Sunday, November 24, 2013

14 Months: Training - Days 219 - 223

If you look, she's not taller than my end table.  She's fully grown.

Poor sweet Emma is uncertain what her role in the house is.  She can move from up and happy to down and mopey in a flash and has whole days where she is uncertain and worried.  She's in her final major fear period and it's like raising a teenage girl in the house.  She is, for the most part, a happy girl, but she is so sensitive to people's moods and emotions and even the slightest rise in their voice that she ducks and covers and then peers out to see if returning is a good idea.  She's been this way since her infancy and I don't see it changing much.

When she learns a skill and knows what is expected of her she stands tall and shows true confidence and there are a lot of areas where she is very confident, but with people and loud noises she has a fluctuating response.

When she wasn't much older than Malcolm I accidentally dropped a bowl right before her which clattered and clanged and sent her flying for the hills.  It took almost 6 months for her to recover from that single instance and I spent a lot of time talking with my trainer friends on helping her recover and regain her confidence with metal bowls.

The difference in her reactions to the world at Malcolm's age and Malcolm's is night and day.  Malcolm is not Emma and Emma will never be Malcolm.  That means I need to deal with Emma for who she is.  She is a loving, trusting girl who enjoys cuddles and needs fine small slices and slow approaches to new ideas to build her confidence.

Monday was not the day for that.  Not for anything Emma did.  She arrived in a happy and upbeat mood and was feeling her oats as a young dog.  She gleefully ran through the yard and played with Malcolm and Jack and tried to bring the play session into the house with her.  She loves play above and beyond anything else.

But with all of that playful youthfulness comes a high spirit of energy and bouncing and getting so excited she gets beyond being able to listen.  With a young, high energy and playful puppy in the house she's twice as likely to forget her manners.  Having her and Malcolm in the house together is like having two toddlers with a pound of sugar in each one.  Its a lot of management and I am exhausted before the day even begins.

As you know, I write up both Malcolm and Jack's blogs as well and have detailed Monday in them - I will simply copy and paste what I wrote in Jack's blog regarding Monday to share it with you.  It was a day unlike any I have had in a long time.

On Monday I was in so much pain I couldn't function.  Emma and Jack are both very sensitive to people's emotions and their natural reaction is to provide comfort, but what I truly needed was for them to either lay near me or somewhere other than on me.  They both wanted nothing more than to be on me.

It started with my arms burning and feeling heavy.  They felt like someone had put a spike through my wrist up to my elbow.  Nothing relieved the pain for almost 2 hours.  Both Jack and Emma wanted nothing more than to make me feel better by cuddling, but their touch was more than I could handle.  Poor babies just didn't understand why I kept asking them to go elsewhere.

Shortly after my arms stopped hurting so badly my left leg started.  It was after only a few steps that it felt like I was tearing the tendons and muscles on both sides of my ankle, my right ankle felt much the same but not as sharply.  Soon it was a sense of swelling on the outside of the leg, followed by the same burning and throbbing my arms had done.  It was right after that it felt like someone had run a spike from my heel to my hip and every step was pure agony.

I was using my cane, which makes Emma a bit nervous at first, but shortly I had her and Jack following me like I was their mother.  Each turn and each step was met with both of them glued to me.  By noon I was near tears and by 3 PM I wanted to scream.  Training was not an option for any of the dogs - though I had made an effort, I simply hurt too much to do anything.

At 3 PM I took a hydrocodone, even though I knew it would knock me into next week and leave me with a grumpy hang over the next day.  I tend to not take it unless I can sleep it off, but I didn't have that option.  I had, by 1 PM given up on walking - I simply couldn't take another step.  I was using the power chair and was truly happy to see that it seemed to relieve Jack and Emma's stress.  They no longer were trying to hover on me and were happy again.

I was happy to see their heads up, instead of held in the "apology" position.  Their tails were up, which was a marked improvement from the tucked position they'd been until then.  They were giving me soft mouths and relaxed bodies and their energy was up.  I hate seeing them in the "I don't know what to do" body language.  It is sad to see and hurts my heart.

So, for all of them, they had a chance to practice working around different mobility equipment.  Emma and Jack are no longer afraid of the wheelchair and have learned how to move out of the way and not cause issues when I use it in the house.  This was the longest I have ever used it in the home and the more I used it the more comfortable they all became.

At one point Malcolm dropped my cane, which had been resting against my recliner by the crate, on his head.  He looked at it, took it by the strap and raced across the house with it.  Emma had jumped and bolted behind me, but quickly returned to watch Malcolm pick up the cane and run off with it.  The normal "that was too much" reaction she gives when something falls and she wasn't expecting it was replaced with curiosity as she watched Malcolm turn the cane into a toy.  How interesting Malcolm is showing her that loud or scary things to her are not and she's gaining confidence seeing it.

Malcolm had class that night.  Ronda decided to take me to class since she was afraid I would be too out of it to drive safely.  I fed the dogs and was once again proud of Emma for moving the metal bowl across the floor without flinching or being worried about it.  I then setup the house for success,  placed a couple of puzzle toys out for her and Max and headed to Malcolm's class.

When I returned Emma had enjoyed the puzzle toys with Max and was in a relaxed and happy mood.  She had not chewed on anything she shouldn't.  I rebuilt her being alone in the house loose and was happy to see she is once again back to be okay when I go.


This makes fun ice cubes for the dogs
and can be purchased on Amazon.
Each night when I put the dogs to bed I give them a ice cube made of chicken broth and water (50/50 mixture) which I freeze in a tray called a Kong Easy Freeze tray.  They love them.  It's like doggy crack for them.  Emma loves to try to eat them in my bed.  I tried to stop her after she went to get on my bed with her ice cube last week and she has been shy about the ice cube ever since.  I want her to enjoy the treat as much as my boys, so I am setting her up for success by walking her into the living room and making a big deal out of her getting her ice cube.  She's still shy about them, but she enjoys her cube and comes to me afterwards all wags and smiles.  It will probably take me 2 weeks to get her excited about her cube when I hand it to her again.

She enjoys the nights having freedom in the house and I find nothing out of place or chewed when I wake, so she has, since the beginning of November, had the run of the house at night.  She does get up and leaves my bed when I sleep.  I know because I will find a toy in my bed in the morning that wasn't there when I went to bed the night before.

I have not, yet, left socks where she can get to them when I am sleeping, but will start that in December.  Ever since she learned to retrieve she's started chewing on socks.  I am working her slowly to having access to socks (some are on the crate by the bed, but not on the floor) and will start one night a week leave her worn socks on the floor to give her a chance to make the right choice once she's okay with worn socks on the crate.  The socks on the crate now are clean socks without my body scent in them.

As expected Tuesday was a hang over day from the medication from the day before.  I was not in pain like I had been, but I was exhausted and my tolerance level was low.  Remember, the dogs are not doing anything more than being dogs and not getting in any real trouble, I was just beyond able to care for them unless they were resting quietly in the house.

Emma doesn't do well with this.  I curled up in my recliner to rest while Malcolm napped and asked Emma to join me.  She curled against my belly for a while and then let herself out of the chair and slept by me.  Later when I took a second nap she was able to curl up on my hip and sleep with me for a bit.  This seemed to help some, but what she really wanted was outside play and what I really couldn't provide was supervised outside play.

By the end of the day I was feeling a bit better.  After Jack had gone for the day I trained Malcolm the idea of finding the mat and parking on it.  I then took the lesson to the living room and worked until he was planted on the mat and waiting for me to toss him treats.  This gave me the chance to work with Emma on lifting my arm onto the arm rest of the chair.  She's short, even for my chair, and finds it hard to get my arm up and onto the arm rest.  I believe the last time I measured her height she's only about 19 inches tall, so the mechanics may be wrong for her height.  I need to ask the family if she gives his arm a boost can he use it to finish lifting his arm onto the arm rest or if she needs to completely lift it up herself.

I then worked on Left and Right with her again.  She's finally figured out what focus is for and settled in.  She's getting it, but we are early in the training.  For the 3 minutes with Left and Right and Malcolm on Mat behaviors.  It was a wonderful training session and Emma was alert, involved and happy.

At one point I went to let her and Max and Dieter outside for a quick potty break and she charged down the ramp and rolled Dieter, who yelped.  I stepped out and in a gruffer than normal voice told her to come back to me and then gently put her into the house.  I shut the door to time her out for a moment and when I opened the door she had peed a circle around my recliner.  It took almost 20 minutes to reassure her she was not in major trouble, but she wasn't allowed to charge and roll the 15 year old dog with a spine that can easily be injured.

I hate it when she goes from happy to sulky!  It just hurts to see her roller coaster between the two extremes.  She almost acts like I had her boyfriend arrested.  The moment I see her head ducked I need to back up and reassure her that my frown, raised voice or quick movements have nothing to do with her.  She is getting better at dealing with my emotions, but it's a balancing game to keep her up and happy most of the time.

I know it sounds like Emma is sulky or sad a majority of the time and that simply isn't true.  She has this happy relaxed smile that I cannot seem to capture on camera (because cameras are scary) and I see her tail up and wagging a lot.  She loves to run and I love to watch her do so.  Her outside times leave her breathless and joyful when we come back in the house.  She runs at top speed to me when I call and she spends a lot of her time following me with her head up and her eyes bright waiting for me to offer her a chance to help - but there is a disproportionate amount of time she is tucking her head and lowering her body when I stand or move.  I really want her confidence up enough that she doesn't feel like she needs to do that and I haven't found what is causing that emotion, outside of the fact I am in thought and I am frowning when it happens.  I cannot possibly smile all the time and expect people to be smiling all the time around her, so I am working on letting her know that just because I am in thought and frowning or I am upset with something it has nothing to do with her.  It's slow, but she's recovering faster and I am seeing her flash the tuck and duck more and the tuck and hide less, so I know I am making progress.

My goal for Emma is not only for her to be trained to do her job for her handler, but to enjoy it too.  When we were struggling for months with retrieve I was worried that the one most important part of her job would the one part she hated the most.  Once she learned what I wanted, how easy it was and that it made me happy, she was suddenly overjoyed to retrieve.  I am hoping for a emotional breakthrough with various, normal, moods in her humans and her being more stable in her moods herself.

Wednesday - Friday

She loves to run!
With my not feeling good at the top of the week Emma moods were hot and cold.  She was up and down and I wanted to stablize her.   I worked on her understanding that she's a good girl and she is making good choices.  I worked on that with her.  I also wanted her to work on simply doing things calmer.  Walking out the door, getting her leash on, greeting me or anything else in her life.  Calm meant a lot more time was involved before she could do anything.

She tends to jump and bounce and bark and dance and be wild when something excites her.  The moment she did that I disconnected from her until she calmed and then reconnected.  If reconnecting sent her over threshold again I did a quick disconnect.  By disconnect I simply pretended she didn't exist.  I talked to Malcolm or watched TV or took care of something I needed to do and waited until she calmed.  The moment she calmed she got my attention.  For Emma, this is a huge reward.

She started the week barking, bouncing and being flighty; she ended the week calmer and able to calm herself in less than half the time she had the week prior.  I had not picked up her leash for 2 days and when I did on Friday she was excited, but not barking, bouncing off of my bladder and bounding about the house.  She did raise her feet off the floor, but within 2 minutes (remember, least week it was 15) she calmed down and started walking calmly, but happy beside me.

I took her out twice during the week and leash relieved her and when she succeeded she got freedom to play in the yard.  After the incident on Tuesday she was calmer across the threshold and by Friday she was trotting halfway down the ramp before bounding off to play.

On Friday she had two very long play sessions in the yard.  She enjoyed Catch Me If You Can and wrestling in the yard with both Jack and Malcolm.  She was standing tall with an up tail and happy as ever.  It was a great day.

I have been looking for a definition between a soft dog and a hard dog.  A soft dog is a dog whose moods can be influenced by the people they are interacting with.  They can be confident, but they can easily go from happy to worried or appeasing when they believe they have made their human upset.  A hard dog is a dog whose moods are not influenced by their humans moods.  They will give appeasement signs when they become aware they have gone out of line, but most of the time the humans moods do not change their mood.  Emma and Jack are soft dogs; Malcolm and Max are hard dogs.

A soft dog who lacks confidence can shift from happy to outright fearful in a heart beat.  Emma, who is younger than Jack, is gaining confidence.  Jack came to us with rapidly shifting moods like Emma is now demonstrating.  He's six months older than her and his moods are still affected by his humans, but not as dramatically as they were at Emma's age.  With age Emma should gain confidence if I continue the confidence building exercises I have been doing with her.  It's just slower going for her than Jack because she's softer than he is.  That is okay, it makes her a sweet girl and there is nothing wrong with her.

Next week is a short week for both Emma and I and a busy one with a holiday coming and my needing to pick up food packets from various locations to keep my pantry stocked.  I am functioning on much less money (IE, I am functioning on well below poverty level) and trying to keep the household working.  This means I have to take advantage of what is available to put my food on the table so my limited funds can put the pups food in their bowls.

Next week promises to be lines to get food that I can store in my pantry that will keep me fed and allow me to designate a portion of my funds for a bag of food for the dogs.  Its a balancing act, but I am still managing it, but not without the added stress that comes with worrying about money.  There are days I wish that wasn't part of the equation in my life, but it is and I must deal with it.

I am hoping that Emma's mood is up enough to have a positive run or two out with the wheelchair so we can practice some basic skills regarding working with her handler.  I am also hoping to build up more of her directional cues so she can learn to go and get something when he wants it and it's not right by his chair.  I will also work on her light switch skill set and researching how she can help him lift his arm with her height issue in regards to the chair.

As always, I am working on self calming skills and researching more ways to clearly explain the behavior I want her to display when presented with something exciting.

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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