
Step 1 3 Completed Completed Completed

Level 3
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 3 Completed 2 1 1
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 Completed 0 4 0
Jump Relax Handling Retrieve Communication
Step Completed 2 Completed Completed 1

Level 4
Zen Come Retrieve Target Relax
Step Completed 0 Completed 0 0
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 Completed 0 5 0
Handling Communication

Step Completed 0

Sunday, November 17, 2013

14 Months: Training - Days 215 - 218

Emma at 14 weeks of age.

Emma came into my life when she was 14 weeks old.  She was a bit shell shocked and frightened the first night.  She didn't know me or my son and she certainly didn't know the dogs in the house.  She was starting a journey she didn't understand and it took the first few days she was with me before she even felt safe enough to take food from my hand.

Emma is still shy and easily withdraws when stressed.  She's required gentle care and confidence building to get her where she is.  The last time I started to see a bit of shyness manifest into minor fear reactions I didn't take heed of her gentle nature and special need for care and accidentally pushed her too far to fast and she shutdown on me.  It was at the top of her fear period and we spent months rebuilding from that point - I was not about to let that happen to her again.

When I saw those beginning signs again last week, recognized I was part of the problem with my frustration levels too high and her triggering off of my holding my breath, I took the end of the week off and just gave her the attention and affection she needed to recover her confidence.  So, when she arrived excited and happy to return to my home I was happy for the effort I put in keeping her mood up.

We had a great start on our morning with training for Left and Right and working mat behaviors with the other dogs.  She ate well and was in a happy and confident mood.  It was fantastic to see.  When I let her and Jack out to play and run off some energy I wasn't expecting our day to end with a visit to the vet.

She went racing at 110 miles an hour along the length of the property, went to run around the end of my house like she's done a thousand times and lost her footing.  I didn't see her, but I heard her hit.  I was standing on my porch when I heard the impact followed by a scream.  It wasn't a yowl, howl or yelp, but a scream of pain.

By the time I came down the ramp Jack was slowly escorting her around the front of the house and she was hobbling with the leg she'd injured previously and looking like her world had ended.  I felt sick.

I rubbed her leg out and asked her to walk.  She put her foot down, but didn't bear weight on it and then she limped away.  My sick went to fear she'd re-injured her leg.  I called the vet and confirmed they wanted her in that night and packed her up after a call to her owner.

It turns out it wasn't a tear, break or dislocation, but a serious strain.  When I got her home, on medication for the strain, I massaged out her back and hip.  She was clearly swollen from the ribs to the knee.  Poor baby.

But the strain also meant she was to be restricted on her activity.  I had to leash relieve her and not let her run through the yard for the rest of the week.  I feared that with just getting her confidence built up we'd loose it again with forced inactivity.

What I didn't expect was her having forgotten all of her leash relieving skills.  She refused to potty on leash the rest of that day and ended up peeing on (yes, on) my power chair during the night.  Emma is one of those female dogs who raises her leg to pee on things - I've seen her do it on my fence and on plants when she's marking behind the boy dogs.  I keep telling people she's been at a disadvantage being the only girl dog in the family since April - she started lifting her leg during the summer after Attitude died.

I know it was her by two factors - the pee hit higher than Dieter can ever imagine to aim and was lower than Max aims - Malcolm is not peeing on things yet and is crated at night.  There was more pee than Dieter produces and the wrong color and less than Max produces.


Emma at 5 months of age.
She held out on peeing on leash until noon.  After that she did both jobs without hesitation.  She was convinced she'd wear me down and let her off lead, but learned I am more than willing to take her out every 30 minutes until she pees and/or poops.

As the day progressed she became more excitable, which is a fallback to restricted activity.  She tried a few times to start a game in the house, but quickly stopped when I said her name and came to me for a massage instead.

We worked on her Left and Right skills again and mat behavior with the other dogs.  She's enjoying this type of training and getting very good at it.  I had to do some research to find a better way to train the behavior, but she's getting it slowly.

I did a lot of emotional support with her to keep her mood up.  I didn't want this injury to set her back emotionally and massages and reassurance she was doing good by being quiet helped her.  She was in a good mood most of the day, though she was getting more and more wound up without being able to release her energy.  She's a high energy dog, though she can and does settle nicely in the house, she needs time to just run off the energy she builds up to be in balance.

One thing that has been a consistent problem with her is her jumping.  She gets excited about anything and she's bouncing off the walls like she's eaten a pound of sugar.  Touching her personnel leash from her home sends her into spasms of excitement.  Each time I seem to defuse it we loose ground and she is back at zero with her leash.  This week I was using her leash to take her out and simply would pick it up and sit and watch TV until she was past jumping, past spasms of excitement and past vibrating in place trying to keep her butt on the floor.  The first time it took fifteen minutes.

We spent a majority of the day on calm getting her leash on, calm going to the door, calm going out the door, calm going to the grass to pee, calm coming into the house and calm once off leash in the house.  It's a hard lesson she's been working on all her life.  A high pitched voice, directly looking in her eye, or even a new person sends her into bouts of jumping and barking with excitement.  It's a major issue for Emma.

I was very tired by the end of the day waiting for Emma to calm enough to take her outside and potty her, running Malcolm out every 20 to 40 minutes when he asked out and taking Jack out.  I was also in extreme pain by dinner time for the dogs and Emma was more than ready to rough house if I took my concentration off of her and Malcolm.  It's busy here during the week.


Emma at 9 months of age.
Emma moved from 15 minutes to 10 minutes before she could calm enough to be taken out the first time in the morning.  No pee in the house, since she was once again emptying her bladder before bed, but she was even easier to hype up than the day before.  Poor girl is full of energy and no outlet.

We worked again on Left and Right - the beginning of her being directed to pick up something for her handler when he cues her.  She understood the lesson better this time, but was so excited about training her head looked like it was on a swivel.  I spent more time waiting for her to look at me than I did getting her to indicate the hand I wanted her too.

She was willing to engage the training and not showing fear signs, so I was managing to keep her mood up with the regular massages and lots of reassurance she was okay.  She was playful, her head up, her tail up and her body tall.  It was good to see that confident girl back after the week of slinking around my house just before this one.

Walter came over to do my floors in the afternoon.  Emma has learned that Walter will not pay attention to her until she's sitting and she immediately planted beside him vibrating like a toy when I told him we were working on the next level of calm.  Max greets Walter by turning sideways and leaning on him with his head down, but not so over the threshold of excitement he is out of control - it's a good greeting.  Emma needs to learn to greet in a nice soft body and then leave the guest alone - so I asked Walter to ignore her until she was calm.  I love my son, he did just that.

Poor Emma nearly exploded moving and sitting beside him vibrating in place for almost 30 minutes before she gave up and went into her normal calm behavior in the house.  He then gave her attention and when she wound into the ceiling again, he withdrew attention until she calmed.  This time it took only 5 minutes.  Much better.

She is okay with the vacuum and steamer, but also checked in with me off and on when she was a bit worried about it.  With a pat on the ribs and reassurance she was safe she went and watched Walter do the floors.

I had to go to a job interview in the afternoon and Walter watched the dogs.  I had informed him of her injuring herself and the need to take her out on lead.  What I forgot to do was inform Ronda, who knew of the interview, that Walter would be there and the dogs would not be crated when she arrived to get Jack.  She let herself in and accidentally let Emma loose.  Thankfully she did not set her recovery back, both Walter and Ronda rounded her up after a couple of round around the house.


Emma at 13 months of age.
Emma was in a fantastic mood on Friday.  She was down to 5 minutes before calming enough to be leashed and walking out of house and was walking nicely by my side and promptly doing her business.  Nice job.

She was ready for her "think on this" lesson for the weekend, so I introduced to her the idea of taking her bowl in her mouth.  We started with a bit of target and waited for her to offer mouthing it.  I didn't care if she took it and held it, I just wanted her to think that she could maybe pick up her bowl herself.  I'll revisit the idea during next week and see if I can't get her to pick up and hand me her bowl when she's done eating.

By the end of the day were were down to 2 minutes before calming enough to leash her and walking without launching out of the door.  I went out the gate with her to check the mail and she immediately put her nose to the ground.  I just shorted the leash so her nose couldn't reach and waited for her to bring her attention back to me before taking her back in the yard.  It worked and I will suggest that to her owner, who struggles on Monday's when delivering her to the house with her sniffing and lack of focus.  Her owner struggles with this weekly and I had to think of how to explain to her what to do without frustrating both her and the dog.  I think this will work best for both.

Near the end of the day she was pinging off of my bladder when I touched her leash.  We had gotten so good with the leash and she escalated.  I wasn't surprised, so I just wrapped her leash over my neck and wore it for the last hour and half she was with me.  When I saw the caretaker pull up outside I just clipped it on her and walked her out.

That was when she lost it.  The caretaker is fantastic about waiting quietly at the base of the ramp for Emma and giving me time to work her calmly to her.  Emma on the other hand, due to the shadows and it being nearly dark, was in bark and escalate mode and it took a bit to calm her down.  I did a lot of laps with her before she got to the caretaker and I could pass her off.

I need to think of a better way of explaining calm greeting behaviors with people with Emma.  Off to research some more!

Emma is progressing nicely but I want to take it slowly when doing her final public access training.  Until now she's been on more of a socialization run when out in public, but now she's ready to begin working in public and practicing her skills as she has them.  This needs to be taken slow with her because of her soft nature and tenancy to become fearful and shutdown when she's uncertain of her role.  I need to define her role clearly and build her confidence and lower her excitability when working in public to build her into a solid public access dog.

Next week will be pet friendly only locations so our expectations can be lower without her appearing untrained when learning her role as a public access dog working with a wheelchair.  I want to start with one or two outings a week and work up to daily outings by the time she graduates.  This slow build up to more outings and longer periods out in public should give her the foundation introduction to public access work will keep her from becoming overwhelmed and allow her to process and learn instead of being flooded.

We'll finish up polishing her basic skills in public and her retrieve skills before adding many more tasks.  Once she can take direction by body or eye movement and she can do a full wheelchair retrieve I'll build on it to give her a wide range of retrieve skills and then build her other basic task skills for helping her handler.  This is an exciting time for Emma.

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 Completed 2 Completed 2
Jump Relax Handling Tricks Communication
Step 1 3 Completed Completed Completed

Level 3
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 3 Completed 2 1 1
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 Completed 0 4 0
Jump Relax Handling Retrieve Communication
Step Completed 2 Completed Completed 1

Level 4
Zen Come Retrieve Target Relax
Step Completed 0 Completed 0 0
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 Completed 0 5 0
Handling Communication

Step Completed 0