Wednesday, December 19, 2012

14 Weeks: Training - Day 1

Emma held by my son Walter
Emma is a Labordoodle puppy with big shoes to fill.  She was adopted by her family to become their son's service dog.  She arrived on the evening of December 18th, 2012 at my home to begin her training.  Attitude and Dieter greeted her with friendly curiosity and though at first Emma was a bit worried, she quickly warmed up to them and began to explore the house.

Her first night was too exciting to think about eating or using the great outdoors.  She wanted to put her nose in the other dog's bowls and would occasionally lap at her softened kibble and then wander off.  In the end she ate less than half of her dinner, but I wasn't terribly concerned.  It can take up to 3 days before a dog becomes comfortable eating in a new home and I knew she wouldn't starve to death before she gained an appetite.

I also wasn't terribly worried about her not urinating or defecating before bedtime, since it can take up to 24 hours before a dog or puppy relaxes enough to do either.  She was too excited about the new smells, the new friends and the new place to really do much more than settle in.  I did try to play the come game with her since my son was visiting, but she was too distracted for even that.

By 9pm we curled up in my bed together while I watched Rizzoli and Isles and then I put her in her kennel for the night.  She settled in without complaint.  At 4am she gave a mighty bark from her kennel and woke the whole house up.  Remember, she hadn't gone to the bathroom since before coming to my house; she suddenly realized she was going to explode.

I let her and Max out together and watched as she quickly went to the driveway and urinated.  I praised her and let her rush around the yard for a couple of minutes before calling her in and putting her into her kennel again.  She woke the household again at 7:30am with another mighty bark and I quickly took her out and let the other dogs out with her.  She urinated right away and then went about the yard playing.

Today's Lessons:


Emma needs basic Zen to function as a service dog.  Zen teaches her that waiting will gain her a reward.  Emma is curious and wants to put her nose or mouth on everything.  She has a soft nature about her and quickly pulls away from the kibble in my hand after only softly sniffing or licking.  We practiced Zen in my kitchen, living room and my mother's living room.  By the sixth lesson of Zen Emma was starting to truly understand and stay away from my hand.

Update:  For the first time tonight she didn't stick her nose in the bowls of the other dogs at feeding time, but she did wander and watch each of them eat.  She bumped into Attitude, who told her to knock it off, and promptly sat in Dieter's bowl.  I will have to kennel her during the adult dogs meals and start "Teach Your Dog to Eat" protocol to get widget to eat when I put the last of her food down in the evening.

Name Game

Every time I said her name I gave her a kibble.  Emma quickly began to turn her head, even when distracted, after five kibbles.  She started making eye contact by ten kibbles.  The Name Game teaches Emma her name and attaches positive feelings with it.


Emma's owner had her two days prior to her coming to me for board and train lessons.  She worked with her on Sit, Down and Stand as basic commands.  Emma understands the hand signal for Sit, so today I worked on attaching the verbal cue.  Emma is starting to offer sits when she hears me ask other dogs to sit.  She has approximately 80% understanding of the verbal cue of Sit while off leash in my home with low distractions.

Update:  Widget has figured out she must sit by the door (behind Max and to his side) and wait for me to release her to go outside.  She's a quick learner and it'll be a challenge to keep up with her, but she's fun to train.  She is now sitting when I grab the handle of the door, but rises when I open it.  A day or so from now she should be waiting while the door is open and getting a release cue before exiting.


Emma still needs to be lured into a down and doesn't understand the hand signal.  Once in a down, she stays in position and it takes an act of nature to get her to stand.  She has not yet learned to chase and get a kibble.  Her food drive a bit low and I may need to find a game to encourage her to stand again to reset her so I can continue training down.


Emma is learning come when I whistle or make a noise at her.  I have not attached the cue and am still teaching her to look for treats between my feet.  She has no recall at this point.  She is learning the verbal cue "House" for going back into the house when I call the other dogs and she follows them.

Update:  Emma finally figured out the Come game tonight.  After setting the pieces of food between my feet several times I tossed one beside her and then put the next between my feet.  She was soon bounding across the room, pouncing on the rolling food and eating it.  After several clicks for turning my way she started to turn as soon as she got the food in her mouth and started to return.  She's doing very well with the game.


Emma is a bold dog, so I have not worked Target with her today.  I am working on Zen at this time and don't wish to confuse her by pairing the two lessons together.  This evening I will work on Target.

Update:  Widget loved this game.  She gives a firm, purposeful nose touch when she does Target.  At first she was just checking my hand and when her nose touched and I clicked and treated her she lit up.  Though she's been hit or miss on click/treat (mostly the treat part) she was hungry and wanted to work for food.  She quickly moved and slammed her nose into my hand, within three clicks, and clearly enjoyed the game.

Field Trip

Emma went to my mother's home today and met three Pomeranians who barked at her when she first came into the house.  Their barking excited Emma and the kibble I had on me what not enough to distract her.  I used praise and affection instead.  After the three dogs calmed down Emma was okay with them, though they didn't want her to get close to them.  When she took a nap they checked her and she later got to check them when she woke up.  Emma followed Max and explored the house and then played with my Mom and brother.  She did extremely well, though she snapped when Max and one of the Pomeranians came close to her when she was sitting at my feet.  I will have to bring extremely high value treats for visiting again and help her understand that other dogs can come close when she's in that position and she doesn't have to be afraid.  She was, otherwise, very relaxed and enjoyed her time at the visit.

We stopped at the Washington State Employees Credit Union and she and Max went in for a socialization visit.  She was nervous when we arrived, but quickly relaxed when she saw Max was relaxed.  She enjoyed meeting the people who worked there and even let Terri lead her away to a back office to visit with the manager.  She was very confident and happy when we left and I was asked to bring her back for more socialization work later.

In both locations she urinated outside only.

The ride in the van seems to make her nervous, so I plan to have a friend ride with us and stuff her full of high value treats for short car trips to help her over her nervousness.  She rode quiet and without moving around the vehicle.  She laid next to Max and took his lead on how to ride in a car.

She took a 30  minute nap in her crate when we returned home without complaint.  I was in another room doing the dishes and walked through the room she was in three times without her whining, barking or fussing the entire time.

Even with her busy day, Emma has been happy and for the most part relaxed and confident.  Her nervousness quickly leaves once she's explored a new location and she does well with new dogs.

She had five play sessions in the yard today and enjoyed a nap out of her crate in the living room this evening.

Emma: Level 1


Update:  Emma loves Dieter.  She went outside after her nap with all of the dogs and was play bowing and putting her paw on Dieter's shoulder trying to get him to play.  She follows him around the yard and clearly enjoys his company.  She tries to engage Max, but he generally ignores her.  She's figured out Attitude doesn't want to play.  This evening she jumped on Dieter, who grumped at her for it, and has been a lot more respectful of his space since.  She also jumped on Max who grumped at her and she's given him more space also.  Overall her interaction with the adult dogs is respectful and playful and they've been good with her antics when she gets the puppy rips.

She loves snow.  Once the snowfall started she was burrowing her nose in the snow and doing flips in the yard.  When the snow got heavier she got excited and raced through the yard as fast as she could.  She came in the house perfectly white from the snowfall.

We have poop!  I know it may sound weird, but it was nice to see widget finally poop after 24 hours of being with me.  She was funny when she finally decided to do it.  She sniffed the grass, burrowed her nose in it, dug at it a bit, did a few spinning pounces and finally went to business.  I couldn't help it, I laughed at her.

Now that her bladder and bowels are working here, I will start the full protocol of going while on lead.  

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