Tuesday, March 26, 2013

7 Months: Training - Day 66

Emma waits for the click while Attitude
waits for the dropped kibble.
Emma is learning that new things and loud sounds are not scary.  Her constitution is stronger than when five months old and her recovery faster.  Today when working with her she knocked a small flashlight out of my hand and it crashed to her feet and made a huge sound - she bolted, but returned and played the touch game with it; at first she was a bit leery of the item that crashed to the floor, but as she received her rewards she quickly warmed to playing with it.  I started to drop it from short distances and giving her kibble and then higher and higher distances until it made the same scary sound and she didn't flinch this time.  We ended out session with the flashlight there, but she is clearly able to recover from frights so much better than ever before.

She's doing so well in her crate too.  She enters without complaint and sleeps through until I let her out.  She doesn't whine often, and when she does it's because she can see me, but she quickly stops and waits to be released.  She also doesn't bolt out the door when I open the crate, but waits for her cue to exit.

This means Emma has passed Level 2: Step 1 Crate at my home with a wire and cloth crate.  She needs to pass Level 2: Step 1 Crate at her owner's home with her plastic crate.

She's calmer with Jack and though they play together, she's no longer jerking his ears or snapping in his face.  She's charged him a couple of times when she's had a bone or chew and I've removed the chew and put her in the bathroom for a minute before releasing her to tell her that is not okay.  This is stopping the behavior, but I will have to continue to watch that behavior to ensure it doesn't stay with her.

She does need to go back to being tethered when outside unless strictly supervised.  She's dug up my artichoke and asparagus this Spring.  Both times she's done this is my fault for not watching her closely, but she does love to dig.  I have found Iris bulbs and root balls she's dug up and know now I need to protect my tender raised beds from raiding Labradoodles and invading German Shepherd, Poodle and Doodle feet!

She's learning fast and amazing me every turn.  Now that we turned her around about eating her kibble she's working hard for her meals and making great progress.  I love training!

Today's Lessons:


Emma is working on Level 2: Step 4 Sit.  As I have stated before, Level 2: Step 3 Sit deals with Duration while Step 4 works on movement.  I switch between the two to keep Emma in the game and willing to work on the more boring duration portions.  Today Emma was able to do a 50 second sit at 10 feet!  Congrats, Little Girl!

Part of Step 4 asks that I walk in circles around Emma while she remains seated and doesn't change her position to orient on me.  I can do that now when she is off leash in both the living room and kitchen, I am about to take that lesson into the bedroom and office where space is tighter.  I can also do walk around her in the front yard.  I am doing all of this off leash at this time and will reteach the behavior while on leash to ensure she understands what I am asking.

Emma will continue to work Level 2: Step 3 & 4 both here and at home.  All of her owners, including B, need to be able to circle her while she remains in a sit.  Start slow and reward heavily as you get each point on the compass by walking away and around her - if she breaks you went too fast and need to make a smaller and finer movement to go around her until she can allow everyone to walk circles around her.

She will have a harder time with B going around her in his wheelchair, but needs to learn to allow it.  Start with a wide open space and do the circles away from her at a 5 foot distance and work closer as she improves on the skill.  Reward heavily when doing this.


Emma is working on Level 3: Step 2 Retrieve.  Yes folks, today Emma passed Level 3: Step 1 Retrieve with flying colors.  Once we got past taking a pencil in her mouth she had little problem with a spoon and flashlight.  I am pleased to see metal on her teeth doesn't bother her and she's making purposeful movements to open her mouth wide and reach out and put her mouth over and then grip onto the object held in my hands.

The next step is building duration.  I started a bit of that today and got up to 1 second duration with Emma holding the pencil in her mouth while I held it with her.  She is not ready to take and hold something, but is ready to begin duration work on a pencil, spoon and another object.

I would like her owners to reteach Level 3: Step 1 Retrieve  to Emma in their home.  If she doesn't take the item right away tell her yes for every nose touch, lip touch and touch of teeth on the item.  If she licks it, say Yes and reward her.  Don't work for more than 10 repeats on this behavior for any one training session - but do work three 10 treat sessions with a 30 second to 1 minute break in between to help her understand that she can take things from her owners also.

Special Training Assignment

Soon Emma will be able to help B with some of his needs.  By now she should be able to do a Sit, Down, Touch and Recall when B is using his speech machine to cue her.  He should be flicking treats to her or using a drop tube to land them at her feet (Check the attached YouTube video for ideas on how to build something like that for B to use on his chair or bed).  It is time for B to start a game with her called "Find".

The goal of the Find game is to train Emma to find people by name - in our case the names she'll learn are Mom, Dad, Sis and Help.  Chose a person to start teaching Emma to find - let's assume the first one is Mom.

Mom will stand close to Emma and B.  B cue "Mom, Find" and Mom will make a noise to turn Emma's head and give her a treat.  When Emma is turning her head as soon as she hears the cue have Mom move 1 foot away and cue Emma to "Mom, Find" and when Emma looks to Mom, Mom will get excited and give Emma a treat when Emma runs to her.  Keep adding Distance as Emma starts to run to Mom each time she's cued.  Over time Mom should be able to "hide" around a corner, but just enough Emma can find her.  When Emma does, throw a party and give her love and treats for running to Mom when she's almost out of sight.  When she's able to find Mom around the corner when she can't see her start adding distance again, until Emma learns to look around the house for that person by name.  Each time she "Mom, Find" have a big party and play and love on her and give her a reward (a special one only used for the Find Game).

Repeat this with Dad, Sis and then have her find Help by using random people like B's caregivers or visiting family.  The cues will be:

  • Mom, Find
  • Dad, Find
  • Sis, Find
  • Help, Find

In time this will morph into a huge service dog skill for Emma.  When she is older we'll teach her to carry a bumper she wears on her collar to the person she's been sent to find to tell them that B needs them.  We want this cue to be a happy cue for her, so making it a game of hide and seek right now will be fun for her and help her learn to search the house.  Don't go too fast and don't hide to hard at first, but build up to longer and longer finds in different locations in relation to B until she can search and find someone when cued.


Emma is progressing nicely now that we are past her last fear stage.  She's still worried about things coming at her, like my wheelchair or feet, but she's quickly recovering and dealing with new things without much problems - but she is a soft dog who can easily shutdown if pushed too hard and I caution pushing her beyond her ability to take treats when working her right now.  As she grows old that soft personality will benefit her, but right now it means she can easily be broken if too much is thrown at her too fast.  In the dog world, slow if fast, as we've seen with her sudden break through in Retrieve and Sit recently.

I took those lessons at her pace and she burst through with amazing progress.  I am not ready to subject her to Walmart, Costco or other high traffic places yet because she doesn't have the ability to process or deal with them for prolong periods of time.
I also need to add more socialization under her belt.  Socialization is not just meeting and greeting people, but seeing, smelling and touching new things.  With the warmer weather I can take her to explore and step on trolleys at Home Depot and playground equipment to improve her understanding of the world.  I want to take her to the local parks to see people on bicycles (something she hasn't seen) and skateboards (again, unknown) and lots of children to improve her ability to process the world.  She needs to see different clothes, colors and shapes of people and hear busses and other traffic noises.

Going into a store is only part of Public Access Training.  A huge part is exploring a wide world and not being frightened or reactive to it.  This Spring comes at a perfect time and allows us to explore that world and learn more about it safely.

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 2 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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