Friday, January 4, 2013

16 Weeks: Training - Day 9

Where did the week go?  Emma and I had so much fun this week.  She lept forward in her training and truly became a thinking dog who communicates practically overnight.  After her busy day yesterday I fully expected the jail house tantrum I got when I placed her in her crate.  For a moment all was silent as I wandered about getting myself ready for bed and as I entered the living room to say good night to Walter I heard the protest of innocence come from the bedroom.  It lasted only a couple of minutes, but it made me laugh.

She woke me at 7 AM with a loud proclamation that her bladder was full.  This morning she tried to bolt from her crate, which I expected, so I blocked her escape and cued her to sit.  She did so and waited until I released her.  This new form of Door Zen had helped with the bolting from the front door itself.  On Thursday she bolted out my front door a total of four times and it concerned me that she was getting to many self re-enforcing rewards for doing so.  Asking her to wait in her crate before being released re-enforced my insistence she wait to exit a door which has just been opened.  Today we had no escapes from the front door.

Once again establishing she must do her business before play time in the yard has sped up her willingness to defecate on lead.  This morning I took her out in my pajamas and slippers again and quickly got both urination and defecation before she was released to play.

Max has grown used to the tiny bullet in the yard and most times ignores her when she's racing around, but occasionally tries to herd her.  When he does this I call him to me and put the lead on him for a moment in a time out.  Once released he ignores her and goes about his business.  Slowly they are becoming accustomed to each other and soon will be able to play without much intervention on my part.

Now that Emma has her puppy shots completed we are able to go into local stores for basic public access training.  This can be the tricky part of service dog training and if taken too fast can result in a dog who is fearful in new situations.  I decided on a local store that is dog friendly to work with her.  I did not plan on entering the store properly, but just the entry and keeping her training in the location brief.  I had hoped for a quiet Friday afternoon in which to work with little distraction other than the entry itself, but as the video shows I didn't get that.  What I did get was a puppy who enjoyed herself.

Remember I spoke of modeling yesterday?  Well today I took Max and Walter with me to help Emma with this first introduction to a new store.  All doors we've entered so far pull open manually, so I knew an automatic door would be a change for her.  When I started Max's public access training I took him to Pet Smart for in store training.  I was feeling my way through introducing a dog to working in public and spent too much time in the store and expected too much of him; partly because he was an adult dog and partly because I misjudged what he knew.  I didn't want to make that mistake with Emma.

When I took Max to Pet Smart he jumped when the door slid open and it took me several more visits before he was comfortable with them.  I decided for Emma I wanted her to see Max enter the store first and do a few basics and return.  The video shows this worked.  She saw Max and I enter, Max ignore the door and was fine with it when we entered.

Emma has a blue print of calm public behavior to learn from.  Max will be receiving a lot of positive re-enforcement for his involvement as we do Emma's public access work.  She'll see Max do it first and then follow in his foot prints.  For Emma this means she'll learn quicker and with less stress than Max did when he first began this journey.

Emma has returned for the weekend to her owner's home.  She'll enjoy playing with her boy and bonding with him.  She'll practice her skills there and get to visit other locations and people than she does with me.  What a lucky girl she is to have this experience of two house holds helping her learn.

Today's Lessons:


Emma is still working on Level 1 Zen.  I tried to test her out of L1:S3 this morning but the change of Walter sleeping in the chair and Max working with the Manners Minder on his mat were too many distractions for her.  She needs to work each step of Zen with a new distraction each day to help her deal with distractions.  She also needs time to grow and mature.  With age she'll be able to focus during distractions, so right now keeping the distractions low and slowly, gradually increasing them as she ages will build her ability to control herself overall.

I did not work on L1:S4 today because of the distractions she was working with.  She did well overall.  Her ability to focus is actually remarkable for her age and her attention span is increasing with each training session.  Overall, I am very happy with where she is and how she is progressing through the lessons.


Today I worked with Emma practicing Sit while I was in different positions.  She was fine with me sitting on the floor, had to think a bit when I laid on my side and became a full goof when I was belly down on the floor.  I was mugged by a puppy who fell over and frolicked on her back.  I found a position we need to start working with to help her fully understand Sit as a cue.

I went into my bedroom and laid belly down, head hanging off the end of the bed and cued her to sit.  Emma did very well with this and even did a few downs while I laying like that.

I was able to cue Emma to sit while on my front porch.  Though excited she now understands Sit as a cue well enough her butt slams to the ground when cued.  She is now sitting on the verbal cue 80% of the time.


Emma understands the hand cue for Down.  She understands it when I am standing and when I am sitting.  She understood it when I was laying on my belly on the bed.  She is just starting to offer Downs as a tool in her toolbox.  She is not throwing them yet when she's confused, but she is very close to it.  Once I see her about to offer a Down I will tell her what she is doing by saying the cue as she does her down.

Emma needs to practice down in different locations in and out of the home.


Emma still needs to practice all steps of Level 1 Target.  She understands the verbal cue Touch approximately 50% of the time when not distracted.  She does better with a hand held out directly in front of her.  She needs more practice with touching hands high and low and taking steps to touch hands.

Emma's Target is strong and purposeful when she understands what you are asking.  If she doesn't she either brushes the hand or uses her paws.  I know her owners have been teaching her to hand them her paws to clean them and thus her low Target is confused with offering a paw.  Max had the same problem and it takes a bit of work to sort out which you are asking for and her understanding.

They have also been working on teaching her Stand and I told them that Stand was not something I really wanted to worry about.  They are using a hand signal for Stand right now, but what I would rather they do is use Target to get her to stand instead.

It would help strengthen the Target skill if she practiced Target by standing to touch the palm of their hand with her nose.  If they want to continue to work on stand, do so with Target instead of teaching a separate command for it at this time.


Emma does not understand the cue Come, but has learned the Come Game with Walter and I.  Today Walter increased distance one step at a time as we played the game in a new direction.  Emma was happy to play the game and managed to run up to 20 feet between the two of us for rewards.  She is not offering an automatic turn to get a treat from the second person yet, so using the cue Come should be reserved until she starts auto turning to run to the next person.  The trick is to tell her Come when she is already coming to the person.

Emma needs to practice the Come Game starting at 5 feet and working slowly, one step at a time, up to 20 feet with as many people as can get her to play the game.

Field Trip

Each week I would like to get in a minimum of one field trip to work on her public access training.  Today I went to the Big R with Max, Walter and Emma.  She rode quietly in the car and was excited to be at the new location.  Walter held her while I took Max into the building first; she barked the entire time I was away.  This is okay.  For her it was a bit scary and worrisome to have me leave her behind, even though she knew Walter, and she was telling me she was worried.

When I returned she was happy and excited and ready to try what Max had done.  She did extremely well with how busy it was, the strange objects and people going by her and being in a location she'd never been before.  Overall, Emma's first focused public access training went extremely well.  I will select up to three new locations for next week to take her too.

The video above ends with a full record of Emma's experience at the Big R.


Emma is a bold girl who is progressing well in her training.  She is now wagging with her whole body and excited to try new things.  Today I put her in the soft crate and fed her several high value treats.  In short order she was entering the crate, which she had ignored since coming to my house, and sat waiting for more rewards for going in.  We worked a little with her own crate and she finally willingly entered to receive more high value rewards.

She is currently in a fear period, but is dealing well with new and strange situations.  As long as we keep things short and upbeat she's willing to try anything at least once.  Her ability to recover quickly and try new things pleases me.  She's truly a remarkable puppy and is showing great potential at this time.

Level 1

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