Tuesday, January 8, 2013

17 Weeks: Training - Day 10

Emma at 15 Weeks
This will be our first five day week since Emma started her training to become a service dog.  She is happy to arrive here and very comfortable with being transferred from her owner's home to mine and back.  She's good in the van when she rides, whether it is tethered by her harness or in a crate. The only problem I have currently is she puts on the brakes when within a few feet of the van and has to be lifted and placed inside.  This week I intend to work a bit on that and teach her to load up into a vehicle.

One way is taking her to the van to continue her training for Level 1.  She can practice Zen, Come, Target, Sit and Down inside the van with me.  Turning the van into just one more place we train will help her adjust to the van being a good thing and not the scary monster everyone picks her up and places her in.

Emma is very close to completing Level 1 and I believe now is a great time to introduce a bit of Level 2 to her training.  One section of Level 2 is called Jump.  It teaches the dog they can step over items, such as broom sticks and tubes on the floor and slowly builds up that idea until the dog is jumping over low items, like the jump from the ground to the inside of my van.

I have several training tools here for teaching Jump at home, but also want to take her to the Ruff House and work with some of the items they have there.  I won't to do it this week, since her first class is tomorrow and we'll be trying to fit in another field trip beyond that for her public access work.  This week I would like to take her to my local Safeway and have her enter a set of double sliding doors.  The entry is separate from the store and a good place to get in a small amount of training without entering a store itself just yet.

The other advantage of taking her to the Safeway instead of a pet friendly location, like Pet Smart or Petco, is she won't have to deal with any strange new dogs or new dog smells like she would there.  Once she's comfortable with going into both single and doubles sliding doors we'll make a special trip to Pet Smart and go in for a quick treat from the cashier and leave.

Until then, I'll work on her learning to get into a car on her own power.  I have a tread mill here she's seen Max stand and sleep on.  I will be using it to simulate getting onto a scale like at the vet.  I did the same for Max and he loads onto the scale at the vet office without hesitation.  Once the Dachshunds worked on learning to get on and off the tread mill on their own they also both loaded onto the vet scale without complaint.  The last time I went to weigh Emma I ended up lifting her onto the scale and blocking her to keep her there.  I think learning how to be weighed here will make our next weigh in easier.  It will also aid her in learning she can jump into the van or a car without needing to be lifted.  It's the same basic concept and generally this type of training transfers to other objects without much difficulty.

Today I evaluated Emma and pulled up the check list that Sue Ailsby kindly provided for tracking a dog's progress through the program.  It is about now that Emma will start straying ahead on some of her lessons and lagging behind on others.  Her Zen is strong so I am working on the first step of Level 2 Zen while finishing the final touches on Level 1 Zen.  She's also starting some of the Level 2 behaviors as I catch them.  I would like to work in order, but know better than to ignore behaviors I want to reward now as she gives them.  One of the behaviors she gives readily is Relax.  I started rewarding her for settling by me when I am busy.  This is the first stages of Level 2 Relax and she's ready to learn it.

I also arranged for a friend she's never met before to visit with two of her dogs.  Both Deva and DJ are older dogs.  Deva is a bit older than Max and DJ is 8 years old.  DJ is a Dachshund and has previously had a back injury. Unlike Dieter who'll only complain if he's really hurt, DJ should have been named Diva and thus she yelps foul when she's feet away from what she thinks may cause her pain.  When Max first met her he put his nose on her ear and she cried like he'd murdered her for three minutes.  Tonight she yelped long and loud when she realized a new big dog was around her.  Emma, curious tried jumping on her and DJ went into full "I've been murdered and my leg is hanging by a thread and I have a broken nail and I can't find my makeup" scream and Emma backed up, laid down and gave her space for the rest of the night.  Deva ignored her.

Emma was actually very good with both new dogs.  She showed no fear, just happy curiosity and was able to figure out and read their body language with few puppy mishaps.  This is an important lesson for her.  She must be able to accurately read other dogs so she can play properly with them. The introduction to all of the adult dogs she's had has helped her with her basic socialization.  She's learning to accept new dogs into "her" home and she's able to relax and calm around them.  My next step is setting up a play date with a playful dog so she can learn to play also.

Max is trying to play with her.  He never got the lessons that Emma is now, so his play style is not something most dogs see.  He lowers his head, barks in a high pitched voice and grumbles while his tail is mid-line and wagging.  When he thinks they understand him he turns and butt bumps them or rushes in and nose nudges them.  For most dogs, this is not play and it takes time for Max to develop playmates who play back.  He's had two in his life since he came to me and both played the same way at the dog park.

Emma is starting to get it. She jumps on him in her invitation to play, but that isn't Max's play style and he spins and woofs at her again.  It can be an amazenly loud event when Max gets it in his mind to play with the puppy.  They are able to be in the yard 90% of the time off lead together.  I supervise and when Max gets too intense I tether him to me for a little bit to time him out.  He can now watch her run and not constantly try to herd her.

He is accepting her touching him as she walks by and even sometimes jumping on his back when she's excited and wanting out of the door and can't contain herself.  She brushes his chest when she walks by or lays right next to him without him grumping and walking off or telling her to go away.  Emma is becoming part of Max's family.

Since we had a long socialization period I didn't do a lot of one-on-one formal training.  She's tired and relaxed now, laying next to my chair while all the other dogs sleep.  I am used to Mr. Max who is all go and no stop most times.  Her ability to relax the moment I do has improved his ability to do the same.  Why he didn't pick it up from the Dachshunds I don't know, but Emma is having a positive effect on Max, like he her.

Today's Lessons:


Emma is working on both Step 4 and Step 5 of Level 1 of Zen.  Step 4 is for the dog to back away from a treat in their dish.  She is still poking her nose at the dish, so I will continue working on that step.  Step 5 is called Kitchen Zen.  This is Zen in which things dropped in the kitchen are not snagged the moment they hit the ground.  She has been working on this from the beginning.

Attitude is on heart medication and I have nerve damage in my hands.  I tend to drop her pills a lot when I am getting ready to dose her and I have taught Zen in the kitchen to the point the dogs look to me before moving.  I must either give a release or kick the item to them for them to eat it.  The moment they hear a pill hit the floor Dieter rushes out of the kitchen and Max turns away and walks off.

This automatic behavior of the adult dogs taught Emma very quickly to stand her ground in the kitchen.  Today I dropped sweet potato peels at my feet as I was making dinner and Emma laid on the floor and watched me.  She's doing well on Kitchen Zen, but I will have to test with something really smelly to see if we truly have it down yet.

I started Level 2: Step 1 of Zen also.  I place the treat on the floor and cover it and wait for her to back off.  She got that part and is starting to see the treat for a brief moment before I kick it to her. She needs continued work, but she is starting to get the idea.  I can work L1:S4 and L2:S1 together since they are extensions of the same idea.


Emma is progressing with Target very nicely.  She has a solid nose touch for straight on touch and is developing a solid nose touch when touching up high.  I am working down low a bit more, since she tends to lay down and paw at my hands.  She can do two touches for one treat.

The next step is using touch to make her change positions.  I have started that tonight and she is a bit confused.  She laid down and did a bit of her floppy, goofy, foot pawy movement which says, "I think I got it, but I am not sure."  This means I need to slow down a bit and explain this part in smaller slices until she's confident she understands what I am asking of her.

She's done brief work on Level 2 Target.  I had her touching other objects with her nose, which she did, but I have not formally moved into Level 2 Target with her.


Tonight Emma played the Come Game with Ronda and I.  She's never met Ronda before tonight, yet ran happily to her during the game.  She is now turning on her own and quickly for the next treat.  She is running at least 60% of the time between people and her tail is wagging the whole time she plays.  I noticed tonight she's turning while she is still chewing.

At one point she got lost in chewed bone smell when she ran to the spot where Deva had been chewing her bone.  I didn't call her name or use the word Come, but instead did a lot of whistles, kissy noises and calling of puppy puppy to get her to return to me.  It took her about 15 seconds, but she did finally break away from not only a wonderful smell, but a small cache of toys she's stumbled across.  I was very pleased with her ability to rejoin the game.

She is ready for us to start saying her name and calling Come to her when she turns and starts toward us.  I caution though that we don't call her name or cue her to come unless we have her 100% attention just yet.  She is still very distractable and can be caught up in a new smell or a toy or dog easily and simply won't recall from those items yet.  At this time, calling Come to her when she is coming is the best way to strengthen her limited recall and associate good feelings with the cue.


Today I called a friend who's partner is in a coma to get an update on their condition.  While I was talking to him I cued Emma to Sit and Down.  I tripped her up while I was doing this because I caught myself doing"Sit" and then "Down" hand cues back to back.  This is great for Puppy Pushups, but not for cue discrimination.  I changed it and cued a Sit when she thought she would get a Down cue.  She did a down, thought about it, and popped back up into a Sit.  This tells me that Emma is thinking and recognizing patterns as expected and that she has learned Sit very well.

She fought doing Downs when she thought that was the next cue (great anticipation, I love it) and soon was waiting to see what I asked of her.  She did fantastic and we finished her morning kibble (which takes half the day to dole out) doing this.

She is working on Step 4 and Step 5.  Step 4 asks that she sit by an open door.  We have been doing this since day one also.  I ask all the dogs to sit and wait to be cued to go outside.  She found it very hard in the beginning, but today I watched her sit and lean and hold herself while the door remained open for almost one minute.  It was an amazing feat for her young age and I am very proud of her.

I will start inside walking her on lead, asking for a sit right before going into a new room and then cuing her to walk through with me.  Once she can do this without hesitation indoors, we'll start the behavior on the front door as well.

Step 5 asks that I take the treats off of me.  I have been cuing her when I have no treats off and on since last week.  She is up to 80% success now.  Her rewards include going outside, a bit of affection or a treat.  She's learning to earn life rewards with Sit at this point.

I am now rechecking the Come Afters on Sit to ensure she's completed them.  They includes going into a new room, change of position, when, where, who and how.  What this means is she needs to learn and practice Sit in all rooms my house and her owner's house.  Teaching her with me sitting and standing.  Other people asking her when they are sitting or standing.  Teaching her that she can sit facing me, beside me, behind me, under me, on something.  This will be slowly built upon as we continue through the levels, but this first stage truly teaches the dog the foundation of what Sit really is.

Emma is working on Come Afters for Sit.  She's seen me sitting, standing, laying on my belly and side.  She's worked a bit on my side, but still turns to face me and she's practiced with my visitors and her owners.  She has not learned some context sits, such as when her collar is to be put on or when greeting someone.  We are working on them.

Technically, Emma has passed Level 1 Sit.  I will continue to find new and different ways to explain it to her.  She will be asked to Sit the most often when working and if she can Sit anywhere, in any position around her handler, she'll be a dog that gets complements from strangers.


Emma is offering Down as a tool in her toolbox. I figured she would by now with how close she was on Friday.  Her owners, as per my request, didn't do any formal training on Sunday.  I asked them to just maintain her already learned behaviors (basics) and not try to train her 7 days a week. A break from training gives her time to take the weeks lessons in and think about them and move forward.  Too much training can result in burnout and prolonged breaks in training, as I learned when training Max.

Since Emma is now throwing Downs I am telling her what they are called when I can see she is about to do a Down.  She quickly got the verbal cue this morning, but I know she doesn't know it just yet.  I will continue this week attaching the verbal cue.

She is currently working on Level 1: Step 4 and 5.  I am also working Come Afters with her.  The Come Afters are the glue that really seals in the idea of what the dog is learning.  Though I could teach her all of these without the Come Afters I would be missing cracks in her training which may become holes later.

Special Events

Today Walter came and stayed with Emma while I ran and paid a bill.  While I was gone he trained Zen Level 1: Steps 1, 2 & 3.  He said she was a bit nosey with him in the beginning, but quickly caught on and started offering Zen to him.  He said he got up to a count of 2 with showing her the treat in his hand.

Ronda, Deva and DJ came to visit.  Emma had never met them before and was excited, but polite with them.  She showed no fear at meeting the new dogs and after a brief hello left them alone until near the end of our visit.  At the end she tried to get DJ to play and jumped on her which sent DJ into screaming fits of murder and beheadings.  Emma is developing good dog social skills and enjoys the company of other dogs.

She did snap at DJ once when DJ approached her while she had a bone.  I will work on her with this so she doesn't start resource guarding treasures with humans.

Emma is teething with a vengence.  I noted last week she was really biting down on her chew toy and today I watched as she worked on a bone for almost an hour.  She's also been working a squeaky toy for extended periods of time.  I recognize the "my mouth hurts" chewing I am seeing and chose to give her teething time today.


Emma is a bold girl whose gone through her first fear period without any left over fears.  She managed to recover for all new and somewhat frightening events last week and came out the other end stronger.  She is starting to teeth and moving quickly from puppy to adolescent.

Since puppies learn in a sine wave, I suspect in another month to have her back slide and need to restart and redo Level 1 again.  She'll be a moody, testing pre-teen moving rapidly into teenage mood swings.  It is during this time in a dog's life that they "forget" their lessons and "give you the paw" when training or in daily life.  In truth it's a stretching of their independence and mental growth that makes them difficult.

I expect the "smart puppy" to turn into the "forgetful teen" and work through it.  I've seen it with all of my other dogs and know its just a phase in which they emerge an adult dog.  I'll miss the easy going and loving puppy who wants nothing more than to be right and long for the calmer and mature adult that lays ahead, but will find working the Levels with an adolescent dog a new and exciting challenge.

Level 1
Zen Target Come Sit Down
Step 5 5 5 5 5
Level 2
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 1 0 0 0 1
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 1 0 1 0
Jump Relax Handling Tricks Communication
Step 0 1 0 0 0

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