Tuesday, May 6, 2014

19 Months: Training - Day 303 - 307

She's waiting for the ball to be thrown!

Resting yesterday and ending with such a fantastic public access outing re-energized me.  I woke this morning feeling more human and not nearly as foggy. Since it is Monday and normally I plan to bath Emma on Mondays to remove the perfume scent from her coat, I took the time to clean up my kitchen.  Yes, again it looked like a nuclear bomb had gone off and I had dead food in the fridge to be removed.

It was a quiet start to our morning with the boys calm for the most part.  Malcolm was clearly feeling the strain of not getting a lot done during the week.  He's been cooped up with the weather and as a result I was seeing a lot of tiny behaviors that tell me he's going out of his mind.  He was stealing socks, washcloths, potatoes on the porch and more.  He was sneaking cat food from the bowl and raiding the cat box, something he hadn't done in a long time.  All of these tiny behaviors combined with his poking Max into grouching at him and pestering Dieter as well as running and being a nut job in the house off and on told me he badly needed to burn energy.

I hadn't been feeling good for days and had neglected his need to be a pup and run and play with friends or just burn off excess energy.  Bless him, he's laid by my side as I've slept off migraines and curled quietly for hours in the house while I did my best to regain my strength and reduced my pain to a functional level again.  At almost 9 months of age, it was a lot to ask of him and he came through like a trooper.

Emma, during the weekend, had traveled with her handler to Montana and spent the weekend in a hotel.  I knew she would need a day to process her adventure and recover herself, so today was a perfect day to set up a play date.  Her owner called at 8:17 AM to let me know she was running a bit behind and would arrive shortly.  Emma arrived at 8:45 AM and was in great spirits.  I had worried about her mood after a long weekend away and was very pleased to see she was doing well.

She did great working with her owner on remembering to walk loose lead.  She's now leaping back into heel position when her owner stops and continues to reconnect and focus on her as they walk up the ramp.  Today was the best ever hand off to date.  She walked up to me and made one attempt to launch at me to say her hellos, stopped when she felt the lead and then walked up to about one foot from me and sat and remained calm.  Excellent work Ms. Emma!

I let her and the boys play in the yard for a few and then brought the crew in for breakfast.  At first I thought I would get some training in, but decided that Emma would do better to have the day off, so everyone got their full meals.  I then took Emma into the shower with me and bathed her.  She doesn't like it much yet and when she saw me preparing to shower she went to hide.  I went to her and carried her in with me and gently washed her.

She loves, and I mean loves, to be towel dried.  I had wrung her out in the shower stall by running my hands through her coat to remove excess water and then gently squeezing her coat to get even more out.  I then took the towel and began to towel her off.  She leaned into it, did a wiggle and squirm into the pressure of my hands and smiled up at me.  When I stepped out of the shower with her she stayed at my side and let me use a second towel on her and ate up the rubbing down.  When I went to dry myself she kept pushing her body against my legs and putting her head into the towel as it hung down and would look up at me with big brown eyes and a doggy smile.  She simply loves the feel of being rubbed down with a towel.

I gave her about 20 minutes to recover from the evil shower and got myself ready for the day.  I then pulled out the blow dryer and dried her.  Malcolm, the goof, rushed in and played with the end of the hose.  He likes to put his mouth over the end and poof his cheeks out.  I laughed at him and gently began drying Emma.  As I blew the hair on her feet he went to bite the "toy" I was blowing and stopped when he felt her leg.  I asked him to leave, but this was too much fun and he played with the air with the tip of his nose.  He did the same when I was drying her ears and I had to tell him not to bite her ears.  He put his nose on my finger tips as I used the hose, poked her in the cheek and muzzle and generally was a pest the entire time.  I kept sending him away, but he was completely engaged with the blower.  Malcolm loves the dryer.  Emma does not.

She did much better drying this time.  I had never used one on a dog that needed their ears and head dried before and after our last adventure with it I contacted some friends who have coated dogs that need blow drying also.  I got some great tips on how to make it more comfortable for her and help her become more comfortable with the entire handling process.  She will have to be groomed all her life, including bathing, clipping and blow drying and if I can make it easier on her in general then I will.  Today she laid down while I blew her coat and wasn't shaking nearly as bad as she did last time.  A few more times of gently working her with the dryer and she should be more comfortable with that part of her regular care.

I gave her another twenty minutes after the drying and then brushed her out.  She is much better about this and it's becoming, for her, a bonding experience.  She's always hated being brushed and it's been a long road to make it more comfortable for her and reduce her stress when I brush her out. I am seeing regular improvement.

I called Ronda and asked if she wanted to watch Emma and Malcolm while Max and I went to a client consult.  She agreed, since Jack was in dire need of burning off energy too, and I ran them over.  I was away for 2 hours and when I returned I had two happy, tired and content trainees in Ronda's yard. I stayed for another 2 hours while Max ran off some energy and Malcolm, Emma and Jack had a great time playing.  Malcolm and Jack are an excellent play match and for a long time it was just Malcolm and Jack playing while Emma happily cuddled or explored every corner of the yard.  At one point Emma engaged Malcolm in a game of Catch Me If You Can and she outran him like a bandit.  She was so happy and full of life as she flew around trees and through the yard with Malcolm laid out and chasing her.

We ended the day with everyone exhausted.  I brought them home and fed them and watched as each and every one of them went to their corners and dropped off to sleep.  It was a well spent day letting Emma recharge her batteries and burning off pent up energy in Malcolm.  Somedays, you just have to let them be dogs and learn through play.

Check out that intensity!

Last night Max, after two hours of play, collapsed in the living room and slept hard.  When it was bedtime he struggled to his feet and did the old dog walk to the bedroom and folded onto his bed.  I am seeing more of that.  Today, he was still struggling to stand and when we went into the yard later he seemed to get his energy back and played, but tonight again the stiff and sore walk was back.  When I went to let him out for the last potty run he laid by the crate and just watched me.  Once the first dog up and at the door, I now have to call him and ask him to go out.  He really struggled hard to stand and then lumbered out like he was an ancient dog.  My heart is breaking.  My once athletic boy who could go all day long and be ready for a full night no longer can.  I may have to make the very difficult call and retire him now, long before Malcolm has finished his training.  Max is tired and stiff and sore and is partially retired as it is.  He helps when I truly need a sound dog at my side, but the time is coming that I will be announcing his final working day.  Tonight, I feel like curling up in a corner and just bawling.

I had intended to return to working in tight spaces and work on task work with Emma, but when looking at my call log I saw I had a call from someone needing information about service dogs.  I had already fielded two of those calls during the morning and knew I had a client consult with Spirit in the afternoon.  Talking on the phone wears me out and by the time I called the client who had left a message I was already feeling drained.  We ended talking for over two hours about her needs and what we could do to help her locate a trainer in her area.  She is on the East Coast and a trainer closer to her would be a better option than working remotely, but I stated if we can't find a trainer in her area, I would work with her remotely.  I did suggest reading material and means of building a task list for her dog and other strategies to continue her journey.  She's on a great start, just needs the guidance to finish her dog's training.

By this time the half meal I had saved for both Emma and Malcolm weren't going to be used for training and I simply accepted it.  I fed them both the last of their food for the morning and rested for a bit and let the burning and rubbery feeling my arms had from holding a phone so long abate before cutting up treats for Spirit's consult.

I left Emma crated and Malcolm, Max and Dieter loose when I left for about 2 1/2 hours.  It may seem like I am not teaching them anything when I have to leave them behind to do a consult, but the truth is, I am teaching them a vital service dog skill - how to be alone.  I have been, since he was a baby, preparing Malcolm for the times I would need to leave him home when I went out and he's doing very well with it.  Emma, too, has been prepped from the start and she's had on and off difficulties with it.  Max, when I adopted him, had serious separation anxiety.  It took 3 years to build Max up to being alone and not having major breakdowns.

By leaving them for periods of time throughout their growing, Emma and Malcolm are learning that my or their handler leaving them behind is not a bad thing.  I had, for a time, worked on Emma being loose in the house, but had an incident in which she ate my floor.  I have been crating her since, unless I take one of the dogs out for a walk, which is within her tolerance level.  Right now, Emma is up to 30 minutes loose in the house without causing damage to my home.  Malcolm is up to 3 hours without causing damage to my home.  Max is up to 4 hours without causing damage to my home.

When I left today for the client consult I had a chorus of song from the house until I hit the end of the ramp and then the dogs went silent.  Later I would need to return to the house to calm them when I went to do roadwork with Malcolm.  There is still a level of stress in being left behind and once one dog howls the entire house joins in.  I have more work to make my trainees comfortable with my absences.

My visit with Spirit was fantastic.  She was 100% better than last week.  Her handler did a great job of doing her homework and Spirit is now eating with gusto and has even added the weight she needed to her frame.  She was in a fantastic mood, not mouthing me at all and barely doing so with her handler, and her jumping is 1/8th of what it had been the previous week.  Fantastic job, Team.

I worked with Spirit on Zen, Target, Sit and Focus today.  She has a hard time with Focus and is easily distracted.  For a 12 month old dog, I am not surprised by this and so have assigned Focus and It's Yer Choice to her handler as homework.  It was lovely working with such a sweet girl who is truly intelligent and willing to learn.  I look forward to Spirit's lessons.

On my way home though, I could feel the amount of energy I used working with Spirit.  I was sore, my legs and arms felt heavy and drained and weak. Thing was, today is the first day in many that we have had warm and dry weather.  When I got home I let the dogs out to play and struggled with ever increasing weakness in my legs and arms as I picked up the yard before I stopped and let it go yet another day.  With the yard picked up I sat for a bit and considered what I could do with Malcolm and Emma, who truly need me to pick up my game, and ensure they learn something new today and practice important skills.  Roadwork came to mind.  It was one of the few things I could do and no longer be on my feet, which was vital at this point.


I took Malcolm first and left Emma loose in the house with Max and Dieter.  Where earlier in the afternoon it was Malcolm and Max who gave a bit of a fuss when I left, this time it was Emma who cried out and started Dieter and Max howling.  I was still getting ready to leave the yard and just wheeled back up to the door and told them to cool it.  Emma is not comfortable being left loose in the house and I'll back down and build her up to the 30 minute mark again.

When I returned home I exchanged dogs and hooked Emma up.  She was very excited, but ready to go.  She wanted to lead the way at the beginning of the walk, but with careful treat placement where I wanted her head to be she fell into place and was spot on and trotting like a pro beside me.  She had no problem with traffic, is up to every 7th to 10th line in the sidewalk for reinforcement, but remains every car coming from behind for treats.  This is her second roadwork this year and I don't want to rush her on traffic training just yet.

We had a bicycle approach from the front while we were crossing the bridge.  I treated her for looking, for every 3rd line in the sidewalk on the bridge (which she continues to have no problems with) and again when the bicycle directly passed us.  She barely blinked and continued without breaking stride.  She is aware of curb cuts and the chair and safely enters and exits them now.

She heard a dog bark and perked up, but didn't jump or react to it.  I treated her for each dog bark we heard and she settled back into simply loving going for a walk.  I decided to do the "Tunnel of Dog" now knowing the bottle neck at Stompy Feet's house.  The Springer was no longer out, but the German Shepherd across the street was.  She never even looked at him as we passed.  Dancy Feet continued to sleep.  We stopped about 10 feet before Stompy Feet's house and I watched her to see if we'd continue forward or go back and take a new route.  She is just gaining confidence and I don't want to flood her.  She was alert, but not fearful, so we continued.

I took her down the center of the street to give more space and watched her closely.  She was concerned about Stompy Feet, not the dogs to my right.  She never even glanced at them, just watched Stompy, who appeared loose and went at speed with me by the house.  She took a single treat during our passing, but never ducked, darted or reacted.  When we passed she puffed up and trotted with purpose on the rest of the walk.  The second German Shepherd on my right didn't even phase her.

It appears Emma's concern is for dogs that appear loose and a few more times through that area should help her feel more confident before I find the next route for the two of them.  She crossed the bridge home without issue and was in fantastic spirits the rest of the night.

Overall, the roadwork was a fantastic success and both Emma and Malcolm really shined tonight.  Emma's confidence is clearly improving and her fallout after a stressful event is next to zero now.  The worst I am seeing is she's digging in my gardens.  I can go through an entire weekend without my gardens touched and 5 minutes in the yard and Emma's dug up my raspberries, rose bush and front garden by the roses.  Not sure why, but she's got something against my gardens.

It was a good day.es here

Emma loves cuddles.

I was exhausted last night when I entered the blog post for Emma and Malcolm.  To save time I just wrote the front end to cover what both dogs had done and then wrote up their individual training in a single post and copy and pasted.  Today I cleaned up the mess I made of that and entered the beginning media for the blogs.  I still have a ton of video for this week to edit, but it's almost 1:00 AM and I am just writing up Emma's blog post after having finished Malcolm's update for the day.

I was so tired, as a matter of fact, I didn't set the alarm like I normally do and all four dogs permitted me to sleep and wake on my own.  It was almost 8:00 AM when I did wake and Emma was laying by me and staring at me as if I had stopped breathing at some point in the night.  Even with the late start, she didn't go over her excitement level and was quiet as we padded to the front door and started our day.

She's in a fantastic mood this week and doing well.  Though we've had highly excitable moments, they've been moments and not days.  She is truly enjoying her roadwork and today really worked hard on her training.  It's a non-definable quality regarding her, but I can sense her confidence is bolstering and she's handling life better overall.  Whether she had been a service dog in training or not, I would have spent months building confidence with her because she should have a right to live without constant anxiety and fear in her life.

Today I setup the x-pen in a line along the counter so that it was a very narrow "hallway" for her to work in.  She had an exit on both the front and the back of it and each entry was met with a quick and invited exit to relieve pressure off of her and give her a chance to review what had just happened.  I mixed half of her breakfast with Ajus powder (small amount), water and a small spoonful of moist food to make a slurry of yummy high value kibble.  Since I was asking for a very difficult behavior I needed to raise the value of her breakfast and this was the best way to achieve that goal.

At first she didn't even want to enter, but with slow and careful reinforcement for approximations to the final behavior (walking through the tunnel) she did offer the behavior I asked.  I then slowly worked on her doing Sits and Downs in the confined space.  She was worried, again, about Malcolm so I sent him to his crate for the lesson and sent Max out of the room.  Dieter stayed, but she is less worried about him.  When he was in the way I sent him away and she worked hard with me by the end of her lesson.

At first she was very slow with her Sits and couldn't do a Down.  She would back up to give herself some open space for her Sits and eventually could do them in a more confined space.  I was alternating the Sits and Downs and low and behold, she offered a down in a confined space all on her own!

I saw her confidence improve as we worked in each 3 minute Round and by the last one she was doing very well.  I am going to give her one day off from this type of lesson and review it again on Friday before we leave for her grooming appointment.  Overall, Emma did fantastic today with learning to work in confined spaces and is building her confidence yet again.

For some reason I can't embed the video:

Yoda came today and after letting everyone say hi and wind down from first meeting I let Emma loose in the house with Max and Dieter while we worked on Malcolm's CGC behaviors.  I will soon be training Emma to do CGC practice also, since she too needs to pass it before passing her PAT for her graduation.  For her CGC, she'll need to pass it with her handler, but giving her practice to achieve this goal will make it possible for her to do so.  The only areas I am worried for her is walking through a crowd and meeting a friendly stranger and grooming.  She's a bit shy in those areas, so I am approaching her training for CGC by building up confidence and will then do practice runs on the CGC with her also.

When I left with Malcolm to work with John and Yoda I could once again hear Emma yowling behind closed doors.  Next week I'll work on her being calm when we first leave.  She is quiet and waiting at the door when I leave, but I may have to run the camera when I go and see what all of the dogs are doing behind closed doors to find out what I need to work on to improve her ability to be alone.

After we returned from training, approximately 30 minutes later, she was in good spirits and my house was in one piece.  At this point, I am not ready to leave her loose in the house for longer than 45 minutes.  John and I visited while the dogs played in the yard.  Emma got loves from John and did her own thing.  Where once she was in the fray of the play, she now prefers to do her own thing.  She enjoyed a good bone and sniffing about and just hanging out.


It was a nice day today and we spent most of it outside.  I had decided to take both Emma and Malcolm out for roadwork and was preparing the treat pouch when Ronda called and told me she was doctor ordered to go on walks for her recovery from surgery.  I told her the length of our route and offered for her to join us.  Jack came to visit today!

Emma and Malcolm were over the top excited to meet him again (even though they saw him Monday) and after some play I put up Emma, Max and Dieter in the house and set out with Malcolm for the first walk around the route.  Emma again protested.  Got to work on that.

When we returned she was hyper excited and barked and bounced around me reconnecting.  Once she calmed and Ronda was settled in, Emma and I went on a solo walk around our route.  Ronda can only go around once and so she stayed and watched the dogs while Emma and I went out.

Emma went from my house to the far side of the bridge and into the neighborhood we walk without a single treat.  She is checking in with eye contact and is walking like a little trooper with the chair.  She is turning well with the chair and with a slow enough turn stays in alignment with it as it turns.

Once in the neighborhood she could hear dogs barking in the distance and not react.  She is walking very nicely with the chair.  I did give her rewards for ignoring dogs barking as we passed.  About halfway through our route there was a big dog barking and running his fence on the other side of the road.  Emma watched him, never slowed and didn't react otherwise.  She is handling barking dogs well, if I can get her to look away once she notes them she'll be less likely to upset dogs she's passing.

A couple was out working on their yard.  They know I train service dogs and are wonderful socialization people.  I stopped and offered her the chance to say hi.  She went to them with caution and put her nose on their fingers and then turned to me.  This is a marked improvement to her previous "go say hi" exposure.  They didn't push petting on her and she did all the work of touching them (her choice) and then backed up to me without fear.  The caution may slowly fade with time, but if it doesn't we'll just keep her okay with seeing strangers and recommend not having her petted by strangers.

We went to the Tunnel of Dog and the chocolate Labrador that had been out when Malcolm and I passed was still out.  We went to the far side of the road and passed with only mild curiosity from her.  She ignored the Springer in the next fence over also.  When we got to Dancy Feet he was up and looking at us, but didn't react to our passing.  She ignored him.  She never looked over at Stompy Feet today.  I was doing a 1-2-Treat pattern as we passed and she was solid and not showing signs of fear.  The Doberman on the other side of us was out and barked at us and she never looked at him.

Once again, passing that "tight spot" in our walk seems to have improved her confidence.  She was puffing her chest and walking taller when we left the neighborhood and started back home.  A bicycle was coming toward us on the sidewalk.  She was okay with this and when the man hopped off the sidewalk and passed us she had her back to him.  She jerked a little but quickly recovered.  She walked along the bridge back home without issue.  I gave her a reward for every 3rd car that passed us to continue fading treats.

We entered our home neighborhood without incident and returned home with tired but smiling.  That's the big thing about these walks.  She has this big silly dog smile on her face and is clearly enjoying every minute of the walk - even those moments when I challenge her idea of "safe" when passing new dogs or strange objects.  While on the walk there was one of those mini bikes (the annoying ones that I wish was never invented) running the neighborhood and it either approached behind us, passed from the front of us and at one point zoomed by us from behind and she never blinked.  She is totally loving the walks and finds just going rewarding.  This summer should really get the miles on her to build up her confidence that she needs!

We ended the day with cuddles and play in the yard.  She ate her dinner well and zonked out when I closed the door for the night.  It was a good day!

The Tiresome Fivesome reunion tour.
Left to Right (Back to Front): Emma, Dieter, Max, Jack
and Malcolm.

Play on Monday, roadwork on Tuesday and Wednesday, working on tight spaces on Wednesday and then a fun filled day of play and practicing staying with someone other than her handler.  I had a scheduled appointment for grooming for Max and Malcolm and had intended to take Emma with me like I always do, so hadn't done any morning training.  I fed her and the boys their breakfast, let them play in the yard for a bit and packed up what I'd need for working with Pi, Max, Malcolm and her.

She was thrilled when I harnessed up Dieter and grabbed leashes.  She was raring to rush to the van each time I took something to it before packing up the dogs and I had to ask her to wait at the gate until I was ready for her.  She was in a fantastic mood and really having a great day.

I had, the day before, realized that it was going to be over 70 degrees and without the air conditioners installed for the season yet, my  house would range between 85 and 95 degrees inside.  I had pulled some of the plastic down for the season so I could open a window to get a cross breeze when the front door was open, but with me gone for hours, Dieter was at risk of overheating during my absence and I asked Ronda if she would check in on him.  She said she would, but it would be better if my senior dog stayed the day with her.

I loaded all four dogs into the van and headed to Ronda's before leaving for my appointment with Max and Malcolm.  I had off loaded Dieter and put him in Ronda's yard when I went to leave with my 3 charges and that was when Emma launched out of the van and ran to the gate and looked back at me.  Ronda just opened the gate and let her in and we agreed she clearly wanted to stay and it was okay.  It changed my plans for her, but in truth, I think she had a much better day staying with Ronda than she would have at Haute Paws just hanging out with me.

Ronda said she explored her yard for a long time, never blinking when I pulled away.  She got a good play session in with Jack.  She loves to run and she truly loves to run a figure eight around Ronda's trees in the back of her property.  She had gotten on a good game of Catch Me If You Can with Jack and ran so hard and so fast he stopped playing.  Ronda told me she made three more loops before she realized the game was over and ran back and enticed Jack to play again.

At one point she fell asleep with the rest of the dogs (Ronda's 5 and my 2) and napped for a while on the deck with them.  She cuddled, played, explored, got loads of treats for recalls from the fence when she decided to bark at something and had a grand time.  This is a big change from the same little dog I dropped off and would just sit in Ronda's lap watching for my return and clearly worried.  She trusts I will return.  She trusts that Ronda won't hurt her and she trusts that she's safe in Ronda's yard.  The fact she is overjoyed to go there now tells us she loves her dog days at Ronda's.

When I returned she was overjoyed, bounced like a manic ball at me and was in great spirits.  It was a great day for her and as it came to a close she flopped against my ribs and fell into a deep sleep completely content.

See ya next week!

Spa day for Emma.  Normally on the mornings I take her to her groomer I don't worry about training her, but with migraines and two days off this week, I decided it was important to revisit the tight spaces lesson before the weekend.

I fed my three boys and fixed up her breakfast with a bit of moist food and water and made a kibble slurry out of it.  I set up the x-pen and worked the lesson.  I filmed it and you can see the results below, but this is what I noted:

  • Emma didn't have as big a boost in confidence as she did previously, but a nice progression on it.
  • She volunteered to enter the space and even volunteered targeting the x-pen.
  • She still has serious latency on her Level 1 behaviors, but with each pass through improved.
  • She offered extended time in the tight space and had to be asked to step out to relieve pressure so she could try again.
  • At one point she pushed past Dieter to get to the spot we do the cues and didn't retreat like she had early in the lesson.
  • Malcolm was loose and for the most part sat behind me watching, but when he did get in her space she would quickly retreat.
  • In the end of the lesson his being in the space with her did not result in a retreat.
I do believe she had a confidence boost between the earlier lesson in the week and this one, but not one as dramatic as the week before.  I think overall it will boost her confidence to try harder things and really test her abilities and therefore, believe it's now time to start putting it into a working real life lesson.

After getting her training done I packed up Malcolm and her and headed to the groomer.  She has one of the best groomers in town who takes a lot of effort to build her confidence and make the experience positive for her, but they are running a business and need to get her bathed, dried and clipped whenever she comes in.  Emma is just not comfortable with any of it and has become reluctant to stay in the building when we enter.  She tries to leave by pulling toward the front door and ends up shaking.  I think I need to work on her going there on NON grooming days and really building a positive association with the building.

Her groomer is not doing anything to make her fearful, it just is.  With some extra work on teaching her to be okay with the entire grooming process I believe we can make this required part of her care easier on her.

It was a busy week and one in which a lot of fantastic things happened for Emma.  Next week promises to be a good one.

I can't embed this video either:

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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