Friday, December 20, 2013

15 Months: Training - Days 236 - 240

My chair has become dog central.  This spring I'll have to deep
clean it just to make it look blue again!

Emma returned in great spirits.  The slow week let her reflect and recover from her stress from a bit too much public access work to close together.  Her owner reported she did fantastic with having the crate available and was progressing nicely with it in the home.  They liked the idea of having it there for her, but not forcing her to work with or worry about it.  Between both locations she'll soon start seeing crates as a place to retreat and relax when she wants some downtime, which will be good.

She was very grumbly with Malcolm, Jack, Dieter and Max.  I don't know if she was feeling unwell or just a bit overloaded when I let everyone out while we talked and caught up with her weekend.  She growled at Jack and Malcolm and poked Dieter really hard and even growled at Max.  I've not seen her like that before, but she may have felt overwhelmed and just needed to voice her need for space.

After her owner left she was back into her "I'm part of the family" mode and was in a great mood.  She ate well and enjoyed relaxing and settling into the home again.  I suspect she's in need of a vacation and that was something her owner and I talked about.  It's been a year straight we've been training and her training is getting harder now that she'd older.  At this point Max had needed a month off to put it all together in his head and returned to his training further ahead than when we stopped and better able to focus and learn.  I think Emma needs time off and away from the hassle of training in my home for a bit and with the holidays coming it's a perfect time to give her that much needed break. She'll be spending the holidays with her owners and most likely won't return until the new year.

I trained Malcolm and Jack during the morning because I had plans for Emma for the afternoon.  I had a client meeting and planned on Emma being the demo dog.  We met with Murphy at his apartment and worked on Mat, Down and settling at my feet.  She was fantastic with Murphy.

Murphy was a bit grumbly about meeting a new dog, but Emma was a perfect lady.  She was polite with the people in the lobby, gave Murphy a gentle hello and then ignored him and was relaxed and working well with me.

In the apartment she began the lesson of settling at my feet and waiting until asked to do something.  This is a new lesson for her and I didn't expect perfection.  She bounced up a few times, but reset when asked without issue.  She was perfect while Murphy worked LAT and learned to be okay with a new dog in his world and showed off her pen retrieve skills and hold skills without hiccup.

Later we pulled out a mat and I let her off lead.  She did a perfect go to mat and down over and over as a demo of how to teach the skill.  Later she worked with Murphy's owner to help her learn the skill (Murphy was not willing to work the skill with Emma there) and helped her learn how to do the lesson.  She truly enjoyed working with Emma and was impressed with how well she worked.

Emma explored the apartment for a bit, but recalled after I whistled for her.  She then was able to settle at my feet and fell asleep while we finished up our lesson.  After that she left on a loose lead and was a perfect lady on the way home.

She was exhausted after that and I gave her the rest of the day off to rest and relax.  It was a fantastic training session for public access for Emma and lasted about 2 hours in a low distraction, low stress zone.

I have changed how I handle answering the door when people come to my home.  I crate Jack and Emma in their crates, put Dieter in the front bathroom and put Max in the office.  I leash Malcolm and work with him learning not to jump.  We get daily practice with this with Ronda picking up Jack and everyone is learning that going in the crate will give them a chance to greet the guest sooner.  For Emma, meeting company is a high reward and entering the crate to let the company in and then being released to say hi is a high enough reward to make her less worried about the crate overall.

This method has made it easier to teach each dog individually what behavior I want when greeting and the whole "five dogs competing for attention" mess more manageable as each gets individual time to say hi after the previous dog has calmed.  The greetings are calm and more relaxed as a result.


Her face has changed so much since she turned one.
Emma was in high spirits and wanting to train.  Waiting for her to ask to train improves our training sessions and she's been asking more often.  I had to take a hydro to work with the dogs again, but with a dosage that now allowed me to function, but made the pain manageable, will make my days more productive.

We worked on nudging my hands up onto the arm rest.  I am getting a 30% consistency with direction and required thrust.  This is an improvement.  I also asked her to switch sides and work both arms.  She is able to do the right arm better than the left, but got the idea on the left quickly.  I will work this on days my arms allow it.

We also worked on opening a cabinet.  I shaped her to take the rope into her mouth and start to pull it up.  She got this quickly and was even starting to pull the door open.  I could see her fading on this lesson and ended it on a positive note.

We then worked on Left and Right.  She's back to bouncy and unfocused and I need to work a bit of Focus with her again to bring her back to solid eye contact and waiting for direction.  She has left but not right.  She will look or touch my right hand (remember, it's her left and her right) when I say Left 60% of the time without my having to move my hand to cue her to which side I meant.  She doesn't look right yet until I wiggle my fingers to tell her which side I mean.

Her entering the crate when company comes is still a struggle, but she's coming out of the crate happy and relaxed.  I am hoping to have her start to offer entering on her own.  When we worked the 101 Things to do with a Crate game she offered entering the crate first and even put her whole body into the crate once.  She got heavy praise for that.  She's still tense in her haunches when she has her head and body in the crate but not as much as last week.  We'll continue to work crate behaviors slowly and build up confidence with the crate.


Given a choice, she would spend her days sleeping in my chair!
On Monday Emma's owner asked me to take her to the vet for her annual shots.  I said I would do so and planned on taking her mid-week so she had a break between her public access work for the week.  Since she's at the training stage to learn to work in public, I made the choice to take her out three times this week and build up to 4 times on our next week together and 5 the week after.  It's time for her to learn to go out and work daily and slowly build up to higher and more distracting levels of public access training.

Monday was a low distraction, low stress access outing (which will happen each week), so I decided on a mid-level distraction and mid-level stress situation.  The vet is a known entity, so I took her without treats.  The vet has treats in the event I need them, but I want her to start working in known locations without treats on me.

She was fine entering the office and settling at my feet, though I could feel the tension that is normal with being at the vet office.  I used praise and affection as her rewards for good behavior.  A client at the office asked to pet her and I said no, since she's also at the level of training where she is not socializing with people in public, but learning not to do so.

She was fine until the 11 year old husky mix came in.  She growled, but so low I only knew because I had my hand on her.  I redirected her attention and got her to relax.  A short time later a very stressed lab came in and she once again growled, but a bit louder.  I once again redirected her and got her to relax at my feet.  She was up to the point of putting her chin on my foot and just watching the lobby when a woman came in with two small dogs.  Emma growled loud enough for everyone to hear her.

I asked the woman with the husky to pass the treat jar.  I pulled out some treats and used LAT to relax Emma.  She quickly calmed and once again rested her head on my feet.  The woman with the two small dogs left for a short while and when she returned Emma just looked at the two dogs, but made no growl.

It was good information for me.  She's had to deal with some rather unfriendly dogs outside of my fence, even with me in the yard, and her opinion of dogs outside of her family has changed a bit.  With a little LAT and my putting my feet out so she was "blocked" a bit from the other dogs she felt safe again.  I need to take her to locations with strange dogs and do more LAT to make her more comfortable with seeing dogs outside of her family.

Her visit went great.  She got her shots, is in perfect health and her knee feels extremely good.  Though she'd thrown up that morning due to a bad hoof the night before (she, Malcolm and Jack all had a small vomiting session first thing in the morning) she wasn't actually sick.  Her weight is 28.6 pounds, which is her best weight and the one she stabilized at.

For Emma a weight of 27 to 29 pounds is perfect with 28 being optimum.  She eats 1 cup of food a day to maintain that weight and she personally set that amount by not eating a full cup and half offered during the day.  I cut her food back to 1 cup when she started leaving the 1/4 cup of food per meal in the bowl each day when she was about 13 months old.  With the 1/2 cup of food per meal (I use a measuring cup to ensure I feed a certain amount of food per meal) I give her one spoonful of moist mixed into it because her food gets a bit stale by the end of the bag and she won't eat dry kibble because of it.

I asked her ears to be checked, they are perfect and her heart is in excellent shape.  She had clear and healthy lung sounds, no issues with her belly and her whole body screams healthy and muscular.  She's in excellent health and shape!

After the vet we went to Winco.  I wanted to get some supplies for making Egg Foo Young and wanted to introduce Emma to working with me in the store.  She was a bit leery when we entered, but with a bit of click and treat for focus she was up and ready to go.  Her head was up, her tail up and her body tall.  She had a spring in her step and though a bit looky loo, she was curious but not frightened.

When I put the green onions in the cart I had to open the seat.  The action of doing so made her duck and back up.  Dogs in general don't like having things over their heads and it can be a bit frightening even for the boldest.  I took the time to click for looking as I reached for the seat and close it and then click for reaching for the seat and opening it for a few repeats.  She quickly got the idea it wouldn't hurt her.

I saw another duck and cover move when I put the carrots into the cart, so just gave her a treat after I did and moved on.  When I put the bean spouts into the cart and gave her a treat I didn't see the duck and cover, but more curiosity.  Good.

We moved to get milk and creamer and then Pepsi.  She was stressed as we were going to the front of the store.  We'd been inside for about 10 minutes by this time and I could see her mouth was open and the skin tight.  I reassured her we'd get out as soon as possible and got into a short line with her.  I asked for targets, sits and downs and rewarded those and saw her body relax and her breathing return to normal.

We paid and I was loading the cart with her showing a small amount of stress, but not over threshold stress.  I had to quickly bag the food and leave, but in that few seconds it took to look for a bag and start someone behind me started moving an electric cart backwards with it beeping.  That was it.  She went stiff and burst into a small amount of barking.  She was over threshold and wouldn't take treats.

I moved her so I was between the evil beeping Labradoodle eating monster and her and she stopped barking.  I bagged my few items and we left.  It was at home when I got her out of the car that she gave off two huge shake offs to release stress.  She got the rest of the day off.


Yep, she's a working girl!
With her trip to the vet and Winco the day before I decided she needed a dog day.  She got lots of chewing and cuddling and playing and sleeping in.  She slept for a good portion of the day.  Her mood was good and she was tall and happy, but she really needed to think through and realize that even with the evil beeping monster she wasn't harmed at the store.

I on the other hand had hit my limit by the end of a busy day.  I had an appointment in the morning Max and I went too and spent the afternoon trying to get insurance after the Worksource person I met gave me a number to call to get connected with the proper people to apply.  The application process was extremely stressful and by the time Ronda arrived I was spitting nails and shooting spikes from my eyes and low and behold Ms. I Must Cuddle was super nudging my hands and doing everything she could to wheedle into my lap.  When I am in that mood the last thing I want is touched and the first thing she wants is to touch me - not a good mix.

Instead of telling her to go lay down or pushing her away I made my bad mood an invitation to play.  I had been reading on a post in one of my FB groups about what we do when we loose our temper and over half of the people tell of teaching their dogs that grouchy parent means playtime.  What a fantastic idea!

Instead of yelling at her I blew in her face like I do when we are playing and she went into crazy play mode.  Instead of seeing my seething temper as negative she, for the first time, saw it as silly and her mood stayed high and happy! YES!

Ronda asked what I was doing and I explained and she laughed and said what a great idea.  She also said it was clearly relaxing me to make her playful and make my bad mood a game.  What a wonderful cure for the grumpies!

She ended the day by nudging me to let her out and curling up while I did a marathon job on blogs.  She's had a fantastic week with a lot happening in it and it's a lot of fun discovering new ways to build her confidence.


Emma took a long nap after our outing today.
Today I decided to work again on Emma calming herself.  Ever since her trip to Seattle she's been overly excitable and struggling to control herself.  She's been in a great mood this week and recovering from startles or frights quickly, but she's been more talkative and very hyper.  Part of it is the weather.  All of the dogs are having a hard time being cooped up and not going out for walks or relaxing adventures like we do in the warmer weather.  I may, when she returns, just take her to the playground and let her run off all of her energy - she has a fantastic recall and the school lets out early enough for me to go over when it's still daylight.  I dread the walk in the snow or cold, but she may just need a blow off period in some place other than my yard.

After Jack arrived and before breakfast I decided to play wind up the Labradoodle.  I got her spinning and jumping and barking and being totally relaxed happy goofy Emma.  She was ready to explode with happy excitement when I said Sit and she slammed her butt onto the floor.  I got excited with her for such a great sit and started the game again and asked for a down and wham, down she went and off we went into the game.  I did this several times.  She was enjoying this type of play and train and really got into it with me.

I then went to asking for a down only and waiting until she calmed by putting her chin down and then starting the game again.  This took some time for her, but each time we repeated it she got faster at putting her head down.  On our last repeat she settled quickly and waited for me to invite her to play, but she didn't ramp up as high as she had been.  She was tired and that was my goal.  Happy, tired Emma is a good thing.

It snowed today, so I took them outside after my shower and their breakfast and let them play while I picked up the yard.  With five dogs on .12 acres of land it is important to pick up poop every other day if not daily - depending on weather and my energy levels.  With the snow fall I wanted to get the poop picked up before it was lost.

Play after an outing is vital for all of the dogs.
I also had to put out de-icer and sand on the ramp to prevent me, my guests or the dogs from slipping and hurting themselves.  When I brought them back in the house, about 20 minutes later, I was exhausted.  I was also in a great deal of pain.  I spent about an 1 1/2 resting and waiting for the 1/4 tab of hydro I took to ease my pain.

I then dressed Emma and took her to Safeway on Argonne.  I have permission to train dogs in their store and I knew I could sit in the Starbucks there and let her just take in the busy environment.  When we arrived I parked on the far end of the store from the Starbucks and walked her to the door just beside it by crossing the outside of the building.  In the store she was a bit excitable and really looking all over.  It's a sign of stress and I knew she would be okay once we started working on calming behaviors.

When I came into the seating area of Starbucks I saw a young family sitting there and smiling at her.  I had calmed her with a bit by asking for known behaviors and rewarding them.  The family had a toddler, about Emma's age, with them and I decided it was important for Emma to meet him.  I took her over and told her to say hi (she is allowed to visit on cue) and the family very lovingly and gently greeted her.  She was very happy to meet them and when it came time to say hi to the toddler she was curious about him.  The mother kept him in her lap and he was a perfect child for her to meet.  He never did a thing to frighten her and laughed when she sniffed his feet.  She was upbeat and waving her tail when she met him and showed no signs of fear or stress.  It was a fantastic meeting and a perfect way to make her feel comfortable in the store.

We moved to a seat and I worked on a Click for Calm game which the video shows.  It's one of the first games and helps a dog to "know what to do" when they are feeling a bit stressed.  The game helped a lot and she quickly began looking around and getting clicks for refocusing on me.  Once I saw her roll on her hip in her down I began clicking for her putting her chin down.  She knew this game and was all over it.  In short order she was offering wonderful chin downs and even built up to 5 seconds of duration in a distracting location.  How amazing!

Emma is starting a new journey and it'll be fun if we do it right.
After about ten minutes in the Starbucks we got up and walked to the door by my van.  We stayed in the store and every so often I would stop and ask for a sit or a down.  She was spot on with her sits and rapid fire too.  Her downs were quick when she did do them, but she found them harder to do.  She didn't feel safe enough to just offer a speedy down without first checking around her.  This is okay, we'll get there and I appreciated the information she communicated.

As we got into the florist section I pulled out my glove and had her do a few retrieves.  She was fast and perfect on each one.  I then dropped my sunglasses and she did a perfect retrieve.  She also did a few targets with some really nice nose punches each time.

She was in a good mood when we left.  I loaded her in the van while telling her how proud of her I was.  I wanted to get a pizza for dinner, so we drove up to Papa Murphy's on Sprague.  When I pulled up I decided to take her into the local Mailbox store where I knew she'd be given a treat.  She was a little worried in the van when I opened the door, but excited to come out and explore.  We crossed the parking lot and entered the store and her nose hit the ground.  This is a form of stress relief.  I got her attention and took her to the counter, where she went into heavy sniffing again and told the clerk we were there for a quick hello.  The clerk grabbed a treat and came around (it was a jerky strip) and broke it up and fed it to her on bite at a time.  Emma was suddenly in heaven.  She was still and focused and happily gobbling up the treat.  We thanked them (another store I have permission for training in) and went to Papa Murphy's.

In Papa Murphy's Emma had her head up and was curious but not fearful, but she was starting to get excitable - another sign of stress.  I knew what I wanted and made my order and paid quickly.  Emma has been in this store before and walked with me to the bench without issue.  She was back to quickly looking around and a little hyper-vigilant, so I played the Click to Calm game with her again and then asked for Sits, Downs, Targets and hand shakes.  She was relaxed by the time the pizza was made and we left.  All total, we were in Papa Murphy's for five minutes.

Someday she'll learn to do this too.
What I see is her normal nervousness and worry when she wasn't sure what was expected of her.  She's new at this working in busy environments and not just socializing.  Before when we did our public access outings the most that was expected of her was to walk nice on the leash and do a good sit.  Now she's working in public and asked not to socialize and perform some of her tasks and learn new ways of dealing with the environment.  These new ways include walking with a cart, lining up with a counter and waiting patiently until requested to do something else.  All of this is not as clearly defined as a sit or a retrieve for her and her insecurity about being wrong makes her more worried than she needs to be.

My goal right now is to build up a level of confidence in the busy environment (just relax kiddo and don't worry about the people, I got your back) and then start adding more parts of what it means to be a dog in public.  She can't just "work" in public and get it, she needs it broken down further than Max did and even further than Jack does.

So, stage one, make Emma comfortable in differing levels of activity and just watch the world.  We'll be doing this until I can see her happy, "I got this" body language.  Due to her soft nature it means I will be taking it slow with her, starting her out with low distraction, low stress areas at the top of the week and building up to higher levels of distraction and stress by the end of the week.  Each trip will be planned with an exit strategy and each trip will be solely focused on her and clicking and rewarding good choices and known behaviors.  Until such time as I see her able to do her tasks and keep her focus she will not be shopping for items or doing anything with me in an outing where I have an errand to run.  All public access outings with her will be planned events which will solely focus on her and giving her the mental and emotional support she needs to succeed.

Pretty much - I need to break down public access for her like I did retrieve training. Once she understood what I was asking she shot way up in confidence, but the trip there was wrought with worry, stress, fear and frustration for her.  Poor baby, I wish she had a little harder personality to make this easier on her.

When we got home I let her out with the boys and she played hard for almost an half an hour and then came inside and crashed hard until she was picked up at 3:30 PM.  It was a full day for Emma and she did a great job.

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

Thursday, December 19, 2013

15 Months: Training - Days 231 - 235

This is Emma just before a visit to the groomer.
Monday - Friday

Emma had two very stressful weeks with a lot of public access work done and I felt it important to slow down and give her a break on public access and work on a skill she'll need for travel - entering a molded crate without fear.

Since her puppy days she's been afraid of molded crates.  I have spoken about this in a previous post and had asked for her crate from home to be brought over so we could work on it.  Her owners forgot, but that was fine, because I changed my training plan a bit anyway.  Emma, unlike Jack, doesn't transfer lessons from my home to her home as very well sometimes and the crate is one of those lessons.

I had, at my home, gotten her entering her crate without hesitation if I walked her to it, but she wasn't doing so at her home.  The crate, in different locations didn't mean the same thing and for her that was making crate training harder.

This is Emma just after a visit to the groomer.
I had the crate that Judy left, which is slightly smaller than her home crate, I could use to train here.  Instead of leaving it by my bed and working in the bedroom daily, I decided to move it into the living room.  I tucked it behind my power chair on Monday and opened the door and just pretended it was always there.

Emma was worried about it and didn't want to go near it.  As a matter of fact, she went into hiding when I brought it out, but when I didn't do anything other than that, she decided to ignore it also.  That was fine, I had done the same thing with Jack and his crate and over time he started to curl up in it on his own.  I am making her "crate" available for her to curl up in and no forcing the issue unless I have to leave or answering the door.

Since she has such a negative reaction to the crate, I decided not to work crate behaviors during the day.  This allowed her to play and rest during the day and get cuddles.  I worked with Malcolm and Jack on their skill sets and reassured her she was making good choices and asked only for known behaviors for life rewards.

Her fear of the camera is decreasing.  Nice to see.
She was shy and sulky on Monday and the same on Tuesday morning.  I expected that and just kept telling her how good she was and giving her the attention she sought.  By Tuesday afternoon her head was up and her body language was happy.  The stress was out of her face and she was showing me a dog in recovery.  Perfect.

I brought the crate out Tuesday night and put it by my chair and called her out from hiding.  She came out and I began shaping her to do anything with the crate.  She got into the game and soon was nosing the door, but was still leaning back on her hind legs and her body was tense and her head low.  She wanted to play, but the crate itself was scary.

I changed tactics and just laced the outer opening with treats and let her sneak them off.  When she got the last one I clicked and tossed the treat by the crate.  It took three more treats, but she was soon bouncy and happy to play the 101 things to do with a crate game I was playing.  I had no goal of her entering the crate, just not being afraid of it.  When I ended the game she tried to keep me playing - this was a fantastic sign.

On Wednesday we played and this time I just asked her to put her head into the crate.  This was fantastic.  She was willing to paw the crate door, nudge it with her nose, poke the crate opening, put her paws up on it and then put her head just toward the opening.  All of it got clicks because I am building confidence and entering the crate is an end goal, but not the goal.  She got her head into the crate several times before I ended the game and took a 5 minute break.  We played again and she put her head in up to her shoulders and was doing a lot of checking with me if she was right.  She was never wrong, so she was really digging the game.

She came back with a pretty bow on her collar.
We ended with me tossing treats into the back of the crate and her getting them out.  She put all of her body except her back legs in.  They were stiff and she was tense, but she kept coming out and checking in for me to toss more treats into the crate.  Fantastic!

On Thursday we played it again, but three times before bed.  She got up to her haunches into the crate and the tension was less than the night before.  She was still jumpy and quick to back out, but she did a lot of interaction with the crate and did a ton of putting her head and body up to her haunches into the crate.  We again ended with tossing treats into the crate to seek and eat.  Still tense, still worried I would shove her in, but no fearful of the crate par-say.  She wanted to keep playing.

On Friday she actually went to the crate and pawed the door and poked it to start the game.  I didn't want to play the game with four dogs trying to play it with her and simply praised and rewarded any offered behavior during the day.

When I handed her over to her dad I asked they bring out her home crate and set it somewhere that she had complete access to it all day long and not worry about her going into it.  Leave the door open, lace it with toys and treats off and on and praise anytime she chose to explore her crate, but not shut her in it or close the door at any point.  Basically, she's learning crates can be fun and not scary and we are building the foundation by not forcing her into it at this time.

Monday, December 9, 2013

15 Months: Training - Days 227 - 230

Emma on Thursday morning.  She was in need of a
good rest after her adventure the night before.
Monday - Thursday

Emma went on vacation in Seattle over the holiday weekend and spent 4 days in a hotel with her family.  For Emma this was a major event and required some time to recover from.  When I was first doing big events, like this one, with Max I would give him 48 hours downtime at home (which Emma considers my home) to process and recover.  I gave Emma that same 48 hour period after her return so she could reduce her stress hormones and realize she survived a mighty adventure without anything bad happening to her.

Her owner reported that Emma did extremely well over the weekend.  She was under threshold and not placed in a situation where she couldn't handle the level of activity.  The times they left her unattended in the hotel room they crated her and made that choice because she wasn't ready for daily breakfasts in the restaurant or going to the mall.

They were very pleased with her default wait in the van while the loaded or unloaded her handler and her behavior overall.  I was glad to have a positive report on her trip.  The only problem they had was she wouldn't poop for the entire time they were in Seattle.  It appears I will need to work on her understanding she can poop outside of my yard and their yard.

She was exhausted on Monday.  She slept most of the day and was a bit low in her body language.  I had expected that.  Max had done much the same.  By Tuesday evening she was looking at me with her head high and her eyes bright.  I smiled, happy to see it.  She was back to herself and clearly feeling better.

The only minor fallout I saw was she was more impulsive than the week before.  She was once again bolting out the door when letting her out and pushing boundaries with Dieter and even the cat.  A little redirection and a lot of cuddle helped, but she wouldn't fully recover her self control for the remainder of the week.

She spent about half the day just napping in my chair.
On Wednesday I worked with her in the bathroom on lifting the door snake up onto my knee.  She was worried about being in the bathroom at first, but once we worked through that she did a nice job of targeting and even nudging the door snake.  I need to work more on the up and over movement from the outside of my leg to my knee and then build it up on a chair and finally the wheel chair and move it from the door snake to my arm.  This behavior will be a default behavior and needs to be worked on both sides of the chair so she will lift both arms of her handler as needed.

We also worked on Left and Right again.  She is just starting to look to the left and right when I cue the behavior, but is still a bit excited about playing the game and I have to wait for solid eye contact before we can begin.  She's doing great, but I want this to be a very solid behavior before I finalize her retrieve skills.

I needed to pick up supplies at Walmart so I took Emma with me.  She was very in a great mood and showed no fear of the carts as we passed them and after only once trying to touch someone when we went by she stayed focused on me.  She walks nice with the cart, stayed in alignment with it when I turned and even backed up in alignment with it when I backed it up.  At one point she did a sit/stay while I was picking an item out of a fridge.  When we got outside I had her do a sit/stay while I walked around the cart, which she did without issue.  I was extremely pleased with her 15 minutes of Walmart during a weekday.

On Wednesday evening we went to a local feed store with Ronda and Jack.  We worked on not meeting and greeting every person she saw and staying calm when presented with a friendly stranger.  We also worked on not sniffing the merchandise.  She was able to walk with her shoulder brushing the feed bags and not sniff them.  We also worked on Sit/Stay and Down/Stay with me walking up to 10 feet away and back to her.  She did fantastic.

We spent about 30 minutes working behaviors in the feed store before we left.  Ronda asked if I was hungry and offered to take me to dinner.  I accepted and we went to a local Chinese Restaurant.  The owners niece greeted us when we entered.  Both Jack and Emma were curious about the food smells, but under control.  I explained both dogs were in training, but needed to practice working in restaurants in order to get the skills.  She was very understanding and showed us a quiet area where they would have a better success.

Jack would end up in the back of the booth and Emma at the front, just under the table.  She was uncertain about tucking under the table, but with some treats and a bit of reassurance she did as I asked.  But I could tell this was harder for her than the feed store had been.  She tried to crawl into my lap from under the table.  I gently kissed her nose and eased her back under the table and gave her a treat.  This would happen three times, but each time I could feel the muscles in her body relax a bit more.  She also offered me her paw several times, another signal she was very stressed at the moment.  I gently took it and reassured her she was safe and gave her treats for putting her feet on the floor.

Power nap.
I fed her treats for progressively relaxing under the table and soon she was in a down with her head up and alert.  She wasn't fully relaxed, but she wasn't as stressed as she had been.  The stress reaction lasted less than 2 minutes and my calm reassurance she was safe helped her recover and deal with this higher level of public access.

She did fantastic after that.  She was okay with the waitress approaching the table and even rested her chin on my foot.  At one point I felt her move under me and heard her bark under her breath. I looked and saw a family with children came into the area we were in and she was startled by it.  I could tell a major bark attack was building as the second bark was a bit louder than the first.  I reached down and put my hand over the tip of her nose and got her attention - I did not harm her, just interrupted her long enough for her to start taking treats.

She was still able to take treats (had she not been able to I would have removed her from the building), so we played LAT with the family as they settled in.  She would look at them and I would softly say, "yes" and then slip her a treat.  Soon I saw her giving minor movements of her head ("see, I looked") and looking back at me for treats.  I smiled at her and told her she was just fine and she rested her head just behind my leg by the seat I was on.

I had placed my leg so it was a bit of a block, which calmed her also.  She could see out, but had the perception I was keeping the evil world away from her.  By the end of our meal an hour and half later she was sound asleep at my feet.  She left on a loose lead and was in good spirits.

When we got home I gave her a hoof.  I wanted to see where her stress levels were to see if I was training the next day or if she needed another break to process what happened.  She was chewing so hard she was breaking pieces off, which told me she was in need of another break.  Thursday was a day of play, chewing on bones and hooves and cuddles.

On Friday she left for her grooming appointment.  She was in great spirits by the end of Thursday night and was in high spirits when I left her with the groomers.  It was a full week, even if we only did training for a single day.  Emma processed a lot of changes in her working world.

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

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