|Emma wants to play, not be tethered to the old woman!|
Last week I knew I was stretched too thin when I was so tired that I didn't even do my dishes and the thought of getting up to get the food to feed the dogs was enough to exhaust me. By Friday the idea of heading out and taking Emma to the groomers was overwhelming and by Saturday I finally collapsed and slept for 6 hours in the middle of the day. I woke finally feeling almost human on Sunday and today I am actually feeling energy seeping back in. But this means I need to manage my time and energy better otherwise I'll end up needing to take a full week off just to get the strength back to train and work with the dogs and even care for myself.
Part of that struggle has been to get Emma to eat her kibble when training a higher stress task. Retrieve is one of her high stress tasks right now. Her confidence is low and she needs a higher rate of re-enforcement and higher value of treat to work on the skill. I have been adding moist food, liver paste and other items to her kibble, but the kibble itself has become almost like a punishment for her when working on this task. Today I decided to go to the same routine I used with Max when I was training him high stress tasks and simply fed her her breakfast and then cut up some very high value treats for her training for later in the day.
With both Maura and Victoria away today to be spayed I have just the core three in the house. Emma is resting and taking it easy for the early part of the day while I work on catching up on paperwork and has a full tummy (to help boost her blood sugar and release some tension) which will be empty enough to want to train by mid-day to late afternoon.
Instead of working on Retrieve, which will keep her in the house, during our daylight training, I will take her out and do the mobile training of loose lead work and paying attention in a new and distracting location - the same I did with Max when I first started with him. Though I can't clock the miles I did with Max, and don't dare take her down the street while the neighbor dogs are loose, I will clock some time in front of the house and pay for any attention and loose leash behavior she gives me while working.
I want her joy of training back and I was starting to see the joy slip out as we went into a rote routine of get up, watch the other dogs eat, and then work on getting her food into her while she worked on a hard task with the other dogs checking in and trying to join. This was not doing her confidence any good and I want to build her confidence up.
Another factor stripping her confidence was that Max, who knows Retrieve well, would pick up the item we were working on and hand it to me when she took too long. What point is there in picking something up when Max will do it for her? Changing to a time of the day Max is more likely to be napping will increase our successes with Retrieve.
So, with her knee stronger and recovering we'll work on tug outside with the new toy, loose lead walking when my back permits and lots of follow the leader on the waist leash when I need to do chores in the yard.
We'll also work on seeing, but not barking at, the neighbors and children in the neighborhood and refresh on her basics of Sit, Down and Stay.
With Maura and Victoria needing extra care due to their spay and Dieter and Emma needing extra attention when taking them outside to go to the bathroom, I find my time for much of anything else is limited. Emma is also in a stage of her life where formal training is pretty much out the window.
Emma is 9 months old, right smack in the middle of teenager rebellion. She's testing boundaries off and on, though not too hard. She is also in a growth stage that seems to push every know cue and behavior right out of dogs head. She's technically at the prime re-homing age for most young dogs. She's chewing and destroying anything she can get her lips on, has forgotten her cues and acts fearful of the most silly things. She's not alone - Sherman, who's older than her, recently decided the toilet, which he's been around all his life, was a Poodle eating monster and ran shaking from the bathroom when it was flushed - then the next day he was perfectly okay with the evil toilet and was back to his normal self. Emma is doing things like this also. Before offering her a toy to chew on or a pencil to hold was something that got her tail waving, but now it causes her to shrink into herself and pee. It's her age. She'll come out the other side just fine, but it means it's time to give her a prolonged break and just work on what we call "practical" learning - which is applying known behaviors to life.
Another factor for Emma's moods and the changes she's facing is what is happening with her body. Like a teenager who can feel on top of the world one day and in the slumps the next, she's feeling much the same. Her jaw is finishing it's final growth outward and with it she is bringing in her last molars. Like humans who bring in their wisdom teeth between 18 and 20 years of age, dogs bring in a final set of molars between 9 months and 14 months of age. Emma is working on hers now and with this last set of molars she's more interested in decimating anything in sight than training.
Her bone plates are fusing also. Each month has a new set of bone plates fusing as her growth comes to an end. In her x-rays of her hips and knees Dr. S noted that Emma's bone plates in her legs are in the process of fusing. This means her joints hurt some from the changes in the bone plates, and she's feeling "off" because of it. Her cranial bone plates are doing their final expansion before fusing and thus her brain is doing it's final growth before maturity sets in. A lot is happening with her body and it makes total sense that her mind is not on training and her behavior is flighty. She's like a teenager going through puberty and her emotions and ability to handle stress reflects that.
So, I have put up the clicker for a bit and I am letting her get through this growth period while giving her practical experience with known skills.
Today we worked on curbing her excitement when going outside. Picking up her leash sends her into spasms of joy and she jumps and barks and gets over excited by the leash. Today I picked up and carried the leash through the house and then set it down at least 30 times. I even wore it on my neck for a while.
Emma is asked to sit and wait to be clipped on to the lead and then to walk quiet and calm out of my house and down to the grass to go potty. Emma is doing better at this, but is still to excitable when we first start. We'll continue to work on this.
I have had yard chores to do and Emma has learned she must pay attention to me or I'll walk off and her leash will get tight. At no point am I going fast, but she's learned she needs to watch what I am doing instead of checking the world out if she doesn't want to be pulled by the leash.
She has also learned to unwrap herself from poles and other items in the yard and even to avoid being wrapped around them. Emma is improving on her leash skills, but has hit the "can't tell the dog is on the leash" status yet.
Emma continues to work on walking polite on the leash when attached to me. She only wraps herself around something when we walk about 1 to 2 times in the total time we are out. She's starting to leave the lead loose when I am standing and doing something. She is still walking ahead and putting pressure on the leash. I stop when she does this and back up a step to reset her.
Emma only wrapped herself around the telephone pole once during the entire day. She quickly solved the problem and began to move behind or closer to my side to prevent herself from getting tangled in items in the yard.
When her owner picked her up she lost her mind and couldn't do loose leash work. I will have to devise a plan to work on that and help her learn to keep her mind when she's over excited like that.