Wednesday, May 15, 2013

8 Months, 1 Week: Training - Day 98

Emma learned to lift her back feet to get into the box.
With my assessment of Emma's progress with loose leash walking and where we need to go in regards to working with a wheelchair I decided this morning to sit down and think of what would be the best approach to bring her bottom in and build up her ability to stay in alignment with me and the chair.

I decided that the best approach was to finish teaching her how to pivot into position beside me and think about where her rear end is located at.  This means I'll be doing a lot of hind-end awareness training, starting with getting her to think about using her back feet to change her position without moving her front feet.

I have done some of that awareness in the past with shaping her to back up and into a box, but there is much more I can do to make her aware of her back feet.  I can walk her through a ladder where she has to think about lifting her back feet to make her next step or shape her to back up a flight of stairs.  I can work on her doing a hand stand (which she's physically capable of) or going over jumps of increasing heights.  I can walk her on a board just off of the ground or have her target a spot on the floor with her back feet.  All of these will teach her that she has back feet and that she can use them to earn rewards when training.

But that is only part of it.  Knowing she has back feet and knowing they can move in different directions (forward, backward and sideways for example) is another.  I taught Max to pivot to my side by clicking for any movement with his back feet toward my goal.  My mistake with him was I only clicked for one direction in the beginning and he learned it so well he became a one-way Conway when pivoting.  For my purposes, this is okay, but for the purpose of training Emma, I want her to swing into position on both sides of me.  Having learned my mistake with Max, I will click for any sideways movement in either direction for a bit to convince her both directions will pay and then work her to finally swinging into position from the front position to either side of me.

Thus, we'll end our week working on swing positioning.

Today's Lessons:

Loose Leash Walking

Emma is taking Loose Leash Walking as a class and the goal is to teach her how to walk properly in the zone beside her handler.  Her handler is wheelchair bound, so my goal during the week is to build up her wheelchair skills so when she goes to class with him she can work beside his chair and not risk being run over by the wheels when he turns.

Part of that is building up her focus and alignment with the chair.  To build up her alignment I have taken her back into the house and begun working on teaching her that the rewards happen only when she's beside my swivel chair when facing the same direction as me and not at an angle to me with her back end.  This means I need to teach her she had a butt.

Today I began to shape her pivot position without a book.  Previously I had shaped a backup and taught her to move all four feet, thus getting out "unstuck" when working while I was sitting.  Today, when I started to click for foot movement Emma backed up several steps and kept offering the behavior.  Amazing how much she put together since our last lesson on foot movement.  It was nice to see her offer that behavior when she was uncertain what I wanted.

We worked in three session per meal today and with each session her busy "is it this?" movements became more purposeful as she realized I was clicking for sideways movement, either left or right, and she started to think about her back feet as the goal for our lesson.  She did a full pivot by accident once and got heavily rewarded for it.

I did get a lot of head twists and shoulder shifts and sits and other behaviors as she worked out what I was clicking for.  She was clearly working out what part of her body was being clicked and would try eliminating each part until she got to her back feet.  Wonderful work and clear interest in learning this new skill.

Once she has a good, on cue, pivot in the house in more than one room I will take it outside and redo it on the porch and then in the street with the power chair.  Once she has that we'll work on her stopping and staying in alignment with the chair.  With the pivot on cue, if she is out of alignment I can cue her into alignment and then click and reward until it becomes second nature.

Another goal for this is her turning with the chair without getting out alignment with the chair, thus keeping her foot print in public low as possible.


Emma is a thinking dog.  Today I saw the evidence when I started to click for behavior and she tried as many behaviors in her tool box as she thought might work and didn't get stuck, but kept offering a new one until she got the click.  This is fantastic because it means she's in the game and learning.

She will soon be working beside my power chair properly and I can add the next step, which is teaching her that traffic will not kill her when she's working beside the chair, and I can then take her on walks and expand her world and her ability to work with distractions.

Emma is progressing nicely.

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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