Tuesday, August 20, 2013

11 Months: Training - Day 161

I dropped a pencil today and Emma picked it up without thinking!
I gave Emma Monday off since I had appointments all day.  I also wanted to take the day to take stock of where we are in her training and where we need to go.  After months of building up to a retrieve and finally getting the budding foundation of one, I want to ensure I am not ignoring other important parts of Emma's overall training.

On Monday I was told she picked up a piece of paper, carried shoes to her handler and picked up her leash among other items during the weekend.  The family was amazed and pleased with her progress and willingness to help.  I was very pleased that their gentle requests lead to a positive result in her retrieve training.

On Monday the most I did with her was ask her to attempt to pick up items already on the floor.  She handed me a piece of paper, a bread tab and a wash cloth.  Amazing for a dog a short time ago would shut down and urinate if you wanted her to pick something up.  She's showing more and more confidence with each minor success and I am seeing her standing taller, with a happy wave of her tail and making eye contact.  Each retrieve is met with a happy cuddle moment and over half the time with a treat.

She seems to get stuck when the item is in her mouth, so I need to build up her give better, so I'll slowly work on that and build a positive feeling into picking up AND giving the item to a person.

Today, Tuesday, we visited retrieve again.  Why so much work on it?  It is a huge part of her job.  She'll be using it to open drawers, doors and helping her handler dress and undress.  She'll be using it to get items he needs or return dropped items when needed.  She'll be using it to carry a bumper to a helper when he needs someone to come to him and carry messages to and from people when asked.  Retrieve is a foundation which builds into important tasks for someone who needs them.

Today I saw a tiny rubber tip to one of my eSmoke cartridges on the floor and pointed it to her.  She picked it up, held it in her mouth, but was again stuck trying to give it to me.  I finally had to gently open her mouth and scoop it out.  So, off we went with a dead cartridge and had her pick it up and offer it to me.  When she got her mouth over my hand I said, "Thank you" and then offered a treat.  In short order she was spitting the cartridge into my hand as I said Thank You and before I moved to give her a treat.

We then worked for a bit on her leash manners.  They have been lacking lately and I wanted to see where they are backing down.  It's distraction - she was spot on with moving to release pressure on her collar and walking and staying on a loose lead when in the house.  This means I need to work those same skills in more and more distracting areas with a higher rate of re-enforcement and then slowly fade the amount of re-enforcement until she is automatically walking on a loose leash.

The rest of the week will be evaluating not only where she is, but determining what I need to work on to finish her training.  Emma is well on her way - I just need to fine tune for where we want to to end and begin the final steps for finishing her training by the time she's approximately 18 months to 2 years of age.

What an exciting development for Emma!

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