Wednesday, August 28, 2013

11 Months: Training - Day 166

Emma is well socialized with strange dogs and can easily
join any group of friendly dogs and find the right
play style for the dog she's meeting.
Socialization is so much more than meeting people or other dogs, but experiencing sights, sounds, textures and smells too.  For Emma we've taken a slow but steady approach to new things in her life, since she's a soft dog and can easily become fearful if introducing her to new things is done too fast.  She seems to thrive on going out into the world though, which is lovely to see.

This week I planned on two outings with her to work on calm behavior in public.  I had no intention of taking her into a store just yet, just working on walking calmly from the car to the store and back as many times as I could stand it.  But, as many know, the best laid plans can change and in this case a rare opportunity opened up for both of us.

Last night, after Jack had headed home, I was cruising my Facebook news feed when I saw that a fellow Diamonds in the Ruff trainer was headed to a local pool for Dog Pool Day and decided I would take Max and Emma.  Max because it is simply normal for me to take him where ever we go and Emma because I wanted her to experience a poolside setting and greet lots of friendly new dogs and dog friendly people.  In the end I left Max.  I had thought about it and realized Max would be miserable in such a setting.  He likes side by side play with other dogs, hates dogs racing around and playing chase and really doesn't enjoy the full body contact games Labradors play.  For his sanity I left him home.

I packed up Emma though, who loves ALL of those things and took her with me.  We arrived just after 6 PM and wandered to the front of the building after peering at all of the dogs and people playing inside the pool area for a couple of minutes.  She was curious and a bit shy, but not fearful.

In the front of the building was an over the top excited Labrador and Emma slipped behind me and put space between herself and him.  I respected this and blocked her and moved further away with her.  Once he was gone I encouraged her to enter the echoing area and reassured her she was safe.  I asked the cost to enter and realized I would need to go back to the car for the money.  Emma was still twisting around and peering about with clear nervousness, but not over the top fear.  I then cued her to Paws Up on the counter and she did.  All they saw was a pair of toes and a tiny nose stick over the edge, but the moment the woman leaned over to get a better look at her Emma's fear left and she started wagging madly.  I lifted her up to visit and then we went out and sniffed the grass until she shook off.

After I got the money from the car she got to meet a tiny black pup that was a month younger than her and then headed into the building again.  There were two dogs there, but they were calm and Emma greeted them happily.  She entered the building without fear or nervousness and pawed back up onto the counter so I could lift her so they could check her Rabies tag.  Then it was off to get a bit of water poured on her back.

I asked they didn't use the hose, so they used bottled water and wet her spine.  She wasn't happy, but didn't freak out about it.  Then inside we went.  Still shy and a little worried she let me unclip her and she went off to check a new dog she met.  Then she spent the next 20 minutes moving 15 to 20 feet away from me, meeting a person, child or dog and then coming back to me for reassurance.

In 30 minutes she wasn't checking in much anymore, but trotting with her head up, her body tall and her tail in perfect position.  She was smiling and sniffing and meeting new dog after new dog and new person after new person.  She wouldn't go near the water in the beginning, staying about 15 to 20 feet away, but by the time we left she would approach to within 2 feet before she darted away.  I never expected her to swim and wasn't worried if she did or didn't.  I did want her comfortable with a pool area and be able to eventually lay quietly while people swam and wait for her owner.

At the 40 minute mark I called her to me and we walked together around the entire pool area.  She was happy, exploring and willing to meet anyone, man, woman or child with a quick nuzzle and off to explore some more.  When we passed the diving boards I asked her to paws up on the rungs and she did without hesitation.  She even thought about a retrieve for a bit, but was too worried about the activity to complete it.  No biggy.  She got lots of praise for trying and sent off to play some more.

At the 1 hour mark she returned and sat beside me, tired and ready to head home.  We left after a bit of cuddle and relaxing by me on a bench.  She was tall, proud and confident when we left.  It was a fantastic socialization session for Emma and she flew through it with a building confidence I had expected to see.

She'll have no more big outings this week, but will be taken out tonight for a quick loose lead lesson in a quiet parking lot of a store that is closed or not busy.

Today we worked on picking up socks, pens, shorts, paper, a credit card (need to work on how to make it easier for her) and a necklace.  The necklace worried her, so we worked on just being able to take and hold it and hand it back with a little movement.  She did great on all of that.

I am about to make a list of the most common things she would be picking up for her handler and begin teaching her how to deliver them properly to him.

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 4 2 1 2
Jump Relax Handling Tricks Communication
Step 1 1 Completed 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 4 0 0
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 0 0 0 0
Handling Communication

Step 0 0


  1. I know that socialization is important in helping the dod grow more confident and able to work amidst all types of distractions, but when and how do you teach that focus on the person and their needs is more important than meeting, greeting and socialization?

  2. By rewarding check ins - like I did while at the pool. I knew affection was a strong reward for Emma and used it when working her at the pool. Every time she checked in I would praise her and give her lots of love. If it had been Max I would have used a ball or food to reward him because affection is not his biggest reward.

    By placing the meet and greet into a ritual with people. When people ask if they can pet Emma or Max when I have them out I have them sit, explain to the person how I want them to greet my dog, and then give the dog a cue ("Go say Hi") to the dog and let them meet them.

    When I took Emma to SpoCon I used the ritual and as she put her nose into their palms to say hi, I offered her a treat and drew her attention back to me. By the end she was saying hi and reorienting on me automatically and getting rewarded for it.

    By people watching. I have taken both Emma and Max into high traffic areas and just rewarded them for calmly watching people pass without nose touching or soliciting attention. Instead I rewarded calm behavior where they laid and watched or laid and put her head on their feet.

    By taking both to group classes and rewarding attention on me and not on the whole classroom. I am doing all of that with Jack now and it's working. Each dog is socialized to their work environment and with strangers, but knows to stay focused on me to the level of their training.

    Fluency comes when someone can call do your dog and the dog stays focused on you. Max is 90% fluent in this behavior. Emma is 50% and Jack is 30% fluent at this point.

  3. Very helpful, CK! Thanks! Have you thought of turning this blog into a book? Your day by day experiences of how you use Sue's training program gives me, and I'm sure many others, even more suggestions as to how to handle the many challenges we find in training. It's also good to find that we're not the only one who had that problem or couldn't, because of lack of experience, think of another small change to bring about success. And, best of all, it reads like a novel and we can't wait to see the next episode!
    Thanks again, and congrats on the big breakthroughs you've has lately. If you weren't so far away from Texas I would be knocking on your door a lot begging for advice! :-)