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.

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