Thursday, April 25, 2013

7 Months, 4 Weeks: Training - Day 86

Attitude and Emma made blogging hard some days.
For the past three nights Emma has slept alone in the crate again.  Ever since Attitude passed I have asked Dieter to sleep in the bed with me; it just doesn't feel right not having a small red body next to me when I am sleeping.  Dieter is adjusting to the new sleeping arrangements, but I don't know how much longer he'll tolerate sleeping outside of his crate and I'll be faced with my very first night of sleeping without a dog in my bed.  How strange that night will be.

This morning she waited patiently for me to release her and headed for the front door.  We are on the same schedule we had when Attitude was alive, except for how often I let everyone out of the house.  Attitude had been on Salix, a water pill, for her heart condition and couldn't go longer than 2 hours before she absolutely needed to pee, except at night - though I had suspected that soon would change as her heart condition grew worse.  In the end, she never needed out late at night, since I scheduled the last outside run at midnight and put everyone to bed - now we are bedding down at 9 PM at the latest with the last run outside just before I crate Emma.

She's doing better with the minor change in routine.  She is sleeping soundly through the night and waking with more energy now that she's getting a longer night without my sitting up with Attitude until midnight to let her out.  Before I would put Emma, Max, Dieter and Attitude out at 9 PM and then wait up in bed with the TV running until the midnight outing for Attitude and then head to bed for the night - that last outing is not needed now and so the whole house is asleep by 9:30 PM by the latest.

The daytime routine for going outside has changed also.  I am sleeping more, but have less energy due to grief.  I haven't been letting the household out every 1 to 2 hours, but every 3 to 4 hours instead and today that backfired for Emma.  She had a potty accident in my kitchen.  It's not her fault, but mine and I will ensure I keep closer to the 3 hour mark than the 4 hour mark for a little while longer until her bladder and control has improved and I have taught her how to ask me to go outside.  She's never needed to learn that skill, since I had the house on a tight potty schedule.

Today's wonderful weather let me do some training outside and Emma enjoyed that.  I hope she gets some practice at home working outside with her owners also - it'll be a wonderful way to add to her already growing skills.

I do wish to announce the Emma has passed Level 2 Sit and Down this week and will begin Level 3 Sit and Down next week.

Today's Lessons:


Emma is working on Level 3: Step 3 Zen.  In this step Emma is asked to wait one minute at an open door while the handler carries items in and out of it.  I didn't work on this step today, but instead went back to a Comeafter which asks that we re-teach Zen outside.  Today was such a pretty day and I didn't want to waste it by training indoors only, so I took her remaining breakfast and lunch (she didn't want to work in the house much anyway - a bit of cabin fever) and sat on my ramp and worked with her on Level 1: Step 1 Zen.

Remember, whenever you change the location or level of distraction or difficulty for a behavior you need to back up and make the behavior easier.  Asking Emma to do high level Zen in a highly distracting location, such as the front yard, is asking too much of her.  She quickly caught on to the lesson and though she's still doing a bit of nose bumping outside, she's starting to offer the same Zen behaviors she displays indoors.

Emma is also working on Level 2: Step 5 Zen.  This step is called Traps and Defaults.  What kind of Zen traps happen for Emma in her daily life?  Is there a plate of food sitting on the table when she walks in from outside?  How about a cat toy that the cat carried into the room she's just noticed?  What about giving polite people Zen when people come into the home and visit?  These are Zen traps that can be trained over time - and will need constant updates and reworking to help her apply Zen to her life.

What about defaults?  In my home Attitude's heart medication bouncing on the floor was a Zen default.  No dog was allowed to move toward the medication when it fell.  My raised garden beds are a Zen default as is digging in my yard - she's found something near my ramp she wants to dig up and I am teaching her to leave it alone.  What other defaults should Emma have?  This one step is one I never consider finished, but should be marked off once we have some clear signs she's learned how to ignore plates on the floor or tables and give respect to gardens and loose soil.


Emma is working on Level 2: Step 1 Distance.  In this step Emma is asked to go around a pole.  I have been using different poles to train this concept to her - sometimes a chair, sometimes a small cat post, sometimes a tree - since one of the Comeafters is to teach this step again with a new pole.  Eventually I will get a setup where I can attach a jump to the pole and work on Jump and Distance together, but for right now we are working on Emma offering going around the pole.

Emma is enjoying the new lessons and when I started with the cat post she did target with her nose and foot, sniffed and explored it, did a down and a sit next to it and even rested a foot on it and made eye contact.  Emma understood the lesson had something to do with the pole, just not what yet.  We worked for three sessions with the pole and Emma did well going around it both clockwise and counter clockwise, but is still trying to target the pole as she moves around it.  We'll re-work this again tomorrow.


With the new training tool setup in my yard, a board set upon two cinder blocks, I worked with Emma on exploring and getting onto the board.  She did okay with it, but is uncomfortable when her footing seems a bit insecure.  I will use higher value treats next time and build up her confidence on the board and teach her to walk across it and sit on it.

I will next week have a teeter setup for Emma to work with and build her confidence with that as well.

I was working Emma on Focus, which she was starting to offer me when the world around her became to exciting and I changed the game to Look At That instead.  As we were working on Focus and I got about five clicks in a Mom and Pop Quail strutted by my front gate in the street.  Emma began to bark under her breath and then went to the gate to watch them and bark at them.  It was then we changed tactics.

The neighbors, who'd been in their home when we started, had come out to play and Emma started to bark at them under her breath as well.  So, I would click for her looking at them and then stuff a treat into her mouth.  In short order Emma was, on every 5th or 6th click, turning her head on the click and refocusing back on me.  We'll have to do more Focus and LAT games outside as the weather permits at different times of the day so that Emma can focus no matter what is happening around her.


Emma is doing well with the training and is well ahead of the mark on Focus and other behaviors - so it is time to up the training and take them out to higher distraction locations and build up her ability to work anywhere.  She is also still in a stage where any high level of stress shuts her down and she can't take treats or focus, but instead freezes and shrinks her size to stop the stress.  Emma must be carefully handled and taught how to deal with higher levels of stress otherwise she'll shutdown completely and be unable to continue working toward public access work.  Emma has a very soft personality and only through careful clicker training and very fine splits on introducing stressors can she succeed.

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

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