Tuesday, March 26, 2013

7 Months: Training - Day 65

Emma is worried about things in her
environment still and needs a lot
of reassurance to feel safe and accept
new things.
This weekend Emma went on a field trip with her owners to Payless Shoes, Walmart and Costco - all in a single day.  I was told by her owner on Saturday, the day they went on the field trip, that Emma had an accident in Payless Shoes and urinated on the floor.  This was not Emma's fault, since at 7 months of age she should be offered the chance to urinate every 1 to 2 hours during the day and every time she is removed from the car before she's taken into a store.  Emma has the bladder capacity of a toddler and much the same ability to communicate - she cannot tell her owners clearly that her bladder is full or that she needs to defecate at this time - nor does she have the ability to hold it for hours on end like an adult dog.

I was aware of them taking her to Payless Shoes because they had called me during the weekend, but I was unaware of her going to Walmart or Costco.  I must give warning of asking too much of Emma too soon.  Walmart on a normal weekday is busy and crowded, on the weekends it is a madhouse.  Costco is also!  That is an awful lot to ask of a puppy who's barely been exposed to large crowds!

Emma should have at least one field trip per week, be it with me or her owners, but no more than 3 at this time and no more than one location in a single day.  She is not ready to go for extended shopping trips nor is she ready to be in a store for more than 15 to 30 minutes at the utmost maximum.  And at no point should the person taking her be in a position that they have errands they must complete and have their attention split between Emma and what they are doing at the store.

If Emma is going to a new store for Public Access Training the person taking her should be going ONLY to train Emma, not shop or deal with another person or even get any items.  Emma is the only thing that matters.  There is more to Public Access Training than walking through a store and letting her walk nice on a lead.  She needs to ignore all the items on the self, perform her basics of Sit, Down, Stay and Loose Leash Walking while not touching or bothering other people in the store.  She needs to practice her basics (Level 1 behaviors) in new locations and with a focused training session with a high value reward and high rate of reward for good behavior.

The person taking her needs to pay attention to ensure she's not nervous or frightened, be able to help her deal with new sights and smells and recognize when it's time to leave.  If she's having a bad day they need to be able to just turn around and walk away without worrying about the errand or item they were after.  They need to be able to keep a keen eye on Emma and ensure she's not learning unwanted behaviors while working in public.

Emma is still working on Duration at this point with her Sit and Down.  She doesn't have the ability to do a long down/stay or sit/stay when waiting at a check out counter or for the person to look for and find what they want off of a shelf.  She needs them to pay attention to her need to go outside and not their need to make a purchase.

In this stage of Emma's Public Access Training she needs to be the sole focus, on short trips so she doesn't burn out or become unstable in public locations and training when she's in a new type of location.  If this cannot happen on a trip, leave her home.

There are many stories by experienced service dog trainers of dogs Emma's age who carried a pilfered rabbit fur around the store because the person thought the dog was able to do more than it could and they didn't pay close enough attention to the dog.  Of a dog breaking loose to cavort in a fountain in a shopping mall because the person had allowed their attention to split and of the dog finding other such trouble.

Emma is not ready for restaurants, movie theaters or real shopping trips.  She is early in her Public Access Training and needs a trainer, not a handler at this point when she's going to new places.  Most of all, she is not ready for large crowds on a regular basis and could easily become frightened of crowds if something happens when the person taking her is not paying attention - and that fright could easily become life long and wash her out for public work if we don't take it slow and careful with her and introduce her at her level of ability and maturity.

When I took her to Home Depot to "shop" I fully expected to have to leave without what I went for.  Instead, because I paid attention to her body language, rewarded her heavily and stayed 99% focused on her, she did extremely well.  It took me 10 times longer to achieve my goal (get some seeds for the garden and grass seed) because less than 1% of my attention was on my shopping, 99% on Emma and the remaining on what was happening around us.  Emma had spots she was frightened by items on the shelves, large cargo carts and loud sounds - but because I was watching and working with her, I was able to help her recover and find those noises to be okay by heavily rewarding her for behaviors she knew well.  But had she been unable and not ready for that trip, which was her longest to date with me, I would have left my cart and left without my purchases.  Emma was my goal, not the items I did eventually buy.

Please, unless Emma is the goal for the trip to a store on the weekends, do not take her at this time.  She needs as much watching on her Public Access Trips as a 2 year old does in a toy store!

Today's Lessons:


Emma is working on Level 2: Step 3 Focus.  In this step Emma is asked to maintain eye contact for 6 seconds.  Today Emma was having problems with Focus so stepped back and worked on clicking for eye contact and worked up to clicking for 1 to 3 seconds of eye contact.  Emma is finding this hard and is offering nose nudges and other behaviors when trying out eye contact.  I will continue to work on this step until she is solid with it.


Emma is working on Level 2: Step 4 Sit.  In this step Emma is asked to allow me to circle her and walk around her while she remains in a sit and does not change her position while I go around her.  I am also adding in Level 2: Step 3 Sit while working this.  Emma cannot handle repeated long periods between clicks and treats just yet, so I am working these two steps alternating between them.

Today I worked with Emma in the kitchen facing the living room.  I change direction and location she sits in to help her generalize the idea.  I worked walking away and back a few times and then built up duration slowly.  After I got up to 15 seconds, counting in my head, I did some walk to her and around her and then back to my original location and back before clicking.  After doing this a few times (Emma is, technically working Duration during this whole time, though she's getting a satisfying level of reward during the exercise) I set the timer on the microwave for 45 seconds and walked 10 feet away from her while it counted.  Emma did a perfect 45 second sit at 10 feet.

I will continue this exercise while adding duration by 5 seconds at a time on each long sit/stay.


Emma is working on Level 3: Step 1 Retrieve.  In this step Emma is asked to take into her mouth a pencil, spoon and another object in her mouth.  I have been working with a pencil since we started this part of her training and had to step back to Level 2 Target with her targeting the pencil with her nose and build up in very tiny slices of her licking, pressing her lips and then finally her teeth against the pencil.  It appeared we'd be stuck on the pencil for a long time - though I was feeling her teeth more often than not by the end of last week, I was seeing no signs of her opening her mouth to take the pencil into her mouth.

I had stopped for a short time to think though the slices between feeling her teeth and getting her to open her mouth even a tiny bit to get her to take the pencil in her mouth and decided what I needed to do was build up a tiny amount of frustration.  I did this by asking for two or three touches with her teeth before telling her yes and giving her a kibble.  Even so, it appeared to be slow progress.  Appeared.

Today I offered the pencil and Emma popped her mouth over and took it into her mouth without hesitation.  She did this consistently!  Sometimes she would poke her nose or touch it with her foot, but would end by taking the pencil in her mouth!  What an amazing thing Latent Learning is.  Emma spent the weekend thinking over the lessons for the week and decided that what I really wanted was her to take the pencil into her mouth and offered that behavior herself!

Part of it is that Emma watched Max work the 2nd and 3rd steps in the same behavior and saw him repeatedly taking the pencil without hesitation all week long when working him.  It added a piece to the picture she didn't have before.  Jack, who is naturally curious, was also trying to steal the pencil and would take it in his mouth.  Amazing girl to get a better picture by watching them and then modeling it while working out I was asking for the same behavior when working her slowly to be more comfortable with touching and exploring the pencil.

She currently has no duration on the behavior, but that is okay - it won't take long for her to have duration.  Emma has taken the first step toward her primary service dog skill set.


Now that the excitement of Jack being in the house is over, Emma is refocusing her efforts on training and leaping ahead.  She's up to 45 seconds of sit/stay and taking pencils into her mouth on cue and even offering behaviors of extended downs and Go To Mat when waiting her turn for training.

She's also testing her boundaries and seeing if she really does have a choice in the behaviors we've taught her. She knows sit and down in her sleep, but now acts like she's forgotten.  She knows she's not allowed to rush the door, but now rushes like a banshee when she can.  She also knows how to recall across my yard, but chooses not too.  It is the teenage "I don't wanna" stage and I knew it would happen.  She's seven months old and she's exerting her independence by choosing when and where she'll follow a cue.  We'll get through it with patience and refresh and remind training of behaviors she already knows.

One way to do this is to take her to new locations and retrain known Level 1 behaviors.  To expand her training area from my home to my yard and the street before us.  To add one or two new items to work on to stimulate her mind and bring her into the game and to continue adding to her socialization by introducing her to new items, sights and smells.

This will be an interesting period with Emma, since it's the one most pet parents laminate their once trained puppy is "being stubborn" or "dominate" or "spiteful" when in truth her mind and body are growing so fast at this point that she's stretching her wings -  no spite, just a teenage dog being herself.

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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