Friday, September 27, 2013

12 Months: Training - Days 180 - 185

Emma retrieving glasses.


I think Emma was a bit disappointed on Monday when she realized that Jack wasn't here when she arrived.  Jack was in surgery to have his tail re-docked, due to continued growth of the bone and the bone piercing his skin and becoming exposed.  Emma was to fly solo for the day with Max and Dieter.

I had worked the previous week on a couple of things with her.  I had restarted Focus and was working on building confidence in picking up metal objects.  At the end of the week Emma was picking up a full sized spoon and taking the spoon into her mouth and holding it without much hesitation or paw lifting.  I had seen her confidence grow and mature during the week.

I had also worked on her delivering items to the wheelchair now that she's comfortable with retrieving certain items.  Emma was ready for that stage of the retrieve process and quickly solved how to get the items she picked up to me without my having to do a verbal cue.  Very nice.

On Monday I wanted to increase the number of metal items she had success with.  I had figured out a quick touch to hold to floor routine with a new object generally got us both success in picking up a new item.  I selected a full sized spoon, a fork and sunglasses.

She quickly moved from targeting the spoon to picking it up.  Very nice.  Next was the fork which she was a bit more hesitant about, but with a couple of repeats she had it and picked it up for me.  The sunglasses went just as well.  In the end she picked up all three items and handed them to me and did so with minimal hesitation and paw lifting.  Very nice.

She worked up to 2 seconds of eye contact after a long absence of my asking for any.  She was head turning a lot and sliding her eyes away a lot, but I was okay with restarting the behavior because I knew she would pick up and move forward quickly.

The biggest break through wasn't my directly training her, but leaving her home as I ran errands.  I left her loose in the house for 45 minutes in the morning, an 1 1/2 in the afternoon and 30 minutes in the evening without incident.  For Emma, this is a huge step.  Each time I left I set her up for success.  I provided bones, antlers and hooves to chew on.  I tied off the garbage and closed off the front bathroom, office and my bedroom.  I removed items from my end table so that she had nothing to get herself into trouble with.  On each outing I left "one more" thing out for her to decide to ignore and I didn't mind if it was lost.  She was calm, happy and had not caused trouble each time.  What a wonderful thing for Emma, her world is expanding and she's learning self control and showing no signs of separation anxiety.


We didn't do much on Tuesday because Jack was back and in a great deal of pain.  What we did do was practice known cues all day and continue to build up her retrieve by using it in daily living.

Emma was left loose in the house for 30 minutes while I picked up Jack's medications.

Emma just watched the children get off the school bus and head home.  She had her nose stuffed in my fence, was a bit still, but quiet and didn't have a breakdown on seeing children running down the street.  On the second bus she didn't even look up and kept chewing on her bone in the yard as the bus emptied and the children ran home.


Jack, who was now on pain killers, slept most of the day.  Emma, since his return on Tuesday, has been nice enough to let him sleep and not try to engage him in play.  It is a sign of maturity that she recognizes her friend doesn't feel good and is giving him space.  Very good dog communication.

Emma and I worked again on Focus and Retrieve.  She is up to quickly and happily picking up the sunglasses and starting to take and pull socks off of my hand.  She helps a bit with making the bed in the morning by taking the corner of the comforter when I offer it and pulling back, but then flips it forward in her joy when I tell her yes.

She helped with picking up shoes and socks when I got dressed.  She picked up a piece of paper I dropped.  She's following me to help now.

Her focus built back up to a solid 3 seconds and occasional 5 second eye contact.  I am about to build the next step on her retrieve, which is following my eyes.  I worked with her in the wheelchair and using heavy body language got her to look where I was looking and retrieve something close to the chair.  I will have to get better control of her with my eyes before continuing - this was an experiment to see if she was sensitive enough to learn this so her handler can cue her.  She is and I am thrilled to embark on this adventure.

I took Jack to his final Prep class, so Emma went to stay with Ronda while I was gone for 3+ hours.  She is not ready to be loose that long in the house and I don't like crating her that close to bed time.

Ronda reported she was happy and relaxed at her home this time and curled up with her and napped while I was away.


We continued working on retrieving by introducing a small, unopened, can of olives.  I am taking her to the beginning and having her target it.  So far she's unwilling to try to mouth it and hold it.  We will continue so she learns she can pick up odd shaped and heavy objects.

We continued work on Focus.  Jack is feeling much better and he and Emma did a bit of mouth play and a little foot play.  Jack is still worried about his tail, so Emma is careful with her play with him.  Her empathy is strong and she's very appropriate with her favorite playmate and his injured state.

Emma needs a plan to keep her away from doors and incoming people when visitors arrive.  My Mom came to visit and Emma was overjoyed and bouncy.  She is the same when Ronda comes every night.  I plan to institute for the whole house a run into the office and wait until called behavior.  I need to get an over the top treat for this behavior and start training it when no one is visiting and then add the "someone is here" to the behavior chain once they know what I want when I go to answer the door.

I must note that the series of being left loose in the house led up to her having a brain fart moment on Thursday morning.  I was curled up with the dogs in the bed watching The Closer when Emma got down to find a chew toy.  What she found was an old eCig cartridge, so I told her to leave it and threw that away again.  Then I went in to the bathroom to use the facilities and in the five minutes that I was in there she ate a pair of my socks which had been on the floor next to my bed.  It's the first item of mine she's destroyed since she came into the house at 14 weeks.  We haven't had another repeat of that since.


Today I began working on controlling Emma with my eyes.  I started with basic Focus and started to look to my right and wait for any turn of her nose, even tiny movement, to the right and click for it.  Right now she doesn't know it's my looking that cues that behavior, but she was starting to experiment after our first session.

I contacted some of my more experienced trainer friends and asked for other things to do to explain it's my eyes that trigger the movement.  I have gotten a couple of great suggestions and so set off on the next stage, getting her to seek and look into my eyes.

To do this I have her sit or stand before me and then turn my back on her - as she comes around to look at me I click and treat and turn again.  She was a bit concerned with what the do at first, but once she got the idea she got into the game.

On the video I have included you'll see I am using exaggerated head movements right now to get her to move and look where I am looking.  That was the other suggestion.  We'll keep working on this until she can follow my eyes and move in that direction.

Meanwhile, I need to know what are the easiest sounds her handler can make?  I know he's non-verbal, but he does make sounds and if he can make "la", "pa", "ba", "ga" and other such sounds I can train her to those as cues so he can still communicate with her when he doesn't have his voice machine available.

In the end, I am hoping to have her trained so he can look her in the eyes, look where he wants her to go and cue "la" for light, or "ga" for get and have her help him.


A few weeks ago, right after Emma had her break through on retrieve, her owner told me she ate a pair of socks over the weekend.  They were shocked because, until that day, they could leave socks, shoes and other items lying around and she wouldn't chew them.  That was, because, until then, she didn't even think of human property as toys.  I had been very careful with her training and redirected any attempt to chew on shoes, socks or clothes to bones and toys.  Now though things have changed, I am asking her to touch and take in her mouth the forbidden objects and we are in the middle of "knowing she can" and "being cued to do it".  That step breaks down the "don't chew on grandma's shoes" training for a brief period.

Max, when we were at this stage of training and proofing and attaching the final cue, chewed on more dish clothes than I can mention.  Emma is socks.  She loves socks.  She thinks they taste good and therefore socks are in danger around her for now.

It was my fault she ate the socks next to my bed.  I am working on attaching the cue and finally proofing the behavior in and out of the home.  Until then, keep items you don't want chewed up and away from her.

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