Thursday, May 2, 2013

8 Months: Training - Day 90

Eventually, Emma will be able to carry items for her handler.
It's been 3 months today!  Wow!  Emma has progressed so far with her training and is continuing to advance daily.  Just hard to believe where we are at the 90 day mark - she's got most of her basic skills under her belt and is adding skills that will make her easier to manage and eventually work toward her service dog tasks and she's only 8 months old and has 90 days of training with me under her belt.  Remember, Emma also trains on the weekends with he owners, who work on the skills she's has and helps to generalize them for her as well as teach her skills specific to their home - such as Hide-N-Seek and listening to B when he cues her.

She's still very busy and very puppy and very excitable, but even that is slowly evolving into an adult dog personality.  She no longer barks at every sight in the yard; only yesterday she sat quietly on my ramp and watched a neighbor mow his lawn two houses down and the kids riding their bikes on the street without making a peep.

She still barks when people are near the fence, but that too is slowly fading to accepting that people can be on the other side of my fence and the world will not end.  She's still worried about children in general, but not barking or reacting badly to them any longer.  Josh is still a bit of a surprise to her each week, but this week she finally stopped barking at him as we played the "Look at Josh" game and she went to him and gave him a warm greeting.  It's happening, slowly but surely she's developing the self control to see and deal with new situations and not be undone by them.

Her shutdowns are no longer complete, but instead little "this is a bit stressful, can we stop" wiggles which we work through and she finds she can do more and handle more stress each time we manage to pass that moment of "almost" tuning out.

It's happening; Emma is turning into an adolescent and handling the transition well.

Today's Lessons:


Soon Emma will be able to hand items to her handler.
Emma is working on Level 2: Step 2 Retrieve.  In this step Emma is asked to hold an object in her mouth for 5 seconds while I hold it with her.  Emma seems to be more stressed by my sharing the holding than she is by my having her hold the object.  With the click for quality of bite on the object Emma is holding onto an object longer and longer and so, I keep my hand near her face, but let her take the object from it for brief periods of time.  She's learning that the behavior happens until the click occurs and I can see the wheels turning in her head and she's getting better and better at it each time we revisit the behavior.  Today she actually held the pencil in her mouth for 6 seconds once.  I am getting a solid 1 second hold 90% of the time and 40% of the time up to 3 second hold.  Emma is progressing nicely.

I will continue with this portion of the lesson while lowering the pencil to the floor until she can pick it up and hand it to me, which is our goal.


With maturity comes a stronger focus on learning.  Emma is thinking and learning as we work retrieve, and as I suspected, she's very ready to start this part of her service dog training.  She's got a good grip on the pencil, but doesn't put teeth marks in it - which is fantastic.  What she doesn't have is the endurance to handle a lot of training in a single session - about the time I considering ending the session she tells me it's time by putting her foot very gently on the pencil and twisting her head at me.  I can get one more good grip on the pencil after this, thus ending on a good note, but she's still tiring on this lesson within a 1 minute span.

Age will improve training endurance.  With this in mind and seeing how quickly she mentally tires now, I know about how long an outing should be.  Tomorrow, since I have her for the full day, Emma and I will visit the truck stop and work on calm and quiet behavior while observing the action outside of the building.  It should be fun and not take us more than 10 minutes at the most.

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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