Wednesday, February 6, 2013

21 Weeks: Training - Day 32

Someday Emma will learn to walk like Max does
next to a wheelchair with her handler.
Today Emma starts her Prep class at Diamonds in the Ruff and the chances of a family bringing a child with them is greater because it is a 6 PM class as compared to a 7:30 PM class like before.  Emma is uncertain about children around the ages of 5 to 10 years of age and barks at them when she sees them.  Once she's had a chance to meet the child she is fine, but the instant barking fit that happens when she does see a child while we are out is troublesome for her working future Public Access Training.  I woke before Emma at 7 AM and prepared some high value treats for her so she and I could stand on my porch when the kids in the neighborhood waited for the morning bus.

At about 8:20 AM the kids began to gather and I took Emma out on the porch.  The moment she saw them, right at the front door, she began barking.  I spent the time until the bus arrived and left giving her treats for looking at the kids (currently, even with a bark) and rewarding her for looking back to me when I clicked my tongue.  I had to move to partially block her view of them and let her primarily hear them, but by the time the bus arrived her arousal level had lowered and she was more focused on me and less on them.

It is my goal that by the time our mornings are warm and I can stand being outside more than a few minutes that Emma can be outside of the fence working on loose leash walking with the kids lined up a few feet away while they wait for the bus.  I suspect it will take us that long to achieve this goal.  She's in a major fear period and right now small humanoids are scary.

One thing I did notice is I will need to pick up something at Petsmart tomorrow.  Attitude has barely left my porch all winter to relieve herself and my front porch by my door smells  like a urinal.  I will have to get some enzyme deodorizer to de-stink my front porch.  The scent is extremely powerful with her kidneys not diluting her urine like they should and it's a very unpleasant odor.

Today is cold, but not slick and wet, so I intend to work loose leash outside of the fence with Emma for her lunch.  For breakfast we worked on Target and "metal bowls are not scary" again.  She won't put her nose in it yet, nor get near it to get kibble, but she's not skulking away when she sees the bowl any longer.  To aid her in not being afraid of the bowl I leave it in the middle of the living room when we are not using it and will over time start dropping high value treats in it all the dogs can have.  I may, for a bit, use it as a distance item also to have her go around it and really make it a nothing item in her world.

Since dropping the bowl scared her so badly, I am now sliding it a bit on the floor and tossing her treats and banging it softly and tossing her treats too.  I also drop items, on purpose, a distance from her and then toss her treats.  She'll be a full puppy, but hopefully the "sky is falling" reaction she's had to the bowl dropping or other loud sounds in the house will fade and she'll accept falling items in the house as part of everyday life.

I'll spend the rest of the winter and early spring working on getting her closer to the children at the bus stop without barking and then work on her Levels behaviors while strange children she's not met are nearby.  When the weather is much better I'll start taking her to outside of playgrounds while school is in session and work on her watching without reacting while children play.

Today's Lessons:


Emma is working on Level 2: Step 4 Target.  I took a break from Target when Emma decided the goal of the game was to lay before me and watch me intently.  I had to think how I was going to change that behavior and encourage her to target a post it note on a wall or other object.  Today we revisited the lesson with a brighter colored piece of duct tape stuck to my end table and Max nearby ready to demonstrate the goal of the lesson.

Once again Emma was curious about the tape, but didn't really get the idea to touch it.  I clicked for her looking at the end table and eventually looking at the tape, but she wasn't moving her body to touch the tape.  I asked Max to touch and he got up from his Mat, came over and touched the tape.  That seemed to start the forward progression I wanted.

Emma would still lay down and stare at me and ignore the end table or tape, so I would either stare at the tape or turn away from her until she got impatient and moved.  Anytime she looked at the tape I would click and eventually hold off the click until she got up and pointed to it with her nose.

In the end she got the idea we were working on her touching the tape and did very well, but she still tends to stop and lay before me.  I will continue working on this in the one location until she's targeting the tape without thinking about it and then move it to a new location in the house.  Once we have that concept solid I will move toward her closing a cabinet door.

Lazy Leash

Emma is working on Level 2: Step 2 of Lazy Leash.  In this step Emma is asked to stand for a few seconds beside me with a loose leash and then take a few steps with me on a loose leash.  Emma has been doing well on this step, but not in higher distraction levels, such as going outside.  Today I planned on taking her outside to work on this step, which she has mastered in my house.

Once we got outside Emma was in full distraction mode.  She couldn't focus enough to eat a treat and was too busy trying to explore her environment to actually focus on the training.  Since I know she can walk through Petsmart and in my living room on a loose lead, I know it's time to work with her in the outside world to learn the lesson applies there also.

It's a cold day and without the support of Max or the cane I found I was in too much pain to work more than a couple of minutes with her.  She was unable to focus and learn and I was unable to bend and get her attention.  I will have to find a location where she can focus and begin practicing this lesson outside.

I believe a good spot to try again today will be at Diamonds in the Ruff while waiting to go into class and upon entering class.  I will update with how that second session progressed.

Prep Class

When we arrived at Diamonds in the Ruff Emma she completely surprised me by walking loose lead to the potty area behind the building and the returning and entering class completely on loose lead.  This all broke down when the German Shepherd across the room broke out in excited barking and lunged on it's lead, but I was very pleased with her ability to walk loose lead around the building.

Her previous class had been very small and there had been a lot of extra space between each dog while class was held.  This class is full near past capacity and each dog was nearly on top of each other during class.  Carol, the owner and instructor, directed which dog was to sit where to prevent any fights and thus Emma and I were placed between a tiny Rough Fox Terrier cross and one of Emma's cousins!

When Emma was with the breeder she had been the last of her liter who hadn't been purchased.  Her breeder included her into the liter she was raising, who was four weeks younger than Emma, and thus Emma lived with Pepper from 10 weeks to 14 weeks of age.  Pepper is bigger than Emma and very bonded with her handler.  What a lovely pup!

Emma was completely distracted and couldn't focus enough to learn anything in class.  She was busy trying to visit with the people next to us or the dogs.  She would give me brief boughts of focus and then turn her back and watch the world around us.  With 9 dogs in the room, I was not terribly surprised by her sudden breakdown in focus.  This was he busiest environment she's been in to date with me and I am simply boring.

My treat value was not good enough either.  Though hungry and at first willing to work for kibble and soft treats, she quickly lost interest.  Instead she was poking her nose in other dogs faces and putting her feet on other people and basically pulling on the lead as much as she could.

She went into "bucky dog" several times also.  It's like having a wild horse on the end of the lead as she rears up, bucks and fights against the lead before sitting and keeping the lead taunt between her and I and just giving me the "I'm not talking to you" stance.

I was in more pain than normal and her jerking and pulling on the lead and high energy was enough to wear me out early in class.  Though we tried to work on the in class lessons, she generally wasn't going to have it and wanted to play and interact with the other dogs.  The outbreak of barking and even when the one dog got so over excited he stuck himself under a chair and panicked didn't bother her; she wanted to play with the four month old puppies that surrounded her.

By the end of class she was throwing play bows and nose nudges and generally engaging in full play mode with Pepper.  If we had been able too, she and Pepper would have had a wonderful play session - but that wasn't in the cards with so many dogs in the room.  By the time she decided she had to play with Pepper she also decided to not pay anymore attention to me.  I was, at that point, in total management mode with her, since I didn't want her and Pepper to get every other dog in the room over-excited.

I will have to take super high value, over the top, can't believe you put that in my pouch, why haven't you given me that in the past, treats in her pouch for next weeks class.  I will ask Carol to not place Emma and Pepper next to each other, since Emma is more interested in playing with a fellow "liter mate" than listening to instruction and will have to ensure I take extra pain killers before arriving at class so I can keep up with the high energy, fast paced learning techniques for this class.

Until then, Emma and I will work on Focus in more distracting locations and some of her class home work.


Last night Emma's owner called and said they needed two skills at home right away and were worried if they worked on them they'd confuse her with what she was working on here.  I re-assured them they wouldn't and that she was ready to learn the two skills they need.  One is to go around their son, whom she'll be helping later when she's fully trained, instead of over him.  This is Level 2 Distance and she's ready to start Distance as a formal training plan.  I recommended they use their son as the pole in Step 1 and start teaching her to go around him while they support him and over time teach her to go around him while he's laying on the floor.  I also recommended they slowly add distance as per Levels instructions until she's able to go around him without thinking.

The other skill is for her to lay down between him and a wall while he is being tended to on his bed.  Right now she tends to lay against her owner and not by her soon to be handler and is therefore in the way.  This is Level 2 Down Steps 1 and 2 - duration.  I recommended several ways to help her understand what they wanted.

Remember we've talked in the past that Emma is uncomfortable doing a down when she is blocked on two or more sides and placing her between her boy and the wall does just that.  Her owner (We'll start calling her C and her son B)  said it just dawned on her that it is this reluctance to lay between people and objects that may be the problem and she may be right.  I said to plan a couple of training sessions with her and do Puppy Push Ups with high value treats and make her comfortable working in that area.  Once she's able to throw a down without fear there (which won't take long) the work on just giving them downs and start to add duration by 1 second increments.

If they need it a bit faster then use a paper plate and tape it to the wall where she can easily lick it and lay in a down beside B and let C do what she needs to for his care.  On the paper plate put some over the top, can't believe you gave me this, mushy food on it.  I found here she loves the Wilderness Duck & Chicken Grill by Blue Buffalo canned dog food.  It is grain free and high quality and easy to spread on a paper plate and would keep her occupied while she stays in that position.  Over time put less and less food on the plate and slowly fade it as she becomes comfortable and happy to lay where they need.

Or, have a third person click and treat her for duration while she's in position and slowly fade those treats as she becomes comfortable with staying in a down while C works on B.  A third person could also help if she breaks position and lure and guide her back to where they want.

The trick though is to get her ready first by making laying between B and the wall worth her effort.  I couldn't use her kibble to teach her to lay between Max and the wall here.  I had to use over the top, high value treats, at first and lure and reward her heavily for doing downs.  I watched her body language go from leery and frightened to confident and bold and when I had a strong, bolder attitude toward laying before the door I then did the Puppy Push Ups there and slowly worked to her doing just downs and then duration in that location.  It took me about three days to get to that goal, but it was a goal I had a clear picture on and one I knew we'd need for her future job.

That future job is happening now with her being asked to lay beside her boy and calm him while he is being cared for.  Whether they do separate training sessions on her building duration and laying between B and the wall, use a paper plate with soft food smeared on it or a third person clicking and treating for desired position and behavior, she is learning one of her first service dog skills - to calm and comfort him while a needed procedure is done for his care.

While she is laying there she can lean against him and apply calming pressure, or nuzzle him and provide a new place to focus, or lay quietly so he can pet her and relax while he's being cared for.  It is something her boy needs and at five months she can now provide.  It's exciting to see her learning her first steps in being a comfort and aid for her boy.  How exciting for the family!

So, while I work on Target, Focus, Go To Mat, Handling and Lazy Leash for her targeted lessons at my home, they'll be working on Down and Distance as needed behaviors in their home.  Please read and follow the instructions for the steps are on and don't rush ahead until you see her offering you the behavior, once you have that you can move forward.

Level 1
StepCompletedCompleted CompletedCompletedCompleted
Level 2
FocusLazy LeashGo To MatCrateDistance

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