Tuesday, April 9, 2013

7 Months, 2 Weeks: Training - Day 75

Emma had a busy day today!
Socialization.  Many people think that socialization means exposing the dog to a lot of people and other dogs, but that is not all that socializes a dog.  The dog also needs to explore many surfaces, sounds, smells and sights as well as meeting new dogs and people in a proper manner which doesn't foster aggression or fear.  Confidence is built within the dog as they discover what had once seemed frightening is just another way of earning rewards from the handler.  For Emma, socialization with people and dogs has been done and she's able to be around new dogs without fear or aggression and new people without loosing her mind and jumping on everyone.  She's also experienced new surfaces including carpets, wood floors and decks, gravel and pavement, grass and slick floors and shiny floors.

That is not the only type of surfaces she should explore; there are narrow walkways and high walkways (such as the mall) and even bridges she has not explored yet.  There are unstable footing such as teeters and loose rocks and logs.  There is areas where she's covered such as tunnels and narrow aisles.

Sounds are another thing she needs a wider exposure too.  Chickens, goats, horses and cows are common in our area, so hearing the sounds they make and not becoming highly distracted by them is important.  Other dogs barking in the distance she hears daily and a rooster lives in our area which crows at odd hours, but she hasn't heard a Morning Dove sing or other song birds until this spring.  Phones, car horns, loud trucks, motorcycles and more need to be sounds she hears and learns won't harm her.

She's seen her owners in funny hats and flowing clothes as well as some strangers wearing them.  Children on bicycles and scooters have become common sights in my neighborhood and even garbage trucks and UPS trucks are becoming common sights for her.  She's seen many common things, but the strange happens in public access and so I am exposing her to new sights such as a tunnel in my living room or geese in the park.  Each time I reward heavily for looking at and dealing with a new and somewhat frightening experience and with each she's become more confident as a result.

Today I brought out the tunnel for her to play with.  The story of the dog eating tunnel is below - but I must say her ability to overcome her fright and explore the tunnel was heart warming and a confidence booster for both of us.

Today's Lessons:


Emma is working on Level 2: Step 2 Focus.  In this step Emma is asked to keep eye contact with me or her handler for 2 seconds.  Emma is still not able to offer a steady 2 second eye contact cold.  Today I worked again from eye flicks to eye contact and built up to 4 seconds eye contact while hovering and paying heavily for 2 second eye contact.  I think taking Emma outside and working a bit on eye contact there and rewarding heavily for any form of eye contact will make indoor eye contact easier for her.

Last night in class I paid heavily for 1 and 2 second eye contact and got up to 4 second eye contact while in class.  This was still, technically, an indoor exercise, so I think re-explaining that I want her to look into my eyes outside will help her understand the overall concept.  I will begin working on that concept today when I take her out for her long line work.


Emma is working on Level 2: Step 4 Down.  In this step Emma is asked to hold a down 1 minute while I stand 20 feet away from her.  Today Emma was able to do a 50 second down on her first session and a 55 second down on her second session.  I will continue to work this step until she can do a 1 minute down in the house and then take it outside to work again in the yard.

Follow The Leader

Emma is in Finishing School at Diamonds in the Ruff which means she has homework for the classes.  The homework happens to complement all the training she's had so far.  Today I did one of the homework assignments in front of the house.  I used the neighbors mailbox and my van at the two focal points and put Emma on a 15 foot long line.  I would walk toward one focal point and when she ran past me turn and start for the second.  In short order Emma was pacing me and not passing me as we worked up and down the street.  It was a great time outside and Emma did a fantastic job.

Evil Dog Eating Tunnel

Ronda gave me a tunnel to work the dogs with.  Max is my tunnel expert and the moment I cued him to go through it at Ronda's house he shot through the tunnel without hesitation.  Max has done many different sized and shaped (curved or straight) tunnels in the past and we were just checking to see if I could get Jack to do that tunnel eventually.

Today I brought out the tunnel and let the dogs explore it.  Just as Emma was getting really curious about the tunnel Max shot through making a horrible noise and causing the tunnel to rock and move toward her.  She and Jack bolted for the hills, convinced the evil tunnel had eaten Max, but things only got worse as Max was ejected from the other end.  The next thing I knew Emma was behind my chair with that "Are you trying to kill me?" look on her face.

I called her to me and sat on the floor with her in my lap and let her watch the dogs explore and play with the tunnel.  She wouldn't take her kibble and was convinced I was about to feed her to the tunnel.  She bolted the moment I relaxed my hug and I had to call her back to me several times before she was convinced I wouldn't force her into the tunnel.

Since she would take kibble I figured it was time to pull out the big guns and got her treat pouch from the night before.  I tethered Jack and crated Max and let Attitude, who was wandering in and out of the tunnel (Attitude had never done a tunnel before in her life), explore with Emma and I working on Emma just engaging the tunnel.

Emma poked it with her nose and got a click and then she looked in at Attitude and got a click and then she put her head in the opening and got a click and then she explored with her feet and got a click.  I picked up Attitude and put her in the chair and tossed some treats in a line down the tunnel and Emma went in and followed the line of treats to the other end, where I was waiting with a big jackpot.

We kept this up and occasionally scooped up Attitude to get her out of the way for a few more minutes before Emma entered the tunnel without treats and went the length of it to me.  After that I started cuing her to "go in" and she would enter and run the tunnel for the rewards at the end.  At one point I was even on my belly on one end when she peered at me from the other and I called her to me through the tunnel and gave her a handful of treats.

Her tail was up, she was relaxed and calm and she was showing greater confidence that something which has frightened her so badly before this was not as bad as she had first thought.

In the end Emma went through the tunnel a good 12 times before I packed it up for the day and put it away.  What a great experience for Emma and what a brave girl for trying out new things when she'd been so worried about it to begin with.

Field Trip

Yes, Emma had a busy day today!  Today I took Emma to the Zips closest to my house.  When we arrived I waited for her to calm down in the parking lot before starting for the building.

Emma was very excited and distracted and this shows me she's not ready to try to make a purchase while in the building.  Across the street there is a truck stop and between it and the strong smells of the semi trucks and the strong smells of the restaurant, Emma had a very had time focusing on what we were doing.  It took us several back ups and refocus exercises to walk loose lead to the front door.

At the front door she entered politely into the area between the exterior and the interior door.  I had not intended to go further until she was focused because she suddenly lost her focus when we entered where the food smells were much stronger.  Unfortunately a man was exiting and held the door open for us and the only way, in that tiny tight space, for all of us to pass each other was for me to enter the building.

Emma was tense and worried inside and I worked her toward the bathrooms and away from the seating area to bring back her focus.  I kept her on a loose lead and was able to get a Sit, Down, Zen and Target out of her while working on keeping her focus.  She found it very hard to give me focus.  Emma is not ready to continue with moving to make a purchase at this time.  We'll return to work in the entrance a couple of more times before we can go further with her restaurant training.

I am hoping to take her to the truck stop on Thursday, given my energy level and how busy I am, and work with her outside on just exploring and viewing the busy location.


I am planning on finding ways to build Emma's confidence each week.  This week we are exploring tunnels in my home and will so explore tunnels in the yard.  Next week I hope to show her she can walk along a board a couple of inches off of the ground and not die and then work on funny sounding footing (hallow or crinkly) and build up her experience with new items in her world that she can conquer and earn rewards with.

She is a lot more confident now than 2 months ago.  Two Months ago she would never have recovered from the fright of the tunnel and tried to explore it - even for bits of hot dog.  She's willing to try uneven surfaces in my yard now that I have a cement slab that is broken up and piled up by the garage.  She's not as reactionary to new stimulus, such as people entering the training center last night at the end of class or seeing new people outside of my yard.  She's ready to try new things because a trust between us has developed and she believes I won't allow her to be hurt - thus she is willing to push that boundary of fear to learn about something new.

I am pleased with Emma's continued progress toward becoming a bold and confident adult dog.

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

Level 2
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 5 2 5 4 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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