Saturday, April 19, 2014

19 Months: Training - Days 294 - 298

Roadwork, tug tasks and more....what a week!

Emma arrived 1/2 hour after drop off time today.  I had, previously, decided the household schedule would no longer be delayed waiting for her arrival and was in the middle of the next stage of Malcolm's modified training plan - he started roadwork the week before and needed more work on behaviors for passing homes with fenced dogs.

I had to shift his training plan by 1/2 hour so that when I had Dieter and Max barking in the yard I was within sound ordinances and not completely annoying my neighbors.  I was working Malcolm on Levels behaviors when Emma arrived, but was about to send him and Max and Dieter out for playtime since it was 9:00 AM before returning to training.

As a result I just let Emma loose in the yard to explore and play before starting her day.  After her owner left she went to my front door and nudged the handle asking to be let in.  I opened the door for her to let the boys out and caught up Malcolm to prevent him from mugging her to death.  It's been a week since they saw each other and on Monday's Malcolm mugs her with joy when reconnecting. Malcolm is being taught a more appropriate greeting for friends and family dogs and holding him until he calms helps.

Emma was busy towering over Dieter and poking him and Dieter was busy grumbling at her.  I told her to "Get off that Dachshund" (a sentence I never thought would be an almost daily utterance) and she broke off and headed out to play.  I let her play with Malcolm for about an hour.

I finished Malcolm's training and then called her in to free click her for any behavior she chose to offer to loosen her up.  She offered Sit, Down, Tada, Back Up, Spin, and Target.  When asked she gave me prompt Shake and High Five and as I started to cue behaviors she was spot on and with no latency, except for Sit.  For some reason her sit is shaky, so we'll tighten it back up.  She was happy, engaged and taking kibble without hesitation.  It was lovely!

For our next round we returned to one of her last tug tasks.  She needs to learn to pull a full sized door open or closed.  I chose to use my front door and use the tug I have attached to it.  She was thrilled and targeted the tug and worked up to taking it in her mouth and finally pulling.  Though she doesn't have a hard pull, she was moving the door and she backs up when she does it.  It's a good chain and just needs more work to make it a good solid one.

I have used only one type of tug with Emma and I have a different type of tug on my bathroom door. It's a bumper type tug I put on the door when training Max to teach the same behavior.  Max uses it to open the door for me now when I need him too.  After a solid Round with Emma on the front door, even with Malcolm moving in and out of our training area, I sent her out for two minutes of play.

On our next Round I moved her to the bathroom door.  The front door was closed halfway, thus creating a shadowed area in half of the entry.  I was standing to the Emma's left, thus blocking her from the living room and Malcolm was sitting by me hoping for more food.  He's never full from what I can tell.

It was this blocked in position that worried Emma and where moments before she was eagerly taking food she couldn't now.  I opened the door all the way, moved to the other side, sent Malcolm out and Emma was back in the game.  Emma has problems with body pressure - I will need to solve this if she's to work in any location that blocks her in.  Max has had to work in tight spots in public and if Emma can't it will impede what she can do for her handler.

On our third Round she just stopped trying at the door.  I sat with her and had Malcolm sit about two feet away. I knew the problem was Malcolm being close and I just wanted to turn Malcolm being near her into a good thing when she's learning.  She can train with Max right next to her and Dieter right next to her and even Jack right next to her, but Malcolm throws her for a loop.  I normally crate Malcolm, but he's started Other Dog Training Zen and I am leaving him out about half of the time we train to build up that skill.

Emma simply shut down for the last 1/4 cup of her food.  I sat and cuddled her for a while and then sent her out to play for a while.  It was actually a good start to the week and gives me a good picture of what I need to work on. Time to research body pressure and how to help a dog be less sensitive to it.

My son came over with a woman who will be helping me around the house.  Emma was thrilled to meet her and I noticed something about her - her normal 15 minute, out of control, coming out of her skin with excitement behavior is greatly reduced.  The change in food has helped calm her.  I had suspected that she not only didn't like the food we had been feeding her, but that it was part of her uncontrollable excitement.  She calmed in a matter of two minutes and never got as wound up as she normally does when meeting new people.

Overall her entire nature is calmer.  This is a good thing.  Excitability was becoming a major problem for this dog and I was hoping to find a reason for the worst of it and it appears we have.

After the company left I let them play for a bit and then crated her for the walks of the day.  I had started Emma on roadwork last year with the power chair, the only way I can get any distance and real exercise for any of the dogs in.  She started terrified of the chair and over came that, then too distracted to walk in a straight line and not risk being run over and we fixed that.  I then started her on traffic training and she freaked.  She just couldn't handle the sounds or movement of traffic.  I pulled back further and would drive the chair and her and Max to quiet neighborhoods and work on just walking with the chair with Ronda and Deva at the time.

We worked known neighborhoods with known dog yards and had Emma on one side of the chair and Max the other.  The first yard, a pair of yapping Yokies sent Emma into fear peeing. This was with her on the other side of the street from them and Ronda and Deva as a barrier between her and them.  It would continue that way all summer we tried roadwork.

She did straighten out and work with the chair nicely.  She did extremely well with placement and position, but she risked life and limb when a dog barked, even in a distance, by freaking out.  For her safety, in the end, we stopped the roadwork and found other healthy ways to expend her energy and build her muscle.

Today I took her out last.  I had walked Max and scoped the neighborhood I would work the dogs in.  I then took Malcolm on a highly successful and very adventurous run (read his blog to learn of his walk today) and returned to take Emma.

I made the choice to let Emma tell me how much she could do.  If all she could do was get to Park and back we did more than before.  My original goal was to the edge of the bridge and back, but once on the road that plan changed.

Emma is able to enter and exit my gate while on the wheelchair leash.  I got her up on the sidewalk with her head up, her strut in place and her having a good time, though a bit looky loo at first.  There was stress, but it was mild stress, not the freak out, put herself in danger stress of last year.

I am going to share a portion of Malcolm's blog post with you - it explains the bridge and why this is a milestone for Ms. Emma today:

Park Road Bridge, Spokane Valley, WA
There is a bridge I go over to the neighborhood we are working this week.  This bridge spans the freeway, which means roars of trucks and the whine of tires and all those freeway sounds are flooding us as we go over the bridge.  Next to us is a two way street called Park Road (Spokane Valley Washington) which has a single lane going North and a single lane going South.  Next to each lane is a bicycle lane and in the center is a painted median.  I use the West side sidewalk currently working the dogs.  On my way to our walking neighborhood I am facing the South bound traffic directly next to the sidewalk, on the way back Malcolm has his back to this lane as cars approach from behind and travel within a few feet to his left.  When we are on the bridge cars passing heading North and South, plus all of the freeway traffic merges into a multi-directional quagmire of sound and when I was first training Max to work with the power chair and taking him for walks, returning with traffic behind him upset him a lot.  I have posts in other forums of my careful counter conditioning to that bridge.  I was not about to let Malcolm become fearful of that bridge like Max had been, so when I am crossing it I do exactly as I did for Max.  Right now he gets a treat for every line in the sidewalk and with time I'll space that until he doesn't need it anymore.  I also give him a treat for every car passing right now and will slowly change that to every car passing from behind and then fade the treats.  It's worked, Malcolm has no problem with the sensory overload of this bridge, doesn't react to trucks, motorcycles or anything that passes us from behind and is perfectly good on the bridge.

At the very end of that walk is a double curb cut and Malcolm now handles it very nicely.  We then go from a sensory overload into a quiet little neighborhood where we roll along the side of the sidewalkless streets; thankfully traffic is very low.

Imagine soft Emma facing this location with her head high, her step frisky and taking treats every line in the sidewalk without hesitation.  We reached the edge of the bridge and she was still eager to go, so we went.  I did for her the same as for Malcolm because I also don't desire her to be afraid of this bridge.  It is the main route into three or four of my pre-planned walking routes for the dogs.

Emma trooped along that bridge like she'd done it all her life.  She took each treat and chewed happily and trotted with all the sound and her confidence grew.  We reached the double cut curb and she navigated it with ease and off into the neighborhood we went.  We didn't have a single problem from turning with the chair, staying in good position and enjoying her walk until a dog behind a 6 foot wooden fence barked and she nearly came out of her skin.

I have to say I was watching her trot along at about 4 or 5 miles an hour and she looked in pure heaven.  She was glancing about and lifting her nose to take in the smells and looking like she could go all day long if I let her.  She was completely enjoying herself and it was beautiful to see.

We did stop to meet a man I know along the way.  He was in his yard watering it when we were passing.  He was tall, lean and wearing a baseball cap.  Emma is a bit leery of strangers when out in public settings and I wanted this man to say hi.  He is very appropriate with dogs and he just put his hand out and Emma was rewarded for looking (she lowered herself and backed up a bit and looked to me and got a treat) and then sniffing (standing a bit taller, backing up less and more animated) and finally touching his fingers with her nose three times - all on her choice and no pressure other than an offered hand.  Each exploration was met with a bit of tripe or cube of ham or soaked kibble and she grew confident by the end.  It'll take more meetings like this, but she'll learn strangers of all shapes and sizes are good if I pick the right people to meet her.

When the dog barked she did a 180 flip in the air and turned to face that direction.  I stopped, gave her three or four treats and then cued her to continue.  She recovered a few seconds later and off we went.

On the final horn of our walk is a street with dogs I know are out in their yard.  One is Dancy Feet.  He is a Rottweiler/Boxer mix with Wobblers.  The other two are Stompy Feet and his brother.  They are black, stout dogs with prick ears and long (extremely long) black hair.  I suspect they are a mix of some sort, but I don't know what.  Dancy Feet is on our right as I approach and Stompy Feet and his sibling are on our left one house further down.

Dancy Feet has been very calm as we pass lately and just laid on his porch and watched us.  Emma had no problem with him.  I can see Stompy Feet through a set of bushes and started a approach, turn and retreat routine with Emma to get her near the yard.  She was on the opposite side with Stompy Feet and his sibling on her left.  I did three approach and retreat with each approach being a bit closer before she noticed them.  We then worked past them, with both Stompy and his sibling making a gruff racket at us.  Emma was a bit excited and a little fearful, but she didn't freak.  She looked once and barked under her breath and then took the rapid fire treats I was giving her and flew past the house.  The change in her once we were past was remarkable.  She stood taller, her head held in the "I am the queen of the universe" setting and her step so proud she was trying to lead the chair.  It was so nice to see.

We returned to the bridge and with each passing car and each line in the sidewalk I gave her a treat and she never once reacted.  She was still on cloud nine getting past Stompy Feet and even when a big truck rolled past us she didn't flinch.

We ended with a tired and proud Emma who returned home standing tall and carrying loads of confidence.  This years roadwork proves to be much more successful!

Emma loves playing with Jack.

I just couldn't get started today.  I recognized the feeling.  I had done too much the day before and with a previous week of hectic appointments and near disasters and a full weekend of working Malcolm, I had hit a wall.  Before I would have pushed my way into it, struggled against it and only made the remainder of my week a declining curve of energy.  Now, after so many hard crashes that have taken me days to recover from, I decided today would be the play day for the dogs.

Malcolm looks like an adult dog and it can be easy to forget he's still a puppy at heart.  He is still physically, emotionally and mentally maturing and it means he still needs to be a puppy and I still need to cherish his silly moments and laugh at his antics.  He's a funny dog with a sense of humor and a zest of life that rejuvenates me in ways I cannot explain.  I watch his new discoveries and his bold explorations of his world.  The sound of the smoke detector is a new sound or the sight of a teenager wearing a backpack a new bit of data for his brain to mull over.  Even our walks expose him to a world he's never seen before and if I focus only on his training and turning him into the working dog I need, I'll miss his childhood and all the joys an 8 month old pup brings.

So, I plan days to be nothing more than his owner.  To laugh at him when he stuffs his face in a bucket of water and flings the water around or his sudden bursts of energy as he leaps and bounds in only the way a young animal can.  I revel in his head cocks, his curiosity and his clear eyes as he takes in the day and literally enjoys being alive.  How could I not and not forge the bond that will carry us through our partnership together.

This morning the sky hung low with gray clouds laden with moister.  I could feel the chill of a early Spring day before I even opened the front door of the house and let the dogs out for their first potty break.  Both Emma and Malcolm raised their heads when I finally rolled and took my deep cleansing breath, but waited until I got up to let them out.  The entire household has learned that barking and going nuts makes me go back to bed, so they all quietly padded out to the door.  There is a silent excitement to start their day and I have to remind Emma, who starts to bounce up and down like a rearing horse, to calm herself and wait for me to release her.  The opening of the door confirmed my impressions of the day - it was chill and damp and just one of those days you curl up with a good book and a cup of tea and tuck under a blanket and retreat from.

Once the dogs were back in I headed back to the bedroom with my warmed coffee and pulled up the forecast for the day.  It threatened rain.  I looked out at the dull gray sky and agreed.  It said the afternoon would be warmer, but I suspected it would rain by then and that meant roadwork, one of the few things I could do with the dogs, would be out.  Okay, what to do with two high energy youngsters and a grouchy old man?

I called my friend Robin and we caught up, shared our successes and discussed some training ideas for Emma.  She's having problems with being in tight spaces and Robin had some great training ideas to improve her confidence.  Just what I needed.  I shared my insight from Debi Davis regarding working a duckling with a power chair and we discussed many other details only friends find interesting.  It was a great conversation and one that really helped me focus Emma's training for the week.  She's coming up on working tight spaces for tug tasks and after seeing her reaction the day before I realized I needed to take a step back and rework that part to make the rest of her training more successful.

I let the dogs go in and out and play in the yard and finally called Ronda.  I wanted to see how she was doing, since we hadn't talked much during her recovery from her surgery.  Jack has graduated during her recovery.  He's done the last of his public access training, polished skills she needs and is doing his job.  Jack and Ronda are our first graduating team and I am so very proud of them.  Jack is a young dog also.  Ronda said he was driving her nuts because she couldn't burn off the energy he has and invited us over - another reason for the call.  I figured she'd be up to a visit from the crew and there's nothing better than an afternoon of playing with known and safe dogs for my trainees.

We headed out shortly after the rain fell.  I was eating lunch when I called Ronda and needed to run a quick errand before we went to our destination.  I was having issues with convincing myself to move and leave the house - which happens more often than I like to admit and was just thinking of the best way to get the crew to the van when I heard the patter of rain on my roof.  Good thing I decided against the roadwork, it would have been a miserable wet and cold event.

The last time I took Max, Malcolm and Emma to Ronda's to play I let them out the front door off lead, popped the side door to the van and opened the gate for them all to load up.  Emma was so hyper excited she shot out the front door like she'd been shot out of a rocket and flew down the ramp like a Greyhound and then ran through the gate and leapt into the van while barking in a rapid fire bark of hyper excitement.  I wanted to prevent that.  Just because we are off to do something fun doesn't mean all the rules of calm and happy behavior is out the window.

I dressed Max, gathered Malcolm's gear and lead and picked up Emma's lead and she went into hyper excited mode.  I ignored her and walked Max to the van and loaded him up and left him to get Malcolm.  I put a lead on Malcolm and walked him loose lead to the van and loaded him and left him to get Emma.  Emma was still bounding off the clouds and I went about gathering my stuff until she sat and vibrated and waited until that decreased into happy dog emotional state.  Had I put a lead on her while she was as excited as she had been I would have been rewarding and reinforcing that excitement.  Just giving her time to burn through and choose to calm herself gives her the tools to self calm and keep herself under better control.

When I opened the front door she shot out like she was on a fire and hit the end of her lead.  She chose to return to inside and sit and look to me.  I cleared her to go again and she did it a second time, but not as hard as the first.  Again she came in and sat and I cued her to go again.   This time it was controlled and she was in a calmer state when we started for the van.

I need to mention something about walking a dog on a lead - it should be just like walking along holding a person's hand.  The handler's body should be completely relaxed, their grip loose and comfortable on the lead, the hand and arm relaxed at the person's side and the stride normal and comfortable like both human and dog are taking a Sunday stroll along a park lane.  The human shouldn't be changing their stride to keep the dog with them.  They shouldn't be holding the lead in a death grip.  They shouldn't be holding their arm out straight or upraised or tense.  They shouldn't be so worried the dog will make a mistake that the dog is left with nothing but micromanagement.  The lead shouldn't be so long the dog has a chance to get 3 or 4 feet ahead or to the side, but instead held about 6 to 8 inches from the dog's collar where it can easily be loose and relaxed and the dog can get information from the lead sooner when needed.  It should be as comfortable as walking with a loved one - a dance of shared responsibility.

When walking the dog, just walk.  The handler should have their head up, their shoulders squared and an air of "nothing is wrong" about them.  They should also be watching from the side of their eye to see if the dog is ABOUT to hit the end of the lead and stop before the dog does.  No jerking on the lead, no commentary, just stop.  The dog will look back to see why you stopped and in time, with practice, will learn they are to return to your side.  Emma will do this when I stop.

Emma's lead is extremely wide and extremely long and it makes holding the lead comfortably hard - so I wrap 90% of the lead in a loop in my left hand and have about 6 inches of lead between her and me and start walking.  I watch in a way that makes her think I am not and when I see her get distracted and start to go to the end of the lead I just stop.  My hand is still at my side, my body is still upright and when she turns she sees me looking down with a neutral face and she quickly prepositions herself to my side.  I had to do this 5 times for the first half of the ramp.  She was highly excited, but the stops gave her a reminder that I expect her to walk loose lead and next to me with her shoulder by my thigh.  Once she remembered she walked loose lead to the gate, walked out the gate with no problems and then tried to shoot to the car.  Two more stops and one turn and walk away (she was really excited) and she got the idea and walked loose lead to the car.

In other words, be it Max, Malcolm or Emma I insist on leash manners.  If they sniff I back up and continue to back up until they are able to look up and focus back on me and retry.  I do it as often as I need to.  I set my time up so that I can take the 10 or 15 minutes extra it takes to get the dog where I want on a loose lead.  In the beginning I give myself 30 minutes or more depending on the dog's age and amount of training.  If I am in a hurry I don't carry them, but put a harness on them and clip to it and they are allowed to pull all they want - it's not their flat collar.  Loose lead on a flat collar is a must - no matter how exciting the world is.

With Emma loaded in after a successful reminder on leash manners, we headed out and completed my errand and went to Ronda's house.  Ronda and I had discussed Malcolm's problem with going over board when greeting Jack and what we needed to do to stop him practicing the behavior.  Here is where Malcolm becomes the over excited, out of control and overboard dog in the group.  I let Max into the yard first and then Emma. I insisted Emma walk to the gate loose lead and enter under control, not shooting in over excited.  The goal is to create an emotionally balanced dog and have them also enjoy their lives.  Allowing times when they loose their mind and become so excited they can't think is not good for them for overall behavior as a working dog.

Malcolm was last.  Ronda would have Jack on lead while I kept Malcolm on lead and Malcolm would not be able to greet Jack until he was calmer than his shoot to the moon excitement he normally does.  It's a progressive stage thing that we need to work on so that in the future Jack and Malcolm can work together and/or meet in the store and Malcolm doesn't loose his brains.

Ronda let her dogs out and came out with Jack on lead.  Malcolm was struggling to rush everyone, crying and whining and sounding like we were torturing him.  We weren't, but he was that excited.  Emma was happily exploring and Max was off doing his own thing and Malcolm was in a brainless frenzy trying to drag me to Jack.  We were over ten feet apart.

It took us 10 minutes to get Malcolm to calm.  Each time he sat and looked up to me we took a step.  Each time he wound back up I stopped and he had to return to calming himself.  At this point in learning this new behavior food would have been lost on him.  He was too wound up to really figure out anything more than what we worked on - Stage 1, calm yourself fool to move forward.

After the first two times he went to rush into Jack's face and I walked him away he got the idea and finally he got in some licks and came back as I walked him away.  Four more approaches and he finally stood by Jack completely calm.  I told him Yes and released him.  He and Jack went off to play.  It was a lot of work for a brief moment of "THAT'S IT!" and off they went - running and wrestling and having a blast.

He played in the pool and ran and wrestled and ran with the neighbor dogs on the other side of the fence and barked and played and ran.  He chased with Max and Jack when we played fetch and even brought the ball back once.   He emptied about half of the pool by digging in it and putting his face in it.  He "Poked the Bear" several times with Deva, Sheba and Chautzie.  Poking the Bear is our term for boundary testing with the adult dogs that normally don't desire him nearby.  All three girls tolerate him well, but don't play with him.  Sheba has bad hips from having been hit by a car and then not having them set by her previous owner before Ronda rescued her.  She is lumbering and sweet, but she doesn't desire a frisky pup in her face.  Chautzie is a 13 year old Rott/Bully mix and is simply uninterested in a young dog.  Deva is 7 and doesn't want any dog near her when she has a bone or ball - she tends to hover over her prize and bark in a high pitched tone when she's telling another dog to go away.

Sheba had crawled into a cool spot under the steps of Ronda's deck when Malcolm went under to mug her and say hi.  She gave him a very appropriate correction and he came out yowling and protesting she had removed a limb and then ran off to play.  He went to kiss Chautzie and she looked up from her comfy bed on the deck and grumbled at him.  He turned and left.  He spent a large amount of time laying "just near" Deva while she had a whining high pitched fit at him and would move in, slowly, lick her face and then move out.  He wanted her ball and was trying to convince her to give it up and she refused.  He was playing the "I'm not poking you" game as we call it and she very appropriately told him "like is not fair" by not sharing her prize.  a lesson he needed and after almost 10 minutes accepted.

He was tired and clearly spent, but he just wanted to play and would get Jack to join him.  Jack is telling him appropriately when he's gone too far and then the two of them run off and wrestle and play Catch Me If You Can and Tug-a-Dog and other games and really ran out their energy.  Malcolm didn't stop and start to rest and say, "Yup, that was fun" until 2 1/2 hours after we arrived and didn't really stop and take long rests until 3 hours after we arrived.  Pent up much, Mister?

During this time Emma explored every corner of the yard.  She ran and played and sniffed and marked and had too much fun.  She would come up and cuddle with us for long periods and then head out and explore every corner of the yard.  We had a good laugh as she followed Jack and Max and lifted her leg, yes her, and peed over their marks.  I keep saying I did that poor girl a disservice raising her with all male dogs.  Attitude was in her life for a short time and was not healthy and she was playing and involved with Max and Dieter and Jack for most of her life.  Attitude died this month one year ago.  That August Emma started to lift her leg to mark as she followed Max about my Mom's yard and I catch her often lifting her leg and marking behind the boys.  Today she was in full marking behavior.  Silly girl.

She barked at passing dogs and people and simply had a good time.  She was clearly enjoying herself and really loved nothing more than to run about with her nose down and checking out every new scent she could find and then seeking even more to fill her brain with.  She loves her play dates at Ronda's and always explores and really enjoys herself and then goes into the rips and runs the yard like a wild dog.  She can cover ground too - Ronda's yard really lets her get her full speed on.

It was a lovely day of being dogs and learning new lessons.  Like children dogs learn as much through play as they do through lessons.  Young children have scheduled playtime during the school day and get less of it as they mature and move into Junior High and High School.  I think that is a shame.  I think our children should have scheduled breaks for being teenagers as much as they did for being children.  Just because play changes as they mature doesn't change the fact that social interaction with peers continues to give important lessons.

Malcolm is learning about patience and communication with his kind.  He's learning to recall from distractions when I call him back from running the fence or barking at someone passing.  He's learning to play with breaks and recognize when he's accidentally hurt or frightened another dog.  He's learning about social structure, older dogs, small dogs and how his body moves.  He's a teenage dog, but he's still in that grade school need for playtime.

Emma is learning to be part of a group and be okay not participating in all of the games, that as a mature dog she can select to do something by herself and it's perfectly okay.  She's learning independence and dog communication and recall from distractions (her recall is fabulous) and how to take breaks between play sessions.  She's learning how to calmly meet a dog who doesn't want to play and how to choose activities that meet her mood at the time.

A lot of learning happens in play.  Very young children play house, pretend to clean and cook and go to work in preparation for adulthood.  Puppies and young dogs do also.  All young animals do.  Watch any documentary on Africa and watch young wild cats - play is how they learn to hunt and eventually support themselves.  For our pet dogs, play is how they learn boundaries, understand their peers and take pauses so they can control their own excitement level.  With a proper adult dog, teenagers like Malcolm, learn how to play for short periods of highly arousing play and then take breaks and just hang out and explore together before returning to highly arousing play.  If he doesn't get the clue when his appropriate play companion tells him it's time for a break or a pause in the game, the adult dog tells him in several appropriate ways which include walking away, becoming a bit vocal or anything that doesn't cause the pup harm physically, emotionally or mentally.

A pup who cannot take those pauses, stays at a heightened arousal state and doesn't learn self control is a pup who cannot work in public because of poor impulse control.  Both Emma and Malcolm have learned well the lessons I desire in play.  The trick is not to have daily "dog park" like play dates, but occasional ones that supplement their overall exercise program.  Walks, human interactive games, training and nose work all play a part in teaching a balanced dog who can go from a play session to working in a store without issue.  The varying exercise types prevent an overload of stress hormones and adrenaline.  A single type of play can backfire even with a pet dog.

Today was our once or twice a month I take the crew over to Ronda's and let them just blow steam and really work out their energy for the day.  The day ended with calm, quiet and tired dogs.  It was a great day!

Off to help another dog feel safe.

The sky was dull grey again.  Clouds laden with rain hung low as I staggered out of bed to abuse the alarm.  I have to say, Emma has finally decided that waiting for me to wake fully up is a good idea; she just laid and waited for me to finish my morning of alarm clock abuse before quietly stretching and getting off the bed and walking out with the boys for the first outing of the day.  I, on the other hand, could feel the effects of this weather front deep in my lower spine and my legs.  Even the short distance from my bedroom to my living room was enough to make me feel like I had drained all the fuel from the muscles.  There are days I wish I could just bounce up with enough energy to face my day and not worry if today is the day I need to put aside half of what needs to be done.

I gave her half of her breakfast and saved the other half for later in the day.  I had plans for her, since I had a client consult, and she only eats about 2 cups of food a day most days.  A full belly at night makes our mornings much easier I have found and she's less likely to have an upset stomach in the morning.

My kitchen looked like someone set off a nuclear bomb in it and my fridge was a biohazard zone, but I simply didn't have the emotional, mental or physical energy tackle that part of my house.  I actually barely had the energy to focus this morning.  The weather and last weeks spoon marathon really took a lot out of me.  I spent the morning waiting for John and Yoda to arrive watching Warehouse 13's latest episode, drinking my coffee and eating my meal and using my IPad.

She was a bit taken back by Yoda when he came into the house.  He's big, and I do mean big, and she's a tiny mite next to him.  He stands 30 inches tall and weighs almost 120 pounds.  He's big and lumbering and sweet as all get out, but she was clearly having a problem with how big he is and so I went to let them out.  She got trapped between Max and Malcolm, who had a spat on the porch (not a fight, but a spat as in siblings snarking at each other) and it was a bit much - she yelled like she'd been murdered and then ran to me.  Okay, we'll just give her a hug and send her back out.  She was fine after that and even checked Yoda fully out in the end.

After John left I setup the house for Max and Malcolm to remain loose and decided not to leave Dieter loose with them.  I gave both boys a raw bone, but didn't have one for Dieter and really didn't want a bone spat while I was gone with Dieter in the middle.  I crated Dieter and while I was getting what I would need for Emma, the 1/2 cup of kibble with a cube of tripe chopped into it and the leash in my hand, I waited for Emma to get past the bounce and hyper excitement she gets when she thinks I am taking her out.  There is no point in putting her leash on when she's like that and reinforce the behavior.

It took about 2 minutes to get the van and when we arrived at the client's home it took about 5 minutes to get to the front door of the apartment complex and another 3 minutes to go from the lobby to her door (which is about the same as walking to the van) just to ensure she was walking in the right position and on a loose lead with her head up and not ping ponging beside me.  I do have to say, she was 100% better this time than the last time I brought her to this client's home.

This was her third visit to this client and on each one I have worked on shaping the final behavior I want.  On her first visit she was distracted and unable to lay still for most of the visit.  She explored the small one bedroom apartment and checked in with me and was nervous.  On the second visit she spent about half of the time exploring the the other half practicing just laying near me, but not in a proper position yet.  She was nervous, but not as nervous as the previous visit.  This time she spent maybe 5 minutes exploring at the end as a reward and the rest either providing demos or laying in a proper tucked tight position, facing the same way I was, against the side of the chair I was sitting in.

This was not easy for her.  She wanted to sit up, put her chin on my leg and demand my attention, move out of position and turn laying out in "traffic" facing me and was fussy for 2/3 of the visit.  The final 1/3 she got the idea.  Each time she went out of position I gently guided her back and heavily and only rewarded for her being in a settle against the side of the chair tucked "out of traffic".

Traffic, by the way, is where she can be stepped on.  When she's working she'll need to tuck tight against the chair where she is the most protected from being stepped on, especially as a black dog, when at a rest with her handler.  Teaching her to tuck tight against the chair I am sitting in, be it a regular chair or my power chair, teaches her how to tuck out of traffic and be safe.  Insisting she remain in a settled position until called upon and returning it when what was needed was finished, starts her very early and highly important public access skills for going to movies, dinners and social events.

She was not anywhere near as nervous as she's been in the past.  As a matter of fact the moments of worry was more that I wasn't paying attention to her or my hand was moving over her head and was easily resolved by letting her know what I wanted and rewarding the behavior.  She was eager to demo retrieve steps and happy to eat the last of her breakfast.

I use Emma for this client because she too has a soft dog and I have told her in the past the troubles we had teaching Emma to retrieve.  Her dog is no where as soft as Emma and he's progressing at a much faster and with a better attitude than she did when learning to retrieve.  Emma is a huge moral booster to anyone who sees her retrieve now.  She loves to retrieve.  She derives joy doing a retrieve.  She makes it clear that a solid retrieve and a solid hold can indeed be taught if patience and effort is put into the dog and worked at the dog's rate.  I truly feared at one point that I would need to career change her because asking her to do a retrieve was so adversive for her - then she burst out the other end and became a top notch retriever.

She also models the behavior for a small dog who also has a beard.  Murphy is a Shitzu and like Emma has a beard.  It seems that dogs of similar structure learn better from each other.  Jack didn't get the idea of a retrieve watching Max, but he did Emma.  Emma didn't get somethings watching Max, but she did Jack.  Murphy is closely watching Emma and mimicking her.  Today he started to do the take and give game and for the first time really took off on it.

At the end of the lesson a bag of treats Murphy's handler gave us fell by my chair between it and the end table.  Emma tried a head on approach to pick it up for me, but couldn't get to it that way.  It took a bit of direction, but I got her to go around the chair and come between the end table and the chair.  She wasn't sure what to do next, so I lifted the edge of the bag for her.  Yes, I could have gotten it myself.  I had a perfect training opportunity for her and decided to use it.  This will be similar to her getting something that fell between her handler's chair and a barrier and teaching her to approach from behind to get to it and then coming back around makes her retrieve more useful.

She got the back and brought it around and gave it to me and I dropped it back where it had been and sent her back in.  She went right in, picked it right up and came right back with it.  We had a celebration.  We then worked on doing her bow in a new location and had a bit of fun and let her explore.  Overall, the entire 1 hour and 40 minutes we were there was a wonderful advancement in proper service dog behavior.  I was very happy.

Walking back to the van was a different story.  She needed repeated resets in the lobby and again on the walkway to the sidewalk and out to the van.  I had to be about 10 feet from the van before she got it and walked perfectly.  She was exhausted and happy to return home.

She chewed bones and relaxed for most of the rest of the afternoon.  I needed to run to the store and took Max, so I left her loose with Malcolm and Dieter for the 30 minutes I was gone and came back to a fully intact house.

She needs more work on focus in new locations and more work on her leash work.  I also need to meet with the family to work with them on ensuring her leash skills remain good.  I think helping them relax and be more natural when walking with her will aid her in keeping solid leash skills.  Right now, her skills are not good enough to enter a non-pet friendly store and until they are we'll continue to work in other locations to build up her basic leash work.

Another dog needs my help.

What a full week this has been for Emma.  She again attended a client consult and played the roll of a neutral dog for a training exercise.  I have a client with an 8 pound Min Pin named Coco who is under socialized and fearful.  She becomes fretful of dogs when seen on walks, fear charges when they enter her home (which some do when family members visit) and resource guards her toys and food.  I have my work cut out for me, but we are already seeing remarkable progress with Coco.  Her owner is dedicated to her and does her homework faithfully.  She, more than I, will make the difference in Coco's recovery.

Since she's a bit of a pill when first meeting dogs in the home, I left Emma in the van with Max.  This is a good lesson for Emma, since she needs to learn to wait patiently in the car if needed.  She is doing fantastic with this part of her training and was sitting quietly in the passenger seat waiting for me when I came out 30 minutes later.  Mind you, right now I can do this because the weather permits it.  Shortly none of the dogs can wait for me in the van safely due to heat and earlier, in the deep cold, I would not have asked it of them either.  This time of year and early fall are the only times I can help them learn this vital lesson.

Coco had calmed with Malcolm working with her in the home, so when Emma was brought out Coco didn't even react to her.  Emma was more excitable than Malcolm and thus a new energy level for Coco to learn about.  They've met before when Coco came to visit at my home for an afternoon, but it's been a while since that day.  Emma spotted Coco and looked at her with interest and then went to explore the smells of her new environment.

I have a problem with Emma's nose being stuck to the ground and on constant high sniff mode.  I am working on it, but if she can't learn to walk with her head up it will affect her future.  I took her across the street and stood on the sidewalk across from Coco.  A car passed us at that time and Emma startled and lowered to the ground.  I quickly rewarded her for looking to me and she recovered.

She was excellent as a neutral dog.  Though she wasn't walking well on the lead, she wasn't focusing on Coco either and thus made it possible for Coco to work on her lesson.  Emma is still weaving a great deal on lead, she pulls hard and tends to keep tension on the lead and constantly forgets that there is a human holding the other end.  Walking her is tiring, unlike walking Malcolm who doesn't even feel like he's attached to the lead.  I am working with her on paying attention to her position and walking properly, but it's just not happening.  Her distraction level is simply to high when she's out in the world.

We moved back to the sidewalk where Coco was working and Emma, now able to focus on me as I reminded her I was on the planet, sat alert and happy beside me.  She fell into a perfect working mode at this point and it was a moment of magic.  Coco worked another lesson and we moved to the side on some grass and Emma forgot I was on the planet.  Coco on the other hand forgot Emma was on the planet also and was doing amazing with her lesson.  Her owner has great timing and really works hard on the lesson as we practice her homework for the week.

We practiced Emma and Coco walking by each other on the sidewalk while Coco worked on her lesson and Coco was spot on as was Emma.  It was a moment of magic that both Coco's owner and I were happy to see.  Only last week Coco couldn't have done what we asked today and here, with focused work on her homework, Coco was flying forward on her skill set.

After that Emma and Coco had a lovely greeting and Coco was very comfortable with her.  Emma is a very gentle dog and Coco responded well to the soft greeting Emma offered.  We did practice counting "1. . 2 and Let's Go" so Coco didn't get over her head in a greeting and could do a quick 2 second "hi how are ya" and walk away before she had time to react.  Emma, who knows this type of greeting, was perfect.

Emma worked with Coco for about 30 minutes and did fantastic and really helped Coco with her lesson.  Good girl.

We headed to Target so I could get some supplies with a gift card a friend sent me and I left her and Malcolm in the van while Max and I did our shopping.  It took us a total of 10 minutes to do our shopping and I was about to leave when I thought, "What am I doing?  This is a perfect place to train!" and shut off the van.  I took Emma out and spent at least 5 minutes walking her from the van to the front of the building.  The distance was less than 100 feet.

She was rubbernecking at the cars, people and birds flying overhead.  She was moving her head like a tiny raptor seeking prey and her body was almost vibrating with energy.  I want the dogs happy in their job, but her level of excitement is not functional.  I'll have to revisit Target twice more to see if she improves.

As we passed the doors the very sensitive door sensors set them off and they slid open.  Emma ducked and jerked closer to me to get away from them.  I stayed calm and gave her a treat, which she was taking well, and went by the next one, which did the same.  She again jerked, but not as bad.  By the third she looked and then looked to me.  Excellent.

There is a bench about 8 feet from the last exit door, which is a double set of doors that don't slide, but swing out and then bang on a set of rails on each side of them.  The pneumatic control makes a wheezing sound as it starts and then hisses and the doors snap open rapidly.  As we sat the did just that and she jerked badly again.  I gave her a treat and then began treating her for looking about and looking back to me.

It was really busy today, despite the early hour and constant downpour.  About 80% of the people had small children between the ages of infant to kindergarten.  As many passed they'd smiled at her and commented on how cute she was.  She saw men with and without hats, women in head scarfs and long flowing coats. She saw a LOT of children either being carried, walking, running, riding in carts or pushed in strollers.  She saw people using umbrellas.  She did very well with all of that.

At least three friendly strangers were given permission to pet her.  She was not wearing her harness, since I want to re-socialize her to strangers and don't want her seeking attention in harness.  She is shy meeting a new person.  She ducks low, lowers her head and goes up to them to sniff and then suddenly is okay and warms up and enjoys meeting them.  Each time she met a stranger I gave her a treat and by the third one she was more upright and confident.

She had problems with cars passing behind her in the parking lot, so each time one did I fed her a treat.  She soon stopped paying attention to the traffic sounds.  I will need to take her to the truck stop nearby and work on her listening to big trucks and feeling okay by their sounds.  I did the same with Max when he tried to bite the tire of one driving by us on a walk one day - it was one of the few times I grabbed him and pushed him on his side out of total fear.  I took him to the truck stop and asked a driver if he could check the truck and then we went and watched them move about for about 15 minutes - after that he was much better about them.  She needs to do much the same.  Find out they are BIG CARS and then see them move and hear their sounds and relax around them; currently they terrify her.

The door popping open with that wheezing sound and then a stream of people spilling out of it suddenly bothered her also.  Again, I gave her a treat each time it opened and people came out.  Soon she was not paying attention to it or the people any longer.

She did try to reach out and sniff people as they walked by and her head kept moving in that raptor type movement.  She was physically stiff and really never calm, but she did well for her first time there and I am hoping to see calm by the third time.  She is such a different dog from Malcolm who just takes things in and sits fully relaxed and blase about the world about him.  He never reacted to the sounds of traffic behind him and ignored the people all together.  The only thing that bugged him was that door and even that he soon tuned out as I fed him a treat each time it opened.

She was unruly on the leash on the way back and it took almost 5 minutes to return to the van.  All told we sat outside of Target for 15 minutes and she did make progress on some of her trouble spots, but it is clear we need to rework the location to get to really calm behavior.

After that I took her to the bank.  The bank is quiet enough I can see how she's doing in a business and gauge other locations to take her into.  She was unruly on the leash and it took me 3 minutes to walk 15 feet.  She was better indoors, but it took a bit to get her to just sit at my side and wait for our turn.  She continued the tiny raptor movements.  When we did our transaction I was at a desk, so I had her tuck before my feet.  She did, but couldn't maintain the position and I had to send her back in twice more.

She was just as unruly on the leash to the van.  At this point, the bank and pet friendly locations are the only places I will be working her indoors.

When we returned she was excited and happy, but I saw no overt fall out.  She played a bit in the yard and then came in and crashed out for her nap with the boys.  She was happy when Vanessa came to help clean the house and handled the vacuum and steamer with her normal caution.  She curled in my lap for a while as Vanessa did my living room floor and then went and laid in my recliner as she did the kitchen.

After that I had to leave for another client consult. Since it was a new and unknown dog both Emma and Malcolm stayed home.  I crated her with a new raw bone and did the same with Dieter.  She got her smaller crate, which she's more comfortable in and Dieter got the big crate.  Malcolm was loose in the house.  I was gone for 2 1/2 hours and when I released her she was calm and happy.

She has become a dream to crate at my home.  She enters when cued, remains quiet and is calm when I release her.  She needs to build up slowly at home and at her Grandma's home in her home crate the same way.  Start with putting her up for 1 minute and build up until she can be left for longer periods. Don't lump the behavior and go for 4 hours in the crate when she has only worked up to 10 minutes.  I built her up over the course of a week from 1 minute to 1 hour, but I did it in 10 minute increments after working up to the first ten minutes.

She ate all but the last 1/8th of a cup of her dinner.  I suspect I fed her about that much extra during our training today.  She was quiet and calm after dinner and went to bed and promptly fell asleep when I setup in the bedroom for the night.  I have not seen any overt fallout yet, but will watch tomorrow and gauge if she can handle one more outing this week or just needs to work on going into tight spaces for her lesson.

It was a good day.

What a week!  I need a nap!

Emma has a very busy week with a lot of stuff happening in it.  On Monday she went for her first run at Roadwork and did very well.  On Tuesday she got a day of play with Max, Malcolm and Jack at Ronda's house.  On Wednesday she attended a client consult.  On Thursday she attended a second client consult and went to Target and the bank.  Today was a day of rest and recovery.  That was an awful lot of stuff happening and she just needed to slow down and process what happened this week.

She enjoyed her day sleeping and running in the yard off and on and just hung out with the family.  She hadn't shown any fall out from the busy week and giving her a day off before she went back to her family was a good end to a long week.  She ate well when I fed her and seemed to truly enjoy just relaxing around the house for the day.

At 4:00 PM I took down her leash and leashed her up after she stopped jumping, but before she was completely calm.  I had spoken in the morning with Robin and she explained that she had taught calm leash manners to her dog a bit backwards by rewarding calm after the leash was on and as he improved each time she worked on his relaxing when the leash was attached she worked back until his leash didn't mean anything more than to relax, even if she picked it up to put it on him.

I decided that it was worth doing with Emma.  She's just not relaxing once the leash is on and that excited behavior is carrying into everything she does.  I want happy, but relaxed behavior when she's heading out to work.  Today I gave her a half an hour to work on relaxation on the leash.  I sat reading a book on my IPad and rewarded her for sitting, laying down and eventually putting her head down and then built duration.  By the time the family came to pick her up she was about half asleep again and relaxed.  She wound up on hearing them, but we were at a much lower point than previously.

When she excited and barked I took her back in for a second and tried again.  I got the door closed and she barked again (she can go into excitement barking) and I backed her up each time.  She walked with a lot of control and quiet to the gate.  It was the most controlled and the calmest she's ever been.  She exited the gate and with a few stops and waiting for self control, got quickly to her hand off.  It was the fastest, most controlled and calmest pass off we've ever done.  I will continue relaxation protocols with her leash and teach her to physically, mentally and emotionally relax when she has her leash on.

It was a long week but a good one.  She made great strides on her skills this week and the change in her food has clearly helped her calm down.  I am looking forward to see how much more she calms as we move through the first 6 weeks on her new food.  Next week should be enjoyable.

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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