Tuesday, April 16, 2013

7 Months, 3 Weeks: Training - Day 80

Emma has yet to recover from the stress she showed yesterday - she refused to eat any food I offered her and is curled up in the space behind my chair and not playing much.  She's happy enough when I call her out, but she's showing classic stress signs.  She's shutdown for right now and I need to just back up and give her a chance to regain her balance and let her recover.

This is what I had feared.  Emma is still so young and needs gentle and positive experiences to help her toughen up her soft and gentle nature when working in a new situation and with a long outing where she was asked to do more than she could give she's now decompressing and tuning out while she does.

I have been asking her to do basic math, 1 + 1 = 2 and when she's asked to spend 2 hours in a location such as Walmart on a weekend she's being asked to do Calculus when she's barely gotten addition down.

It wasn't until almost 2 PM before Emma would even consider eating a treat and we decided to play the Come Game with her since it's not as stressful as Focus or other duration training.  She gets lots of rewards and running and praise from the people she's working with.  She knows Walter, so he's not stressful to her and she enjoys being able to race around the house.

She did great in the beginning of the game, but as it continued it was clear she was starting to feel stress and worry about it even.  This game was too much for Emma and so, I ended out training for the day and just fed it.  Emma needs a break, a big one, to recover from the stress she's feeling and it may be two or three days before I can start training her more than one session a day.

Today's Lesson:


Emma is working on Level 2: Step 2 Come.  In this step Emma is asked to Come 10 feet to have me put her leash on.  That is not the lesson we worked on today though.  We took it back to a well known and loved round of The Come Game and worked with her in the living room.  At first Emma was all wags and happy trots back and forth, but as we did repeated calls to bring her to us, she started to slow and lower herself to the ground and slink along and even start the early appeasement behaviors that state she's having high stress.

These behaviors are turning her head slightly, lowering it and her body and wagging her tail low to the ground.  This is not a happy dog approaching, but a stressed and slightly fearful dog approaching.  In the middle of these behaviors she'll start to turn and spin to go in another direction, sniff the ground and even go to duck behind furniture or people.  For Emma, this is her clear sign she's had enough and needs a break - which is exactly what we gave her.

It may look like she's being cute and silly when she does this, but she's screaming with her body that she's feeling overwhelmed and needs reassurance.  When she's at my feet she does the same thing, lowered body, hyper behavior and more - I decided to film Emma giving appeasement behaviors to show so her family can recognize this is not her being cute, but needing distance and a chance to decompress when dealing with stress.


Emma is experiencing an overload during a fear period and I need to tread lightly if I am to help her recover and come out of this a bold and confident dog.  She has a soft personality and can easily be overwhelmed, especially when tired, and needs frequent reassurance she's doing right and that she's made the right choices.

I will take this week to help Emma recover from her stress and see if next week she can't come back stronger and more confident.

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

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