Tuesday, April 16, 2013

7 Months, 3 Weeks: Training - Day 79

Emma during a high stress moment.
Today Emma has homework to turn in for her class.  That home work is listed below, but first, I want to address something that came to my attention this morning.

This morning when Emma's owner called to tell me she was close by and would I meet her at the gate, she told me that they had taken Emma to Walmart on Sunday for 2 hours.  I know I was short with her, mainly because I can see all the hard work on the outings I have taken Emma on being undone with such long outings on the weekends, and I do apologize.

I had written up on Emma's blog previously the importance of taking her public access training slow and with the intent to train, not to go shopping or run errands.  This is a vital point - taking Emma to Walmart on the weekends when the family is shopping and spending up to 2 hours or more in a store can overload and ruin Emma as a future public assess service dog.

She may run across a person or object that outright frightens her and leaves a lifelong fear imprint on her.  She will also learn behaviors that we don't want.  There is not way a person who is scanning a shelf at eye level and/or reading a label can be watching a dog who is sniffing and exploring the bottom two shelves in a store.  Emma will learn that if a person is pre-occupied while shopping she can do something she's normally not allowed.  When worrying about the shopping cart, her son's wheelchair and where her husband and daughter are and maybe even talking on the phone, Emma cannot be monitored while she's walking by people.  Emma may seek unsolicited attention by stepping out a little and touching people as she passes them, something that can become a habit.  She cannot be taught to properly walk within a given footprint next to the wheelchair if no-one is paying attention to her and will develop the habit of walking 2 to 4 feet away from the side, front or back of the chair instead of staying in position beside it.  And she may be learning her spot to walk is not with her soon to be handler, but with the father, daughter or mother instead and thus won't work properly with the son when it's time for him to work with her.

Therefore, I am linking the blog post which talked about the importance of taking it slow with Emma and why and insist that the family accept Emma is a service dog in training and is not ready for long outings where she is not the goal of the outing.

Please read this! http://emmaintraining.blogspot.com/2013/03/7-months-training-day-65.html

It is important that we don't stress Emma now that she's getting old enough to try new public outings.  Taking her for extended outings, like the ones she's had with her owners, can allow her to learn bad habits in public work or give her a fright which will eventually lead to an emotional breakdown and high stress when working in public - thus causing her to become a home helper only and not a public access dog for their son.

It is also important that they have their son involved in her training.  Using his speech devise to cue her, having her come to him when he uses it to call her and working with her on doing all of her known behaviors for him when he's asked for them will make her his service dog.  The goal is to give him independence, something he's never had, and bolster his personal esteem - this cannot be accomplished if she's not taught to listen to him when they have her on the weekends.

At this point, I will be asking they check during the week on the ComeAfters for Level 1 and Level 2 Sit and Level 1 and Level 2 Down and work on them this coming weekend with Emma.   Each Monday I'll lay out the homework assignment under a heading "Homework" on her blog and in her Facebook page so they can spend the week reading and planning how they'll approach that weekends homework with Emma.

Today's Lessons:


Emma is working on Level 2: Step 3 Focus.  In this step Emma is asked to hold eye contact for six seconds.  Last week I had worked Emma up to 5 seconds once, but she generally hovered around 2 and 3 seconds with solid eye contact without her eyes darting to the side.  Today I worked again from an eye flick to a full solid 3 second eye contact and slowly worked up and down the ladder on eye contact.  I worked with her for 5 sessions and by the fifth she was holding a solid 4 second eye contact with occasional 5 and 6 second eye contact.  Once Emma has a strong 5 second eye contact I will tell her what we are doing.


Emma is working on Level 3: Step 2 Retrieve. In this step Emma is asked to hold an object while I hold it with her for 5 seconds.  I started with Emma offering taking the object in her mouth and slowly built up time by resting my hands under her chin as we held the object together.  Emma finds this stressful at this time, but stayed in the game because I only asked her to hold the object a bit longer every 5th or 6th time she took it into her mouth.  We got up to a solid 1 second shared hold and had a couple of 2 and 3 second shared holds.  I worked with Emma on this lesson for 5 sessions.

Finishing School

Emma had her second class for Finishing School tonight.  We sat in a brand new spot in the classroom and I put a mat down for her to work with.  Emma laid on the mat and watched me intently with the other dogs the classroom at her back.  They were not close, but she was not watching them.  She was very relaxed and focused and even one student commented on how closely she was watching me.

During class tonight I offered Emma's leash as a retrieve object and rewarded her each time she took it into her mouth.  She did extremely well and didn't resist or have issues taking a new object into her mouth.  I was very pleased with her ability to work on retrieving with distractions.

We also did a Zen lesson with food on a plate on the floor.  I placed several treats on the floor less than one foot away from Emma and she looked at it, didn't try to sniff or take it and then turned and made eye contact with me.  I have her stand and sit next to the plate and even do distance around the plate.  She was uncomfortable with distance around the plate, but she gained confidence as she realized all I wanted was her to walk around it and not touch it.

We did this exercise for 3 minutes and Emma never touched the food on the exposed and unprotected plate.  The instructors and students were impressed.  We also did a relaxation game and Emma learned to ignore activity behind us while I worked with her both sitting and standing.

At 15 minutes before the end of class the next class came to the door and Emma spotted them.  She started to bark, but with a lot of Look At That and rapid rewards Emma stayed alert but quiet by the end of class as puppies and people milled about outside the building.

Emma also won the "number of known cues, both taught and context" and won a new toy!  She was curious about the toy, but didn't play with it until we got home.

Once home Emma did something she's never done before and I'll need to chat with my trainer and other friends and figure out why.  She threw up all of the food I fed her.  She had three bouts of vomiting when we got home and emptied her stomach.  Thankfully, my son Walter was visiting and he cleaned it up, but it worries me that maybe she became so stressed by this outing today that it made her sick.  It is possible that after a 2 hour visit to Walmart Emma was so stressed by being out for her class that it made her sick.  I will have to watch to see if she vomits again and if so I will take her to the vet to see is she may have a bug or something.

Below is her list of cues that won her the prize.

Sit Put my butt on the floor
Down Put my elbows and belly on the floor
Stand Stand on all four feet
Wait Don't go past this point/a new command may happen
Stay Remain here until handler returns and/or releases me gives a new command
Leave It Don't ever get that.
Touch Touch something with my nose.
Come Go to handler when called.
Around Go around something
Let's Go Start walking with handler.
Crate Enter my crate
Hit the Rack Go to a mat and lay on it
Go In Go into something
Take It Take something from the handler's hand
Off Get off of something
Go Potty Pee and poop if I need to.
Go Over Go over something.
Close It Push a door closed.
Shake Give my paw and shake the person's hand.
Load Up Get into or onto something.
Paw Use my paw to touch something.
Sit For Leash to be put on. (context cue)
Sit For Door door to be opened. (context cue)
Sit At open door until released. (context cue)
Lay down When other dogs are training and don't try to take their treats. (context cue)
Wait For release to eat my food in my bowl. (context cue)
Hit the Rack In office lay on mat and relax.  (context cue)
wait In car until released. (context cue)

What I forgot was a handful of other context cues that she knows. She knows she's to sit when I am offering treats or for petting. Here are a few of the cues I didn't think of.

House Go into the house.
Push Something with my nose.
Sit For petting. (context cue)
Sit For special treat like a bone or biscuit. (context cue)
Zen for other dogs getting a treat. (context cue)
Zen Pills dropping. (context cue)

There are others I am certain - but the truth is, Emma has learned to live within a home and not destroy it and has learned to communicate with us silly humans to get the things she wants.  It's all very important to realize that some things never need cuing because the reward she values happens when certain situations happen.  If I go into the office and start to work, she lays quietly on the mat in the office because that is where toys and bones happen.  If she hears a pill drop she knows to scatter and wait for me to retrieve it myself, because for a long time a mini milkbone or a bit of hot dog happened afterward.  She learned to lay quietly out of the way when I worked another dog because food would fly to her and she would get a reward for giving me space.  I didn't cue the behaviors, I rewarded the ones I wanted and thus she learned when certain things happen (context) other certain rewards follow.  As she became good at them, I simply faded the number of rewards until I was able to reward randomly every 10 to 30 times it happens and she keeps the skill strong.


I am concerned with Emma vomiting after class; if this is a stress reaction it may mean I have to start all of her public access training over to help her cope better with stress and even then I may not be able to help her if she's been so badly stressed that she's always vomiting after an outing.

I will keep her home with me until the end of the week and then take her to a known public access location this week that she's done before for a five minute outing and start her over again.  I don't want to have her stressed to the point of vomiting again and setup a pattern with her.

Here's hoping it was a fluke and not a sign she did too much too soon.

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

Level 2
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 5 2 5 5 Completed
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 3 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

No comments:

Post a Comment