Wednesday, March 20, 2013

6 Months, 4 Weeks: Training - Day 62

Emma is progressing on her sit cue!
With Jack arriving between 7:30 AM and 8 AM I am now setting my alarm nightly to ensure I am up in time to meet his owner and take him before she goes to work.  Emma heard the alarm this morning, heard me hit the snooze and then stumble back into my bed.  I was not ready for the overall effect yesterday's all day long music fest and the following excitement with dealing with my neighbors would have on me.  I felt drained and exhausted and sick.

At 6:45 AM my system told me how much yesterday's stress affected me and Emma, now watching me from the crate, softly whined at me while I took care of myself.  In the end, I gave up on anymore rest and let her out.  She was quiet when I went to let her out and she waited for release, then happily bound to the door where I found that today was going to be a cloudy and wet day.

In truth, I am glad for the rain.  I normally hate it, but I am reseeding my yard and spent yesterday laying seed in the new play yard in front of my trailer and wanted the rain to nurture it.  I had hoped today to lay the new seed in my decimated front yard, but with the downpour we were met with at the front door, I suspected that wouldn't happen.

Our morning started well.  Emma happily joined training and played a bit with Jack and then the world for her seemed to implode.  Where she and Jack enjoy laying on each other and playing bitey face and she can do pretty much anything with him, Jack and Max do not share that type of relationship.  Max decided to test Jack's boundaries and pressed his chin on Jack's shoulders and Jack gave a full blown "knock that off" reaction.  Emma was next to Jack when this happened and it seemed to have frightened her a bit.

I was able to train with Jack, who shrugged off the argument he and Max had, but Emma was too stressed by it to take food again.  She'll recover, but she clearly won't take food when stressed and I need to help her deal with stress better to help her deal with her future job.

I had listed a set of Tasks Jack was being trained to do for Ronda and thought I would list the tasks Emma is being trained for her handler:


  • Bring portable phone to any room in house
  • Bring in groceries - up to ten canvas bags
  • Unload suitable grocery items from canvas sacks
  • Fetch a beverage from a refrigerator or cupboard
  • Fetch food bowl(s)
  • Pick up dropped items like coins, keys etc., in any location
  • Bring clothes, shoes, or slippers laid out to assist with dressing
  • Unload towels, other items from dryer
  • Retrieve purse from hall, desk, dresser or back of van
  • Assist to tidy house or yard - pickup, carry, deposit designated items
  • Fetch basket with medication and/or beverage from cupboard
  • Seek & find teamwork - direct the dog with hand signals, vocal cues to: retrieve an unfamiliar object out of partner's reach, locate TV remote control, select one of several VCR tapes atop TV cabinet, other surfaces
  • Remove VCR tape from machine after eject button pushed
  • Use target stick to retrieve an indicated item off shelves in stores retrieve one pair of shoes from a dozen in closet
  • Use laser pointer to target an item to be retrieved
  • Drag Cane from its customary location to another room
  • Pick up and return cane if falls off back of wheelchair
  • Pickup or fetch Canadian crutches from customary location
  • Drag walker back to partner
  • Fetch wheelchair when out of reach

CARRYING BASED TASKS (non retrieval)

  • Move bucket from one location to another, indoors & outdoors
  • Lug a basket of items around the house
  • Transport items downstairs or upstairs to a specific location
  • Carry item(s) from the partner to a care-giver or family member in another room
  • Send the dog to obtain food or other item from a care-giver and return with it.
  • Dog carries a prearranged object to care-giver as a signal help is needed
  • Carry items following a partner using a walker, other mobility aids
  • Pay for purchases at high counters
  • Transfer merchandise in bag from a clerk to a wheelchair user's lap
  • Carry mail or newspaper into the house


  • Put trash, junk mail into a wastebasket or garbage can
  • Deposit empty soda pop can or plastic bottle into recycling bin
  • Assist partner to load clothing into top loading washing machine
  • Dirty food bowl [dog's] - put into kitchen sink
  • Put silverware, non breakable dishes, plastic glasses in sink
  • Deliver items to "closet" [use a floor marker to indicate drop location]
  • Deposit dog toys into designated container
  • Put prescription bag, mail, other items on counter top


  • Open cupboard doors with attached strap
  • Open drawers via strap
  • Open refrigerator door with a strap or suction cup device
  • Open interior doors via a strap with device to turn knob
  • Answer doorbell and open front door with strap attached to lever handle
  • Open or close sliding glass door with a strap or other tug devices
  • Shut restroom door that opens outward via a leash tied to doorknob
  • Close stall door that opens outward in restroom by delivering end of the leash to partner
  • Shut interior home, office doors that open outward
  • Shut motel room exterior door that opens inward
  • Assist to remove shoes, slippers, sandals
  • Tug socks off without biting down on foot
  • Remove slacks, sweater, coat
  • Drag heavy coat, other items to closet
  • Drag laundry basket through house with a strap
  • Drag bedding to the washing machine
  • Wrestle duffle bag or other objects from the van into the house
  • Pull a drapery cord to open or close drapes
  • Assist to close motel room drapes by tugging on edge near bottom of drape, backing up
  • Operate rope device that lifts blanket and sheet or re-covers disabled person when he or she becomes too hot or cold.
  • Alternatively, take edge of a blanket and move backwards, tugging to remove it or assist someone to pull the blanket up to their chin if cold


  • Cupboard door or drawers - nudge shut
  • Dryer door - hard nudge
  • Stove drawer - push it shut
  • Dishwasher door - put muzzle under open door, flip to shut
  • Refrigerator & freezer door - close with nudge
  • Call 911 on K-9 rescue phone - push the button
  • Operate button or push plate on electric commercial doors
  • Turn on light switches
  • Push floor pedal device to turn on lamp
  • Turn on metal based lamps with touch-lamp device installed - nudge base
  • Assist wheelchair user to regain sitting position if slumped over
  • Help put paralyzed arm back onto the armrest of wheelchair
  • Return paralyzed foot to the foot board of a wheelchair if it is dislodged

PAWING BASED TASKS (some dogs prefer it to nose nudge)

  • Cupboard door - shut it with one paw
  • Dryer door - shut it with one paw
  • Refrigerator & freezer door - one forepaw or both
  • Call 911 on K-9 rescue phone - hit button with one paw
  • Operate light switch on wall - jump up, paw the switch
  • Depress floor pedal device to turn on appliance(s) or lamp
  • Jump up to paw elevator button [steady dog if he tries it on slippery tile floor]
  • Operate push plate on electric commercial doors
  • Close heavy front door, other doors - jump up, use both forepaws


  • Position self and brace to help partner catch balance after partner rises from a couch or other seats in a home or public setting
  • Prevent fall by bracing on command if the partner needs help recovering balance.
  • Steady partner getting in or out of the bathtub
  • Assist partner to turn over in bed; have appropriate backup plan
  • Pull up partner with a strap [tug of war style] from floor to feet on command, then brace till partner catches balance

HARNESS BASED TASKS - Mobility Assistance

  • (Only appropriate for large sturdy adult dogs with sound joints, proper training)
  • Assist moving wheelchair on flat [partner holds onto harness pull strap] avoiding obstacles
  • Work cooperatively with partner to get the wheelchair up a curb cut or mild incline; handler does as much of the work as possible, never asking the dog to attempt an incline unaided
  • Haul open heavy door, holding it ajar using six foot lead attached to back of harness, other end of lead attached to door handle or to a suction cup device on a glass door
  • Tow ambulatory partner up inclines [harness with rigid handle or pull strap may be used]
  • Brace on command to prevent ambulatory partner from stumbling [rigid handle]
  • Help ambulatory partner to climb stairs, pulling then bracing on each step [rigid handle or harness with pull strap may be used to assist partner to mount a step or catch balance]
  • Pull partner out of aisle seat on plane, then brace until partner catches balance [harness with a rigid handle and a pull strap, or pull strap only]
  • Brace, counter balance work too, assisting ambulatory partner to walk; the partner pushes down on the rigid handle as if it were a cane, after giving warning command, when needed
  • Help ambulatory partner to walk short distance, brace between each step [rigid handle]
  • Transport textbooks, business supplies or other items up to 50 lbs in a wagon or collapsible cart, weight limit depends on dog's size, physical fitness, type of cart, kind of terrain
  • Backpacking - customary weight limit is 15% of the dog's total body weight;10% if a dog performing another task, such as wheelchair pulling in addition to backpacking; total weight includes harness (average 3 - 4 lbs.). Load must be evenly distributed to prevent chafing.


  • Bark for help on command
  • Find the care-giver on command, lead back to location of disabled partner
  • Put forepaws in lap of wheelchair user, hold that upright position so wheelchair user can access medication or cell phone or other items in the backpack
  • Wake up partner if smoke alarm goes off, assist to nearest exit


  • Operate push button device to call 911, an ambulance service or another person to help in a crisis; let emergency personnel into home and lead to partner's location

Today's Lessons:


Emma is working on Level 2: Step 4 Sit.  I tested Emma today and she was able to do a 30 second sit.  I set the timer on the microwave for 30 seconds and Emma sat calm and focused while we waited for the timer to count down.  This is a huge improvement for her and I am very proud.  Later today we'll begin working on the next step formally.

The next step in Level 2 Sit asks that Emma sit and wait for the click while I am 10 feet away from her.  I will continue to work Sit in total in new locations and on new surfaces and build up her ability to sit and wait for me wherever I ask while we continue to work forward in the home.

I was on the phone when I started working on this next step.  Instead of adding Duration and Distance together I am starting with Distance and will slowly add Duration again.  While I talked on the phone I started pacing around her and Max, who was sitting next to her, and then slowly started walking up to 15 feet away from her and returning while she remained seated.  She did very well with this and we managed to get in almost 5 minutes of training while I walked at different angle of the compass away from her.  I will continue to build up her Distance for a couple of days and then start adding Duration one second at a time until we reach 1 minute.

I worked with Emma a third and fourth time today on Level 2: Step 4 Sit.  On our third lesson she had already sat against my recliner while I was 15 feet away from her.  I clicked and treated her and then did several rapid fire walking away and returning to treat her.  Once we established that, I started adding duration.  I got her up to 30 seconds while I was over 10 feet away from her.

On the fourth lesson I removed duration, but added distance and distractions.  I wandered about up to 20 feet away from her and would knock on the walls, open and shut cupboards and make noises such as chicken clucks and whistles.  Emma did a broke her sit off and on, but I just lured her back to where I had asked her to sit and continued the lesson.  She did a great job with this part of the lesson.


Emma is working on Level 3: Step 1 Retrieve.  In this step Emma is asked to open her mouth and put a pencil into it.  At this point she is still licking the pencil or nudging the pencil most of the time.  I will have to problem solve this to progress with this part of her lesson to get her taking the item into her mouth.


Emma recovered from the fright she had this morning and was able to train again without loosing a step.  I like the fact her maturity is allowing her to move forward at a fast pace finally and enjoy the sudden calm way she approaches duration exercises.

I try to add action exercises into her routine to keep it from being a boring repeat of waiting for the click.  In the next week I would like to work on her light switch and retrieve tasks more so we can begin building up her service dog tasks while she continues to gain her basic skills.

Hopefully by this fall she'll be taking her Canine Good Citizen test and be able to pass it.  That is our current goal and she's starting to show signs she's ready to begin serious training for that goal.

I am very excited with Emma's training and enjoy watching her mature and grow into a fine young dog. Level 1
Zen Target Come Sit Down
Step Completed Completed Completed Completed Completed

Level 2
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 5 2 4 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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