Tuesday, March 19, 2013

6 Months, 4 Weeks: Training - Day 61

Emma is becoming a confident dog when sitting and waiting for me
 to click!
Today I played the snooze alarm game - not with the dogs, but with the snooze alarm.  I was tired and didn't really need to be up as early as I have been these past few days.  Jack wasn't due to arrive until after 8 AM and Emma was already at my home.  The alarm went off at 6:30 AM, but I kept getting up and hitting snooze.  This is a new behavior that Emma has not seen.  Max, on the other hand, has and recognized the game the moment he saw me stumble to the alarm (it is across the room from my bed) and smack it.

Emma was quiet and waited until I woke at 7 AM and let everyone out.  I let her stay out of the crate while I showered today, though I gated all the dogs into the room, and then went about getting their food dished up.  I have decided to dish up her and Jack's daily allotment of food all in the morning and work off of it throughout the day.

Today we worked on Duration with Sit.  Everything was going great and I started to write up the morning lessons when my neighbor started to play his stereo.  He's a young man who lives with his mother and when she's not home will play his stereo at dance club volumes.  He started it today - again - and I finally hit my limit after 5 years of this.  Half of my daily migraines are due to the Chinese Water Torture technique this music has on me and I could see, by the way the dogs all suddenly fidgeted, that it was having an affect on them.

I went next door to ask him to turn it down, but he didn't answer and therefore decided to have someone in authority talk to him.  It turns out, he went off the deep end after the police spoke to him and turned it up to the point it was rattling my walls, windows and dishes.  The remainder of the day would be like that - which left me distracted and in a sour mood.

Emma was ready to train though.  Each time we worked she was ready and willing to participate and after her beginning disquiet with the loud music, ignored it.  She was funny and playful and full of spirit today and thankfully that bled into my sour mood and I ended the day enjoying her and Jack playing after I had finished out training.

Today's Lessons:


Emma is working on Level 2: Step 3 Sit.  In this step Emma is asked to sit for while the handler stands 5 feet away and waits 30 seconds for the handler to return.  I have spent a lot of time working on her sitting and not changing direction to face me as I move about her on all points on the compass.  I have been adding duration to her sit by clicking and rewarding while she remains in her sit, but have not built up to 30 seconds between one click and the next.  She is able to do a solid 10 seconds and can build up on occasion to 15 seconds, but seems to fidget around 12 seconds most often.  I am taking my time building this, since one of my problems with Max has always been his inability to stay away from me at a distance for any extended period of time.  I want Emma to be okay with this and feel confident when asked to sit and stay.

I am not building a "stay" command into this behavior.  I want a sit to mean "sit there until I tell you otherwise" and "you can lay down if I tell you wait".  I want a default stay for Ms. Black Bullet and ensure she won't bolt if something excites her when working.

So, her Sit, Down and Stand will have default stays built into them to ensure her safety.

I later took the whole behavior outside into the yard.  I worked all points on the compass, but did not work duration.  Remember, I changed the criteria to a lower level because I built the difficulty up by taking her into a more charged and exciting location.  With the distractions of the outside (smells, sounds, sights) I was not going to ask for a 12 second Sit when we hadn't even worked on my walking around her or away at different angles.

I did a lot of around and off at varying angles and was very pleased to see how solid she was on those behaviors now.  She was off leash and all of this work has been off leash.  Remember, control of the dog is through the dog, not the leash.  I will add the leash and add distance and circling her on lead in new areas as we progress, but right now, I want her to know she can control herself no matter where we are without my holding a lead.

I am pleased with how well she did in the yard and will get a long line to work this in the street and build up her sit in a new location.  I am also about to work on her climbing new objects and sitting on them to really cement the concept of sit in her mind.

Emma is still working on Level 2: Step 2 Sit.

Lazy Leash

Emma is working on Level 2: Step 2 Lazy Leash.  In this step Emma is asked to walk in the loose leash zone without a leash.  To achieve this I walk and present treats to her whenever she comes into position at my side.  I decided today to take this outside and work along the ramp.  Emma quickly got the idea and stayed most of the time in the zone and focused on me when walking with me.  I couldn't drop the treats, since they fell through the slats of the ramp, but I did present them to her whenever I clicked at my side.

Emma is ready to move to working this step throughout my yard and build up her ability to stay in the loose leash zone and pay attention to my direction changes.  Once she's comfortable with the direction changes and can really not be lost, I will move her to the next step.


Emma is working on Level 3: Step 1 Retrieve.  In this step Emma is asked to put her mouth on a pencil, spoon and another object.  I am working with a pencil at this time.  I have her solidly nose targeting the object and she's starting to put her lips on it hard enough to press her teeth on the pencil, but I am not yet seeing a purposeful attempt to open her mouth to take it.  Part of this is I can't see her lips to see if she's making the attempt to lift them when approaching the pencil - part of this is because she had Jack trying to take the pencil for her.

I waited until Jack went home tonight to work on this step.  She actually started using her teeth on the object more often than not and finally I saw her whole mouth open and the pencil went into it. I praised that heavily and took a break before re-addressing this lesson.  She didn't try to take the pencil in her mouth again, but she did a lot more work with her teeth.

Emma will continue working on this step until she's comfortable and willing to open her mouth and take the pencil in it.  I will then work on other objects until she's comfortable with them also.


Emma is thinking and not just reacting.  Instead of lunging to get treats out of my hands, she's trying to solve the problem I offer to get me to feed her.  I love this stage, when the dog realizes that working on the puzzle I give them will result in getting the food I offer.

She is more focused and just learning, now that I am able to be outside with her for longer periods, that she doesn't need to have a bark attack if she sees people outside of the fence.

What I love is her recall.  Emma came to us with zero recall and today she ran 75 feet to me with joy when I said her name.  She had picked up some item in my yard and was racing with her pilfered prize to my backyard when I called her and she dropped the prize and raced to me at top speed and let me grab her and praise her heavily for coming.  Emma's recall is becoming amazing and I love the joy in which she runs to me.

I look forward to tomorrows lessons on more of her service dog skills.  I want to start adding socialization lessons which include trying new and uneven surfaces and new and strange sounds and sights.  This week should be fun, since Emma is not in a fear period and she's bold as brass, it's a perfect time to add new experiences to her world, which includes working beside a wheelchair and trying the climbing toys at local playgrounds.

Level 1
Zen Target Come Sit Down
Step Completed Completed Completed Completed Completed

Level 2
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 5 2 3 3 Completed
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 2 2 2 1 1
Jump Relax Handling Tricks Communication
Step 1 1 1 Completed 1

Level 3
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 3 0 0 0 1
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Jump Relax Handling Retrieve Communication
Step 0 0 0 1 0

Level 4
Zen Come Retrieve Target Relax
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Handling Communication

Step 0 0

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