Tuesday, January 14, 2014

16 Months: Training - Days 241 - 245


Emma is in a new fear period which makes her days
up or down and sometimes both at the same time.
Emma was on vacation for 2 weeks with her family.   Believe it or not, Emma has been training for a year now and I believe a break was in order for her.  I also needed a break.  I have had a lot happen since Emma arrived over a year ago and began her journey.  I lost a friend suddenly within the first week or so I was working with Emma and a second shortly after that.  I also lost Attitude in April and am only now finding my footing after so many losses.  Jack joined the program and then I ended up with an emergency foster dog and finally Malcolm has joined the family.  I was circling on lessons and lost focus as a trainer - which is not good for any of the dogs.

I needed a break so I could look back and evaluate what would work best for all the dogs concerned.  Emma, unlike the others, is a softy who seems to need more attention than the other dogs.  She demands physical affection and wants to be in constant contact with people, unless and clicker and treats come out and then she's nowhere to be found.  It can be frustrating when she hides behind my recliner as I set out to begin a training session.  She is also picky about her treats and if she doesn't approve of what I have pulled out she won't work for it.  This goes for her meals also.  She won't eat her kibble unless we doctor it in some way.  This is in part my fault - I had a dog with congestive heart failure and fed her moist food.  The strong smell of high value food had every other dog in the house hovering over her at meals and to prevent that I put a spoonful of moist in all of the dogs food for months on end.  Emma was the only one who couldn't go back to dry kibble after that.  This means that I need to teach Emma how to eat.

During the break I came to the conclusion my lesson plans were not meeting our needs anymore and I needed to restructure them.  Part of it was a tendency to not time them.  I loose track of time and can either train too long or not long enough depending on how time feels to me.  For Emma this can be an issue - she may be feeling pressured to train longer than she's able to and I need to return her to enjoying the lessons and not dreading them.

Today I changed how food was given to the dogs.  Max and Dieter are fed while Malcolm, Jack and Emma play outside in the morning.  Emma, Malcolm and Jack's daily allotment of food is doled out in their bowls (Malcolm's will be in the treat pouch because I am still capturing good behaviors the instant I see them with him) and each SDiT will be earning their food during the day in their lesson plans.  This means, Emma will be working for dry kibble.  The horror!

Today, after working Jack and Malcolm for their morning lessons (4 two minute lessons with a 2 minute breaks between them) I called Emma, who had gone behind my recliner, out and started her lesson.  She wasn't excited about the idea and refused the kibble I offered.  I told her that was fine and let her go.  After that, whenever I saw something good (such as coming out to join the family from behind the recliner) I rushed to her bowl and got a kibble and offered it to her.  She finally started to eat them about noonish.  I figured hunger would play a role in her choosing to work for kibble or not.

I got about half of her breakfast down her before she once again decided she didn't need to eat kibble again.  She had been rewarded for trying to pull the tugs on the cabinets, offering sits, touch, downs and keeping her feet on the floor.  She started to eat kibble again around 2 PM and worked for the remainder of her breakfast offering behaviors I liked, such as not jumping on me, making eye contact and having her head high.

By dinner time, when I was now too tired to train, I offered her the remainder of her daily food in her bowl.  She looked in and decided she didn't want it.  That is fine.  I picked up the bowl and put it up for the night.  She will probably not eat well until Wednesday, but hunger will lead her to accept that she should eat what is offered.  If at the end of the day I offer her the remainder of her daily food and she doesn't eat it in a timely fashion I will pick it up for the night.  She won't starve, but she will learn to eat when offered food and it should reduce her picky nature about what we train with.

At this point, I suggest we follow Sue Ailsby's "Teach Your Dog to Eat" routine to improve Emma's ability to eat.  If, by the end of this week, she doesn't take to working for her kibble, I will do the full protocol next week and teach her to eat.  Here's hoping a modified version works for her and she quickly catches on she needs to eat the food offered her.


She spends a lot of her day napping in my chair.
After a rough start on Monday of Emma hiding behind my recliner and not wanting to take kibble for rewards she did a complete turn around on Tuesday.  She and the boys went out to play at the beginning of the day (I have found sending them all out to play for a few minutes in the yard when Jack first arrives takes a lot of the tension out of re-uniting the dogs each morning and everyone seems happier and more relaxed).  I opened the door to call them in and found she alone standing before it.  That was perfect.  I asked her in and set the timer and started warm up exercises with her.

For Emma, she needs quick and immediate success to want to stay in the training game and asking for her best known behaviors first lesson of the day gives her that.  She isn't wrong once and as a result she gets a high rate of re-enforcement that lets her feel good about herself.  Sit, Down, Target and Stand are her best behaviors, with Stand being a bit weaker than the others.  Target seems to be the ONE behavior that gives her the biggest emotional boost and the one I use the most to bring her into the training game with me.  As Sue Ailsby states, when dealing with a shy dog use Target to bring them into the game with you and with a bold dog use Zen.  I have two bold dogs and one shy, Emma is my Target to start the day dog, while Jack and Malcolm are my Zen to start the day dogs.

The boys continued to play outside and Emma, now happy and bouncy after a shaky but successful start, was surprised when I ended the first round of our lesson.  Her shaky start was she didn't want the first 2 kibbles I offered her, but accepted the praise I gave instead.  After that, she was happily chewing on the kibble and working for it.

Her second lesson was working on Tug.  She has some tug tasks she'll need to do and just before vacation I taught her, through shaping, to pick up the cord on the cabinet door and lift it.  She remembered that lesson and now was picking it up and waving it around and poking it into the door.  Good enough, high success rates are important for her and in short order my timing on her picking up and pulling back was spot on and she was pulling the door open by a 1/16th of an inch.  Huge advance for Ms. Emma.  She was standing tall, her eyes were bright, her head was up, she was working the problem and taking the food and her tail was waving happily with it set just over her spine.  This was a dog who was in the game and willing to work the problem.

On our third round she was laying in my recliner and watching me while I drank my coffee and checked the status of my kitchen (someone had made dirty dishes, but hadn't done any clean up! Who could that be?) when the timer for her break went off and she BOUND out of the chair to join me as I reached for the clicker and the kibble!  Yes!  For Emma, my picking up a clicker and treats has always sent her behind my recliner.  Part of it is her getting "out of the way" when I am training the other dogs and the fact I normally sit in my recliner to train and part of it is her worry that I may select her to be the dog I am training.  Did I say soft personality before?

This bounding to join me was a whole new thing and wonderful to see.  It meant she was enjoying the training and wanted to continue.  How fantastic is that?  She again worked on Tug with the cabinet door and got to 1/4 of an inch open.  This was fantastic work and I could see her go "But I wasn't done!" when the timer went off.  We played and had too much fun afterwards and I called the other dogs in.

I  have restructured our training to 3 minute sessions with 2 minute breaks in between so both her desire to continue is high and she has time between lessons to think on what we worked on.  On Monday I changed each lesson when we returned, but realized that not working the same lesson at least twice with her or the other dogs wouldn't cement the idea of what they were learning as well as it could.  So, for the second round I decided to work Sit/Stay with her.  She has a solid Sit/Stay and Down/Stay with low distractions, but not with high distractions.  I use each dogs nightmare distraction to build up duration yet again and for Emma it is eye contact and being spoken too in a happy voice.

I had her dog a Sit/Stay at the edge of the kitchen and then started slow.  The first round I tapped the walls, banged cupboards and made noises as I wandered between 5 and 15 feet away from her and returned.  The duration wasn't an issue I was working on, just her staying in a Sit/Stay while I made the noises or actions around her, which meant the click/treat was happening at a high and varying rate of 0 to 5 seconds with an average of 2 seconds throughout the 3 minutes.  She rocked it.  Solid all the way through she didn't break her stay once while I clicked (I teach them to stay despite the click and wait for a release word instead after they first get the idea of Sit/Stay with duration).  At the end of 3 minutes I released her with the cue I use for all of the dogs ("Hup Up") and set the timer for her 2 minute break.  I drank coffee and acted like no dogs were in my house and looked for other distractions to try for her until the 2 minutes was up.

The second round went just as well.  I decided the best distraction was standing before her and clicking while I said things like, "Aren't you just the cutest thing on the planet?" (Click/Treat) "Is that a baby greyhound?" (Click/Treat) "Can I pet her?" (Click/Treat?) "Are you a good dog?" (Click/Treat) and more.  At first she would bound out of position and get excited, but when I only clicked for her sitting again and reward she got it.  In short order she was a bit wiggly in position, but holding it and the rate of re-enforcement was an average of 1 second.  I would say she had a 60% success rate of controlling herself when eye contact and verbal communication was made and that was amazing for this high energy, highly excitable dog.

The third round was done the same way.  We repeated all of the same fun sentences and kept the rate of re-enforcement high as she learned how to stay in position during a nightmare distraction.  I added no Distance or Duration (though the average moved to 2 seconds during round 3) and just worked on the Distraction itself.  Remember, there are 3 Ds in training - Distance, Duration and Distraction and when you work one, you have to decrease the others.  For Emma, this was a huge change in what I was asking of her and she clearly needed a single D worked on while I taught her a new level of self control.  She had a 80% success rate of staying in position and I was tickled pink with that dramatic increase and her very engaged and relaxed body language all through our lessons.  I was also pleased she worked for 90% of her meal for the day already!  What an amazing change from the day before!

By noon I am pretty exhausted and my personal pain levels are through the roof.  I was feeling burning between my shoulder blades and a sharp pain in my left shoulder blade from using my arm so much.  My legs felt wobbly and my overall body was at a Level 8 pain level for me (for people who do not suffer Chronic Pain, my Level 8 is their Level 15) and I was mentally exhausted sharing so much of my energy for the day with the dogs.  I had spent half of my day already training them and updating their Facebook pages and my mental and emotional energy for the day was spent, yet I still had training to finish for all of them, chores that needed done and I had hoped to take Emma out for a public access run to a local smoke shop I frequent (e-smoke, no real smoke around her ever).

It was snowing, which meant a pressure change in the weather, which meant my energy would be sapped that much more.  That I could deal with, but the fact that the ground was already covered in about an inch of snow meant I wasn't leaving.  The last time it snowed and I took Emma out I slipped and slid through an intersection because my tires are summer tires and not designed to deal with winter weather.  I refuse to risk any of the dog's safety just for the sake of training and thus cancelled the trip.

I had finished Jack's morning meal with our second round of training and Malcolm had eaten most of his breakfast and lunch during our first rounds of training.  Emma wouldn't sleep well on an empty stomach, so I decided to wait until later to train her again, which never happened.  I had hit my wall and just fed Malcolm and Emma the last of their daily food in their bowls after Jack was picked up.

Emma started to eat her food out of her bowl when I fed the dogs.   I had put her food back into a ceramic bowl after seeing her fear of the metal bowl return and moved her from the kitchen, which she wouldn't enter to eat either, to the living room by the entry and she was willing to come out and eat.  That is, until Malcolm walked her way to see if she was done and she bolted away and refused to finish her meal.  Okay, more changes need to be done to make her feel confident eating in my home with Mr. Pushy.  Got it.


It's hard to get a good picture of her. She worries about the
camera when I point it at her.  I wish she would give me a
big smile when I go to take he picture!
Who would have thought that all of the dogs love carrots, including Ms. Emma.  When Malcolm was in early potty training I would restrict water at 7 PM until bedtime.  Malcolm got ice cubes for bedtime to help keep him from feeling like he was being dehydrated from the inside out and it became the exciting treat of the night for all of the dogs.  I make the ice cubes in a Kong ice cube tray and use a mixture of 1/2 cup chicken broth and 1/2 cup water for them.  The dogs adore these cubes and so now nightly everyone gets an ice cube for bedtime.  They actually line up at the fridge waiting for me to pull them out of the freezer.

When Malcolm started teething to the point he was crying just to have his muzzle softly touched, I started to freeze whole carrots for him.  Again, the other dogs wanted in on the prize I was handing out.  At first it was just Max, so I would grab two carrots (one from the fridge and one from the freezer) and give the boys their carrots as I crated Malcolm for the night.  Then Dieter wanted in.  Now that Dieter, Max and Malcolm actually wait for me to pull their nightly carrots out (no longer freezing them for Malcolm) Emma was curious about what everyone else was getting.  What the heck, she can have one too.  I pulled out one for her and she took off and happily had a bedtime carrot with the family.  Whatever, it's a cheep and easy nightly treat they can all enjoy without loading up on calories.

Once again Emma trained her morning round with the boys playing outside.  She was ready to play the game and took the very first kibble I offered her and just flew through her warm up lesson.  This "routine" for her is important.  Without it she is lost and can't seem to get her day started for training.  I am okay with that.  Refresh and review on known behaviors she enjoys and doesn't have to think about to get her tummy working and her brain engaged enough to train is good for both of us.

I continued to work with 3 minutes on and 2 minutes off.  She did Tug again for her lesson and was amazing.  She got the cabinet an 1/8th of an inch open and is actually working out she needs to pull back to open the cabinet.  The best part was her happy attitude about the work we are doing and her "hey, we were training here!" attitude when break time comes.

She once again bound off the recliner to join me for training for round three, but this time it was with the three boys in the house.  She doesn't count Dieter as a problem, but Max, Jack and especially Malcolm seem to worry her.  I crate Malcolm while I train her and that helps a great deal.  I see I need to give her more space (Jack was in the kitchen, but parked by the hall and Max was parked by the Baker's Shelf and out of her zone of worry) and see if I can't get her a bit more focused for the more "active" lessons she needs that the big boys try to join in on.

Since I didn't get her out of the house for the public access training the day before, I decided to pack her up now that the weather had improved and the roads cleared.  My Mom had dropped by to give me new snow boots and a cable for my Roku so I could easily transfer it from the bedroom to the living room and back when I desired and I noticed that Emma was trying everything possible to get Mom's attention while fighting very hard to keep her feet on the floor.  Will need to come up with a click/treat plan for her to better explain the type of behavior I want and give her gentle guidance when company is over to go and find a quiet spot to lay once she's said her hellos.  She gets stuck wanting 100% attention when I have company.

The smoke shop I go to is called Smokin' Legal and is on Sprague and Freya.  I have permission to train the dogs there and I love the location because it's small, quiet and has very little foot traffic.  For Emma, this is perfect.  She isn't expected to be perfect and can work out what she needs to know and how to behave while I train and she isn't flooded by foot traffic and activity.

Emma does a lot of displacement sniffing when we first arrive anywhere and I am clicking for when she brings her head up, but that can take some time.  I need to work more of the Up/Down game and other pattern games with her in these locations to relax her and help her focus.  The woman who clerks early in the week was so happy to see Emma.  She met Emma early in her training when we were doing socialization outings and loves to see her progress when we come in.  Emma has since been there twice more and each time she comments on how much improvement Emma has made.  It's good to hear, as a trainer I can get stuck on what is not working and miss what is working.  Nice to have someone say that the dog is looking more confident and happier and focused than when they saw her last.

I explained to her what Emma's nightmare distraction was as I worked on her head coming up from the floor and what I would need from her when she wasn't working with a customer.  She was happy to be part of Emma's training plan.  After purchasing a new atomizer for my e-cig I took Emma to the seating area and we settled in for a rousing round of Level 1 behaviors.  Sit, Down, Target, Stand and Shake were all used to get Emma working with me and less worried about the quiet location we were in.  She was happy to perform all of her behaviors without hesitation, including her Down after the first round.  Her down is her weakest behavior when in public and a true sign of how comfortable she is feeling in a location.  She was hesitant to lay down the first time I asked, but with a lure and heavy reward she was slamming into downs after that.

Then we worked on chin down with my clicking for progressive relaxation.  She laid down in a "about ready to bolt" position and then rolled onto her hip after a second.  Click/Treat.  She dipped her chin and got rewarded and slowly she started to put her chin closer and closer to the floor.  This was much like working at Diamonds in the Ruff (a bit of "wow, exciting" and then "oh, I know what to do") and was perfect for her.  Soon she had her chin down and I got up to 5 seconds duration.

Whenever a customer came in I clicked and treated for seeing them and staying in her down and then asked for a Retrieve or a Target and rewarded again.  I had to break her retrieve apart again in this setting.  Where at home she'll pick up the item and then step up into my lap and give it to me, she couldn't do that.  So, I cued her to step into my lap without the retrieve item (a wash cloth) and clicked and treated and after doing that for 5 rounds I handed her the cloth and cued her off my lap and took the cloth and rewarded her.  I then dropped the cloth and had her just hand it to my hand 5 times and then asked for her to step up on the 6th and hand it to me and she was finally able to do the full retrieve process.  Fantastic.

When it was quiet the clerk would talk to Emma and walk or stand within 5 to 10 feet of her while I clicked and treated for staying in a down.  Emma was fantastic and never once broke her down and was rolled on her hip with her head up and eyes bright.  I saw no high stress signs, though I could tell she was still a bit worried about the situation.

She worked for the entire contents of my treat pouch (1/4 of her kibble and 1/2 cup of cut up high value treats mixed) and finally got to say her hellos to the clerk before leaving.  We did work on her doing a paws up on the counter and letting the clerk touch her face (part of the paying for items task she'll be learning soon) and was heavily rewarded for that.  This is stage 2 of this training.  Stage 1 had simply been doing a paws up to peer over the counter and building up duration of about 15 seconds.  Stage 2 is doing that behavior for a shorter duration, but with a hand moving toward her.  Stage three will be taking an item and doing a paws up and then Stage 5 will be actually handing the item to the clerk.  We'll then reverse it and have her hand the item back and eventually teach her to return that item to her handler.  She's doing well, but I want a little less stress with the petting when paws up and will then add the next section to this lesson.

I was out of food and getting ready to leave when a final customer came in.  She got stuck watching the woman with the big purse walk toward her and didn't hear he me ask her to move toward me as I stepped away.  As a result she barked softly under her breath.  I said, "You're safe" and caught her attention and brought her away from the woman and praised her heavily for coming to me.  We then left.  I will try to have a tiny amount of treats left on me next time before leaving to prevent such a situation happening again.

The lesson at the smoke shop was the end of her day.  She was finished and needed time to process and play.  She played hard for about 30 minutes after we came home and then slept for the rest of the day and refused her remaining 1/4 cup of kibble that night.  That's okay, she got enough calories for the day and I knew she was pretty over did with the outing.  We'll keep to this level of low key outings until she is less exhausted by them when we return home.


She loves playtime in the yard.
The price of taking Emma out for a public access run is a rough end to our week.  The up and willing student I had developed by praise, food rewards and attention whenever she came out from behind my recliner, was laying quietly in it as I passed and patted her head or simply came to see what everyone else was doing in the house (pay for check ins to increase desire and confidence) was gone.  Again I saw a small black face peer out with not what I would call fear, but worry, from behind my recliner whenever I looked for her.  I would spot her peering out at me and say something to her like, "You hiding?" or "Is it fun back there?" and praise when she'd rest her chin on the back of the arm of my recliner or scoot out for a bit of attention.

I could also feel tension in all of her muscles.  I spent about 40 minutes just holding her and rubbing her body in a gentle massage and never felt her muscles fully relax.  This was how she felt muscle wise and how she acted personality wise between the ages of 6 and 12 months while we worked on learning how to retrieve.  She's not nearly as bad as then, it's more like a shadow, but it upsets me because I feel like I am failing her somehow.

It will be a slow and careful process to build confidence and let her know she's making a lot of correct choices while training her public access skills.  I suspect it's age.  She's 16 months old and in the middle of the last freaky fear stage.  Things that didn't frighten her before do now and things that did before don't.  Things that she's good with one day she isn't the next and sometimes it may be days before she's okay with anything.  I'll go through it with Malcolm, like I did with Jack and I am not making any judgement calls until she's between the ages of 18 and 24 months when this stage of development, the last of her cranial growth and the last of her brain growth ends and she's an adult with better coping skills.  Jack was a freak at this age too and now, at 22 to 23 months of age he's rock solid.

I am not the only one whose seen this either.  Robin with Sherman had days and even weeks when Sherman was freaky.  She called me laughing one day when she had one such incident.  She had gone into the bathroom and flushed and Sherman acted like he'd never seen a toilet flush in his entire life and had a total freak out over it and ran in fear.  The next day the toilet was no longer the evil monster it had been.  Emma is doing that now.  It'll be a while before we see how she comes out the other side of this, but with patience, guidance and reassurance the world is not out to eat her, she should be okay.  If, at the end of this period of time I am still seeing the heavy stress reactions to her public outings I will have to make the call that she'll be an in home service dog for her handler because it would be unfair to ask her to work in an environment that puts her in heavy stress all the time.  Not all dogs can do public access, but even in the home she'll make a huge difference in her handler's life and improve his overall quality of life in a way none of the family would ever have imagined.  I am hoping though, that with a slow and progressive introduction to public access work she'll make the grade and become a fully working service dog in and out of the home.

Once again I had a dog who didn't want her first kibble of the day and needed reassurance and success to start taking kibble.  It took about three clicks before she could start her warm up exercises and then she was able to work for her food and find the confidence and success she needs to start her day.  Poor baby, it's like raising a teenage girl in the throws of puberty and PMS at the same time.  Her moods can be charted on a graph some days.

She also needs a lot more attention and affection than the other dogs.  A lot more.  Her world seems to crash if she isn't the center of attention at least 50 out of 60 minutes and it's exhausting.  I am teaching her to be okay with just being in the room like the other dogs, but it's been a slow process.  I give her pats and attention and talk to her and even cuddle off and on all through the day, but I cannot possibly give her the 100% attention she desires and it's not really healthy for her either.  She should be able to be okay just being and when I catch her doing that I praise and reward it.  It's improving but on days like this one, she reverts to the high need for reassurance and I have to increase the amount of emotional, physical and mental energy I devote to her to help her deal with her insecure days.  It's exhausting.

We worked on Swing Finish for her second and third round of the morning.  I had crated Malcolm and Jack was laying in the living room with Max in the corner of the kitchen I designated as his while I worked.  She was in the "loss of attention means I am wrong" mental mode.  I did several rapid fire clicks for looking into my face (direct eye contact is very uncomfortable for her and she wilts when eye contact is kept too long)  so I have settled on looking at my face as her version of eye contact to help with the issue.  She's highly pressure sensitive (body pressure makes her fold into herself and even leaning slightly forward toward her makes her worry she's wrong about something), so relieving the pressure in eye contact helps her to succeed.  She was taking the treats and tuning in when I pivoted 1/4 turn and waited for her to come around and seek my face again.  She didn't.  She slumped, dropping her head below her shoulders and sat with her back roached beside me.  I turned back, re-estabilished contact and did several more rapid fire click/treats and turned again.  Again she slumped and again I returned to make contact and repeated the process, only this time I turned 1/8th instead and she made a move to peer around to my face.  I clicked and heavily rewarded the effort.

We did that for the three minute session with improved movement and by the end she was able to get up and move to look in my face as I turned between 1/8th and 1/4 a turn.  After the break I worked it again and she could do the 1/4 turn, but she would get stuck and freeze at my side and not be able to make the turn.  I will have to take this very very very slowly with her with very very very small splits to build up her understanding of what I want and improve her confidence she's making the right choices.

I want her to enjoy this part of her training as much as she enjoys the other parts.  It took tiny tiny splits and lot of work to build her retrieve and I feared then she'd find it adversive instead of rewarding, but once she got it it's the one thing she LOVES to do the most.  It's like that with everything she learns.  We go through this process of her acting like I am torturing her and then suddenly she gets it and she loves doing the behavior - but I have to take tiny tiny steps to ensure she succeeds and finds joy in her behaviors and tasks. I never want to have her do something in her daily work that makes her that upset and stressed that she feels she needs to hide and shut down.  It just means a lot of patience on my part and a lot of breakdown on the behaviors to build the joy.

I talked extensively with a friend on Facebook about Emma's roller coaster moods and extremely soft behavior.  The amount of stress signs I see from her concerns me and I really don't want this to be a conflict but something she can enjoy.  She can be such a happy, bouncy and lovely girl, but increasing criteria can be so hard on her and I want to ease some of that.  I talk to a lot of people about how best to deal with her and how best to make the process of training positive for her.  She is teaching me a lot about dealing with such a soft dog and I am becoming a better trainer as a result because I want her to succeed.

Since pressure is an issue for her, I have decided to give her even more space from the dogs in the house.  I have 5 dogs 5 days a week and 3 of the five are highly confident and even bold dogs who want to join in everything and need to be redirected away.  The redirection to give Emma the space she needs to work is causing her problems as much as their being physically too close as she learns a new skill.  Once she knows a skill she could care less they are present, but it's the learning the skill that is a problem for her.  Cherie, a friend from school, had visited over my vacation and loaned me an x-pen so I could make a "play" or "training" area as needed or even block a dog in and not have to crate it when I left the house.  I had been unable to block off my kitchen or living room for training because of the distance between the walls; now I can do so with the x-pen.

I pulled it out and crated Malcolm (who would have knocked it over and made it a horrible item for the rest of her life) and set it up to block the kitchen with Jack and Max outside of the room.  The change was too much for Emma at first.  She couldn't take treats as she watched the dogs at the "gate" I had setup and was clearly worried as to why I had blocked her in with me.  I sat on the floor, never set the timer, and spent the next ten minutes playing, cuddling and working Level 1 behaviors with her until she ate 1/4 of her daily intake from her bowl.  Her confidence slowly increased as she realized it was "our" time alone and the other dogs couldn't interfere with us.  I think this will help once she recognizes that she's not in trouble and nothing bad will happen and lots of good will occur when we block the kitchen and work.

I repeated the process for dinner.  This time I left Malcolm out of the crate and waited a couple of minutes and saw he wasn't about to knock it down.  I had also blocked it better, which made it harder to knock down.  Malcolm made a mighty protest, but couldn't get in on Emma's time with me.  She was more confident this time with the setup and we worked without the timer again.  We just played and anything, and I mean anything, she did got her a kibble.  She finished her meal that way and was in great spirits when I finished and give her cuddles and a massage.  She's still very tense, but not pulling into herself like she had been the day prior.


I had to work a little extra hard to help Emma
start her day.  Meeting her emotional needs
improved her ability to work with me.

Emma is normally scheduled to go to the groomers on the first Friday of each month when I have a lecture to prepare for that evening.  I had checked lecture dates in late December and discovered the first lecture of the year was actually scheduled for the second week of the month due to the holidays. I had asked we change her grooming date for January only and therefore had to take Emma to the groomer on our last day together this week.

I also had a doctor's appointment again.  The day before I had seen my new doctor for the first time and was scheduled for a full blood panel in the morning about an hour after Emma was to be dropped off.  I asked Ronda to keep Jack at home for the day, since I would be leaving with Emma around Jack's drop off time and set my alarm for 5:30 AM.  I actually didn't crawl out of bed until 6 AM (I am a snooze alarm master) and sent the troops outside for their morning run.  I then took my shower and then sent Max and Malcolm into their respective rest points while I trained Emma.

I filmed our morning training.  Emma was having her hardest day of the week.  She refused several treats and was clearly not ready nor in the game for training.  Sue Ailsby said that if you spend five minutes getting the dog into the game it is time better spent than trying to force a training plan.  I totally agree, and as you can see in the attached video for this day, I did just that.  You can hear some frustration in my voice because I am tired, in pain and exhausted by the end of the week and have very little energy to give to Emma, who seems to need it the most every Friday.

The time was well spent and Emma did join in the game, though with some hesitation, for the last of her training.  She finished her breakfast and was able to ignore Malcolm screaming in his crate and Max at the gate to the kitchen.  I need to spend more time getting her IN THE GAME and worry less about what the game is for a while to rebuild up that desire to train.  I miss it and really want to see what I saw on Tuesday and Wednesday with her again - that was a dog who loved training and was really enjoying herself.

I packed up her and Max for the trip to the groomers.  She rode well and was quiet clear up to the groomers.  I clipped Max's lead on him and when I pulled him and her out I saw her standing and shaking like a leaf next to me.  I stopped and just reassured her she was safe, but she couldn't stop shaking and roaching her back.  Poor girl - she was having one of THOSE days.

Once she was able to move her own feet without my coaxing her we walked in.  She didn't lag or pull away, but she wasn't happy with going either.  Inside I told her groomer that she was having a fear day and would need lots more time, love and rewards to get through the day without building upon her fear reaction.  The groomer was shocked that Emma was afraid (normally Emma is happy to see the groomers) and looked over the counter to see her trying to drag me to the door to leave.  I explained we are in a fear period and at 16 months were facing the freaky "this didn't bother me before, but now it's too much" stage of life.  She got it.  She perfectly understood.  She came around and spoke softly to Emma who rushed to her and climbed into her arms and she gave her loads of hugs and kisses until Emma relaxed.

The groomer said she'd work with her to make this a good day and ensure we don't add onto her fears.  Good people.  Good groomer.  Emma is lucky to be going to The Puppy Pad and having such caring people look after her on grooming day.

Well, we are on our way to public access and task training and it's going well enough despite Emma's fear stage.  I look forward to see what type of moods Emma will give me next week and how far we can get on Tug, Retrieve and Nudge tasks.

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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