Friday, October 18, 2013

13 Months: Training - Days 196 - 199

Emma at 13 Months
Do you recognize her?  She's 30 pounds and 16 inches tall.  She's a young dog now and learning so much.   What a change from the tiny puppy who arrived in my home last December.

Emma has been spending the nights sleeping in my room outside of her crate.  I started in the beginning of October and except for on accident with socks she's been perfect.  I have the door to my bedroom gated to keep her in the room while I am asleep.

With Malcolm waking me in the middle of the night I am pleased to see she is sleepy and laying next to me without complaint.  If all goes well, by the end of this month she'll have passed this stage in her earning freedom at night and I'll no longer need to gate her in my room.  I am hoping to start next month with giving her "unsupervised" freedom in my home at night next month.


It's been paperwork day, so training has been on being good when I am not directly supervising her.  It's so nice I don't have to watch her every single second of the day any longer.

In the morning when her Grandma dropped her off she got to go and greet the children at the bus stop.  This has been a goal of mine ever since she started having barking fits with children.  Today she approached with some lowered body language and a bit of cowering until she got to really meet them and then she was all joy and happiness.  We'll go meet them a couple of more times and see if that doesn't reduce her worry about grade school age children.

In the afternoon we continued to work on picking up canned goods.  I have been working on this off and on for a month now, just for her to experience a new object and for her to know she can pick up heavy objects for me too.  She had been worried and fearful of picking up the can for me and I've taken it slow to build her confidence.

I know part of it is the recycle bin.  I KNOW she can pick up empty cans because she's famous for stealing cans from the recycle bin on my porch and taking them in the yard to scour.  She started to worry that I was mad whenever I saw that and thus when I was ASKING her to pick up a full can she made the "I'm in trouble" association of having cans in the yard.  Remember, I think she thought her middle name was "What are you eating now?" from age 5 months to 12 months!

Today she picked up the can by the very lip of the top and handed it to me.  What a feat.  I was so excited for her and we had such a party that the very next time she picked it up with utter confidence, all of the can in her mouth this time, and handed it up.  We had a huge party again and her confidence soared.  We did it a third time and this time we invited the neighborhood for the party (Jack and Max and Malcolm) and really celebrated her very brave and outstanding break through.

Way to go little girl!

In the yard I tested her out on some of her recall behaviors.  She recalled over 40 feet and let me put her lead on.  She did this on one cue and away from a distraction! Nice job.

She's learning to look but not bark at neighbor dogs and is doing a nice job of it.  I have set the Three Bark Rule for everyone and am heavily rewarding recalling when loose dogs are near the fence and they come to me.  This is a house hold level training protocol and it working well with all dogs.

She has grown to love playing with Malcolm and is very gentle with him.  He's learning a lot from her soft mouth and gentle corrections when he's too rough.  She's learning a lot about playing nice with a very young dog and her dog body language is improving nicely.


Take a bow , Ms. Emma!
As you can see below I spent a large part of last night going through the Levels and seeing where Emma really is.  Though it may appear she wasn't progressing, I am certain her family will agree there has been continued and clear progress in her behavior and her ability to live in the home without causing issues.  This past weekend she spent at her Grandmother's house and when she was dropped off her Grandmother commented on how good of a dog she is and how nicely she rides in the car.  This is a testament to her training - she's a dog welcome anywhere.

Today I was looking at what is left in Level 2 to complete it and realized we need to work on Focus, Go To Mat, Distance, Jump, Relax.  Today I tested Step 4 of Relax.  She isn't "cut string" relaxed when I ask her to settle, but she does go into a down and stays focused on me.  In this case, I am looking for a working Relax which I call Settle and will build it into a default head down with experience and practice.  The "cut string" comes with experience.

We did Step 4 today and she did a good job.  She was happy to settle at my feet and be still even with the other dogs nearby.  After a minute (and convincing Jack not to wrestle with her) I wound her up with a good game of catch my hand if you can and then cued Settle.  She needed both the verbal and hand cue, so she's close, but not full on yet.  She was fine until Jack and the puppy tried to play with her, which resulted in two pop ups.  She did fine on the rest of the test and even put her head down by the last one minute Settle cue.

This means we need to play this game every day for a while until she just collaspes at my feet and relaxes when I cue it.  I'll be taking this on the road also and build it into a functional default state when we stop and take a break.  This is a primary skill of public access and will translate into her first movie.  Until I have a good settle with distractions I can't move her much further in her public access skills.

Focus is coming along nice and I have noticed that she makes eye contact whenever I am asking something of her.  Building it up around distractions is happening.  I have built in distractions in the house for the foundation training and then will take it on the road when it's time.

I am about to start sending her to her mat from a distance and building up her mat behaviors so I can train her to go to a mat and park there until called.  This will be part of our focus for this week as we continue to build on her Retrieve items.

Both Distance and Jump have not been worked much and I must start now that I have a good pole and a good "jump" to work with.  I will start Distance today and have the other dogs work on parking on their mats while I do so.

Emma has learned to be around stuffed toys and not eat them now that the puppy has them to play with and I have made them a "no go" toy in my home.  This is only under supervision.

What a fantastic end of day!  I decided to work Emma on Level 3 Step 1 Down tonight and she flew through.  We were playing in the yard when I placed her in a down by the Maple tree in my side yard and step out of her sight to the front of my home.  She just settled in and relaxed in the down, even with the other dogs running through the yard, and waited patiently for my return.  We got up to 12 seconds tonight.  This is not a pass because I didn't test it cold, but she leapt to 10 seconds in two rounds and even handled my wandering in and out of her line of site with mere curiosity as I worked her.  Fantastic!

In the house I decided to try a new food can with her.  This time I selected a Tuna can and she quickly went from nose targets to foot targets to nudging it along the floor to me to finally putting her mouth on it.  From there she went to picking it up by the tiny edge (she has remarkable control of her teeth) and picked it up and handed it to me.  This took less than 10 seconds!  From there she did a full mouth grab and hand two more times and with utter joy.

The best part was her enthusiasm and determination.  I decided to play, "What else can you pick up?" and tossed my keys, a grooming comb, an envelope, a fork, a spoon and a tube of cardboard on the floor and she jumped with utter enthusiasm and joy to pick up and hand each and every single one to me!  No hesitation.  No fear of things falling and bouncing off the floor as I selected each new object and tossed it down and nothing but happy happy body language!

It was then I decided to try a credit card again.  I saw stamina in her and wanted to ride the ride with her.  SHE DID IT!  With enthusiasm, determination and persistence she picked up and handed the credit card to me twice!  I then got a quarter and she GOT IT ON THE FIRST TRY!  Emma picked up a coin and a credit card tonight!  WOW!

I do believe she'll be able to problem solve and pick up anything she is capable of within another month!  What a huge change in her personality and desire to please.  Trust me, in the last eight days (Malcolm's arrival in the home) Emma has truly engaged and joined the game with 100% of herself.  She do desperately wants to please me as much as I appear to be pleased by Malcolm that she's trying six times harder.  I love what Malcolm's arrival has done for Emma's desire and confidence.  She's not over thinking, she's diving in and succeeding.  How exciting!

We ended the day with a cuddle and grooming session, while wrestling away the grooming tools Malcolm was stealing, and she was able to stay for the grooming even with about 16 pounds of German Shepherd puppy climbing on her.  I kept redirecting him from climbing on her or chewing on her ears and sending him off with a toy or treats, but she truly was patient with little snot during our grooming.  She still doesn't like her face groomed or her tail, but with each grooming and treat following, she's getting better and better.  She no longer throws her head when I groom her face and lets me pull her tail out and brush it and just lays quiet.

I know she's passed Handling, but I want her to enjoy grooming as much as she enjoys the rest of her life and will start increasing the number of rewards she gets when working on her grooming to make it more pleasant for her.

What a big day for Emma!


She's grown so much!
How far our little girl has come.  She continually amazes me.  I am once again at the beginning of the adventure with Malcolm and when I look to see what I need to test and what I need to train I find Emma is so much further along than I ever thought.

Emma is doing a wonderful job of just sleeping with me at night and not getting in trouble.  I am not ready to add to her freedom just yet, but I am pleased with how she does with each new level of freedom she's gained.  She is calming the more she gains the freedom and as a result I am seeing a dog who is maturing in a darling adult.

I am also seeing a teen who desires and even needs regular reassurance she is still loved.  When Malcolm first arrived she spent the entire first day just standing before me with her head just below her shoulders and staring at my life I had shot her pet.  She did the same on the second day.  I kept telling her and showing her that she was still loved and a part of the family.  She has moved past that, but at times just needs me to focus on and give her attention after the amount of time I must give to Malcolm to raise him to be the same polite and lovely dog she's become.

But with Malcolm's arrival has been a greater desire to please and thus a greater desire to join me in any game I ask of her.  Her confidence has soared and her attentiveness has also.  She's rushed in several times when I dropped something and picked it up to just see the smile and happiness on my face.  Emma is facing the "your not the baby anymore" syndrome and it's been maturing her.

Today we worked with a visiting friend on the Come Game.  We need to play it with more people she doesn't know so if she does get out of the house by accident she can be caught without issue and returned home.  She loved the dickens out of Brady and Shari after a bit.  At one point we looked over and she was in Brady's lap with her head tipped up and was gazing lovenly at him.  It was too funny.

She got a lot of play time today with Malcolm, since it was Malcolm's play day.  She is getting better at taking breaks during play and she's correcting his over the top play appropriately.  She is still getting a bit to wound up from time to time and I need to apply a time out to calm both of them down, but she is doing a lot of give and take and it's developing into healthy and appropriate play.

In the afternoon I tested her on Down/Stay.  She flew through!  I had her lay down in the hall and did each step.  She was rock solid and so relaxed I was totally floored by her.  What a wonderful surprise!  We'll continue to test - but she's looking really solid on her most important basic skills.  I am very pleased with this.

Not only has she passed Level 3 Down, but she flew through it.  All the foundation work of Sit/Stay and Down/Stay in Level 2 made this level a breeze for her.  That and I have been asking for and getting all kinds of Down/Stays with her around the house and yard when I really need it for something I am doing.

Part of the Come Afters was to have her do a Down/Stay at the front door with it open and my step out of her line of sight 3 times.  Not only did she do a Down/Stay this way, but the whole damn household did!  See, door manners matter.

I have also been implementing releasing each dog by name instead of as a group.  When I am leaving with a particular dog I want that dog to move out the door, but not the herd.  Emma still jerks a bit when I release Max (I have not mixed up the order of release yet, that should trip them up) but she is catching herself and showing remarkable impulse control.  Very nice.

It's nice to see Emma tall and confident.  After months of her slinking and hiding and giving fear signs at any little thing - it's so nice to see her up and bright and eager.  It's a wonderful change from the pre-teen who was so moody.  I have high hopes for the final stages of Emma's training.  She's turning into an amazing dog.

Today when Shari and Brady came over she didn't jump on them and remaind calm in her greeting.  I was very pleased since I had not leashed her when they came in the house.  I did go out to greet them and give them instructions on how to keep Emma's feet down and to reward her for four on the floor.  They never had to deal with the jumping, but did reward her for good behavior on my instruction.

I would suggest the family do the same.  Have treats ready and her leashed when company comes over.  Stand on the leash so it is long enough for her feet to JUST leave the ground, but not long enough to jump onto the company.  When she stops her jumping and sits, have the company reward her with a treat and attention.  If she jumps have them remove the attention and wait for calm.  It took time here, but consistently rewarding only calm with anyone who came into the house has started to keep her feet on the floor 90% of the time.

We practice this nightly when Ronda picks up Jack.  This past two weeks I've leashed her and stood on the leash to further explain it's the jumping we want to stop and the being calm when greeting that gets the attention.  It sunk in and today I let Ronda in with Emma off leash.  I insist the dogs are all in a sit (except Dieter, since his last back injury sitting has become uncomfortable for him) and for them to wait for permission to say hi.  Once given Emma is to walk to the person and keep her feet on the floor.  By enforcing this consistently we have managed to get where I was going - except with her family.

The difference is, when my company comes in they don't make eye contact with her, they wait for her to be calm and they don't talk to her.  I am going to have to insist the family give me time to calm Emma and let her recover her mind when they pick her up and to give her the chance to calm and get her mind when they drop her off.  If we can happy, wiggly, not lunging, bouncy greetings with beloved family we'll have a consistent greeting behavior.  As it is, she still tends to wind up and jump if too much excitement is brought into the greeting.  This excitement can bleed into public work and I want to help her contain herself so it won't.

She is getting better and now rarely jumps on me and most of the time has all four feet on the floor.  Like I said, she's becoming a wonderful adult dog!


I no longer see this, but instead a confident and bold dog who
loves helping and knows her job.
By this time in the week I am exhausted and my training goes from formal to practical (meaning, instead of sitting and working a lesson plan I work what she knows in a daily living routine).  Thought out the day I ask her to pick up some thing I have dropped or call her to me to help in what ways she knows already.  I also spend this end part of the week just cuddling and loving on her and letting her process what she's learned.  It is about the time of the week I introduced a new concept for her to mull for the weekend for the next week's lessons.

Malcolm was not feeling well and had the scoots a bit.  I had given him a fish oil capsule the night before and it worked to clear out his behind nicely.  We spent almost the entire day in the yard, which was perfect because we are working steadily on yard manners.

Emma, like most dogs, has decided that she must defend her yard.  I don't mind this too much, but it can be over the top when dealing with four or five dogs.  She has learned to watch the neighbor children and even the next door neighbors through the fence without barking (she sticks her nose through the wire and watches intently) and she even stands at the gate watching people pass now in silence a majority of the time - it's dogs loose in the neighborhood and cats loose in the neighborhood that send her into fits of barking.

Since, as my blog has stated all along, I am dealing with a loose dog issue (not just the ones directly next door, but there is another that lives down the street too) and I cannot control the neighbors dog or insist they keep their dog on only one side of their home, I have decided to train all of my dogs to ignore dogs outside of the fence.

I started an intensive training plan for them in regards to this.  It's called the Three Bark Rule or in my case the Thank You training I do for barking issues.  Since I had out of control dogs when the loose dog came into sight, I knew I had to find a way to tell them what I wanted.  Thursday was intensive Thank You training day.

Each time they spotted the dog and were within sight of me I would call out "Thank You" and then call them to me.  Since each of them has a very strong recall and I had reworked recall with distractions all week, they were able to break away and come racing up to me.  I have my pockets and bra stuffed with treats and as they each approached I gave a treat for coming to me.  The "Thank You" no longer needs to be followed by a specific recall unless the individual dog is over threshold, at which point I need to go to the dog and redirect them to me.  Emma had a bad day on Wednesday, but Thursday the consistent recall and my going to her when she couldn't and rewarding her for attention on me and not the dogs helped.  She was recalling clear from the backyard and out of sight, even if she was in the midst of fence fighting with the neighbor dog.

By end of day I had found where our threshold is for the group - approximately 20 feet from the fence.  This is about halfway into the neighbors front yard - a huge improvement from half a block away.  I suspect each dog individually has a different threshold level, but the dog with the lowest threshold (meaning, greatest distance from the fence) is the dog who sets off everyone else.  I believe that dog is Max.

Emma at one point was okay with the neighbor dog (the little one) coming up to within 2 feet of the fence and only reacted when he did.  Max is still about halfway into the neighbors yard before he's unable to handle the dog getting any closer.  Cats still need to be in Russia for him to be calm - though he can ignore my cat, stray cats in the neighborhood when he's not working are a continual issue.

At one point Emma came racing up to me to share a prize she'd found.  Remember I had removed dead vines from my gardens and placed them in the mulch pile behind my garage.  Emma found a squash baby on one of the vines and brought it from the mulch pile to me and let me see it.  I gratefully examined it and returned it to her, at which point she promptly went off and ate it.  It won't hurt her and I have off and on thrown veggies from my gardens to her and the other dogs all summer.

I had also dropped a couple of straws from my Latte (I spoiled myself with one Wednesday on my way home from an errand) and she found them.  I was talking with Ronda when she spotted Emma chewing on the straw.  I called out, "What'chya got?  Can you bring it here?" and she did!  She ran a good 40 feet to hand me the straw!  I thanked her for it and traded her for a treat.  She was very pleased.

I have gone to extremes to show her I don't want her jumping on company and worked on that everyday.  I had been leashing her when Ronda came to the door to pick up Jack and by Wednesday no longer needed to leash her.  She's not jumping on Ronda and her over excitement reaction to company is turning into a more appropriate greeting.  She is heavily rewarded with affection for calm greeting behaviors and given treats off and on for extremely good self control - such as starting to jump and choosing not too.

Since my day job as a web developer has ended and my final paycheck from that job was banked earlier in the week, I need to find ways to replace the income I have lost.  I am therefore taking on any side jobs offered when I can.  A family friend has a Currier business and asked me if I could do a run for him - the pay for the run is badly needed and I agreed.  This meant my end of day changed from the norm.

Walter came over to meet his little brother.  Emma and the dogs were out and I was very pleased to see that even though she was jumping some, it was not on him, but beside him.  She did a lot of sit and vibrate and got loads of treats for self checks on jumping.  Walter was impressed.  Ronda arrived at 5 to pick up Jack and again Emma did a fantastic job of keeping her feet to herself.  She's starting to self regulate and just needs more practice to make this a life long change.

I packed up supplies for Malcolm and Max for the trip to Lewiston, Idaho and set the house up for success for Emma.  I fed the dogs, gave them one last potty out and left the house at about 5:40 PM.  I did not return home again until 1:30 AM and found Emma both calm and happy and my home fully intact.  Emma has officially become a dog who can stay alone for extended periods without separation anxiety and can be trusted loose in my home.  She now needs to be taught the same at her home.

Our nights sleeping loose in my bedroom continue to be without incident and I am seeing a calmer and happier dog for the freedom she's earned.  I am very proud of this little dog!


At 14 weeks Emma didn't know anything - not even how
to answer to her name.  What amazing changes have happened
for her!
Since I arrived at 1:30 AM from work the night before and couldn't get to sleep until 3:30 AM, waking at 7 AM was painfully hard.  Malcolm woke me by fussing in his crate.  I staggered out of bed and let the house out to potty.  I had taken care of the garbage cans when I came home the night before and therefore didn't have to do the mad dash to get recycling and garbage out for garbage day.  I also didn't bother with leashing up Malcolm.  It was cold and I knew he wouldn't take long outside when he's just woken from his warm crate.

Jack arrived just prior to 8 AM and the dogs were fed by 8:10 AM with me still staggering and so rummy from lack of sleep I couldn't hardly move.  I let them play until 8:50 AM and as Malcolm started to settle in for his morning nap took him to his night crate and crated him up.  I set the alarm for 11:00 AM and turned on The Closer on the DVD player and stretched out with Dieter, Jack, Emma and Max on the bed with me.  What I forgot to do was gate the bedroom - I was that tired.

Emma was free to explore as I drifted off to sleep.  I had left one of the cat's toys down - a foam rubber soccer ball - and when I woke I found bits and pieces of it everywhere and Emma laying next to me looking all innocent - except for a bit of the foam rubber in her beard.  It looks like I will need to spice one of them with hot sauce and leave it for her to find and just make them unappealing as a rip and shred toy.

But, as I quietly picked up bits of foam rubber around the house and found the remains of the ball in the big crate, I realized this is the first time in almost a month I've had to clean up some shredded item in my house.  Her rip and shred days seem to be passing, but this toy was just too much temptation when I was sleeping.

I woke just prior to her owner calling and arranging to pick her up early.  She normally has her "think on this" lesson on Friday's so she has the weekend to mull and fuss over what I am asking of her, but I couldn't think straight today and so just worked on yard manners again.  She isn't ripping, shredding or eating everything in sight in the yard either.  She's no longer raiding the recycle bin or digging up the flower beds or barking at every sight in the neighborhood.  It's really starting to become a no muss no fuss job of having her just play in the yard.  When the loose dog appeared she barked three times and turned to me as if asking "now I come to you?"  I told her good girl and she raced to me for her reward.

She spun on a dime when she went to race to bark at something else and I said her name too.  It's amazing how spot on her recall is becoming.  She loves running to me and getting her rewards - in another week I can start randomizing from giving a treat for breaking away from some distraction.

How far this dog has come.  She's calmer and happier than I have ever seen her.  She loves training now and enjoys her cuddles and even if something startles her she recovers quickly.  She runs to me when something drops now because she might need to pick it up and she's starting to do a default retrieve (a goal of mine for her - which means she'll never have a default leave it) and she's moving away from unruly pre-teen/teenager into young adult dog nicely.

Her pre-teen/teenage months were hard for her.  She went through so many changes emotionally and mentally during that time.  There was a point, when she was 10 and 11 months old I feared she'd career change and now I see a dog whose ready to start the harder public access lessons I need to do and has really come into her confidence.  Wow!  Nice job, Ms. Emma!

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 Completed 2 Completed 2
Jump Relax Handling Tricks Communication
Step 1 4 Completed Completed Completed

Level 3
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 3 Completed 2 1 1
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 Completed 0 4 0
Jump Relax Handling Retrieve Communication
Step Completed 2 Completed Completed 1

Level 4
Zen Come Retrieve Target Relax
Step Completed 1 Completed 0 1
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 1 Completed 0 5 0
Handling Communication

Step Completed 0

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