Friday, December 20, 2013

15 Months: Training - Days 236 - 240

My chair has become dog central.  This spring I'll have to deep
clean it just to make it look blue again!

Emma returned in great spirits.  The slow week let her reflect and recover from her stress from a bit too much public access work to close together.  Her owner reported she did fantastic with having the crate available and was progressing nicely with it in the home.  They liked the idea of having it there for her, but not forcing her to work with or worry about it.  Between both locations she'll soon start seeing crates as a place to retreat and relax when she wants some downtime, which will be good.

She was very grumbly with Malcolm, Jack, Dieter and Max.  I don't know if she was feeling unwell or just a bit overloaded when I let everyone out while we talked and caught up with her weekend.  She growled at Jack and Malcolm and poked Dieter really hard and even growled at Max.  I've not seen her like that before, but she may have felt overwhelmed and just needed to voice her need for space.

After her owner left she was back into her "I'm part of the family" mode and was in a great mood.  She ate well and enjoyed relaxing and settling into the home again.  I suspect she's in need of a vacation and that was something her owner and I talked about.  It's been a year straight we've been training and her training is getting harder now that she'd older.  At this point Max had needed a month off to put it all together in his head and returned to his training further ahead than when we stopped and better able to focus and learn.  I think Emma needs time off and away from the hassle of training in my home for a bit and with the holidays coming it's a perfect time to give her that much needed break. She'll be spending the holidays with her owners and most likely won't return until the new year.

I trained Malcolm and Jack during the morning because I had plans for Emma for the afternoon.  I had a client meeting and planned on Emma being the demo dog.  We met with Murphy at his apartment and worked on Mat, Down and settling at my feet.  She was fantastic with Murphy.

Murphy was a bit grumbly about meeting a new dog, but Emma was a perfect lady.  She was polite with the people in the lobby, gave Murphy a gentle hello and then ignored him and was relaxed and working well with me.

In the apartment she began the lesson of settling at my feet and waiting until asked to do something.  This is a new lesson for her and I didn't expect perfection.  She bounced up a few times, but reset when asked without issue.  She was perfect while Murphy worked LAT and learned to be okay with a new dog in his world and showed off her pen retrieve skills and hold skills without hiccup.

Later we pulled out a mat and I let her off lead.  She did a perfect go to mat and down over and over as a demo of how to teach the skill.  Later she worked with Murphy's owner to help her learn the skill (Murphy was not willing to work the skill with Emma there) and helped her learn how to do the lesson.  She truly enjoyed working with Emma and was impressed with how well she worked.

Emma explored the apartment for a bit, but recalled after I whistled for her.  She then was able to settle at my feet and fell asleep while we finished up our lesson.  After that she left on a loose lead and was a perfect lady on the way home.

She was exhausted after that and I gave her the rest of the day off to rest and relax.  It was a fantastic training session for public access for Emma and lasted about 2 hours in a low distraction, low stress zone.

I have changed how I handle answering the door when people come to my home.  I crate Jack and Emma in their crates, put Dieter in the front bathroom and put Max in the office.  I leash Malcolm and work with him learning not to jump.  We get daily practice with this with Ronda picking up Jack and everyone is learning that going in the crate will give them a chance to greet the guest sooner.  For Emma, meeting company is a high reward and entering the crate to let the company in and then being released to say hi is a high enough reward to make her less worried about the crate overall.

This method has made it easier to teach each dog individually what behavior I want when greeting and the whole "five dogs competing for attention" mess more manageable as each gets individual time to say hi after the previous dog has calmed.  The greetings are calm and more relaxed as a result.


Her face has changed so much since she turned one.
Emma was in high spirits and wanting to train.  Waiting for her to ask to train improves our training sessions and she's been asking more often.  I had to take a hydro to work with the dogs again, but with a dosage that now allowed me to function, but made the pain manageable, will make my days more productive.

We worked on nudging my hands up onto the arm rest.  I am getting a 30% consistency with direction and required thrust.  This is an improvement.  I also asked her to switch sides and work both arms.  She is able to do the right arm better than the left, but got the idea on the left quickly.  I will work this on days my arms allow it.

We also worked on opening a cabinet.  I shaped her to take the rope into her mouth and start to pull it up.  She got this quickly and was even starting to pull the door open.  I could see her fading on this lesson and ended it on a positive note.

We then worked on Left and Right.  She's back to bouncy and unfocused and I need to work a bit of Focus with her again to bring her back to solid eye contact and waiting for direction.  She has left but not right.  She will look or touch my right hand (remember, it's her left and her right) when I say Left 60% of the time without my having to move my hand to cue her to which side I meant.  She doesn't look right yet until I wiggle my fingers to tell her which side I mean.

Her entering the crate when company comes is still a struggle, but she's coming out of the crate happy and relaxed.  I am hoping to have her start to offer entering on her own.  When we worked the 101 Things to do with a Crate game she offered entering the crate first and even put her whole body into the crate once.  She got heavy praise for that.  She's still tense in her haunches when she has her head and body in the crate but not as much as last week.  We'll continue to work crate behaviors slowly and build up confidence with the crate.


Given a choice, she would spend her days sleeping in my chair!
On Monday Emma's owner asked me to take her to the vet for her annual shots.  I said I would do so and planned on taking her mid-week so she had a break between her public access work for the week.  Since she's at the training stage to learn to work in public, I made the choice to take her out three times this week and build up to 4 times on our next week together and 5 the week after.  It's time for her to learn to go out and work daily and slowly build up to higher and more distracting levels of public access training.

Monday was a low distraction, low stress access outing (which will happen each week), so I decided on a mid-level distraction and mid-level stress situation.  The vet is a known entity, so I took her without treats.  The vet has treats in the event I need them, but I want her to start working in known locations without treats on me.

She was fine entering the office and settling at my feet, though I could feel the tension that is normal with being at the vet office.  I used praise and affection as her rewards for good behavior.  A client at the office asked to pet her and I said no, since she's also at the level of training where she is not socializing with people in public, but learning not to do so.

She was fine until the 11 year old husky mix came in.  She growled, but so low I only knew because I had my hand on her.  I redirected her attention and got her to relax.  A short time later a very stressed lab came in and she once again growled, but a bit louder.  I once again redirected her and got her to relax at my feet.  She was up to the point of putting her chin on my foot and just watching the lobby when a woman came in with two small dogs.  Emma growled loud enough for everyone to hear her.

I asked the woman with the husky to pass the treat jar.  I pulled out some treats and used LAT to relax Emma.  She quickly calmed and once again rested her head on my feet.  The woman with the two small dogs left for a short while and when she returned Emma just looked at the two dogs, but made no growl.

It was good information for me.  She's had to deal with some rather unfriendly dogs outside of my fence, even with me in the yard, and her opinion of dogs outside of her family has changed a bit.  With a little LAT and my putting my feet out so she was "blocked" a bit from the other dogs she felt safe again.  I need to take her to locations with strange dogs and do more LAT to make her more comfortable with seeing dogs outside of her family.

Her visit went great.  She got her shots, is in perfect health and her knee feels extremely good.  Though she'd thrown up that morning due to a bad hoof the night before (she, Malcolm and Jack all had a small vomiting session first thing in the morning) she wasn't actually sick.  Her weight is 28.6 pounds, which is her best weight and the one she stabilized at.

For Emma a weight of 27 to 29 pounds is perfect with 28 being optimum.  She eats 1 cup of food a day to maintain that weight and she personally set that amount by not eating a full cup and half offered during the day.  I cut her food back to 1 cup when she started leaving the 1/4 cup of food per meal in the bowl each day when she was about 13 months old.  With the 1/2 cup of food per meal (I use a measuring cup to ensure I feed a certain amount of food per meal) I give her one spoonful of moist mixed into it because her food gets a bit stale by the end of the bag and she won't eat dry kibble because of it.

I asked her ears to be checked, they are perfect and her heart is in excellent shape.  She had clear and healthy lung sounds, no issues with her belly and her whole body screams healthy and muscular.  She's in excellent health and shape!

After the vet we went to Winco.  I wanted to get some supplies for making Egg Foo Young and wanted to introduce Emma to working with me in the store.  She was a bit leery when we entered, but with a bit of click and treat for focus she was up and ready to go.  Her head was up, her tail up and her body tall.  She had a spring in her step and though a bit looky loo, she was curious but not frightened.

When I put the green onions in the cart I had to open the seat.  The action of doing so made her duck and back up.  Dogs in general don't like having things over their heads and it can be a bit frightening even for the boldest.  I took the time to click for looking as I reached for the seat and close it and then click for reaching for the seat and opening it for a few repeats.  She quickly got the idea it wouldn't hurt her.

I saw another duck and cover move when I put the carrots into the cart, so just gave her a treat after I did and moved on.  When I put the bean spouts into the cart and gave her a treat I didn't see the duck and cover, but more curiosity.  Good.

We moved to get milk and creamer and then Pepsi.  She was stressed as we were going to the front of the store.  We'd been inside for about 10 minutes by this time and I could see her mouth was open and the skin tight.  I reassured her we'd get out as soon as possible and got into a short line with her.  I asked for targets, sits and downs and rewarded those and saw her body relax and her breathing return to normal.

We paid and I was loading the cart with her showing a small amount of stress, but not over threshold stress.  I had to quickly bag the food and leave, but in that few seconds it took to look for a bag and start someone behind me started moving an electric cart backwards with it beeping.  That was it.  She went stiff and burst into a small amount of barking.  She was over threshold and wouldn't take treats.

I moved her so I was between the evil beeping Labradoodle eating monster and her and she stopped barking.  I bagged my few items and we left.  It was at home when I got her out of the car that she gave off two huge shake offs to release stress.  She got the rest of the day off.


Yep, she's a working girl!
With her trip to the vet and Winco the day before I decided she needed a dog day.  She got lots of chewing and cuddling and playing and sleeping in.  She slept for a good portion of the day.  Her mood was good and she was tall and happy, but she really needed to think through and realize that even with the evil beeping monster she wasn't harmed at the store.

I on the other hand had hit my limit by the end of a busy day.  I had an appointment in the morning Max and I went too and spent the afternoon trying to get insurance after the Worksource person I met gave me a number to call to get connected with the proper people to apply.  The application process was extremely stressful and by the time Ronda arrived I was spitting nails and shooting spikes from my eyes and low and behold Ms. I Must Cuddle was super nudging my hands and doing everything she could to wheedle into my lap.  When I am in that mood the last thing I want is touched and the first thing she wants is to touch me - not a good mix.

Instead of telling her to go lay down or pushing her away I made my bad mood an invitation to play.  I had been reading on a post in one of my FB groups about what we do when we loose our temper and over half of the people tell of teaching their dogs that grouchy parent means playtime.  What a fantastic idea!

Instead of yelling at her I blew in her face like I do when we are playing and she went into crazy play mode.  Instead of seeing my seething temper as negative she, for the first time, saw it as silly and her mood stayed high and happy! YES!

Ronda asked what I was doing and I explained and she laughed and said what a great idea.  She also said it was clearly relaxing me to make her playful and make my bad mood a game.  What a wonderful cure for the grumpies!

She ended the day by nudging me to let her out and curling up while I did a marathon job on blogs.  She's had a fantastic week with a lot happening in it and it's a lot of fun discovering new ways to build her confidence.


Emma took a long nap after our outing today.
Today I decided to work again on Emma calming herself.  Ever since her trip to Seattle she's been overly excitable and struggling to control herself.  She's been in a great mood this week and recovering from startles or frights quickly, but she's been more talkative and very hyper.  Part of it is the weather.  All of the dogs are having a hard time being cooped up and not going out for walks or relaxing adventures like we do in the warmer weather.  I may, when she returns, just take her to the playground and let her run off all of her energy - she has a fantastic recall and the school lets out early enough for me to go over when it's still daylight.  I dread the walk in the snow or cold, but she may just need a blow off period in some place other than my yard.

After Jack arrived and before breakfast I decided to play wind up the Labradoodle.  I got her spinning and jumping and barking and being totally relaxed happy goofy Emma.  She was ready to explode with happy excitement when I said Sit and she slammed her butt onto the floor.  I got excited with her for such a great sit and started the game again and asked for a down and wham, down she went and off we went into the game.  I did this several times.  She was enjoying this type of play and train and really got into it with me.

I then went to asking for a down only and waiting until she calmed by putting her chin down and then starting the game again.  This took some time for her, but each time we repeated it she got faster at putting her head down.  On our last repeat she settled quickly and waited for me to invite her to play, but she didn't ramp up as high as she had been.  She was tired and that was my goal.  Happy, tired Emma is a good thing.

It snowed today, so I took them outside after my shower and their breakfast and let them play while I picked up the yard.  With five dogs on .12 acres of land it is important to pick up poop every other day if not daily - depending on weather and my energy levels.  With the snow fall I wanted to get the poop picked up before it was lost.

Play after an outing is vital for all of the dogs.
I also had to put out de-icer and sand on the ramp to prevent me, my guests or the dogs from slipping and hurting themselves.  When I brought them back in the house, about 20 minutes later, I was exhausted.  I was also in a great deal of pain.  I spent about an 1 1/2 resting and waiting for the 1/4 tab of hydro I took to ease my pain.

I then dressed Emma and took her to Safeway on Argonne.  I have permission to train dogs in their store and I knew I could sit in the Starbucks there and let her just take in the busy environment.  When we arrived I parked on the far end of the store from the Starbucks and walked her to the door just beside it by crossing the outside of the building.  In the store she was a bit excitable and really looking all over.  It's a sign of stress and I knew she would be okay once we started working on calming behaviors.

When I came into the seating area of Starbucks I saw a young family sitting there and smiling at her.  I had calmed her with a bit by asking for known behaviors and rewarding them.  The family had a toddler, about Emma's age, with them and I decided it was important for Emma to meet him.  I took her over and told her to say hi (she is allowed to visit on cue) and the family very lovingly and gently greeted her.  She was very happy to meet them and when it came time to say hi to the toddler she was curious about him.  The mother kept him in her lap and he was a perfect child for her to meet.  He never did a thing to frighten her and laughed when she sniffed his feet.  She was upbeat and waving her tail when she met him and showed no signs of fear or stress.  It was a fantastic meeting and a perfect way to make her feel comfortable in the store.

We moved to a seat and I worked on a Click for Calm game which the video shows.  It's one of the first games and helps a dog to "know what to do" when they are feeling a bit stressed.  The game helped a lot and she quickly began looking around and getting clicks for refocusing on me.  Once I saw her roll on her hip in her down I began clicking for her putting her chin down.  She knew this game and was all over it.  In short order she was offering wonderful chin downs and even built up to 5 seconds of duration in a distracting location.  How amazing!

Emma is starting a new journey and it'll be fun if we do it right.
After about ten minutes in the Starbucks we got up and walked to the door by my van.  We stayed in the store and every so often I would stop and ask for a sit or a down.  She was spot on with her sits and rapid fire too.  Her downs were quick when she did do them, but she found them harder to do.  She didn't feel safe enough to just offer a speedy down without first checking around her.  This is okay, we'll get there and I appreciated the information she communicated.

As we got into the florist section I pulled out my glove and had her do a few retrieves.  She was fast and perfect on each one.  I then dropped my sunglasses and she did a perfect retrieve.  She also did a few targets with some really nice nose punches each time.

She was in a good mood when we left.  I loaded her in the van while telling her how proud of her I was.  I wanted to get a pizza for dinner, so we drove up to Papa Murphy's on Sprague.  When I pulled up I decided to take her into the local Mailbox store where I knew she'd be given a treat.  She was a little worried in the van when I opened the door, but excited to come out and explore.  We crossed the parking lot and entered the store and her nose hit the ground.  This is a form of stress relief.  I got her attention and took her to the counter, where she went into heavy sniffing again and told the clerk we were there for a quick hello.  The clerk grabbed a treat and came around (it was a jerky strip) and broke it up and fed it to her on bite at a time.  Emma was suddenly in heaven.  She was still and focused and happily gobbling up the treat.  We thanked them (another store I have permission for training in) and went to Papa Murphy's.

In Papa Murphy's Emma had her head up and was curious but not fearful, but she was starting to get excitable - another sign of stress.  I knew what I wanted and made my order and paid quickly.  Emma has been in this store before and walked with me to the bench without issue.  She was back to quickly looking around and a little hyper-vigilant, so I played the Click to Calm game with her again and then asked for Sits, Downs, Targets and hand shakes.  She was relaxed by the time the pizza was made and we left.  All total, we were in Papa Murphy's for five minutes.

Someday she'll learn to do this too.
What I see is her normal nervousness and worry when she wasn't sure what was expected of her.  She's new at this working in busy environments and not just socializing.  Before when we did our public access outings the most that was expected of her was to walk nice on the leash and do a good sit.  Now she's working in public and asked not to socialize and perform some of her tasks and learn new ways of dealing with the environment.  These new ways include walking with a cart, lining up with a counter and waiting patiently until requested to do something else.  All of this is not as clearly defined as a sit or a retrieve for her and her insecurity about being wrong makes her more worried than she needs to be.

My goal right now is to build up a level of confidence in the busy environment (just relax kiddo and don't worry about the people, I got your back) and then start adding more parts of what it means to be a dog in public.  She can't just "work" in public and get it, she needs it broken down further than Max did and even further than Jack does.

So, stage one, make Emma comfortable in differing levels of activity and just watch the world.  We'll be doing this until I can see her happy, "I got this" body language.  Due to her soft nature it means I will be taking it slow with her, starting her out with low distraction, low stress areas at the top of the week and building up to higher levels of distraction and stress by the end of the week.  Each trip will be planned with an exit strategy and each trip will be solely focused on her and clicking and rewarding good choices and known behaviors.  Until such time as I see her able to do her tasks and keep her focus she will not be shopping for items or doing anything with me in an outing where I have an errand to run.  All public access outings with her will be planned events which will solely focus on her and giving her the mental and emotional support she needs to succeed.

Pretty much - I need to break down public access for her like I did retrieve training. Once she understood what I was asking she shot way up in confidence, but the trip there was wrought with worry, stress, fear and frustration for her.  Poor baby, I wish she had a little harder personality to make this easier on her.

When we got home I let her out with the boys and she played hard for almost an half an hour and then came inside and crashed hard until she was picked up at 3:30 PM.  It was a full day for Emma and she did a great job.

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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