Tuesday, May 14, 2013

8 Months, 1 Week: Training - Day 97

Even though Emma loves people, this picture shows
a bit of stress when first approaching to greet my son.  I will
work on lowering her stress when greeting people.
Welcome to Tuesday!  Emma was excited to see the morning start and bound out of the crate with the pure joy of living.  At least the barking and bounding between the crate and the front door has become minimal, but I need to work on her exiting her crate calmly, not like a small black bullet.

Yesterday I had planned on working Emma outside with the wheelchair, but the sky opened up and we had small rivers running down the street as the rain poured.  This morning, even though it was a bit cool, I decided to take advantage of whatever good weather we headed out.  Emma is no longer afraid of my power chair and is starting to see it as a fabulous opportunity to go out and explore outside of the yard.

This change in her view of my power chair is very positive.  Though she felt nothing about it when it spent the first weeks of her life parked in the corner, she accepted it as another piece of furniture.  When, after getting solid enough leash manners built up to begin working her with the chair, I pulled it out, the chair frightened her.  It made a funny noise and moved about with me sitting in it.

Over a period of time I worked with Max and other dogs around the chair while Emma watched from a distance and then would park it and invite her to visit me and give her treats when she did.  This helped, but the final step was to simply pull her in my lap and hold her until she relaxed in my arms and the took her for a ride around the house with the chair.  That simple action seemed to take the scary mystery out of the chair and since Emma has made outstanding progress with the chair.

Now that I have her working in straight lines and gentle curves with the chair I can again work toward making proper tight turns and staying in alignment with the chair when we stop.  I have to think through the best way to teach her to keep her bum in position, since she is doing the same thing Max does, which is turn to face me.  We'll get there, one step at a time.  I am just in the process of prioritizing which part of her wheelchair skills need the work next.

Today's Lessons:

Loose Leash Walking

Yesterday Emma and I reviewed the Loose Leash Walking homework and found it was a combination of Zen and Lazy Leash.  In the morning Emma and I reviewed Lazy Leash skills in the house, but by mid-day the server crash I have been dealing with took of the rest of my time and I simply fed her her lunch and used her class as her next focused training period.  How appropriate the final class of Finishing School dealt with loose leash skills and Zen combined, which allowed focused and interesting ways of working the two skills together.

This morning I brought out the power chair and Emma and I went out to the street in front of my home.  Technically, Emma has practiced her skills in three or more locations (my home, her owners home, Diamonds in the Ruff and the street before my home) and met that requirement of her homework.

Today I was testing where Emma is in her skill set.  When focused Emma can and does keep the leash loose and stays right at my side, whether I am walking or using the wheelchair.  When she looses focus, which can be often, she starts to weave and rubber neck and even stop and stare.  Emma needs help keeping focus on her job, this can be accomplished by exposing her to more walks and working actively on keeping her focused and in position using a high rate of re-enforcement and then slowly extending time between rewards.

When she stops she shifts her butt out and away from me, whether I am walking or in the wheelchair.  This can be corrected by only rewarding her when she's in alignment with me or the chair.  To do this I am currently cuing her back into position and then giving her the reward once she's in alignment.

She follows the chair on a right hand turn (a turn away from her) with the chair just fine, but when I turn the chair into her she turns sideways to the chair and creates a wide foot print between the chair and herself.  This will be corrected by first teaching her to pivot and then working along side a wall and finally away from a wall to teach her to keep herself in alignment with the chair.

She is not doing check ins when walking and tends to weave toward the chair and risks her feet being run over.  I am working on her doing check ins and staying in alignment when walking by doing short distances and rewarding heavily for staying in alignment.

She's spot on with loose leash walking in low level distractions.  She's 50% reliable in mid level distractions, which means we need to work on this level until she's settled and able to start working on harder distractions, like approaching friends, family and/or dogs.  She's not ready to ignore and keep her mind when a squirrel or cat or other super high distraction - we are working there and will be able to eventually have her attend Take It On The Road, but she's not there yet.

I will continue to work on her skills with the wheelchair and keeping her focus - which is the biggest part of our problem right now.  She needs more distraction training to build her ability to focus when presented with a distraction.


Since Emma is easily distracted right now, which is due mostly to her age and not having the skills to fall back onto to deal with distractions.  To do this I'll have to take her places where she just learns to watch and stay calm.  Teaching her to be calm when something exciting happens.  She's able to do it, I just need to give her the skills for it.

I will be building a training plan to accomplish this and work on it over the summer.  I don't expect an immediate response, but a quick one.  With the proper plan and good timing Emma will quickly get the picture and be able, hopefully, by the end of summer to visit River Front Park on a non-event day and go to other parks in town and learn to walk calm and in working mode beside me.

Once I have built up one area of her ability to work in a distracting location I will ask the family to work her in a similar location to help her understand that it isn't just me, but anyone she is with that she needs to remain calm and focused with.

I will keep everyone updated as I work on this part of her training to build her ability to work in more distracting locations.

Emma has had 1 outing this week with her Finishing School and will have a second with Loose Leash Walking.  She is right on track for her public access training.

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

Level 2
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step Completed Completed 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 2 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 Completed 0

Level 4
Zen Come Retrieve Target Relax
Step 0 0 1 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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