Tuesday, August 20, 2013

10 Months, 4 Weeks: Training - Days 156 - 160

DJ and Jack spent the last half of the week with us.  Their
Mom had gone on a trip - the house was full and busy by
Friday night!
Spoons - how precious they are.  With the weekend over and home projects in the yard near completion I found I had over spent all summer long and faced a week in which I barely had enough energy to deal with daily upkeep on the dogs basic manners and learned skills. 

For Emma I was offering her chances to pick up and hand me different items as I went about my daily business.  I did a bit of laundry early in the week, though found my energy was so low that the idea of getting it out of the dryer left me drained - I didn't remove laundry from the dryer until Wednesday, and promptly dropped half of it on the floor.  Emma came to check what I had dropped and I offered her the chance to pick any of it up, but she decided not too.  I praised her for her curiosity and called Max to me to help.

Every time something fell to the floor and Emma came to explore I praised her.  She even tried a couple of times to pick it up, but didn't actually do it.  That was okay - I want the curiosity and even a failed attempt is more than she used to offer.  The no pressure chance to retrieve seemed to be a tonic for her and by Thursday she was carrying toys to me to examine and taking them back after much praise and excitement about what a prize she'd shown me.

She was praised and loved for every sit and down.  She was given lots of praise for her politely waiting for me to make a meal, or not run out a door just because it was open.  She was given lots of cuddles and slept several times upside down beside me in my chair while I read or watched the TV.

She enjoyed playing with Max and Jack and was rewarded with loads of praise when she came when called - even if it was in the middle of a game.

Though I didn't do any planned "formal" training sessions what I did do was employ known behaviors in daily living and reward her with something other than food.  She learned that she gets to go outside faster if she sits and gets more cuddles if she asks to get in my lap instead of just bounding into it.  She learned that waiting for me to finish my meal and not exploring it at all got her the first tidbit off of the plate when I went into the kitchen to clean up.  She got to play games with me when she asked to get on my bed instead of just jumping on it without permission.

As much as raising and training a service dog means teaching them tasks to help the disabled, it also means teaching them manners when living with the handler.  Things one wouldn't think of, such as laying quietly when in the home or not barking at the neighbors when outside, moving out of ones personal space and asking to enter a person's personal space are all items Emma needs to learn, above and beyond how to help her handler.

Emma is well on her way.  She knows how to get out of my way when I am working in the home.  She knows to not beg for food from me or my guests.  She is learning from all of us that if she just bounds into our laps she is put on the floor and must wait for permission to be on our laps.

One of the things I am working on with her is not winding up into a bucking horse when excited.  She rears up and bounces around barking when I pick up her leash, go to let her outside or when she meets people.  I have been working on a plan to better explain to her what I want - now that I am starting to see a modicum of self control when she's overly excited.

It is important to know that Emma winds up easily.  She's a happy dog who can go from calm to bounding off your stomach in a blink of an eye.  She winds up further with high pitched voices and happy tones - which makes ramping her up when she's scared of something easy, but can result in a dog who goes from work mode to out of control in a second when she's not.

Though it makes her "too cute" when a pet dog, it won't work for a working dog.  To handle this issue, I will be tracking when she looses her mind the most and then working individual plans to better explain to her what is expected.

I mentioned to her owner to pick up and carry her leash with no intention of putting it on  her as much as possible.  The goal is to take the charge out of the leash.  I am doing the same here.

I also mentioned to offer her chances to pick up and hand things to them, but not to cue it by anything other than pointing or tapping the object at this time.  If she looks, tries or picks it up it's all good right now.  We are building up her understanding of retrieve by giving her a lot of chances to get it right and right now anything from looking and sniffing to picking up and handing over is a success.

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