Sunday, November 17, 2013

14 Months: Training - Days 215 - 218

Emma at 14 weeks of age.

Emma came into my life when she was 14 weeks old.  She was a bit shell shocked and frightened the first night.  She didn't know me or my son and she certainly didn't know the dogs in the house.  She was starting a journey she didn't understand and it took the first few days she was with me before she even felt safe enough to take food from my hand.

Emma is still shy and easily withdraws when stressed.  She's required gentle care and confidence building to get her where she is.  The last time I started to see a bit of shyness manifest into minor fear reactions I didn't take heed of her gentle nature and special need for care and accidentally pushed her too far to fast and she shutdown on me.  It was at the top of her fear period and we spent months rebuilding from that point - I was not about to let that happen to her again.

When I saw those beginning signs again last week, recognized I was part of the problem with my frustration levels too high and her triggering off of my holding my breath, I took the end of the week off and just gave her the attention and affection she needed to recover her confidence.  So, when she arrived excited and happy to return to my home I was happy for the effort I put in keeping her mood up.

We had a great start on our morning with training for Left and Right and working mat behaviors with the other dogs.  She ate well and was in a happy and confident mood.  It was fantastic to see.  When I let her and Jack out to play and run off some energy I wasn't expecting our day to end with a visit to the vet.

She went racing at 110 miles an hour along the length of the property, went to run around the end of my house like she's done a thousand times and lost her footing.  I didn't see her, but I heard her hit.  I was standing on my porch when I heard the impact followed by a scream.  It wasn't a yowl, howl or yelp, but a scream of pain.

By the time I came down the ramp Jack was slowly escorting her around the front of the house and she was hobbling with the leg she'd injured previously and looking like her world had ended.  I felt sick.

I rubbed her leg out and asked her to walk.  She put her foot down, but didn't bear weight on it and then she limped away.  My sick went to fear she'd re-injured her leg.  I called the vet and confirmed they wanted her in that night and packed her up after a call to her owner.

It turns out it wasn't a tear, break or dislocation, but a serious strain.  When I got her home, on medication for the strain, I massaged out her back and hip.  She was clearly swollen from the ribs to the knee.  Poor baby.

But the strain also meant she was to be restricted on her activity.  I had to leash relieve her and not let her run through the yard for the rest of the week.  I feared that with just getting her confidence built up we'd loose it again with forced inactivity.

What I didn't expect was her having forgotten all of her leash relieving skills.  She refused to potty on leash the rest of that day and ended up peeing on (yes, on) my power chair during the night.  Emma is one of those female dogs who raises her leg to pee on things - I've seen her do it on my fence and on plants when she's marking behind the boy dogs.  I keep telling people she's been at a disadvantage being the only girl dog in the family since April - she started lifting her leg during the summer after Attitude died.

I know it was her by two factors - the pee hit higher than Dieter can ever imagine to aim and was lower than Max aims - Malcolm is not peeing on things yet and is crated at night.  There was more pee than Dieter produces and the wrong color and less than Max produces.


Emma at 5 months of age.
She held out on peeing on leash until noon.  After that she did both jobs without hesitation.  She was convinced she'd wear me down and let her off lead, but learned I am more than willing to take her out every 30 minutes until she pees and/or poops.

As the day progressed she became more excitable, which is a fallback to restricted activity.  She tried a few times to start a game in the house, but quickly stopped when I said her name and came to me for a massage instead.

We worked on her Left and Right skills again and mat behavior with the other dogs.  She's enjoying this type of training and getting very good at it.  I had to do some research to find a better way to train the behavior, but she's getting it slowly.

I did a lot of emotional support with her to keep her mood up.  I didn't want this injury to set her back emotionally and massages and reassurance she was doing good by being quiet helped her.  She was in a good mood most of the day, though she was getting more and more wound up without being able to release her energy.  She's a high energy dog, though she can and does settle nicely in the house, she needs time to just run off the energy she builds up to be in balance.

One thing that has been a consistent problem with her is her jumping.  She gets excited about anything and she's bouncing off the walls like she's eaten a pound of sugar.  Touching her personnel leash from her home sends her into spasms of excitement.  Each time I seem to defuse it we loose ground and she is back at zero with her leash.  This week I was using her leash to take her out and simply would pick it up and sit and watch TV until she was past jumping, past spasms of excitement and past vibrating in place trying to keep her butt on the floor.  The first time it took fifteen minutes.

We spent a majority of the day on calm getting her leash on, calm going to the door, calm going out the door, calm going to the grass to pee, calm coming into the house and calm once off leash in the house.  It's a hard lesson she's been working on all her life.  A high pitched voice, directly looking in her eye, or even a new person sends her into bouts of jumping and barking with excitement.  It's a major issue for Emma.

I was very tired by the end of the day waiting for Emma to calm enough to take her outside and potty her, running Malcolm out every 20 to 40 minutes when he asked out and taking Jack out.  I was also in extreme pain by dinner time for the dogs and Emma was more than ready to rough house if I took my concentration off of her and Malcolm.  It's busy here during the week.


Emma at 9 months of age.
Emma moved from 15 minutes to 10 minutes before she could calm enough to be taken out the first time in the morning.  No pee in the house, since she was once again emptying her bladder before bed, but she was even easier to hype up than the day before.  Poor girl is full of energy and no outlet.

We worked again on Left and Right - the beginning of her being directed to pick up something for her handler when he cues her.  She understood the lesson better this time, but was so excited about training her head looked like it was on a swivel.  I spent more time waiting for her to look at me than I did getting her to indicate the hand I wanted her too.

She was willing to engage the training and not showing fear signs, so I was managing to keep her mood up with the regular massages and lots of reassurance she was okay.  She was playful, her head up, her tail up and her body tall.  It was good to see that confident girl back after the week of slinking around my house just before this one.

Walter came over to do my floors in the afternoon.  Emma has learned that Walter will not pay attention to her until she's sitting and she immediately planted beside him vibrating like a toy when I told him we were working on the next level of calm.  Max greets Walter by turning sideways and leaning on him with his head down, but not so over the threshold of excitement he is out of control - it's a good greeting.  Emma needs to learn to greet in a nice soft body and then leave the guest alone - so I asked Walter to ignore her until she was calm.  I love my son, he did just that.

Poor Emma nearly exploded moving and sitting beside him vibrating in place for almost 30 minutes before she gave up and went into her normal calm behavior in the house.  He then gave her attention and when she wound into the ceiling again, he withdrew attention until she calmed.  This time it took only 5 minutes.  Much better.

She is okay with the vacuum and steamer, but also checked in with me off and on when she was a bit worried about it.  With a pat on the ribs and reassurance she was safe she went and watched Walter do the floors.

I had to go to a job interview in the afternoon and Walter watched the dogs.  I had informed him of her injuring herself and the need to take her out on lead.  What I forgot to do was inform Ronda, who knew of the interview, that Walter would be there and the dogs would not be crated when she arrived to get Jack.  She let herself in and accidentally let Emma loose.  Thankfully she did not set her recovery back, both Walter and Ronda rounded her up after a couple of round around the house.


Emma at 13 months of age.
Emma was in a fantastic mood on Friday.  She was down to 5 minutes before calming enough to be leashed and walking out of house and was walking nicely by my side and promptly doing her business.  Nice job.

She was ready for her "think on this" lesson for the weekend, so I introduced to her the idea of taking her bowl in her mouth.  We started with a bit of target and waited for her to offer mouthing it.  I didn't care if she took it and held it, I just wanted her to think that she could maybe pick up her bowl herself.  I'll revisit the idea during next week and see if I can't get her to pick up and hand me her bowl when she's done eating.

By the end of the day were were down to 2 minutes before calming enough to leash her and walking without launching out of the door.  I went out the gate with her to check the mail and she immediately put her nose to the ground.  I just shorted the leash so her nose couldn't reach and waited for her to bring her attention back to me before taking her back in the yard.  It worked and I will suggest that to her owner, who struggles on Monday's when delivering her to the house with her sniffing and lack of focus.  Her owner struggles with this weekly and I had to think of how to explain to her what to do without frustrating both her and the dog.  I think this will work best for both.

Near the end of the day she was pinging off of my bladder when I touched her leash.  We had gotten so good with the leash and she escalated.  I wasn't surprised, so I just wrapped her leash over my neck and wore it for the last hour and half she was with me.  When I saw the caretaker pull up outside I just clipped it on her and walked her out.

That was when she lost it.  The caretaker is fantastic about waiting quietly at the base of the ramp for Emma and giving me time to work her calmly to her.  Emma on the other hand, due to the shadows and it being nearly dark, was in bark and escalate mode and it took a bit to calm her down.  I did a lot of laps with her before she got to the caretaker and I could pass her off.

I need to think of a better way of explaining calm greeting behaviors with people with Emma.  Off to research some more!

Emma is progressing nicely but I want to take it slowly when doing her final public access training.  Until now she's been on more of a socialization run when out in public, but now she's ready to begin working in public and practicing her skills as she has them.  This needs to be taken slow with her because of her soft nature and tenancy to become fearful and shutdown when she's uncertain of her role.  I need to define her role clearly and build her confidence and lower her excitability when working in public to build her into a solid public access dog.

Next week will be pet friendly only locations so our expectations can be lower without her appearing untrained when learning her role as a public access dog working with a wheelchair.  I want to start with one or two outings a week and work up to daily outings by the time she graduates.  This slow build up to more outings and longer periods out in public should give her the foundation introduction to public access work will keep her from becoming overwhelmed and allow her to process and learn instead of being flooded.

We'll finish up polishing her basic skills in public and her retrieve skills before adding many more tasks.  Once she can take direction by body or eye movement and she can do a full wheelchair retrieve I'll build on it to give her a wide range of retrieve skills and then build her other basic task skills for helping her handler.  This is an exciting time for 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 3 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 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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