Wednesday, March 6, 2013

6 Months, 2 Weeks: Training - Day 52

Emma loves to play with different toys each day.
Our night had ended with my placing the last 1/4 cup of her dinner in the crate with her again.  She's still not entering the crate unaided, but she's not protesting once in.  She sat quiet for a couple of minutes as I cleaned the cat box and then decided to eat her food.  Once finished I took the bowl out of the crate and continued getting ready for bed myself.

This same process in the molded crate never went so smoothly.  She protested and whined and refused to eat her food if the door was latched.  I suspect she doesn't like the closed in feeling of the other crate, which is why I dealt with her whining and protesting.  Whatever the reason, I have a crate here I can place her in that doesn't rise her anxiety levels when used.  Today I'll bring in the cable I use to tether her into my van with and attach it to the table I have my TV on in my bedroom and try tethering her to it.

This morning she didn't make a sound when I woke.  Max was fussing and the cat had at one point protested the idea that I hadn't risen and placed moist cat food in one of her bowls, but Emma remained patient and quiet in her crate.  When I entered the room to let her out she continued to remain calm and quiet and once the door was open waited for me to release her.  She was, as per normal, bounding and barking.  I stopped and waited for her to calm, which she did almost immediately, and then continued to the door.

It was then I understood Max's whine and grumble to wake me.  The school bus was across the street and Max could hear it, but not leave my room to check it out.  I waited for the bus to leave and let everyone out after that.

This quieter change in my morning continued with Emma returning into the house without hesitation and then going to my room to settle on Max's bed and settled into chewing a bone.

I will continue to keep her in The Dance this week and slowly add freedoms as she earns them next week. I had hoped to take her out today to work on Public Access Training, but the sky opened up and a thunder and lightening storm broke out.  Instead of adding to her stress levels by working during the storm outside of a store, I decided instead to work on her being calm and comfortable with the storm itself.  A natural event, like a thunder storm, can be very disturbing to a dog and I want her confidence with the rumbles and flashes to be set in now and not attach undue fears by combining the two events (working outside a store and a storm) together this early in her training.  I'll take her out tomorrow instead.

Today's Lessons:


Emma is working on Level 2: Step 2 Focus.  In this step Emma is asked to keep eye contact with me for up to 2 seconds. When we worked on this before Emma was starting into a fear stage and the pressure of holding eye contact started to shut her down.  I decided to shelve the idea until she was out of her fear stage.  Today was a perfect time to work on it.

I started with her just making eye contact and then worked up to 1 second of eye contact for several clicks.  At first she had a hard time maintaining the 1 second eye contact, so I withheld the click until she settled and gave me a strong and meaningful look as if to say, "Hey, did you die?"  It was then that I clicked.

We ended the session with her making eye contact for 2 seconds twice.  I'll continue to work this until she can offer 2 second eye contact with confidence and without building up to it.


Emma is working on Level 2: Step 3 Sit.  In this step Emma is asked to sit for 30 seconds while I am 5 feet away from her. Today my friend Robin called and I used the opportunity to train Emma to wait in a sit while I stood five feet away from her for varying amounts of time.  She did very well with this added distraction of my talking on the phone and was able to hold her sit for up to 5 seconds several times while I stood five feet away from her.

When I worked this I had her facing the kitchen while in the living room, unlike last night where she was facing the office (the opposite direction) while in the living room.  Later I'll work the same behavior while in the kitchen and facing the living room.

Emma is still working on this step.


Emma is working on Level 2: Step 5 Zen.  In this step Emma is to practice Zen when a new item is in the area or give a default Zen on certain items.  This is the step which will make it easier for Emma to work as a service dog.  Emma will learn to ignore passing people or items on shelves.

Since we haven't worked on Zen formally for a while I have decided to refresh and remind on Zen Level 1 and Level 1 Steps 1-5 to aid her in remembering my expectations and then push forward on her Zen skills.  Emma is already doing some of the Level 3 Zen behaviors, but I don't want to check them off until after we've completed Level 2.

Emma will continue working all steps she's learned of Zen until Zen is a part of her.


Thanks to Sue Ailsby sharing her years of experience with us, I have found this week going much easier than last week.  Why I didn't put her right into The Dance last week I don't know, but I must thank Robin for her patience and insight as she reminded me that my goal was to set Emma up to succeed and limit her ability to get into trouble.

Robin is raising a pup who is 2 1/2 months older than Emma and it was just before I started working with Emma that Robin called me in a state of frustration with the same problems I was facing with Emma last week.  Funny thing was, I was able to give her the same advise she gave me because I wasn't caught in the moment like she was.  When she called last week to check in and see how Emma and I were doing, she reminded me of my own advise.  How ironic that we both were in a position to see what the other was unable to at the time.

I equate it to the same blind survival mode one experiences when dealing with a new born child.  I remember my world collapsing into a small hallway where only my newborn son Wayne and I existed and all I could do was react to every fuss and need he had.  I was overwhelmed with the sheer need of my child and my newness at being a parent.  How odd that same effect happened when Walter was born and later Rachael. That same hallway develops when working with a new puppy - the reacting and not preventing hallway.  Robin simply reminded me of this the same that I did for her when she was stuck in it.

Once able to step out I could see that I needed to put Ms. Emma in The Dance and upon doing so was able to see what I needed to do to progress her training so she could slowly work her way out of The Dance.

Part of that is Zen; we worked hard on it in the beginning and then dropped the subject as a formal lesson as we moved forward with getting her into classes and ready for public access outings.  She needs a reminder again that Zen is part of her daily life.  She needs to learn that Attitude and Dieter and the Cat are default Zen items in my home.  None of them want to play with her and she's pushing boundaries with them, which makes them unhappy and stressed.  Therefore, Zen will return to our lesson plan and we'll address Zen items in a preventative method instead of a reactive method.

Thankfully, Emma is resetting to the rules and becoming a welcome family member again without much fuss.  It won't be long before the sweet and easy to live with Emma will return.

Level 1

Level 2
FocusLazy LeashGo To MatCrateDistance

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