Monday, March 31, 2014

18 Months: Training - Days 280 - 284

Doodles are silly when wet.
Monday - Friday

My whole schedule is off with Emma arriving an hour after she would normally arrive.  It seems to throw me into a loop to have the schedule changed by that much and I am having a hard time adjusting to it.  I have never really done well with schedule changes and this has been a change that really has thrown me for a loop.

It seems to have thrown Emma for a loop also.  I went to work with her and she simply didn't have her mind in the game and couldn't focus to work. With both of us off our game there is a gap in our communication.  Since Mondays set her mood for the week and how well she'll focus on her training (she is one of THOSE dogs) for the remainder of the week.  If she starts her week off with a lack of focus she'll generally end it with a large amount of shyness.  Starting an hour late seems to throw her off as much as it does me.  We both seem to be creatures of habit.

There is another issue with Emma.  She's hyper excitable.  Malcolm is excitable because he's an 8 month old puppy; Emma is 18 months old, almost 19 months old and her excitability makes Malcolm's look like he's nearly dead.  A glance, a happy voice, a sound, movement anything sends Emma into flights of fancy.  This is not a bad thing in a pet dog, but in a service dog it can become a fatal flaw.  In order to make her return to public access training successful the first thing she needs is self control even when highly excited.  That became the goal for the next two weeks of training - breaking down the idea she can be excited, but not jumping out of her skin excited.

When I pick up a leash or harness I expect a level of excitement.  Max gives me a happy dance by spinning in a circle and then thrusting his head into his harness, but once it's on he's calm and ready to work.  Malcolm does something similar, but isn't happy about putting the harness on just yet.  Emma goes into barks, jumps and vibrations.  For Emma, touching a leash or harness is like having Christmas every single day.  For Max and Malcolm it is like waking up on a Saturday - I prefer the later reaction because it makes for a calmer dog long before entering the public realm.

Dry Doodle!
Meeting new people, going to new places, even going outside for Emma is a matter of high level excitement and that hyped up excitement shoots her in the foot for working properly in public before we even get her gear on.  So, we are spending time teaching her to be calm from the point the leash is touched to the point she enters the van and eventually to the point she exits the van and enters a new location.  This will be a process and so far we haven't gotten out the front door.

Meanwhile, since I have her working so hard on solving the problem for getting her leash attached, I wanted something silly and fun for her to work on and to lay a foundation of learning for some upcoming task training.  Her basics are solid; she can sit, down and stay on cue.  She recalls like a bandit and even in a distracted state turn and focus back on me.  Her leash work and her excitability are hindering her, but her basics are rock solid - including her Zen.  We just need to calm her down to finish her training or accept it's a normal state of being and work her where her greatest success will be.

I decided to train Malcolm to bow and therefore did the same with Emma.  She has Shake, High Five and the beginning of Say Your Prayers, but no bow just yet.  For Malcolm it came quick and easy, for Emma it would be the hardest thing she's learned.  One of the tasks Emma will learn is to pull the covers down for her handler and if possible to pull them up when he gets out of bed.  So far she's figured out socks and pants and jackets, but beds are harder yet and will take shaping.  Shaping her to bow is something that makes her aware of her body and requires her to solve what I am asking for.

I prefer to advance shaping by using tricks that in the end don't really matter if she masters or not.  If she masters a bow, fantastic, but if she doesn't then it won't affect her ability to help her handler.  I also believe it'll make him smile and that is always a good thing.  I normally use a complex hand signal for the bow, but for Emma I used one I believe he can perform.  It would be a while before I could put a hand cue onto her bow.

In Malcolm's case he'll learn to bow facing me, facing the same way as me, while I am sitting and while I am standing.  For Emma she'll only be learning it facing her handler and only from a seated position.  This is a trick he and she can do together and he can't stand, so she doesn't need to know it while I am standing.

First though was reminding her that she has a leash attached to her.  She has little clue that tightness on her collar means she's to yield to it.  She used to remember that, but doesn't anymore.  Her leash skills have fallen back to the beginning of lead training again.  We worked on Level 2: Step 1 Lazy Leash and will continue to work Lazy Leash until she's once again able to walk properly on a leash.

To get to the point of putting the leash on to work the step though I had to calm her down.  I reached up and touched the leash and clicked before she could go into spasms.  I did this several times and then did it for lifting the leash and returning it and holding the leash and returning it and finally for putting on the leash.  It took 10 minutes to get a leash on her with her remaining calm.

Guard Doodle.
When I put pressure on the leash she locked up.  I didn't put a lot of pressure on it, no more than to push a cell phone, but she locked her entire body and remained absolutely still for almost 2 minutes before she shifted her weight ever so slightly toward the clasp.  I clicked it.  Each time we did a repeat she would lock up for a long time before moving, but each time was a little less and finally she was moving with the leash when she felt pressure.  I'll stay with this until it's a fluid motion and she's not resisting the pressure of the leash and locking her muscles.

After that I began working on a bow.  She offered me backing up and laying down and putting her chin on her feet.  It was a good start and nice to see.  I was finally able to click for just a chin dip while she was standing and by the end of that first session she was dipping and holding her head near the floor.  Silly and funny to see, but not really what I was aiming for.  Goofy girl.

By the end of the week she figured out how to bow, but only once and when she did she suddenly stopped taking treats and ended the game.  One click she was up and wagging her tail and happy open mouth smiling and the next she was roached and making herself small and unwilling to take food.  I don't know what went through her mind, but clearly something bugged her and all that happened was she solved the problem.  Some days she has me scratching my head.

She ended the week a bit down, which got me to thinking she may need to burn off more energy than she's been doing during playtime in the yard.  I knew the next week I had several back to back appointments that I had to attend, so I decided that I would see if she couldn't spend time playing with Jack at Ronda's in her nice big yard and explore a new area and really stretch her legs.  It always seems to improve her mood.

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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