Thursday, April 18, 2013

7 Months, 3 Weeks: Training - Day 81

It was good to see this Emma back today!
Yesterday I did the best thing I could for Emma, I gave her a day off.  I didn't train, I didn't ask more of her than what I did everyday and I didn't worry about her just chewing on bones or sleeping behind my recliner or playing with Jack in the yard.  Why?  Emma was so stressed that she was shutting down.  In the morning when I started this she was slinking about the house, her head low, her body low, her tail low and her mood low - it was clear that Emma simply was overwhelmed with everything happening lately and needed time to be a puppy; so I gave it to her.

By mid-morning she was relaxing and starting to play a bit with Jack, but any movement of other dogs or myself sent her rushing for the safety behind my recliner.  I just spoke to her quietly and offered affection when she came to me for it.  By mid-day she was less jumpy, but her mood was still low and worried.  I just let her play and took her out to run in the yard while talking her to her in a happy voice. By early afternoon her tail was mid-way and waving and she wasn't jumping for cover when I got up and went about my business in the house.  She was even showing some curiosity in Jack's training - so I would slip her a treat off and on while Jack worked.  By late-afternoon she was rough housing with Jack, her tail was high and she was bounding about the house looking for trouble.  She was also seeking my attention more and really getting into chewing on her toys.  By early-evening she was relaxed and clearly happy and having a good time.  The outings outside where filled again with her running through the yard and playing, not the sedate "go out and potty and return to the door" events I had early that day and she was clearly playful.  By evening she was curled on her back in my arms and completely relaxed - thankfully.

This morning she greeted the day with the same bouncy and happy personality I am used too.  She raced about the house and played with the dogs and found toys to chew on and was relaxed and ready to tackle the day; I wasn't ready to add stress back into her life just yet.  I wanted easy to work on, happy to do, already known and therefore low stress behaviors to re-introduce training.

I started with Level 1 behaviors and worked on a round of happy go lucky Puppy Push Ups.  She was 100% in the game and loved every moment of our training and showed zero stress signs - I then decided to look at her Finishing School homework and see what we could do there that would be easy enough and not overly stressful - those were her lessons today.

Today's Lessons:

Lazy Leash

Emma is working on Level 2: Step 2 Lazy Leash.  In this step Emma is asked to walk in the zone beside me while off leash.  Emma and I have done this several times and today I crated Max and tethered Jack and told Attitude that she wasn't allowed to follow and worked Emma.  She was wagging her tail and happy to get her clicks for half of her breakfast over three sessions.  It was a good re-introduction to her lessons officially and worked on the part of her lesson plan for class which asks that the dog work in the correct position beside the handler when walking.


This is not a Levels Lesson, but I saw it as an extension of what Emma has already learned and therefore a good "low" stress lesson to work on.  In this lesson Emma is asked to stand and not move her feet while I walk up to 20 feet away from her.  Since she's done distance with both and Sit and a Down it shouldn't be hard to teach her distance with a Stand - or so you would think.  Emma didn't know at first that was what I was asking and when I saw her start to automatically follow me I knew where I needed to start - clear back to leaning with a shoulder and working up to taking steps - it is simply a matter of building this concept in the same slices as for the other lessons she's done with distance.

I worked slowly with her over the course of six sessions and got up to 5 feet away from her and able to do a circle around her from right to front without her feet moving.  The rapid fire clicks and treats and the fact she quickly caught on it was a "stay" lead to happy tail waves and complete interest in the lesson.  It was an excellent lesson and I was happy we had something new but the same to work on for her to add "low" levels of stress into her training again without overloading her.


One may not think it, but Emma has a very soft nature.  She is easily frightened and her method of handling it is throwing appeasement behaviors first, then dragging her feet or trying to hide and finally a full shutdown where she can't function any longer.  Time, experience and age will help with this softness and turn it into a strength as long as we understand and don't push her to the point of shutting down or becoming ill by internalizing her stress.

I am glad this break helped her - Walter, my son, who saw her yesterday and then again today said today that she was looking so much better and relaxed and he was glad to see her being a puppy again.  I am also glad to see her being a puppy again.

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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