Friday, November 1, 2013

13 Months: Training - Days 205 - 209

Emma has become a retrieving fool!
We are in the final push with Emma.  She's got a solid foundation which just needs roadwork and she's getting solid tasks built.  She has her primary task trained, Retrieve, and is learning her secondary tasks.  I am so impressed with how well she came out of her teenage funk and how strong an adult dog she's turning into, but she won't be graduating before she's 18 months old.  She's about to begin work toward her Canine Good Citizen test and will soon be evaluated on her Public Access Test regarding her public skills once we get a bit more road work in.  What an odd feeling to be on this side of her training only 209 days after starting.  People ask me how long does it take to train a service dog and I tell them between 18 months and 2 years, but the truth is a life time.  Even after her graduation Emma will need continued education and refresher training on tasks she doesn't use daily and to keep her mind sharp.

When Emma graduates this blog will no longer be maintained by me and I truly hope the family keeps her fans updated on her progress and her work as a service dog and what it means to her handler to have the independence she offers him.


It was a scary fire!
I have mentioned this on every blog I am writing - Mondays are now my paperwork day.  By Friday the thought of spending the weekend doing paperwork is simply unappealing and I am mentally unable to face it.  I try during the week to spend a bit of time working on the blogs, but weeks like last week happen and I find I am unable to keep up or even get close to the computer.  Thus, Mondays are paperwork day and practicing being calm and relaxed in the office while I work throughout the day.  That skill is as important as all the others we are working on its a perfect time for everyone to catch up on their weekend and get a good start on a quiet week in my home.

Emma is getting better about approaching me when coming back on the first day of the week.  Her owner is working very hard on getting her to me on a loose leash and calm.  The last 4 feet are extremely hard for Emma, but I work hard on not giving her anymore stimulation approaching me by not making eye contact, reaching for her or talking to her.  She does this sudden burst of excitement getting to me in those last steps and it can take up to 5 minutes to pass her over to me.  This is better than before when she couldn't take a single step without trying to bounce or rush.

Today I saw she was highly distracted by the smells and sights of the yard and I am not surprised.  We had a fire next door over the weekend.  I am certain she was trying to problem solve the scents she was picking up.  The neighbors garage burned and the smell of the fire is still thick in the air.  She'll be immune to it by nightfall.

She was thrilled to meet Jack and Malcolm again and a rousing game of play happened before breakfast.  After that we worked on food bowl Zen with all but Malcolm (he is crated when I feed him) and everyone did a great job.

Since she is practicing relaxation today I am very happy with her quietly keeping to the office most of the time.  Sometimes she spots something out of my front window and has to bark at it and set the house off, so I am working on her not setting off an alarm whenever she sees something.

The good news is, since the fire, the stray dog in the neighborhood has been removed.  We won't be dealing with all of the fence fighting we had been for the past few weeks.  I can't express how happy I am to announce that!

Tonight she'll be left loose in the house while I attend Malcolm's first class.  Starting next week she'll have the house open to her while I sleep.  This will be the last of her earned freedoms and this final week of being gated in the bedroom should cement proper nighttime behavior.

Here we go with another exciting week!

I call this her "But what about Debi" look.
Everyone needs a token Adams Family

Emma is feeling a bit out of place with Malcolm's arrival.  She was the baby in the house until he arrived.  She has regressed a bit, just like an older sibling does when a new baby is brought home.  I am not surprised or worried by this development, just aware she is feeling left out with how much time Malcolm takes.

She has been doing a lot more attention seeking behavior and has regressed to some destructive behavior.  I felt that training at this point is less important than spending time with her and just reassuring her that she is still part of the family.  Remember, train the dog that shows up.

I had a power point presentation to polish and did that in the morning while Malcolm slept beside me in the office with the other dogs.  The day of working on paperwork had gotten the whole group to relax and not wrestle when in the office with me.  Emma would sometimes come and nudge my harm or put her nose under the arm of my chair and on my lap, but with a bit of affection she'd return to laying nearby and rest.

In the afternoon I had an appointment for Malcolm at the vet.  He was due for the last of his shots so he can attend his first class at Diamonds in the Ruff.  I crated Jack and left Max, Emma and Dieter loose in the house.

My trip to the vet too much longer than expected.  A client was there and asked if I could attend her dog's vet evaluation.  I agreed and didn't return home until after Jack was picked up.  Ronda, who has access to my home, let everyone out for a bit of play and potty and then returned them to the house and took Jack home.

When I returned home I found the first sign of destruction after being left home alone.  Emma pulled some molding from beside one of my mirrors and chewed it in my chair.  Note taken.  I spent the rest of the night cuddling with her and letting her and Malcolm play.


She wanted more attention so we spent
the day cuddling and playing.
It has been crazy busy.  I am behind on callbacks and paperwork and I am frazzled and feel like I am demented half the time with the spin in a circle and hope I got it all done while the puppy isn't eating the house mode.  This means that a bit of stress still exists in the house and Emma is very sensitive to stress.  It's a Poodle thing and I have seen many Labradors who are also highly sensitive.  This sensitivity can lead to a higher than normal awareness of changes in routine.

Emma felt that change when I left right after waking to take Malcolm to Jumpstart at Diamonds in the Ruff with Stacy.  It's a way of providing socialization for the puppy, some professional training for the puppy and to give the puppy parent a break.  With Malcolm, I seriously needed the break.

When I returned from dropping him off (less than an hour later) Emma has started to remove more molding from beside my mirror.  This is a not a good sign and I told her I understood she was more stressed than normal, but I would need to crate her for the time I was out for a lecture I had to do.

I had asked that Jack not come for the day because I knew I would be out of the house a lot.  I took the wonderful long hour of just sipping coffee and watching all of the adult dogs sigh in relief with Malcolm out of the house.  I then showered, talked to a friend and packed up for the lecture.

I crated Emma in the big crate in the living room (it used to be in the kitchen, but I have been redoing the house) and headed out for my lecture.  On my return 3 hours later she was calm and relaxed and I had abated a pattern of destruction developing in the house.  I will have to restart her at shorter intervals alone in the house again and rebuild her good behavior - this should go quickly.

I did not train her.  I spent the rest of the day playing with her, cuddling and giving her the attention she needed.  It's important that she's emotionally able to handle stress and if she's showing destructive behaviors, which includes destuffing a stuffed toy for the first time in ages.  She needed attention and affection more than training at that point.

She enjoyed curling up with me and being told she's a good girl and I could see the confidence that had been ebbing this week return slowly.  Sometimes you just have to tell the older sibling you still love them.


She enjoys playing with Malcolm,
even if he thinks her tail is a tug.
Emma was up and happy again this morning.  My day was planned to spend at home and I had the energy to give them all a good round of training.  I had been plotting the best way to train a herd of dog all week and believe I have found the best solution.  This morning I woke and served up half of Malcolm's breakfast and trained him.  I was almost done when Jack arrived.  After that I served up a portion of Jack's breakfast and trained him and did the same with Max and Emma.

For Emma I worked on Down/Stay with distractions.  I put her on a mat in a down and worked around the house banging on walls, whistling and opening the front door and closing it.  I knocked on doors and yelled and did all kinds of weird things.  She's too smart, she just laid their with her tail wagging as I walked by and tossed treats between her front feet.  I slowly worked to being out of her line of sight and returning and making more strange noises.  She did a fantastic job and was clearly enjoying the exercise.

For Lunch I worked Malcolm for his meal and then Jack and Emma for a large handful of treats.  Emma worked on Down/Stay again and I worked her on the mat again to make what I was asking more clear.  I put her in the same spot in the living room and moved 15 feet away for ten seconds.  I then moved her to the entry and did another ten second stay with me in the kitchen and partially hidden by the fridge.  I then moved her in the office where she could almost see me for another 10 second stay.  I then put her in the office so she could no longer see me and did a 10 second and then 30 second down/stay out of sight.  She flew through the training.

We ended with learning to go into the big crate and lay down and then exit on cue.  We did that for a while and then worked on relaxing in the crate with the door open, in the crate with the door just shut but not latched and finally in the crate with the door latched.  When I latched the door she stood and I waited for her to start relaxing again.  I fed her treats through the bars of the crate and as she sat, laid down and finally put her chin on her feet I began adding duration between relaxing and getting a reward.

When I ended the session (about 5 minutes total) she didn't want to come out of the crate.  This is a great sign.  We are at the stage where I can actively train crate and how to relax in the crate because we are primarily out of management by crate and into learning to enjoy the crate as a rare thing that happens in her job as a service dog.

For dinner I introduced the idea of standing against the wall to turn on or off a light switch.  I took her into my bedroom and gated the rest of the dogs outside.  She was willing to stand on the wall, but not willing to take kibble for a reward.  I was okay with that and simply went and got a higher value treat for her - she's been iffy on taking kibble as a reward for new tasks in the past and I can understand if she needs higher payment for something that increases her stress levels.

At first she was really happy and glad to be working on this new skill, that is until Malcolm knocked the gate over on himself and freaked her out.  It took a lot of work to reassure her she was safe touching the wall and again she was beyond being able to take treats.  We worked on some easier behaviors to get her taking treats and worked again, but Malcolm clawing at the door was too high of a stressor for her and after a particularly good success I simply had a big party with her and gave her loads of cuddles.

I'll have to work this until she is confident with it when Malcolm is asleep - he's just too bold and in your face for her liking when she's learning.  Mind you, when he dropped the gate on himself he didn't even yelp - he just backed out from under it and went to cross it.  They are two very different personalities and Emma's softer personality doesn't handle bold and boisterous Malcolm when learning.

What a joy for her boy when she can start turning on and off lights at his request.  He should by now be able to ask for some items that have dropped and have them given to him.  As each new task is trained and proofed he'll be gaining those benefits and getting something so many his age takes for granted - a chance to do something himself without having another human do it for him.  How wonderful for him!


Off to the groomers.  Have a good
weekend, Little Girl.
Emma has grooming this Friday and thus will receive no formal training before being taken to the groomers.  After a long week of being on and off with her moods Emma woke this morning a bit more confident and happy than she has most of the week.  Good to see.

Emma is in a stage of life where her moods vary day to day and sometimes minute to minute.  She's in the last of her teenage months and as she approaches her adulthood she'll enter one more major fear period between 16 and 18 months.  With Emma this period may last longer - as did her last major fear period which lasted from 6 months to 12 months instead of 7 months to 9 months.  That is okay, I will just nurture her through this phase and wait for the stronger and more confident dog who emerges.

I am looking forward to this final push into adulthood and seeing her continue to grow and mature into the fine dog she's becoming.

Next week she'll have freedom to the entire house during the night for the first time.  Wish her luck!

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 3 Completed Completed Completed

Level 3
Zen Come Sit Down Target
Step 3 Completed 2 4 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 0 Completed 0 0
Focus Lazy Leash Go To Mat Crate Distance
Step 0 Completed 0 5 0
Handling Communication

Step Completed 0

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