|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.