Tuesdays are busy enough with Emma in class now, but this Tuesday was a full day for me and I ended it exhausted. My mother had a medical procedure that I had agreed to take her too prior to starting Emma's training. I woke the family up at 6 AM and began our day.
After taking the dogs out and showering I woke my son Walter and told him to be alive before I left at 10 AM. I had him hold Attitude and encourage her to eat, since she's been refusing to eat most meals these days, and settled in with Emma and Max and began their training.
When Emma was transferred on Monday her owner mentioned that they'd been unable to get 10 feet away from her while she was in a down and I blinked trying to think which step in Level 2 Down that was. I mentioned she was still working on Level 2: Step 1 of Down and that I had only gotten one or two 10 second downs out of her on Saturday. She mentioned that Emma had been able to do a 10 second and then a 1 minute down, so she started putting distance on her down.
I know what happened. Emma's owner is facing a personal family matter which has her stressed and scattered and she rushed through the list of what was expected in Level 2 Down and jumped ahead of where Emma was. It happens, we all do it when faced with extreme stress.
I tried testing Emma on Level 2: Step 1 Down and found she couldn't stay in a down for more than 2 seconds. I have been unable to get past 5 seconds all week since. I then opened my book and checked to see where Distance is added to the Down and found it was Step 3. Emma had jumped from the beginning build up of duration to having both duration and distance combined without the Come Afters of Steps 1 and 2. I have been working on building her duration again and took distance out of the picture until she clearly understands what I am asking for.
I have been working on distance with her Sit slowly. At first she needed to be comfortable with my moving around her without any distance added. She's a bit leery of the idea of my stepping behind her and I have worked slowly on it. I had to put the leash back on her to get her bottom to remain on the floor, but over time I got her to stay still while I circled her and then did a "step" over her. I can't lift my left leg over her, but did my right and got her comfortable with the idea of people stepping over her. She needs more practice with it, but over time she'll be able to handle people stepping over her - an important skill when working.
I finished her breakfast by walking around and over her in both a sit and a down after using the first part of her meal for Puppy Push Ups and Focus. I had tried to work on duration in her down, but found myself stressed and frustrated and simply changed the plan when I felt myself huffing air as she popped up again and again.
After getting her meal and Max's meal into them and Attitude medicated, I groomed Max and then suited him up for the day. I had arranged for Walter to stay the night so he'd be available on time in the morning to watch Emma when I left. I figured, with the type of procedure my mother was having, I would be gone for 2 or more hours and didn't want to crate Emma that entire time after being crated all night. It turned out I was away from the house from 10 AM to 4:30 PM and am beyond grateful Walter was present to allow the dogs out and keep Emma company.
Walter worked on her going to the bathroom on lead on cue and giving her plenty of play time in the yard. He kept her busy with toys and out of trouble by watching her closely. He said she was calm and content with me away from the house. In truth, if Emma wasn't 4 1/2 months old and nothing but teeth for chewing and un-directed energy, she'd be fine left alone in the house. I simply know better than to leave a 4 1/2 month old puppy unattended for hours on end.
When I returned I spent a bit of time catching up with Walter and getting Attitude, Max and Dieter fed and Emma's treat pouch ready. I then relaxed until it was time to leave. I left early so I could give Emma a chance to explore the potty area behind Diamonds in the Ruff and see other people and dogs outside of the car.
Emma is a quiet girl when she rides in a car and enjoyed peering out of the van as we waited for class. Dana Byrnes and his son Travis were teaching a Prep class prior to our Puppy K and I enjoyed watching Dana's body language as he instructed the class.
At one point Emma spotted a Boxer leaving the building and crossing in front of the van and barked at it. She has a deep little bark and I giggled at her and then started treating her for watching the Boxer as it left. Later she spotted people at their car and barked at them and again got rewards for watching them. Each was a single bark and not an alarm or protective bark. She quickly quieted and watched them as I fed her treats.
By the time class started she was starving. She'd finished her morning meal by 10 AM and hadn't had much to eat between then and 7:20 PM when we were able to enter the building for class. I brought her in as the other dogs were leaving and let her great the curious adolescent dogs who were leaving. Each time she did a nose-to-nose greeting I give her a two beat count and then said, "Okay, let's go" and continued into the classroom.
She was fantastic meeting every new dog who was curious about her, her tail up and wagging and her body language calm and respectful. A change from the flying black bullet in my home. When we got to our chair most of the dogs from the previous class had left and the puppies for our class were entering. The Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy is huge. She was a few chairs to our right and and stretched out on a blanket. A few chairs to their right was the very pretty Springer Spaniel puppy. He's busy and pulled his people where he wanted to go, which was to put his nose right in the face of every dog in the room. The Chocolate Lab was across the room from us and laying quietly at her owner's feet. To our left was a new arrival.
The new arrival is an adult dog who is uncertain about dogs in general. Our class was chosen because it's very small, the dogs are small and we can all be properly spread out. He was in a harness, had a collar and a brand new Halti on, which was attached to the lead and his collar. He was panting and highly stressed. He couldn't stand still and threw a lot of appeasement behaviors. He is a rescue, recently adopted from the shelter where he'd lived since 2006! He was a year old when he was placed in the shelter. He's a Rott/Mix and is learning not all dogs are scary.
Emma was his perfect companion. A wall was between us, but she could, if given enough lead, go to the edge and peer around at him. Even then, she was a good 5 to 10 feet away from the dog. She would go to the edge, peer around at him for a second or two and I would click my tongue or call her name softly and she'd spin and rush to me to get her treat. She did that a good 30 to 50 times throughout the next two hours and he soon decided Emma was not a danger and began ignoring her. He also decided the Lab was not a danger, but was uncertain of the stuffed dogs and the Springer. He could not see the Rhodesian next to Emma and I.
Sweet Emma was ready for my attention. She began throwing behaviors at me to get me to click. I got rapid fire sits and downs and focus and touches from her. I rewarded them and praised her as she continued to work me for her dinner. She got treats for looking at me when I clicked or said her name. She got treats for releasing pressure on her lead when she went to the end and stood for a second before turning to me. She got treats for laying calmly next to me. She got treats for any attention she could give me and she gave me a lot.
I was pleased when she followed every hand cue I gave her and then followed by doing every verbal cue I tested. She was engaged and working me for all she was worth. I was told she was also working on figuring out my blind spot. At one point she sat to my left and threw a handful of behaviors at me and when I didn't respond, scooted her butt a bit to the right and tried again. She kept this up until I suddenly looked down at her and then she went into a spasm of thrown behaviors. It was funny.
During one part of the class we were to work Puppy Push Ups. Emma told me she knew the game and rapid fired through them with me. I heard the other owners saying, "Sit, sit, sit, can you sit?" And occasional "yes" and "good boy" or "good girl". I had my clicker in my pocket (I was the only one using a clicker) and I was told they heard a good 50 to 80 clicks in the 3 minutes we worked on Puppy Push Ups. It lasted that long because Dana and Travis were helping the other students.
Travis was teaching the new dog the basics of the behaviors by helping his owner lure him. She was asking questions and getting instruction on the basics of the puppy lessons and Travis was there with her for the entire time we were working. Dana was working around the room with the other owners.
What I noticed as I took a second to glance around was this:
The Rhodesian Ridgeback was 100% disengaged and not in the game. She was focused on the Lab across the room and not listening to her owner, who kept repeating the cues and asking if she could sit. The owner had the lead tight enough it was pulling the collar back and would at times grip the collar and hold her and start to lift her by her collar to from the front to get a sit. I finally told her to turn her dog away from the room so the dog could focus.
The Springer was busy throwing the tricks he'd learned or trying to go visit with the other puppies. He would, by the end of class, pee in the building four times. He would have 10 to 15 seconds of attention and then wander off to visit.
The Lab was doing very well, but was distracted by the puppies and would start to wander off. The owners were frustrated when that happened and Dana spent a bit of time with them to help them redirect her.
He did the same for the two other owners and then looked at me and said, "I've already seen how she's doing and she's amazing!"
Though Emma would glance off and on at the other puppies, she was 95% of the time in the game and focused on me. I actually had to make her take a few breaks because I realized how long things were going and in the end ended our session before the other owners did.
At times I would get caught up in the instruction and wouldn't catch that Emma had focused on the Springer and she would give a single bark. When she did I would click my tongue and re-engage her with me. What I noticed was, I had a dog who was in the game and the other puppies were only learning what the game was.
Dana said the next step was pairing the verbal cue with the hand cue by saying the verbal cue and then giving a pause and showing the hand cue. He said this only worked if the dog truly knew the hand cue and said that would be the next step of the learning process during this next week of practice. I raised my hand and said Emma already knew her verbal cues. Dana laughed and asked that Emma demonstrate!
I was hoping for her to practice in a new location with a new level of distraction on her best known cues and took her to the middle of the room and caught her attention. The moment she turned when I said her name I fed her a treat and then I said, "Emma, Sit" and her bottom made a sonic boom when it hit the floor! I then said, "Emma, Down" and she threw herself to the floor with elbow slapping speed. I then did the hand cue for Stand, the one cue I knew was not on verbal cue yet and Dana asked about that. I explained she was still learning it and didn't have it in her bones yet, so I hadn't attached the cue.
We worked on her sitting beside me by luring. I did this in a chair, since I had already almost fallen when talking to Dana and couldn't lure and hold a cane at the same time. We had a break in the middle and I took Emma out for a potty break. She urinated on cue in a new location!
After that class broke up when we were told next week we are to work on Leave It. I am amazed how far ahead Emma is in class because of the Levels Training. She's a star who enjoys working for her food and truly knows her cues!
After the building cleared of dogs Dana, Travis and I played the Come Game with Emma. It started as just Travis and I and when she was running between us we would call, "Emma, Come!" Emma was so involved she didn't realize Dana had joined until he started catching her attention. Midway through the game Emma was racing from me to Travis and Dana called her and she skidded to a stop, changed directions and raced to Dana! We cheered with pure joy at seeing that.
As the game progressed we all changed where we were standing as she raced to the next person. We couldn't trip her up and she ended the game wanting more. It was a fantastic end to the first class she's ever had.
After that we came home and I let Emma burn off energy for about an hour before putting her to bed. The moment she was in the crate she gave a big sigh and slept through the night.
I do want to mention I not only had her full evening meal in my pouch, but about half as much again of soft food and she ate 3/4th of the food in the pouch before we were done for the night and she was still willing to work for the food in my pouch. What a fantastic little dog to train.