Sunday, May 19, 2013

8 Months, 1 Week: Training - Day 99

Emma is now walking nice beside my chair.  Pictures soon!
Emma is staying with me for an extra night, so this Friday I decided to take the time to really work on her skills with the wheelchair.  Since Dieter, whose been suffering from pain for about a week or so, was in a lot of pain during the day, I spent most of the day taking care of him and planned on a single training session with Emma which would help her better understand how to work around my power chair.

I would like to explain about Good Stress and Bad Stress.  Bad Stress can easily be defined as stress that happens when the dog is frightened and unable to escape a situation.  Max has faced "bad stress" when a person in public has decided they must reach for his head or move quickly into his face and don't pay attention to his early messages telling them that what they are doing is making him very uncomfortable.  When someone does this and continues to push into his space it is my job to give him an out and I have taught him to look to me and look for a cue as to what I want him to do to free himself from such rude people.  Still, the moment when a stranger is reaching for his face is stressful and not in a positive way.

Good Stress on the other hand happens when learning a new task, meeting a person the dog likes and even when out for a pleasant walk.  Max enjoys his job and he generally feels a level of stress with the job, but it is not negative stress he's feeling.  Emma, who enjoys training, also experiences stress and therefore when I plan a big event for her I lower the stress she experiences during the day by lowering how much training I do.

My event for the day was a huge one and I knew it was best to not do any training prior to taking her out for it.  It was talking a real life walk with the power chair and Jack and Max and Ronda, Jack's owner, and working on learning to pay attention to the power chair and not get run over.

Emma is at the stage in learning to walk on a lead that where her head is pointing her body goes.  IT's a normal progress in learning to walk with humans and not get stepped on, or in this case wheeled over, and is something basic awareness training helps resolve.

I loaded the power chair up in my van and took her and Max to Ronda's house.  I placed both dogs in Ronda's yard while I unloaded the chair and then Ronda and I let Jack and Emma burn off some energy in play before taking off for our walk.  This was Emma's third visit at Ronda's this week and she's grown very comfortable with all of the dogs and playing in her yard.

Emma was placed on my right side and Max on my left, both on wheelchair leads, when we left.  Max, an old hat with the power chair, did not need my constant supervision and so I was able to 100% focus on Emma while Ronda kept an eye on traffic.  We used side streets with minimal traffic (a total of 5 cars over 45 minutes passed us) and knew on this route which houses had dogs that would bark at us.

When we passed the barking dog houses Ronda would place herself and Jack between Emma and the fence to help Emma deal with the distraction.  Emma was very distracted and drifting constantly toward the wheels of the chair.  I would stop and her head would snap around and she'd see how close she was to the chair and would then drift back out.  Over time she wasn't so excitable about the walk, was walking in a straight line and keeping track of my chair.

She did bark at the first set of dogs, but soon learned to check in with me and get a reward for her quiet behavior.  She did bark at a man exiting his property and I know now I need to take even higher value treats than I have been using to keep her attention when something like this happens.

She did extremely well and Ronda and I plan on more trips like this while I work up her and Max walking together with my chair so we can head over to Ronda's on the chair and then go for a walk from there.

Emma is not ready to walk beside a wheelchair next to heavy traffic.  We are just beginning her traffic training and I'll have to work on her to build up her calm and relaxed behavior around more and more traffic over the summer.  The nice thing is she handled what cars passed us without reaction on our walk.

It was a pleasant day in which she got a nice walk and lots of positive play with Jack at his home.

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