Monday, July 29, 2013

10 Months, 2 Weeks: Training - Day 146

It's been a long haul to get back to daily focused training since Emma injured her knee.  She was already showing signs of training stress and burnout before the injury, but afterwards she just fell apart for a while.  Slinking, sulking, urinating and hiding became the fare for the day as she became more anxious and stressed by lack of play and exercise outside and limited play inside (she was unable to play with Jack in the house because of her knee).  For her, with her in a growth period that is normally hard on young dogs and tends to send them into tailspins anyway, it was best to stop forcing a training session on her and let her relax and work out her stress in the only method available to her - chewing.

After the recovery from the injury she still couldn't take stress well and it was a slow and plodding progress to bring the joy to learning again.  I don't want a dog who trains because I want too, but because they want too.  She didn't want too.  She wasn't In The Game and so I spent precious time getting her back into the game and consulting with friends who also train using not only the Levels method, but simply Positive Re-Enforcement to find what makes Emma tick.

Emma is not Jack.  Emma is not Max.  Emma is not Attitude or Dieter either.  Emma is unique to herself and what worked for the others, their ability to handle stress and one on one focus was much different than her.  Emma is a soft dog.  Jack is a soft dog also, but in so many different ways than Emma is.  Jack has confidence in himself and the people around him, but he's still working out his environment some days and needs extra help there.  Emma is soft with people, but the environment doesn't seem to affect her.

It's like watching Dieter and Attitude for the years they shared a life together - Attitude loved people and saw no strangers.  Attitude loved dogs and saw no strangers.  Attitude was afraid of floor changes, wet pavement, rain pattering on the roof, loud sounds, thunder, wind and much everything in her environment.  It sent her into a tailspin and rushing into my or another persons arms shivering with fear - but the moment she met a person or another dog she was all wiggles and soft body happy and couldn't believe she hadn't known they were her friends before they met.

Dieter is afraid of strangers.  Dieter is worried about new dogs.  Dieter is not afraid of floor changes, wet pavement, rain pattering on the roof, loud sounds, thunder, wind or much in his environment.  He was her polar opposite and what scared one didn't the other.  They found great strength in that and did well as a pair as a result.  Dieter took his cues from Attitude about other dogs and people, she off him about the world in general.

It is easy to make Jack shrink into himself if he thinks your mad.  It took a lot of work to keep him from thinking my raising my voice to call Max or another dog was NOT yelling at him and he's learned that.  Max loves hearty rib thumps and it took months to convince Jack, by starting light and giving ever increasing pressure, that a good rib thump was this GSD Mom's way of saying "I love you" and have him lean into it and wag his tail.  Jack is older and thus has more confidence than Emma and what shuts her down simply slows him - but both are considered soft dogs.

Emma, unlike Jack, will go into her own personal shell the moment she thinks she's wrong.  She shrinks and sulks and pees and hides if she thinks she's wrong and it doesn't take much to make her think that.  I have had one very very soft GSD who all I had to do was frown to send her skulking for cover. She was the easiest dog to correct because I never had to raise my voice or touch or do anything but frown.  I had to be careful that I smiled as she came to me, which was easy because she made me smile and when I was playing with her to not frown or she'd be gone in a heart beat.  Emma is more sensitive than that!

Leaning!  LEANING over Emma makes her feel she's in trouble, even if all I am doing is putting her food dish down.  She is an expert at reading facial expressions and anything outside of a happy, soft gaze makes her start to worry she is in trouble, even if all I am doing is reading a book on my iPad!  Changes in my body posture sets her off.  Emma has been trained using only positive re-enforcement, but she's such a soft natured dog that it takes very little to make her worry about her world.  What to do with such a personality?

Well, first stop and give her lots of positive, low pressure experience with lots of facial expressions, body postures, voice changes and anything else that may make her worried.  Praise her or ask her if she's being silly when hiding behind my recliner.  Play frown games with her where she's wound up in a frenzy of excitement and flash a frown while playing her favorite grabby games.  Lean over her when giving her loving, gentle, non-threatening praise or affection.  But stop training anything that adds stress and starts to associate negative feelings with something that should be fun.  Basically, change her emotional response to frowns or neutral facial expressions and changes in body position so she's not worried, but engaged with the person she's working with.

So, I did.  I stopped and talked and thought and worked with her in a variety of ways to make her feel confident and safe, no matter which way my mouth was turned or my eyebrows where set.  On Friday I sat on the floor and groomed her while she relaxed and slept in my lap and on Sunday after her bath I carefully groomed her while she was in my lap and chatted to her the entire time using a variety of voice changes.  Mom and I both saw improved confidence while we worked on the patio, even if I was gazing off in the distance with a frown while I tried to remember where I put something - she no longer slunk away or wilted when she saw me frown.  Leaning no longer meant training, but kisses on the nose or gentle strokes on the face and reading didn't mean I forgot her, but she could curl against me and relax.  Having something in her mouth, which she was convinced meant trouble, was greeted with a happier voice than before (I sound like a chipmunk somedays) and a bigger smile that I try hard to push into my eyes to reassure her she's okay to be chewing on a ball or stick or bone.

And chewing is where all this fell apart for both of us.  Emma is a destructive chewer, which can be handled by monitoring her when she has toys or giving her toys that are hers and not another dogs to ruin.  Except she's not just a destructive chewer, I suspect she has a bit of Pica also.  She EATS everything she can find.  Lily bulbs (long day after inducing vomit), brick-a-brac from the grass, dirt pile and gravel area of my old driveway, stuffed toys, bits of paper, leaves; it doesn't matter, she'll eat a portion of whatever she's chewing on.

All of the toys in my home are my personal dogs toys.  The toys I purchased for Emma she's already destroyed.  Max enjoys playing with Stuffies and I used to let them lay about for his pleasure.  I cannot do that.  Most of Max's stuffies were Attitude's old toys from her puppyhood.

I had at one point 2 stuffless toys - a fox and a skunk.  I cannot watch Emma 100% of the time and in the short periods I was occupied with something else she managed to rip them in two and at one point I lost track of half of the fox.  It showed up the following day in Emma's poop.  She must of slurped it down like a string of Spaghetti because it was intact when it came out.  Two other toys, her own, she chewed into pieces ranging from the size of my thumbnail to smaller than my pinky nail and ate over half of the toy.  She is at risk of impacting her bowels if she's allowed to play with stuffed toys.

She was, for a short time allowed ropes, but when she found one and rendered it to pieces smaller than a pin head and ate half of that, I discontinued them in the fare of toys available.  No cloth, stuffed or rope toys for Emma in my home.  I am not made of money, cannot replace all of the toys she'd destroy and am not emotionally ready to see Attitude's toys destroyed.

Then she got a hold of a puppy Kong and broke it into 20 separate pieces I could find.  To say that Emma's poop is colorful if I am not careful is an understatement.  That means I must monitor what toys she plays with closely.  She cannot have Kongs unsupervised unless they are black or blue, red Kongs are still too soft for her careful destructive work on the openings.  She cannot have Max's Chuck It balls which have holes for the same reason - she has tried and started to break pieces off of them.  She cannot have a regular tennis ball because she eats them.  She must be monitor with the rubber orange with a blue stripe Chuck It balls because she works the seams and begins to tear them apart.

This leaves her being monitored with Chuck It balls, red Kong toys and the occasional tennis ball.  She has the freedom to chew on bones and sticks.  She loves sticks.  I must carefully walk my yard every morning when I let her out because I have small white mushrooms growing in my backyard I must pluck out before she eats them.  I found her one day eating the giant white mushroom that snuck under my fence from next door and tore the thing out to protect her from poisoning herself.

What happened is this:  Every time I turned my back on her she put SOMETHING in her mouth in my yard.  A plant or some find in the grass and ATE it.  In the house I had to finally put up and take away from Max his stuffed toys (he hasn't had them for 3 months now) so Emma wouldn't get them and destroy them.  This means Max only gets them on the weekends if I remember to pull one or two out.  The result was my disheartened sigh of, "What are you eating now?"  I think she may believe that's her name.  Emma is convinced anytime she hands me something she's in trouble, which she isn't, but I am trying very hard to keep a puppy with puppy Pica from poisoning herself!

I set this up - retrieve is very very very stressful for her because I have said, "NOW what are you eating?" so many times she's convinced she needs to sneak off to eat her prize.  I am now to a point that most everything in my yard is safe for her and I can joyfully stay, "What ya got?" instead.  I am repairing a history of frustration with a dog who can't seem to not eat everything she shouldn't when playing.

So, after talking for a long time with a friend and fellow trainer I started shaping her retrieve and today she was fully involved in the game with the pen until she picked it up, handed it to me and suddenly shrunk into herself.  I had her do some easy behaviors (sit, down, target, shake) and then reshaped the pen.  She recovered fine and picked it up a second time and seemed prouder and more confident.

Later I worked with a new item.  This time a washcloth and darn it she's learned her mat behavior too well and was targeting it as a mat!  Good for her.  After I convinced her with clicks for nose targets on the floor she started the process of picking it up and we ended there.  On the next round with the washcloth I helped her think of the final outcome by having her take it from my hand, low to the ground and hand it up.  Again, the "oh no, in trouble again" behavior started and we went back to easy behaviors.  We ended with her taking it from my hand and giving it to me in with more confidence.

This will be a slower process, but I want her to ENJOY the most important aspect of her career and find joy in helping.  To do this I need her to know that picking up items and handing them to people makes them happy!

I also got to talk to Robin again today and we compared some of Emma's behaviors with soft natured dogs that Robin has trained and believe I am on a nice balanced approach to resolving this part of her training.  She's responding well in all other training behaviors, just retrieve is our problem child now and with patience I'll get that resolved.

For now, we'll continue to play the "What ya got?" games with items I know I can give back and build her confidence.

The video attached (poorly framed, sorry!) is Emma and I working our 5th session for the day.  I started shaping, but she is tired in the video and so I gave her a bit of a headsup on what I was asking.  You can see her confidence is increasing by her not shutting down when she hands me the pen, but she's still showing some signs she's confused and not sure what I am asking.  These signs are the paw up and the nearly inanimate way she's behaving.  During the day I had tethered Jack and crated Max so she had less pressure on her when I trained her, but in this video Max (who figured out I wanted him away from us when I train this behavior) is laying quietly in the background.  She is working for Cherios today because she likes them and they are a new treat she's never had before.

There are a handful of superstitious behaviors shown.  She's laying on and next too the pen because her most recent training success was mat work.  She is raising her paw when she hands me the pen because of how my hand is held and her uncertainty of what I am asking of her.  She's laying down when I put the pen down and thinks she needs to be in a down position to start a retrieve.  All of this can be worked through, right now, feeling secure that taking and giving a pen or other object to me is okay is what I am asking and once she realizes that each time she does this she has succeeded she'll gain confidence.

Another factor in this video is she is tired.  It's close to our bedtime and the first video I took she dropped out of frame and I realized I quickly needed to make another.  As a result, I needed to gently encourage her to participate when what she really wanted to do was digest her dinner.  I am keeping my voice very soft and slightly animated because big overtures when she gives me a pen, an expression of my joy she succeeded, sends her for a tailspin right now.  I saw with the softer, quieter communication her tail waving and her willing to do ONE MORE TIME because I asked.  She's a trooper - she just needs gentle handling when working her to build her confidence and let her know she's on the right track and making her humans happy.

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

10 Months, 1 Week: Training Days 139 - 145

Emma, Dieter, Jack and Max help build the patio.

Monday - Sunday

On Monday Emma arrived at 7: 38 AM for a long stay with me.  Her family is traveling and Emma was staying with a family friend for the weekend and then came to me to stay until her family returns in the beginning of August.  With her return and the success of the past two weeks on getting Emma back in the game, I was ready to try some training with her.

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to talk to Kim Imel, a trainer from Diamonds in the Ruff, who listened as I explained some of the problems I had with Emma's soft personality and her shutting down while I am training her.  Kim listened and thought and then proffered some wonderful ideas to work around Emma's issues.

Some dogs, not all, but a rare few seems to thrive on a higher distraction level and stumble on lower distraction levels.  It appears Emma is one of those dogs.  I was not aware of this possibility with a dog and am glad to have the fantastic input I do from my fellow trainers when I brain storm with them to ensure I am giving Emma the best possible education.  In Emma's case, due to her high intelligence and her quickly learning new behaviors, she takes repetitions as a punishment and doesn't do well with straight forward training.  As a result, she is a dog who would do best if she learned most of what she needs to know via shaping.

As an experiment I did shaping with Emma on Monday.  I pulled out the mat and we shaped her back onto the mat.  She had this behavior before, but we hadn't visited much lately.  Emma lit up and worked steadily for two minutes as she fine tuned what I wanted from her.  She was soon offering a perfect down from any angle to the mat.  She was surprised when I ended the session.

We did four shaping sessions on the mat on Monday and Emma was involved and excited the entire time.

On Tuesday I went asking for and rewarding simple behaviors or Emma.  I asked for and gave random rewards for Sits, Downs, Shakes, Stands and Recalls.  Emma got food, toy, play and praise rewards each time she followed a cue.  She truly enjoys play and praise more than food and toys as rewards.  Her biggest reward though it to be sent off to play in the yard.  She doesn't enjoy direct play as much as go out and explore play.

On Wednesday I worked on retrieve by shaping her to a pen.  She enjoyed that, but the moment she picked it up and carried it to me she went back into her old behavior of acting like the world had crashed in on her.  I told her I didn't believe her.  We laughed and goofed off and did known and easy behaviors until she could take food again and went back to looking at and touching the pen.  By that evening she was able to take, hold and carry the pen between myself and Ronda and was not shutting down.  We'll continue to make "retrieve" a game until she's confident when giving something in her mouth.

Since Monday I have been playing the "what is that?" game with her.  Whenever she has something in her mouth I ask "What is that?" and check it out and give it back.  On Monday she would avoid taking it back and then go lay away from me.  By Thursday she was bringing me the item and taking it back a majority of the time.

On Thursday my Mom came to lay the last of the new patio.  While we worked I would ask Emma, who had found every chunk of wood, several balls and other assorted items in the yard, what she had.  Each time I made a huge deal over what she had and gave it back.  Sometimes she would just leave the item and come get affection from me and other times she brought it to me and would wiggle at me as I made a big deal over her prize.  Other times I would tell her that was a fantastic stick or whatever else she had and not offer to take it from her.  She is no longer seeing people and sneaking away with her pilfered prize to chew it and she's gaining confidence in offering her prizes when she does have them.

Friday was a quiet day for Emma and the household.  After working on Thursday on the patio I had little energy the next day.  Remember, I have only so many spoons to expend and doing the fix up on the yard this year to give the dogs more safe, clean and fun locations to play within my yard has taken a lot out of me.  Emma ate well, snuggled a lot and enjoyed a bit of shaping with a pen.  Mostly though, we played "What ya go?" a lot.  She's gotten to bringing me what is in her mouth at least 40% of the time, which is a huge improvement from shrinking into herself and sulking into a corner.  She's taking the item back after I ohh and ahh over it a good 20% of the time, which is a 100% improvement over never taking it back before this.  She's more likely to see me when she has something in her mouth and remain relaxed now than before.  I found just working on "what ya got?" as our primary training goal to be very productive.

On Saturday my brother called and invited me to visit with him and Mom for afternoon bar-b-que and conversation.  I hesitated when he did because I did have Emma with me.  Mom has 3 tiny dogs (all Poms) who are not used to a lot of dog visitors.  They are used to Max, but one of her Poms, Boo, is terrified of any dog bigger than her and not part of her family unit.  She tends to squeal like a hurt animal and run for her life.  Basically, she becomes prey.  Max, who is used to this, ignores her and goes about his day and Boo has become comfortable with Max as part of the family unit.  Boo has met Dieter once and after an short period of acting afraid of him ignored him.  Dieter could care less she existed and slept most of that visit in one spot or another in Mom's yard.  Emma though is a puppy.  And though she's met Boo and the other two (Baby and Shorty) before, she was 14 weeks old and terrified of the barking monsters in my Mom's bedroom (Emma was in the living room and just starting to learn about strange dogs).

Vince, my brother, heard the hesitation and told me to bring along Dieter.  I said it wasn't that, but that I had three dogs for the weekend and Ms. Barks Alot (as her nick name became after a very barky Friday) was with me.  He giggled and asked if I meant Emma and I said yes.  He and Mom said to bring her along also.  So, Emma headed over to Mom's house.

Emma is learning how to behave with dogs who are smaller than her.  She's still charging and nose butting Dieter as she passes him and tired it with Baby (who has no front teeth) and got told off.  Shorty, who doesn't care about other dogs ignored her and and was no fun, but Boo went off when Emma sniffed her and the prey instinct kicked in and with three bigger, strange dogs, in the yard we almost had a disaster.  Thankfully, all three of the dogs I brought listen to me and stopped the moment I told them "Leave It".  But The Game Was One and Emma spent the rest of the visit poking each dog trying to get them to squeak and run.  In the end, after she nipped Boo and tugged her long guard coat, I tethered Emma for a while and Mom put Boo in the house.

We discovered that Emma loves branches, no matter where she is, to chew on.  She has been shredding branches and wood chunks at my house in the yard and was cherry picking branches from Mom's wood pile for the fire pit.  She took and snapped 6 branches about the circumference of my thumb.

We also discovered that if she hadn't been taught to stay within the fence line she would be out of it.  Mom has a large garden fenced off in one corner of her yard and Emma had respected that fence, like Max did, until Mom and I went inside.  5 out of 6 dogs entered the garden via the open gate; Emma, who was standing less than a foot from the open gate, did a flat foot leap over the fence and entered the garden.  The fence was just higher than her shoulders.  Later she did the same thing when she and Max jumped it to chase a person walking by Mom's yard.  I yelped, "Ack!" and both dogs spun on their heels and jumped back out without hesitation.  Given she doesn't need much run to jump that high, she could clear my 4 foot fence in a single running leap if she ever chose too, but has been taught to respect fences and not jump them.  Mind you, she spent the last of the visit putting her chin over the fence and then peering back to me for permission to jump it.  I would say she's passed the Levels Jump section with flying colors.

The nice thing was Mom and I noted she was not only checking in with me reguarly, but coming to both of us for pets on a regular basis.  I noted a lot of look backs, check ins and glances in my direction as I watched her.  The one time she decided to chase a passing motor cycle along the fence Max corrected her and she ignored all cars after that.

Another fantastic thing was she could and did on repeated occasions watch strangers pass outside the fence, less than 10 feet away, in total silence.  The hours in my yard teaching her to watch, calmly, and not react to strangers passing the yard paid off.

When we got home she played for a while in the yard and slept soundly that night.

On Sunday we work at the normal time and cuddled in bed, my normal Sunday routine.  I then vacuumed and was pleased to see her staying in the same room and not shying away from the vacuum. I brought out the steamer next and unlike in the past, she had no reaction to it other than to stay out of the way as I cleaned.  The washer, vacuum, steamer, dryer and other household sounds no longer bother her - a huge step to a healthy and stress free life in a home.

We didn't train, but played off and on in the yard, cleaned out and snuggled a lot.  She had found a ball I kicked out from under the chair when I was cleaning and brought it to me when I asked "what ya got?" and laid upside down in my lap with it in her mouth and let me play take it and give it with her.  Totally relaxed and happy.  It was wonderful.

At 11:40 PM someone set off a 1/4 stick of dynamite by my home! Emma was in her crate, Max on the floor by the end of my bed and Dieter in his crate.  No dog barked or reacted with fear or anxiety at the sound that actually shook the house.  Emma is not gun shy.  We've had some pretty heavy thunderstorms and she's not a fearful dog during the deep rumble and sky tearing sounds of the storms.  She's also no longer fearful when I drop things, even heavy things, around her and comes to investigate like the rest of the household does.  Emma is not sound sensitive.

Overall it was a pretty good week with a lot of positive events in it and nice progression on Emma's learning overall.  I didn't have the gas for a lot of running around, but socializing with small dogs and seeing if the lessons from my house transferred to another location regarding foot traffic by the fence were important social aspects of her life.  Emma doesn't need to be only good in public, but at home also and she's learning both.

I am seeing a lot more self awareness of her feet and her deep desire to keep them down, but she's still young and learning and still jumping up on people a lot.  One word from me (her name, said as a reminder and not a correction) and she plants her feet and vibrates next to the person she's meeting.

My Mom, watching her, said she is growing in confidence and maturity and she can see it each time she meets her.  She also said that had harsh or punitive methods been used to train her Emma would be a ruined dog - Emma is soft and doesn't do well being told what she's doing wrong, but instead, needs and requires knowing what she has gotten right.  Now that Emma and I have found our rhythm again, I believe we'll get better forward momentum each week.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

10 Months: Training Days 134 - 138

Emma adores my son Walter.

Monday - Friday

On Monday Ronda, Jack's owner and I had scheduled a public access outing with both Emma and Jack.  As a result, I did no training during the day, but let the dogs enjoy a relaxing and playful day in the yard with me.  They followed me about as I watered the yard, worked on the gardens, did some work on the computer and played near me while I sat on the patio and watched them.

The newer patio, by the front gate, was not done and both Emma and Jack enjoyed long play periods in the dirt that was exposed by the bricks.  They would lay and mouth wrestle and then dig in the dirt and at one point were laying side by side chewing on chunks of wood.

That evening I groomed Emma out and gave her one last run in the yard before dressing her for going to Starbucks.  She had eaten dinner, I had chopped up some very high value treats and she was getting a final run in the yard before heading off to do a quick in and out for an order of coffee and then sitting outside the building and watching people and traffic.  In the two minutes she ran in the yard she stuck her head into a bush and covered herself in tiny round seeds, which I didn't see in her black fur, but found when I patted her head at Starbucks.

She needs to work on calm when a leash or harness is touched.  When I touch one, even for another dog, she goes into a bouncing, dancing, jumping, barking fit of excitement which doesn't settle her well into working mode when we do head out.  It took 10 minutes to calm her (waiting her out) before I could dress her.

Once at Starbucks she was a bit rubber neck as she looked about, but could and did respond promptly to cues.  I have instilled she is to sit and wait for me to cue her into the car (Load Up), stand or sit and wait for me to cue her out of the car (Hup Up), and then she is to get out, turn to face me and sit.  She has 95% of this routine down pat now.  The final step, turning and sitting is still a work in progress.

It took only a moment of asking for a Sit and then a Down to get her into work mode and she walked nicely on a loose lead into the store, up to the counter and gave me a wonderful sit and watched me while we made our orders.  I was giving her a high rate of re-enforcement, but I wanted to give her a "restaurant light" experience so she would be ready for many of the strange sounds in a restaurant.

She did not try to sniff items in the store, she was able to and did all of the cues I asked of her, she was focused and able to stay at my side and then walk loose lead out of the building and she was readily taking treats.  It was a wonderful 7 minute intro to a food establishment.

Outside I settled her under the table by the front door and rewarded for a long down/stay (which she only got up twice in 30 minutes) and for staying quiet when people passed us.  She was curious, sometimes a bit worried, about strangers, but with rewards quickly relaxed and watched the world.  By the end of the 30 minutes she was resting her chin on the ground and relaxing.

We got up when we finished our coffee and did Loose Leash (LL), Sit, Down and Stay (with us walking in circles around her in both directions while in a sit or down).  She was not worried by the employee who passed us four times with a garbage can on wheels and even greeted a stranger with warm friendliness.  It was an excellent outing.

On Tuesday we worked on random rewards for known behaviors, all of which she did promptly and took every treat I offered without signs of stress.  She played hard, rested hard and processed the previous evenings events for the day.

That evening I took her to Winco for a short but targeted shopping trip.  I offered her to go to the bathroom, but she was not interested in that.  She walked in with her head even with her shoulders, her tail up and even with her spin and her tail curled upward.  She was focused, not fearful and didn't attempt to sniff anything.  She walked perfect LL with me and though for a second was hesitant when we first entered, she quickly recovered and walked with me around the edge of the store (it was a low traffic day in the store) to the section where they keep the milk and creamer and I selected my one item I was after, coffee creamer.  Emma did a fantastic sit when I asked her to at the fridge, but popped up when I opened it.  I let her check the fridge and praised her for her curiosity.  We then walked to the front of the store with only one small fright (an employee passed behind her which worried her a bit, but a quick sit and several treats resolved the issue).  I took her to the customer service desk, cued her to target my hand so she was between me and the desk and cued a sit.  She was able to do those and stayed at my feet while I paid.  She left the store on a LL without signs of stress and got lots of praise when we exited the store.

I then took her to Papa Murphy's to pick up a pizza.  I knew what I wanted, so spent my time focused on her while I cued her to target my hand and sit between me and the counter when I made the order.  I gave her several treats for being there and then took her to the bench seat to wait for my order to be ready.  I was very pleased to see her light up and offer me a perfect down with focus.  She was okay with the one other customer who came in and walked out perfectly when we left.

The two outings lasted a total of 20 minutes with travel.

On Wednesday I gave her one full day off to process her Monday and Tuesday.  She played and enjoyed her day off and I could see her confidence growing.

On Thursday I took her to Winco to pick up a case of Pepsi.  When we entered she was walking with her head slightly above her shoulders and her tail raised above her spine and it was waving slowly.  When she saw a child she moved closer to me and looked to me for direction.  I asked her to Sit and then Shake while the child went into the store.  When we entered the child was there so I asked for another Sit.  She was being rewarded for paying attention to me when the child moved to touch her, both myself and her father stopped her and she passed without touching Emma.  Emma physically relaxed and after that children in the store didn't worry her.

We used the cart this time and except for a bit of surprise when I pulled it out, she was extremely good with it.  She walked through the store with fewer rewards, her head up and her tail waving slowly as we worked.  She jumped a little when I put the Pepsi case in the cart, but quickly responded to my Sit cue and recovered.  We waited in line this time and she was comfortable sitting or laying beside me and by the display by the checkout.  When a woman started babbling at her she made a move to rush up to her, stopped herself and got loads of rewards for her self control.  At one point I saw her put her head down and she relaxed completely while we waited to check out.  She left on a LL and walked calmly to the car with me.

On Friday I once again let her process the events from the previous day and spent the day until she was picked up playing and napping.

Emma's confidence increased on each outing and success she had.  She knew on each outing what I expected and when she was uncertain looked to me for direction and found I was paying attention was able to give it to her.  She was prompt on all of her cues, and got loads of complements on her behavior in the store.

Emma is in the game again and enjoying training, so next week we'll have some light formal training sessions and start working toward retrieve training again.

Friday, July 12, 2013

9 Months, 4 Weeks: Training - Days 129 - 133

Emma the worry wort.

Monday - Friday

Emma didn't arrive at my home on Monday until after 3 PM.  Jack, who has returned for his training, was present and both Emma and Jack were ecstatic to see each other.  I let Emma off lead in my yard and she promptly went halfway up the ramp and jumped off the side - which promptly got her tethered to my side.

I let both Emma and Jack play for a bit.  They kept it low key in the house for a while and then we took it outside and the two played a bit in the yard, though I insisted they keep it low key and not stress Emma's knee too much, and then all of the dogs curled up beside me while I sat on the patio.

On Tuesday morning I got up early so I could take Max in for an appointment and let Emma play in the yard again.  I have started asking for more sits, downs and touches for basic rewards (going outside, getting in my lap) but didn't include food in the reward system just yet.  Emma had gotten to were a treat offered was stressful before I stopped her formal training for a while and I want a lot of happy feelings with the same actions (if I sit I get to play in the yard) before bringing food back into the picture.

I had to crate her and Dieter before leaving for Max's appointment and was very pleased with how she continues to volunteer going into the crate herself and now is quiet with maybe one or two small barks when I am leaving.  No longer am I hearing the protests for lawyers or claims she was framed, but instead a more mature and appropriate response to be crated when I leave has developed.  This happened during her recovery from her knee injury, since I had to be in and out during the week with Maura for appointments and with Max for appointments.  It is a fantastic step toward being a crate savvy dog who can be relaxed when crated.

I retrieved Jack from his home on my way back from Max's appointment (pre-arragned with Jack's owner due to the appointment occurring during normal drop off time) and brought him back with me.  Emma was thrilled and the two played for the rest of the day in or out of the house (low key, because I was watching them closely the entire time).  By low key play I mean they weren't running, jumping or wrestling, but instead laying and playing bitey mouth and sharing toys.

Again, I was asking Emma for known behaviors for life rewards, but not adding food into the mix just yet.  She did a take on Jack's leash (held it in her mouth for 2 seconds) as a "can you do this too game" when Jack was picked up that night and got lots of praise from me and Jack's owner, and she got tons of praise for coming to me when I called her.

We ended the evening outside with her exploring Victoria while she played for the first time in the yard.  Victoria, my cat, has been indoors since August of last year and just last night discovered she could leave my house and leave my porch (she's been getting out of the house, but staying on the porch) and explore the entire yard.  Emma was fascinated that Victoria was "out of position" and was following her around.  Victoria promptly turned and bopped her on the nose, which Emma seems to think is funny and the two explored the same places together for almost half an hour.

On Wednesday I introduced training again.  I cut up some high value treats and got the pencil and began teaching Jack to take it.  Emma went and hid while I did this and I ignored that the first time.  I then called Emma into the kitchen and asked for a sit and click/treated it.  She was getting into the game until Jack went to take the treat and I had to fight to get it to Emma.  She shutdown and went and hid again.

I started the "this is for ...." game.  I lined up the dogs and did, "This is for Jack.  This is for Max.  This is for Dieter.  This is for Emma."  Emma was still behind my recliner and I was in the glide rocker.  She came out and took the first treat, but refused any further treats.  Jack was getting the idea that he could wait to get a treat when I was treating another dog and he would, in time, get one too.

I called Emma to my side and with my free hand just petted her and reassured her that life was not as scary as she thought.  I offered, but didn't insist, treats for a while and she refused them.  I kept giving her physical praise and finished the game a couple of minutes later.

I then pulled her into my lap and cuddled with her for about 20 minutes.  After that she could take treats again.  I am now off and on asking for a known behavior and giving her a food reward and ending the session on the single rep.  Though I would love to work on strengthening her behaviors, right now I need to get her into the game and over this fear reaction to training and stress.  So, I am actively working on getting Emma In the Game and once she is there again will worry about actually training anything.

On Thursday Emma, Max, Dieter and Jack played in the yard while Josh, Mom and I worked on putting in a new patio.  Emma, who at first was fearful of Josh when she first met him, has grown to accept him as part of the family and was happy to see him when he arrived.  She didn't have problems with any of the noises or activity with the installation of the patio and as I watched her I could see that the confidence she was starting to show by the end of Wednesday was truly growing throughout Thursday.  In effect, the week of playing with low training expectations or changes in how we did what training we did helped her return to her pre-injury happiness to try new things.

On Friday we had the breakthrough I have been working toward.  I portioned out 10 treats per session and worked on well known and easy behaviors.  The first session I asked for 10 sits, which she did with joy and wagging tails.  On the second was 10 Downs, the third 10 Target and the final was 10 Target with the pencil (no expectation to take the pencil in her mouth).  In the final session she was lit up and playing the game happily and even offering to take and hold the pencil in her mouth!

Before this she would suddenly shrink into herself and either pee or slink away and hid on the second or third click - even with easy and well known behaviors such as Sit (her strongest) or Down.  To see her not only fully engaged, but wanting more was a pure joy.  As Sue Ailsby has said, the time I spent getting Emma back in the game was well worth it.

I do believe a light but flexible training schedule next week will get Emma well on the road to starting on her harder and more stressful behaviors by the time she's 10 1/2 months old.  The more she gets to play, process and destress when working on her lessons the better she'll handle the stress of learning a new behavior.

This was a good week for Emma and she's well on the road to returning to full training.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

9 Months, 3 Weeks: Training - Days 126-128

A new play yard for the dogs.

Monday - Wednesday

Emma is always excited to arrive and check out what has changed and what is the same in my yard and home.  This week Maura, who left on Friday to a new foster, was gone and it was just her, Max and Dieter.  Dieter, who had been released just over a week ago from full crate rest has become more active and Emma found that fascinating and a little frustrating.

Emma has, since her knee injury, been tethered to me whenever we go outside.  She has been contained to much from play and exercise that she was having issues with stress, even minor stress, in general.  Puppies need to play, but her normally calm behavior in the house and zero freedom outside left her without the level play she needed for emotional and mental health.  Asking her to deal with high stress situations, like going to a new location for training or even training, became impossible because she simply couldn't handle it.

On Monday I had appointments and Emma spent some time crated when I had to be out, but otherwise, spent a majority of her time in the new play yard with Max and Dieter quietly working on a chew by my side while Max played fetch and Dieter moved from one sun spot to another.  She desperately wanted to play with them both, but couldn't and thus her frustration levels increased.

On Tuesday she had an appointment with her vet to see if she could finally be freed from my hip.  I had been walking her as much as possible around my yard when I could and her owners were taking her on walks when they had her, but it still wasn't what she really needed.

I arranged to drop her off at the vet while I went to another appointment.  They examined her while I was away and laughed about her escape from her crate (they door hadn't properly latched, so Emma went on walk-about in the vet office) when I returned.  She was in high spirits when I returned, since the entire vet staff adore her and every one of them visited with her and she got to play with Dr. S in the examine room and totally loved that.

The good news is, she's been released to play, as long as she doesn't go hog wild and doesn't jump off of high points.  I brought her home and released her in my yard and she lit up and ran around for a few minutes and then settled to exploring the entire yard with her nose.  She spent the rest of the evening in the yard, free from my hip and quietly played with toys, sniffed every inch of the yard and went to check out the fence line to peer at people in the neighborhood.  I could see a huge improvement in her mood and her happy dog face returned.

On Wednesday she rode in the car quietly to the groomers.  When we arrived she didn't, for the first time, bark at the dogs behind the fence in the play yard at the groomers and walked on a loose lead into the building!  What a huge advancement on her leash behaviors.  She was happy to see the groomer and left with them without issue.

I plan on testing her off and on to see if she's come out of the "stress is too much" mode she's in over the next week and see if she can't get back to formal training.  Her downsized training program has helped her a lot, she's been using her known skills and doing well with them and is starting to recover from the stress of an injury that caused long term recovery.  Hopefully it won't be long before we can pick up and move forward, but I don't want to increase her stress just to meet a goal - I want her to succeed and if that means I work with a dog who needs slower forward momentum, then that is what I'll do.

9 Months, 2 Weeks: Training - Day 122 - 126

Emma enjoys playtime more than training right now.

Monday - Friday

Emma arrived ready for another week of play and relaxation in my home.  Unlike last week where she had lost her mind the moment I touched the lead, she now quickly sits and waits for me to clip the lead on her so we can get out.  The only times this doesn't happen is right after she's been crated and her joy of freedom overrides her ability of to self calm.

She is still walking too far ahead when on lead, but we are gently working on setting the "zone" for walking on a loose lead.  She is also still sniffing heavily when walking in the grass, but that too is easing up.  On Monday she was sniffing so heavily that she was dragging behind me.  On Tuesday she was keeping her head up more than down and was staying in the zone more than out.  She's starting to walk in "work" mode beside me, which is a huge difference than the previous times we went out.

In the house her confidence has greatly improved.  If I tell Max or Maura no she doesn't wilt anymore.  She had, before this, wilted whenever I corrected another dog or sent them away.  Now she's separating herself from them and seeing that I am not addressing her, which has greatly improved her confidence.  No longer is she rushing to hide, but watching to see how I'll address her when I am done talking to the other dog.  99.9% of the time I tell her she's being good and give her a loving pat on the head.

She is cuddling a lot more this week and sleeping in my lap.  She still has some tension if I go to move her so I can see around her head or breath (fur in nose is not conducive to airflow).

She eats from the metal bowl with confidence now.  I no longer see her hunched, leaning back on her hind feet or jerking every time her tags clink against the side or it moves.  She now can lick the metal bowl as it moves across the floor and not flinch.

She's checking in when I drop things instead of running for the hills.  Her confidence in her world is improving.

With the rain this week we've been in the house more than out, but during the nice periods of the day we settle outside and enjoy a nice watch of the neighborhood and a good chew of a toy.

Maura is leaving at the end of the week and I want to give Emma one more week of relaxing and taking a break following that before picking back up on the serious training.  Hopefully, with Maura out of the house next week, Emma and Max and I can go and visit some new locations and build up more confidence in some fun ways such as nose work or sniffing and exploring in dog safe zones.