|Excitable Emma has been learning calm behaviors|
all her life, but she didn't understand how we were
explaining them to her.
I remember the nurses working in the background trying, but not succeeding, to look like they weren't listening to our conversation. Patrick explained the birth defect could be corrected with surgery and would not affect his motor skills, vision or speech. When I was carrying Wayne, Patrick and I had spoken in depth about birth defects and how we'd feel about one if it happened - in the end we concluded it wouldn't change the fact the child was ours and we loved him or her. I could see the nurses almost holding their breath when Patrick finished telling me about Walter and then their stunned look when I said, "Well, at least it's correctable."
I think they expected me to breakdown and cry or something. Little did any of us know, that birth defect was the small part of what would make Walter our special needs child. He had been born with a brain tumor and autism, though we didn't know it at the time. The first clues on the autism came in the hospital. The nurses had to wake him to feed him, he didn't cry and he wouldn't open his eyes and he had almost no startle reflex. The indications of the brain tumor was there too - his apgar was low and the doctors didn't believe me when I said he was born 29 days overdue. In the end I proved my point about his due date, but they still didn't believe his apgar meant anything.
It did. It was the brain tumor affecting his gross motor skills. Over the next two years I would be told by many I was over reacting and imagining things when I said something was off about my son. I would be led to believe I was crazy by most everyone except his doctor.
Walter's gross motor skills were drastically delayed, but his fine motor skills were drastically advanced. At 4 months of age he had his first seizures. It would be the first time I spent 9 hours in the ER and one of the times he had a spinal tap. By 23 months he had 9 seizures and between 23 months and 24 months he would have over 40 seizures.
|Resting in the office when I am on the computer is a|
default behavior taught to her at a young age.
I spent years doing physical, occupational and speech therapy. I spent years walking backwards up and down stairs to teach him to alternate his feet and working on his taking care of his basic needs. The outcome is a functioning adult who lives on his own and manages his life with success.
Because of Walter I understand looking at a problem and finding a creative solution to it in a way that builds up the child and is fun for both myself and him. I understand odd reactions to normal situations and I understand that it can be difficult raising a special needs child and planning anything is a challenge.
I was the parent that people worried about if I was late. It was before the age of cell phones and easy updates, but if I wasn't 15 minutes early I was late according to doctors, therapists and instructors. I had gone through my always late phase with Wayne, but Walter's needs and making appointments were vital and my planning skills for getting to a location with not one, but three children ranging from 4 to newborn became well honed.
|Sitting for petting was taught early too, but she had a very|
hard time with this lesson. We are explaining it better now
that she is older by teaching self control over all points in her life.
Why share this? Because I had 3 distinct personalities in my children. Wayne was a Velcro child who needed a lot of input from me to feel secure. Walter was a happy go lucky child who never met a stranger and needed a lot of supervision to keep him from going to and hugging perfect strangers. Rachael was an independent child who problem solved how to get what she wanted and didn't want parental assistance with anything. My daughter drove me to distraction some days because she would and did wander off to do something in the split second I turned my attention on one of my sons.
Today I am not herding children but dogs, and again I have a set of distinct and unique personalities. Malcolm is very much like my daughter was - he problem solves and doesn't really need or want my input according to his world view. Jack is Velcro and needs and desires my input on a minute by minute basis. Emma is like Walter in many respects - she tends to go and hug strangers or finds her little corner and doesn't cause a lot of trouble and can easily slip your mind while you are redirecting a bold and independent puppy. Max is fine as long as he knows where I am and happy to do his own thing, but always right on the sidelines when I need him. Dieter just wants to color in his book and not play with the other kids.
|Staying calm when working is important and|
she's been working on it in her public outings.
Today Emma arrived happy and ready to tackle a new week. Things were already a bit wound up when Jack arrived, but went into overdrive when Emma arrived. Emma and Malcolm are like the two buddies that can't wait to meet on the playground. It took a bit to get the house calm and required tethering Malcolm and reminding Emma that wrestling in the house was no longer allowed.
Once breakfast was fed and the house had calmed I went to work on Emma's nose nudge task. When her handler gets tired his arms hang off the sides of his chair. There is a risk he'll hurt his fingers in the wheels of his chair or pull the muscles in his shoulders if he does, so Emma is being trained to gently put his arm back onto the armrest of his chair.
I had mentioned on her Facebook page that we were having a problem with this due to her height. She is a bit short and finds it hard to get his arm all the way onto the armrest. Today I asked and confirmed that if she gets his arm started he can finish the move to place his arm on the armrest. This makes training the entire task for her easier, but I was having a slow rate of success in teaching the move I want and getting a consistent push upward of the arm, so I contacted Donna Hill, a fellow trainer in Vancouver BC who has more experience than I do training these skills, and asked how to better break it down for her.
She suggested I use a sock with rice in it. I don't have any spare socks to do this with, but I do have a door snake I can use and a sleeve I can put on it and later use on my arm as a targeting bridge. I pulled the wheelchair out and parked it close to the crate and recliner and Emma gladly came out and nudged the snake. I went to get a treat and shifted my weight and the snake dropped on her a little and then thunked to the floor. That was it, Emma bolted like I had struck her with a cattle prod and hid behind my recliner and then peer out from between it and the crate. I was looking again at that 6 month old pup who was afraid of her shadow and it broke my heart.
|Quiet play in the yard is as important as busy play in the yard|
to help Emma understand calm behavior pays.
I removed the snake and chair from the picture and played some quick Level 1 skills in different parts of the house and worked back to the chair and asked for a quick touch on the snake and she did, now up and happy with an up tail that was wagging madly and her head up. She did a quick and confident touch on the snake and we ended there. I would spend the rest of the day playing targeting games with the snake in different positions with and without the wheelchair before she was happy and no worried to see the snake. Poor girl is so sensitive!
I also spoke with Marge Rogers of Florida who specializes in hyper dogs and teaching them off switches and self control. I asked her for an easier way to teach her and her family self control. I had used all of my natural instincts in my house, which included leashing her when company came over, having my company be consistent on not paying attention to her until she was four on the floor and calm and waiting her out when she got over threshold when we were about to go somewhere and not putting her leash or harness on until she was calm. The problem was, she understood what I wanted in my home well enough, but it was not translating to her family home.
The owners were leashing her and having the company not pay attention until she was sitting and trying to wait her out for leashing her, but both of us were finding she reset to zero each week and we were restarting. Something wasn't clicking for Emma and we had not explained it well enough for her. Marge suggested "It's Yer Choice" by Susan Garrett and shared some videos with me and discussed how to work a soft dog.
|Relaxing in the house is important too. She has been working|
on a default calm behavior in the house since infancy.
For her meeting her family we'll have to work it a bit different. Instead of insisting she give us control we are going to give her to the choice to make it. If this means that my being at my front door and the person picking her up at the base of the ramp it too close, then I will go into the yard and put more distance and slowly work her toward them until she imposes her own self control and understands the only way to the reward she wants is to be calm. This means we will need to bundle up for this part of the training and make certain we are not in a hurry to rush somewhere - it could take up to 20 minutes to transfer her calmly the first time, but each successive time should go faster.
The same will be done in the reverse - when she is dropped off we'll again give her time and a choice to calm down and choose to be calm to get her reward. So drop offs at the top of the week need to be done with plenty of time available to let her be successful. Hopefully it will go quickly since she is smart; it is possible this will be the hardest thing she'll ever learn - she is very excitable.
I have included a video showing some of the protocol for your enjoyment. I will be emailing her family and letting them know what we need to do to calm her down and if they want me to instruct them on it to show up with time for me to show them so she can be successful.
|Enjoying play in the yard is important and Emma is learning that|
running and wrestling in the yard is okay.
I set my alarm (something I normally don't need to do since Malcolm arrived) and got up in time to shower prior to Jack arriving for the day. I was very pleased that Emma was not only calmer from the training from the day before, but was more compliant about going out on a leash and going to the bathroom. I had taken her out most of the day prior to have her practice that skill, but she had refused to potty all day long. She was let out off lead before bed when my ex-husband dropped by to sign paperwork to transfer the title of my home to me and as he left I just let the whole house out for a last play run in the yard before bed. I was a bit frustrated that she's holding her bladder and refusing to potty, but planned on waiting her out the next day and was more than happy when she simply went to the bathroom first thing in the morning.
One note: When Patrick arrived he tried to pet her before she was ready and she became worried about him. No growling or barking, but she did lower to the ground and tuck her tail and was clearly very concerned about him. He apologized to her for pushing her too fast, and the more he ignored her the more she was willing to explore and figure out if he was safe. It was, in the end, his hat that was truly a problem for her. Once he took off his hat she was willing to sniff him and though she didn't make best friends with him, she did stop worrying as much about him. She needs more experience with people wearing hats.
|Four on the floor little girl, good job!|
In the house I waited until she was calm and released her so she could go visit with my Mom. It took less than 2 minutes for her to calm down. She attempted jumping once on my Mom but caught herself and spun and sat at my Mom's feet. Mom praised her immediately for her self control and Emma did not go over threshold when Mom gave her attention. Mom commented at that point that she was truly surprised by how much Emma had improved since she'd seen her two weeks earlier! What a wonderful thing to hear - the little changes I have been making has been working and Emma is learning.
I fed the dogs and let them outside again so they could play while I went about setting up the house for Emma's success at being loose in the house. We had decided to leave all of the dogs home, so I made certain I had several bones and chews on the floor and put out a puzzle toy with kibble in it. I picked up anything she might consider chewing I didn't want her too and closed off the rooms I didn't want her in. I have done this a lot with her when leaving her alone in the house and she's been fine; this time she was not.
I mentioned in a previous blog that Emma had chewed on some molding in my living room, so I was crating her and rebuilding her slowly on time to be loose in the house without incident. She had two chewing incidents in a single day when I made that choice. I had several good days of 10, 20 and 30 minutes alone in the house and she was fantastic, when I broke the 30 minute mark she shredded a coaster in my recliner. I began rebuilding her time alone in the house again from scratch and she was up to 1 1/2 hours without incident. This trip would take us 2 hours and the result was a disaster.
|Cuddling in bed good, wrestling in bed not good.|
I once again worked It's Yer Choice with Emma, but this time I used a toy instead of food. I brought out a tug and played tug with her, said "Okay" when I was ready for her to release and then waited for a sit. If you remember, in an earlier blog I talked about getting her excited in playing with me, but I wasn't using toys or food, and then stopping the game and waiting for her to calm down enough to give me a sit and then starting the game when she did as a reward. This was a version of It's Yer Choice but I hadn't thought of it that way. A lot of my training (natural instinct) is to give the dog a choice and rewarding the choice I want.
Pull on the leash? I stop and wait for the dog to loosen it and/or look back to me and reward it with moving forward. Jump on me? I wait for the dog to put their feet on the floor and reward that. Come and check in with me? Yep, that gets rewarded. Settle and relax in the house? Yep, that too gets rewarded. Want outside? Choose to sit and not bolt out the door and you get that reward. It's instinct and I have done it with all of my dogs all of my life - I just never could explain it well to others. This program is exactly what I do, but in a way that both explains it to the dog and other people very well.
Emma did well on the food yesterday and today she did fantastic with the toy. She promptly stopped playing and sat and made eye contact. This increased her rate of re-enforcement for choosing a good behavior and even when she started to get really riled up it only took a little bit of wiggling and dancing around me before she remembered to sit and look up at me. How fantastic is that?
The games have made a whole household change. Emma is happier, calmer and more confident than I have seen her in ages. She has had her head up, her body tall, her mouth soft and her eyes bright almost all day long. The only time I saw the frightened Emma was when Malcolm did something to her behind my recliner that made her yelp. Normally, when that body language happens she gets stuck in it, but with a bit of friendly talk and reassurance she was back up and happy again in less than 5 minutes.
But it is more than that. She's not bounding off the chair the moment you look her in the eyes and talk to her. She's not ripping out of my door like she's been shot from a cannon when let outside. She's walking around the house and even if another dog gets excited she's staying calm. Its like she suddenly got it - but I suspect she just "got it" in my home and this needs to be transferred to her families home so it becomes a life pattern.
|Hey you two, no wrestling in the house.|
Same with her leash and her harness. They are highly charged for her and when I pick them up she goes into 15 minutes of jumping, barking spasms before she can get them put on. She did put her feet on me, but she quickly got herself under control and waited for me to clip her lead on or fit her harness. She is down to 1/8th of the energy level she normally puts into saying the leash and harness make her very happy.
It's almost like telling her she can be happy AND calm helped her settle. She's a happier dog and as a result she's making more good choices more often. I will contact another trainer who specializes in separation anxiety and talk about Emma's behavior when left loose in the house and find a better way to help her understand my leaving the home is not the end of her world. Next week promises to be very productive with how well Emma is doing this program. I will study on the next stage and work her toward higher levels of distraction and excitement with self control. I am very happy for her and her progress.
|Emma is not a fan of the camera.|
|All ready to go home.|
If you go back to when Emma started with me you'll read about the mighty protests she gave. Giving her a stuffed Kong or a chew or a toy in her crate did not help in the least. At one point I simply put a blanket over the crate to decrease her stimulation by seeing Max or Dieter or me outside of the crate which only made it worse. I would also speak to her and reassure her she was not alone.
The crate was in my bedroom facing the end of my bed and even that was not enough to help her calm. If she got so worked up she was frantic I would go to her and reassure her she was okay, but never released her from the crate, just opened the door and calmed her and then closed her back in.
She learned to just enter her crate at night and eventually the all night long protests did reduce and become only when she was first crated; even then it could last up to 30 minutes of ear splitting screams of protest. She was always worse on Mondays and almost tolerable by Fridays. I personally cannot blame the family for wanting to let her out and stop her protests just to get some sleep - I was on the edge of it myself.
|Ah c'mon, smile!|
At her families home she was tethered to her handler's bed at night, which gave them their first peaceful sleep since adopting her and I used the wire crate, which gave me mine. What's funny was she could not see me from the bathroom, but she was fine in the wire crate.
I used the wire crate until I started teaching her how to sleep in the house without a crate or tether. In the meantime I ended up with two molded crates in the house to train with. One is in my bedroom by my bed and the other is the big crate in the living room (previously in the kitchen). I left the door to the big crate open and just gave Emma and Jack time to explore and find out the crate can be a good place (after Dieter recovered from his spinal injury right after Attitude died).
In time I could close the door and open it and cue her into and out of the big crate and she wouldn't be fearful of it. Sometimes I would crate her in it when I didn't have Jack for the day. I would crate her when I left for an errand and return to find she was actually calm and relaxed in the crate.
Though I haven't worked crate games with her yet and built up her crate behaviors fully, she is willing to go into and lay in the crate and not panic now. She is quiet in the crate if I am in the house, but gives a "are you there" bark when she can't see me and protests when I first leave.
She is about 50% of the way to learning about different types of crates. For me it hadn't been a huge rush to finish that part of her crate training because I hadn't gotten to it in the Levels yet and she wasn't traveling. I was, unfortunately, informed of the trip to Seattle late and didn't have time to polish off her crate skills before the trip. I will, when she returns, begin working on crate skills and build it up so she feels safe and secure in any type of crate.
|I really wish she took goo pictures!|
I had her on lead, so when she tried to jump on him (remember, her calm when greeting has primarily been worked in the house and not outside) and couldn't because she couldn't reach him she finally defaulted to a sit! YES!
After that we went in and she sat and wiggled, moved closer and sat and wiggled and when she got too excited because he didn't want her attention she caught herself when she tried to jump and sat and wiggled. Wayne recognized she was really struggling to choose the right behavior and finally gave her a tiny pat on the head. She got very excited, but didn't jump on him. Good GIRL!
Wayne knew a dog was going with us, but didn't know which one I had chosen to bring. I informed him it was Emma and it would be a moment before she got over her excitement of seeing me pick her gear up. It did, but it was 1/3 of the time it normally takes. She was already fitted to the martingale collar I am using to remind her to pay attention to the tension in the leash (it doesn't have to tighten, the sound of the slip chain clicking when she's starting to pull brings her to a stop and she looks back at me, but it doesn't cause her undue stress). A martingale is a collar that tightens when the dog pulls, but doesn't choke them or cause them pain. I was sent two that had a chain for the part that pulls the collar ends together (the chain does not touch her neck when it's pulled) and makes a nice little click sound to give her more feedback when on the lead. She had grown pretty insensitive to her collar and pulling against it and the slight tightening and the sound of the chain gave her the feedback she needed without my having to ever do a leash correction.
It will also allow her family to hear her pull on the lead before it becomes tight and stop before she gets a chance to pull. It's a win/win and I love it. The martingale went with her today for her holiday in Seattle. I put her harness on and then let her calm herself while I crated Malcolm and Jack and closed the house up so Max had a limited area to wait for my return in.
She would be on a loose lead the entire time we worked - only making the martingale click when she would try to go and sniff someone we were passing. I was using the 6 foot leather lead and had it short to keep her in a working position. When she would shoot out to put her nose on someone it would click and she would turn and look at me and I would call her back to me and praise her for it. She soon stopped trying to sniff people, though she tried at least 10 drive by sniffings before she got it.
It is Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, so you can imagine how Costco was. She was a bit worried by the number of people, but not fearful. She surprises me; she can be a wreck at home and a star in public - I don't understand, but she does very well with public access. When Wayne started to walk on her left, which put her between him and I, she totally relaxed and walked with her head up and a spring in her step - that is Emma's "I can handle this" strut and I was happy to see it. She had a couple of startles as we headed to the aisle with the food, but recovered very well. For early working public access training, she is doing very well.
When Wayne picked up the food bag she jumped and it took a bit more to calm her, but a quick treat and praise and she managed to regain her control. We had been in the store less than 5 minutes by this time and she was settling into handling the busy atmosphere. As we headed to the aisle I saw a penny on the floor and asked her to pick it up. She did, twice. It focused her and she was very proud of herself. She never got it to my hand, but the fact she tried was more important than her success in delivery. Wayne was impressed. We started for the front of the store with a bag of food on Wayne's shoulder and a package of dog toys in his hand walking behind us. This was the spot Emma had troubles with.
She tucked her butt so it was rolled a bit under and her tail shot under her and went tight to her bum and she started whiplash looking behind her. This is, by the way, expected and normal behavior when first learning about people walking close behind them in a store and I have dealt with it before. I just moved her a bit to the right and told her what I wanted ("This way, good girl") and then dropped in behind Wayne by slowing our speed and then followed him instead. The instant I did that she relaxed and happy Emma returned, but I could see the stress was building on this trip.
|All groomed up.|
I gave her the rest of the day in play and rest. She had done enough. She played hard for 30 minutes when we returned and then slept like a rock for 2 hours when we went in. It wasn't the "I'm taking a nap now" nap, but "I need a power nap, I am exhausted" nap and was clear to see by her body language while sleeping what it was. She was a little low when she woke, but another good play session fixed that and she was in great spirits when her family came to get her.
|See ya next week little one.|
Emma made great progress this week and did a fantastic job learning to control herself. I am very proud of her.
|Focus||Lazy Leash||Go To Mat||Crate||Distance|
|Focus||Lazy Leash||Go To Mat||Crate||Distance|
|Focus||Lazy Leash||Go To Mat||Crate||Distance|