Wednesday, May 1, 2013

8 Months: Training - Day 89

Emma is learning to do this also.
Tomorrow will mark 3 months since I started training Emma.  Has it really been 89 days Emma and I have spent training?  And here she is walking on a loose lead a majority of the time, working beside my power chair, flinging sits and downs and closing cabinets and more.  Doesn't seem long, but Emma has made huge strides in her training since we started and she's got so much more she is to learn, but the foundation for that learning is in place and she's rapidly moving forward now!

In Level 1 Emma learned how to communicate with her humans.  If she offered behaviors we liked she got the rewards she wanted.  In Level 2 Emma is learning patience, which she now applies to a large part of her life when on outings and other adventures with me.  As she progresses through the Level she's learning to learn and think.  I see her problem solve things on her own a lot now and I am pleased with that.

It's time to begin a hard push to two of her major tasks.  One is using Target for a variety of things.  This will include pushing her handler's arms and feet back into position, turning on and off lights (she'll need a stool for this task due to her height) and closing and opening doors.  Later it will work into pushing buttons to let him into buildings and activating elevators.

The other task is retrieval.  She'll help in picking up his room, her own toys, items he's dropped and even paying for items he's purchasing.  She'll be able to help with his getting dressed and undressed and bringing him clothing for the day.  She will also be taught to seek help with he needs it by carrying a bumper in her mouth when he's sent her out to find someone.

She naturally loves to cuddle and that can be built into her giving comfort when asked by "visiting" with him by either sitting in his lap or resting her chin on him.  This comfort and companionship will be a huge part of their partnership.

Right now, Emma should be practicing some of her known skills at her home.  She should be shown and asked to help close cabinet doors and the bedroom door each time it's needed when he's nearby and he should be encouraged to cue her to do it.  The more practice she has at these skills in her real home will make her stronger at them and understand them better.

Emma will be headed for her CGC by fall - I would like the family to work toward taking the test with her.  It will be with him that she needs these solid manners and with him that she'll be spending her life.  It should be his success to have her pass the CGC with him.

Today's Lessons:


Emma is working on Level 3: Step 2 Retrieve.  In this step Emma is asked to hold an object in her mouth while I hold it with her for up to 5 seconds.  Since class on Monday I have been clicking for the quality of grip on the object and today Emma was able to hold the object (a pencil) in her mouth for 3 seconds.  Emma is progressing nicely on this task.

At the end of this mornings 3rd Retrieve lesson Emma became fussy and acted like she didn't want to train anymore.  I suspect she was tired, but she wasn't so finished she couldn't eat.  I did a bit of cheer leading with her and she finished the lesson in good form.  I will have to limit the morning Retrieve lesson to two sessions until she's more confident with the lesson overall.


I have to thank my friend Robin for her advise on how to handle Emma's Wilting Willow moments.  As I stated yesterday, Robin's dog Jonathon had a similar reaction to stress when he was her age and Robin had found a good solution to help him through it by talking with Sue Ailsby (author of Training Levels: Steps to Success - the book we are using to train Emma with) and relying on her years of experience as a trainer.  When we had chatted about Emma's behavior and what I was seeing Robin had reviewed her training logs for Jonathon and found what she had done to help him.

The trick was to go back to his strongest skills - Sit and Down and Target - and ask for one or two of those and then have a big party of praise and end the session that way.  She said that it left the session on a good note and helped Jonathon deal with stress better each time he returned to training.

That is exactly what I am doing with Emma, but I hadn't been cheer leading and praising with enough emotion to really get her spirits back up.  I have ramped up my joy at her doing a sit, even when stressed, and had a huge party with her when she's on the edge of shutting down and she's recovering nicely now as a result.

Today, when the Retrieve lessons became a bit too stressful for her I had a mini party each time she did a sit or down and then would ask for a grip on the pencil and would praise the heck out of her and give her a treat.  It reset her and let her finish the last two repeats we did and left us on a great note for our next training session.

Thank you, Robin, for sharing your wisdom with us and helping us become better trainers.

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 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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