Wednesday, March 27, 2013

7 Months: Training - Day 67

Emma is so pretty when she's just groomed.
I groomed Emma today.  Her coat is long and tangles easily and with her long chin fur and beard she gets a lot of sticky gunk in it.  I always tell people she has two different looks - the freshly groomed where she looks very pretty and 2.5 seconds later the ruffian look where she looks like she's never been groomed in her life.  It's not as bad as it had been when she was younger - her tail no longer has these tiny spikes of fur shooting off at odd angles, but instead is growing in a nice plum which will be impressive when she's finished growing.  Her body coat is changing from the silky fur of puppyhood to a coarser coat of the adult dog, and with it the curls are relaxing and she's developing a wave in her body fur, but she still looks like a ruffian 2.5 seconds after I groom her.

She accepts grooming well enough, but truly doesn't enjoy it.  I bought a small rake comb for the dogs (except the Dachshunds) and use it to take the look fur out of their coats and detangle the two in curly suits.

Jack enjoys grooming for the most part and I am hoping to get him relaxed and run the rake through his body coat and detangle it.  I am also hoping that as Emma watches me groom Jack each week she'll see that grooming can be an enjoyable event in her life.

Jack has had a positive effect on Emma already.  He's calmer and quieter than her and displays this by laying quietly at my feet when I work.  Emma, seeing this, has fallen into his routine of engaging for training and then settling nearby when I am busy doing something else.  She's still young, 6 months younger than Jack, so she can't settle in one spot as long as he, so she does occasionally get up and wander the house checking on things - but the busy behaviors before of attention getting and trouble making has diminished much faster than I expected since Jack's arrival.

Overall Jack and Emma are sharing lessons.  Emma has increased Jack's curiousity and play, while Jack has added a sense of calm and focus that Emma needed.  It's a very beneficial relationship.

Today's Lessons:


Emma is working on Level 3: Step 2 Retrieve.  In this step Emma is asked to hold an object in her mouth while I hold it with her.  I have returned to the pencil for the time being to train this step.  She is willing and eager to take the pencil in her mouth, but spits it out as soon as she does.

I had a similar problem with Max and remember the hours, weeks and months I struggled with a solution.  It was his tongue that he used to shove the object out of his mouth and eject it before I could even tell him Yes for holding it.  In the end I cupped his face with my hands and held the pencil so that it was against the curve of hand between my forefinger and thumb.  As much as Max tried to eject the pencil he couldn't and once he stopped struggling I told him Yes and gave him a treat.

I have started that with Emma, but a step further back.  She was concerned by how my hand was held so I just let her touch and then take the pencil while my hands were in position to cup her face.  Once she was comfortable with this I would every 5th or 8th time take her face into my hands and hold her there while smiling at her.  She quickly stopped trying to eject the pencil and her grip and spit slowed down on the next set of takes without holding.

We are only up to 1 second, but for a dog who just had a major breakthrough on taking an item into her mouth, I am very pleased with this progress.  We'll continue working until she'd confident and comfortable with holding objects in her mouth and then slowly change how I am holding my hand until she and I are sharing the job of holding the pencil together.

This will not be a quick process - since we want a very solid and reliable retrieve and hold - so I want to take my time building her understanding and ability to tolerate holding things until told to release.  Her job will require holding until cued to release on a regular basis - since her handler has limited hand control.


I must thank the powers that convinced me to get my IPad.  By the end of each day the last thing I want is to sit at a computer and write up two blog posts so I can deploy them to the net.  My IPad allows me to update and write the blog posts as the day happens without leaving the dogs unattended and has resolved many problems with management with Emma.  It also keeps the report on each training session more accurate when I can quickly update throughout the day.

It also allows me to do my other paperwork during the day.  I have emails to answer and calendars to update and other business that would have me in the office for over half the day if I wasn't carrying it around with me all day long.

But most of all, it allows me to put my feet up when my legs light on fire and my joints feel like knives have been put into them and my muscles crap so badly I can't take another step - which has been happening more and more lately.

I have been so busy pushing myself when training Emma and Jack and Max that I am on my feet too much and walking unsupported to much and I am hurting for it.  Today I hit a wall of pain and exhaustion which brought today's training to an end.  Emma got to relax and play with Jack and her toys and did fine.

I am hoping my rest today will let me tackle tomorrow without failing by mid-day like I did today.  I just have to be glad that Emma has learned to relax and occupy herself without needing my constant input or constantly finding trouble.

I do need to repair some holes that are developing in her behavior.  With Jack not having a good wait at the door, Emma has begun door rushing again and I need to fix that.  She's also lost some of her Zen and Recall and I need to brush them up.  I have a boy coming to work on my yard tomorrow, so I will take the dogs out and recall and reward randomly while I direct him on his work.  I will also work on her Level 1 behaviors while he's working - a perfect distraction!

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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