Saturday, February 9, 2013

21 Weeks: Training - Day 35

Max is In The Game!  He is focused and ready
to do what I ask to earn his reward of
my throwing the tennis ball.
In Training Levels: Steps to Success Sue Ailsby talks about the dog being In The Game.  This means a dog who is willing to work with you.  A dog who wants to learn.  A dog who thinks the value of the reward is worth the effort of the behavior you are working on.  This means a dog who is participating in the training process.  Today, Emma was not In The Game.

I tend to do a lot of my training from a sitting position and know I should watch myself and train from both sitting and standing positions if I want Emma to be fluent in a behavior.  I am falling under the simple law of laziness which states if I can do it with the least amount of effort I will.  In my case, not only is it easy to do it with the least amount of effort, but a lower level of pain.  Standing for prolonged periods of time increases my pain levels - I have to bend to deliver the treat, and standing alone increases my pain levels.  Thus, I will start and proof a lesson while sitting and have to start again while standing.

Recently, with rapid weather changes, I have been skipping the standing portion of our training.  Today I stood and Emma went into Wilting Willow mode again.  She refused the kibble I offered (clearly asking her to train while I stood over her for just kibble was not worth her effort) and would go and hide behind my recliner.  What to do?

I had decided that she needed to be loosened up a bit anyway.  She's got sitting and staring at me and laying at staring at me to get me to click down pat.  What she doesn't have it active, get up and move and try different body positions and explore her world to get me to click down yet.  What to do?

Shape her of course.

Emma is not In The Game.  She has hidden her
face when I asked for a down.  (Picture taken early in her training)
I decided to shape her over to my green chair and have her put her feet on it, but the moment I stood the game was off.  She wanted nothing to do with the kibble and me and went into hiding.  Instead of trying to push through the lesson and force her into a shaping session she wasn't inclined to try, I took mental note from Sue Ailsby's book again and remembered her saying, "If I have 10 goals for the day and don't accomplish anything at all except spending 5 minutes with the dog In The Game, it was a good day.  When this happens consistently, the dog begins to arrive in any situation In The Game and ready to work or learn." Pg 33

Emma has been out of the game for most of the week and I need her in it in order for her to learn.  What to do was abandon any plans I had and just get her In The Game today!  So, I started talking in a happy, excited voice and playing Catch Me If You Can and clicking every little thing she did and stuffing food in her mouth.  In short order she was In The Game and I continued to click for anything that she did to encourage her to explore and try to get me to click and feed again.  We bounced and played and laughed and barked and soon she was play bowing at me and I focused on the rapid play bows and clicked for them.

She also did Stomp Feet at me when I stomped my feet and shook her head and just had a gay old time.  Attitude barked, Max raced around the house and we had way too much fun.  I was clicking for bows and she soon was throwing them faster and faster and having too much fun doing that.  We finished our "loosen up Emma" session with a lot of play and fun.

Yes, we did get some goal oriented learning done today, but mostly, we spent the day getting In The Game, which I felt was way more important than any goal I may have set for the day.

Today's Lessons:

Go To Mat

Emma (21 weeks) sits in the box on her mat
while I a seated in my chair.  She doesn't know this
behavior when I stand - yet.
Emma is working on Level 2: Step 2 Go To Mat.  In this step she is asked to go to her mat from a distance of two feet.  We are still working on approaching her mat from different angles and I have not added distance yet.  When I first taught her to get on her mat it was in front of me and I was sitting.  I decided to work on that part of the goal first and once again started with the mat in the box.

Emma tends to go to the box and turn and focus only on me.  We spent a hazardous few seconds staring at each other and getting nothing accomplished when this happens.  She'll sit for a second and then do a down and still no interaction with the box.  In truth, Emma hasn't figured out the box itself is the key to the game.

Any slight head turn, glance at or movement toward the box gets a click and I have to be creative and encourage her to get up and try moving around the box.  Once we get started she'll start to put her nose in the box and walk around it, but overall, she tends to lay next to the box and ignore it.  It took half her meal to get her into the box.

I took a break and went to stand and shape her into the box again while I stood.  That was when Wilting Willow Emma arrived and she slunk behind my recliner and tuned out of the game.  I had given her a click for looking at the box and offered her a treat and she refused it and left the training session physically.  This is not an uncommon response from her right now and though I am uncertain why this is happen, I do have a solution as to how to approach the problem. A dog unwilling to work for the food and hide behind my recliner is not going to learn anything.

I picked up the box and put it up and thought for a few minutes on what I could do to encourage her to work for her food.  I called her out, but she simply trenched in behind my recliner and refused to join me.  It was then I decided it was time to give up on Go To Mat and go for In The Game instead.  For one reason or another she's disconnected and not participating in our training and it does take both of us to train - my teaching her a new lesson and her willing to learn it.

I have seen this before.  Max became bored or disengaged with our training for a while and I couldn't think around the "I must train this behavior" mindset to get around the problem.  I talked with trainers and friends and felt frustrated and angry that my dog was giving me the cold shoulder.  In truth, my energy levels were all wrong and he wasn't in the least bit interested in playing with someone with such low energy.  Once I relaxed and went back to play as a reward he and I rapidly moved forward in our lessons.

Between the advice from Sue Ailsby, my experience with Max and my recognizing that somehow the fun had left training, I decided to bring it all back again for Emma.  I started by saying her name in a high pitched voice and pretending to trot away from her (remember, I don't trot well) and calling to her.  In less than five seconds she was out and bounding around me in total glee that I was playing with her.

We played Catch Me If You Can, which is simply my  pretending to run away and her catching up with me.  Remember, I don't run well either.  Emma caught me with no problem and we had a high pitched "oh you got me!" party.  She bounded and barked and played with me for several more seconds and I offered a kibble and sure enough she ate it.  Once I saw that food was again acceptable, we began clicking for anything she did.

Sniff Max's butt, CLICK!  How surprised she was!  Poke Attitude in the face, CLICK!  Throw yourself to the floor, CLICK.  Stomp your feet, CLICK!  We clicked and clicked and clicked and suddenly she was play bowing at me, CLICK!  She started trying other things and found the click only happened when she play bowed!  What fun!  She started throwing them at me more and more and got lots of clicks.  By the time we finished her food she was ready for a nap, but clearly had enjoyed herself.

So, no, we didn't progress on Go To Mat, but we did end up In The Game!


Emma needs fun in her life.  We have asked a lot out of her for the past few weeks and not provided a lot of relaxation and fun with other dogs that want to play with her.  Max tries, but he's a bit over-powering and the fun she should have just isn't there.  Attitude and Dieter do not want to play with her.  The cat tries sometimes, but then it's all sharp feet and hissy cat and Emma is left wondering what happened to a game that looked promising.  I don't have the energy to keep up a good rousing game like she wants and thus don't play enough with her when we aren't training.  She's being asked to act like an adult dog when she's truly just a pre-teen in desperate need of fun and play time.

My yard is too small for such adventures and the school ground too big and with unsecured gates to let her run off her energy.  I fear she wouldn't recall and end up escaping through one of the gates at this time and simply won't risk her that way.  Since it's Friday and what I see is a dog who needs to run and play with other dogs, I am going to take her to the local dog park; if it appears the dogs in the park are playing well and won't get too rough with her, we'll go in and she can make a new friend or two there and run her feet off.

If that doesn't work, I may just take her to my friend Ronda's house and let her explore that yard and play with Chautze.  Though older, Chautze loves playing with puppies and should find Emma enjoyable company for about fifteen to twenty minutes.  Either way, I am seeking fun for Emma today.

When we arrived at the Dog Park on the State Line there were three dogs who were playing together with lovely body language.  I took Emma and Max out and started for the gates.  Emma, upon seeing the strange new dogs, began to bark at them as they came to the fence to check out who was visiting their playground.  Emma and Max met them at the fence and Emma began to wag her tail and get excited about going in.

Once inside the three dogs went to greet Max, accepted he wasn't into a big greeting ceremony and came to Emma.  She cowered a little, so they all said brief hellos and then came to check me out.  Emma was settling in nicely with the three new dogs when a woman came in with two Great Danes.  One was 1 year old and the other 6 months old.  The 1 year old had good dog manners, but the six month old had none and promptly began jumping on and banging everyone with her big feet.

Emma told her that she didn't like that, which seemed to excited the big lug, so I called Emma out and she and Max and I started to explore the rest of the park.  At one point we ended up bottle necked with the first three dogs and the two Danes and again Emma was being over powered by the Dane puppy.

I tried to free her and get her behind me, but the Dane puppy was to fast and got Emma rolled onto her back.  It was at this point Max came in and with a deep grumble poked the Dane puppy hard in the ribs and pivoted over Emma so she could escape.  He made it clear that she was his to pick on and continued to block the Dane puppy from Emma until we could walk away.

Emma enjoyed exploring the park and following Max around as we worked our way through the paths.  She sniffed trees and explored branches and bushes and galloped around.  Off and on I would call her back to me and she'd race as fast as she could, scarf up the treat I offered (cooked chicken breast with bacon fast on it) and race off to explore a new area.  She recalled 5 out of 6 times on the first call and each time 10 to 50 feet away from me!  Way to go, Little Girl.

When get got back to the entrance Emma was again mugged by the Dane puppy and when the owner, who saw me blocking the puppy from Emma, said, "Just let them work it out." saw the scathing look I sent her way finally called her dogs and went away from us, I decided Emma didn't need to remain there with a pushy and scary puppy who would push her to snapping and defending herself.

All the other dogs were polite and gave her the space she needed and she enjoyed her visit, but she was not going  to "work it out" with a puppy twice her size who was pouncing and bullying her.  We left at that point with Emma happy and tired.

I will plan other visits to the Dog Park and decide if she can go in only if I see dogs who are playing nicely and not bullying other dogs.  If I am not comfortable with the group of dogs or the owners present, Emma, Max and I will go somewhere else for off leash play away from home.


What a roller coaster week for Emma.  Crashing metal bowls and falling canes.  Scary cameras and loud vet office visit.  New locations to practice quiet behavior and a loud and busy class to try to learn in.  No wonder she fell out of the game and decided to hide from the world.  A playful and fun introduction to new things in her life is in order during this fear period, but she also needs play mates and fun and puppy time.  That bouncy, almost contained energy of a 5 month old pup shouldn't be lost just because we are training her how to behave politely - she should enjoy life and revel in it and I am hoping by next week we'll be able to work on more exciting lessons and over come more fears.

I look forward to next weeks lessons and seeing how far Emma has moved forward in her learning.  She's such a sweet girl and I do enjoy training her.

Level 1
StepCompletedCompleted CompletedCompletedCompleted
Level 2
FocusLazy LeashGo To MatCrateDistance

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