Sunday, May 11, 2014

20 Months: Training - Days 308 - 312

Emma is finally getting used to the camera.

I have been having a horrible time sleeping lately.  Last night I worked until 1:00 AM on making the media to plug into Emma and Malcolm's blogs and had gotten the last two videos for Malcolm built and was trying to publish the second to last one when Comcast had an outage with the phone and internet in my area.  It stopped me in my tracks and I threw up my hands and headed to bed.  I had saved the files to disk for later upload, but without the internet I couldn't even update Malcolm's weekend blog.  It's almost midnight  now and I just published the two blogs Malcolm had in the cue and am starting his weekday blog.  I still have Emma's blog to complete.

Thankfully, the past two days my neighbor has been silent.  He's been playing his music late most nights.  Though not blaring loud, he has his bass set so low that he's creating low frequency sounds and no matter of sound buffering nor how low he plays it, it penetrates and vibrates long into the night.  If he just turned off the bass itself he could play his music without disturbing people, but he loves that stupid thing and when I do finish my work at night I can't sleep because of it.  My sleep thus has been disturbed because he normally starts playing it about now if he decides he'll play until 2:00 AM.  I can't sleep because I am waiting for the sound.

So, my start on the morning was rough.  I had slept poorly and woke several times between going to bed and my alarm going off at 6:00 AM.  At least I remembered to set the alarm this time!

I was weighing whether I would shower Emma this morning and came to the conclusion I wouldn't.  Though the day was cold and wet, I felt she would be okay playing in the yard and airing out for a good part of it.  It wasn't a penetrating cold, just chilly.  She had been groomed on Friday and I didn't feel another bath so close to her last would be good for her.

I wasn't sure what time she would arrive and was pleased when her owner called at 7:30 AM to inform me she would be late due to an unforeseen absence of Emma's handler's caretaker.  I thanked her and went about taking care of the kitchen, getting my shower and feeding the boys.  I want to thank them for the call because it made my morning go much better knowing about when she'd arrive.

A while back I started to train Emma to pick up items and put it in a "bucket".  The bucket at the time was a small laundry basket no more than a foot wide and it freaked her out.  She was afraid of the laundry basket, refused to get close to it, much less put anything in it.  In past blog posts I talked about clicking and treating for interacting with the basket without even trying to get to the final goal.  In the end we got past the basket itself and she struggled with the idea of holding her head over it to put something in it.  We moved past that and built a rough start to picking up and putting things in a basket.

Her owners have since been working on it and she does carry her handler's socks to a basket and put it away at night.  Thing is, it would be nice if she expanded that skill to picking up her toys or his items and putting them away on cue.  The trick is building a chain in which she picks up all the items on the floor and puts them away in a single cue to conserve her handler's energy.  I started building that chain this week.

I filmed it so you'll see how she's doing.  I am pleased that the "bucket" no longer frightens her.  She's even putting her head into the bucket I used to get treats and pull toys out.  I started with toys and worked to clothing.  She is picking up each item well, carrying it to the bucket and targeting the bucket with good accuracy.  She is a bit hesitant at times, but as her confidence grew that faded.  I have attached the video of her training.  It's a slow process to build a chain, but Emma is making it look easy by the end of this lesson.  It does not mean she has it just yet, but she's getting the idea.

Emma - Clean Up

Our day ended going to Auntie Ronda's.  Malcolm, as you'll hear in Emma's video, was in a mood today and bugging the crap out of Max.  Max was also in a mood today and Emma seemed to join it.  It was an undefinable thing that said if I didn't get some energy burned off I was going to have a long and difficult day with the three of them.  I know why Malcolm was off, he's having a hormone flush as he enters a new phase in his growth, is a teenager and a young high energy dog with more energy than the sun right now.

I called Ronda and asked if she wanted us over and when she said sure we headed her way.  On the way out I went to let the dogs go from the gate to the van off lead.  This training has been in the works from the day Malcolm came into my life also.  I have a full blown protocol for the dogs going from gate to van and van to gate off lead.  It is a skill I want my dogs to have and is not a "required" skill for a service or even pet dog.  It is a vital skill in my book for any of my dogs.

Yesterday, while I was unloading the van from the groceries I left the latch for the gate down and let the gate rest in a closed position.  While inside and putting some of my groceries away the gate blew open.  I stepped out to find both Max and Malcolm standing beside the van waiting by the passenger side slider.  This is why the training I do for off lead loading into my van is important.  I am bordered by two busy streets - one two blocks away and the other one block away.  I don't want my dogs setting off for the hills if an accidental escape happens.

The protocol goes like this:

I take the dog to and from the van on lead a minimum of 100 times before I ever let them off lead.  They must have recall with distractions and distance as well and the 100 times between van and gate gives me time to train that.  The 100 times also sets a default pattern for the dogs.  It's like driving when tired and thinking you need to stop at the store and finding yourself home before you realized you missed your stop.  It's that type of auto-pilot.

Once they have the first link in the chain trained, I start the second link - Van to Gate.  To do this I ensure there are no cars, people, dogs or small animals nearby before opening the gate and then releasing the dog from the van.  If the dog jumps from the van, on cue, and runs straight into the yard we have done enough repetitions; if not, I need to back up and build the default behavior.  Recall is vital here since if the dog doesn't enter the yard on auto-pilot, I need to be able to recall them and direct them into the yard.

I do this type of release to the yard 20 times.  After that minor distractions (never cats, cars or kids) are permitted while they proof the behavior.

I then go to the next link - Gate to Van.  I open the passenger side slider on my van for the first 1/2 step of training this.  I want them to exit the gate and go to the open door without hesitation.  I normally load the dog up on the driver side, but in this instance they are very aware of the open door because it's an automatic door and I open it with them at the gate.  If they go from gate to van I got it, if not, we need to back up and work going to the van from the gate more.

I start proofing the behavior (go to the van when out of the gate, go to the gate when released from the van) by leaving both the van door and the gate closed.  I do closed gate first and once they are solid at waiting for me to get around to them, I then do the van door closed.  When the van door is closed they default to the driver side, but wait patiently for me.

This training, which Malcolm is in the proofing stage now, is what kept both my dogs by the van.  I am basically teaching them that if they are out of the gate they go to my van - end of statement.  It's a default safety feature for the dogs.  Emma knows it and is proofed on it.  Max knows it and is proofed on it.  Malcolm is 3/4 the way through the training right now and it appears he's got it well enough he didn't wander off.  I am so very glad I taught this behavior to them!

So, today, when we got the gate and I popped the door I was fully ready to let the dogs out and into the passenger side of the van.  Then I saw the neighbor cat, closed the van door and walked each dog individually out to the van on lead.  I don't expect the dogs to ignore the neighborhood cats, especially an impulsive 9 month old German Shepherd.  Max can and does recall off of cats when I miss and he sees them, but it took me two years to train that and both Emma and Malcolm don't fully have that level of recall.  Emma is very close, I can recall her when she's running to bark at most things; some are just to distracting and where I am working on with her recall right now.

Emma was first and she made me laugh.  I keep claiming she's half Lipizzaner horse and today she demonstrated that.  She bolted out the gate when I cracked it open and then sat back on the lead bucking and rearing at me like a wild colt on a lasso.  I had to tell her to stop because she was winding herself up and loosing her mind.

Once loaded we headed over to Ronda's.  When I turned the corner I normally do to go there Max started to get excited.  When I turned the second corner Malcolm and Emma did too.  They were in full blown spin, bark and whine mode by the time I pulled up at Ronda's.  I got out of the van and stood at the gate with the dogs still in the van and waited until they calmed.

Having them jump out in the hyper excited mode which they arrived in only makes for a higher level of excitement the next time we arrive.  I have decided they need to be calm and happy to get the reward of play at Ronda's.

Max was the first to calm down and I released him from the van, Ronda opened her gate and he calmly walked in.  Good.  I also, by the way, proofed this behavior at Ronda's house for the same reason - if they escape at Ronda's house I want to ensure they are defaulted to my van.  Had I not proofed it here, when Emma leaped out of my van last week when I was dropping Dieter off, she could have run into a busy street only a few hundred feet away.  Instead she ran straight to Ronda's gate without second through of going anywhere.

Emma calmed second.  I let her out and Ronda opened her gate and Emma sauntered in calm and quiet.  Perfect.

Malcolm took forever to calm in the van.  Once he did I took him out on lead and walked him to the gate and spent almost 15 minutes outside of the gate until he calmed down enough to enter.  We both knew I wasn't going to get perfect calm, but we got past leap on Jack's head, scream and go into hyper mode and re-engage brain stage of calm for him.  He finally sat, for a brief second and I opened the gate and in we went.

He wound back up and I spent another 5 to 10 minutes inside on lead while he overcame his desire to jump on Jack's head and finally gave me a second sit.  I then released him and he trotted off and went into proper play mode.  It was a lot of work, but well worth having the dogs enter with self control as compared the mad rush that normally occurs.

They played for about 3 hours. Emma was so pent up on energy herself she joined Jack and Malcolm in wrestling, Catch Me If You Can and rips around the yard.  She explored and even went to bound onto Deva's back.  I think she thought it was Max she was about to pounce on, but about 2 feet away from Deva's rump realized who she was, reared up and stomped her feet and did a quick course change and ran off.  Ronda and I laughed at her.

She cuddled with both of us also.  She had great time and soon was content to hang out with us and sometimes go off and explore.  She was also soaked from the wet grasses and the downpour of rain that came.

The worst thing that happened to her is Jack peed on her while she was sniffing the grass.  We had to laugh at her.  She was sniffing as Jack raised his leg and peed on her hip.  Her head snapped up, she shot away from him and then spun staring at her hip.  She did two or three spin and then flopped in the grass and rubbed Jack's cooties off of her.  Yes, we cleaned her up after that.

Malcolm was at a full run for a good 10 minutes before he slowed.  Max was also at a full trot or run for 10 minutes before he slowed.  They were really wound up!

Malcolm played with the dogs on the other side of Ronda's fence (playing fence chasing) and Catch Me If You Can, Wrestling, tug-o-war and ran like a mad dog.  His big What The Heck moment for Ronda and I was when he stood in the pool and peed in it.  Apparently it was the pee day!  Ronda and I dumped the pool after that.  Malcolm actually didn't slow down or calm down for 2 hours.  The adults spent most of that time telling him to cool it.  They did it properly and not in a way that would harm him.  Once he calmed they all ignored him.

When we got home the dogs ate and all fell soundly asleep.  It was a great day!

She was groomed on Friday and looks really good.

I finally got the blog posts I had been working on published last night.  I worked until past 3:00 AM to build the media and plug it in.  I experimented with Emma's videos and created new opening credits and end credits and added music to them.  It was the music that would cause me a problem in the end.  I need to find a piece I like that is free domain use so that YouTube doesn't block my videos from being embedable.  I ended up providing links to the two videos I created for her, but they aren't available on mobile media (tablets or phones) and this isn't acceptable for future videos.  I will have to find a solution that works all around.

With as late as I went to bed, staggering and mentally exhausted, I decided not to set my alarm.  I had written up Malcolm's Monday entry but not Emma's and knew that if I didn't get more than 3 hours of sleep I would be good for none of the dogs.  I woke close to 9:00 AM and the dogs were still sound asleep when I did.  We got a late start, but it was a good morning.

I fed Emma half her breakfast and planned on training her for the second half when my IPad reminded me I had a client consult at 11:00 AM.  I went in to shower so I could head out for the appointment.  Ever since I started showering Emma on Monday's she's started to hide behind my recliner when I strip to shower.  Mind you, this is not good for the ego when the dang dog runs from you when you are naked.

Today as I stripped I looked to the bathroom door to find Emma watching me with her head lowered and crouching slightly.  I told her she was okay and I had no intent to bath her.  She wagged her tail and took a few steps into the bathroom.  This is good to see.  It did bother me that she ran to hide when I went to shower in the mornings.  I opened the shower and turned it on and to my surprise Emma crossed the bathroom and stepped right into the shower stall and turned to watch me with the water falling on her rear.  I laughed at her and said she was welcome to a shower if she wanted.  She stepped out and then turned and stepped in.  I smiled at her, took off her collar and told her she could choose to shower or not.  She stepped out and stepped in one more time.  I was tickled and amazed - I've had to carry her into the shower with me until this point.

I stepped into the shower and slowly started to close the door while watching her.  She moved to step out and I told her she could go.  She offered a new behavior and I like it, but I had no requirement she bath with me.  Giving her the choice to enter and exit today should make future showers easier for both of us. I would rather she stepped in under her own power than my carrying her in.

After my appointment I returned and let the dogs play for a bit before training Emma and Malcolm.  Emma had been crated for the first of 3 outings for the day and I always give her time to really blow off steam after a crate session.  She does well in the crate now, but she needs to release stress when let out.  It's a needed skill, but she's not totally comfortable being in a crate.

Today I brought out my big laundry basket and worked with Emma.  Her confidence is much better than yesterday.  She quickly picked up and put items in the basket.  The trick is teaching a more advanced part of this.  If she's asked to put something like shorts or pants or a shirt into a basket she doesn't fully get it in.  I worked on her picking up what is hanging out of the basket and push it into it.

She is starting to get the idea, but we have more work this week on really cementing it.  I am using a pair of men's summer shorts to train this and once she's good with that I will add a shirt and then pants.  Once she's persistent and understands the steps we'll build on the chain until she can "Clean Up" on a single cue and really get the job done for her handler.

Emma - Clean Up Part 2

After training her I left to go to my Tuesday appointment with Spirit, another client dog.  I left Emma loose in the house this time.  I have found multiple times in the crate really upset her and we end up with a lot of fallout for a day or two.  Leaving her loose prevents that and I do want her to be a reliable dog loose in her home if needed.  I was gone for about 2 hours and she was excellent.

I had spoken with Ronda about going to Home Depot with her when she went later in the day.  Malcolm and Jack will be working together when Ronda and I go out on our adventures and we want to train both boys to work with us and ignore the other when suited up.  Emma is not up to entering non-pet friendly stores just yet while we work toward her public access goals.

I called Ronda when I got home and we arranged to go a short time later.  I let Emma play in the yard and have fun while I ate some food.  She loves to curl up on the dog bed on my new patio and chew on bones and I could see her happily chewing away from where I sat.  After a bit I suited up Malcolm and headed out.  I was gone for another 2 hours and Emma was loose in the house again.  She was spot on and did fantastic.  She was even calm and happy when I returned.  Emma has gone a long way on this training and I am very happy with her.

Training her to be comfortable alone in the house is important.  There will be times she needs to be left behind and if she doesn't know how to handle it she'll have a hard time when it happens.  Taking the time to leave her or Malcolm behind when I run errands, do public access runs and client consults helps both learn to be comfortable alone as well as with me.

She ate dinner with gusto, played hard and is curled against my leg sleeping now.  It was a good day for Emma.

I love play day!

Nothing much happened today.  I needed to edit video so I didn't spend the entire weekend doing so and find music that was royalty free for the videos I am making.  I also wasn't in the right mindset to train the dogs and realized that early. Both the dog and the human have to be in the game and though I am certain both Emma and Malcolm would have been, after my marathon day yesterday I wasn't.

Instead they have enjoyed a day of rest and playing in the yard and I have enjoyed a day of taking it easy and working on computer related material.  Nothing much happened, but we had a good day doing it.

She loves to watch the neighborhood.

Since Emma's handler can't use his arms in a meaningful way and has spent his life depending on others to do tasks most of us take for granted, I am working on training her some simple everyday tasks to help him and while doing it teaching her to learn.  This last part will permit her to pick up a new task on the fly in only a few minutes.

When Max learned to learn he was able to pick up a new task in only a few minutes and need only a couple of days of work to proof it.  One of the tasks I taught him in about 3 minutes was to flip the dishwasher door to me so I could close it.  By the time I taught him that task Max had already learned to problem solve, be persistent and shape with fluency.

Emma has been learning to shape, building persistence and problem solving skills.  She is almost there, almost on the cusp of becoming a remarkable dog who can pick up a concept in a few minutes and fly with it.  The video for today shows just that!

We are working on learning to pull the covers back for going to bed.  Once she understands this concept we will work on her pulling the covers up and make the bed.  For her handler this will be the first time he can do something for himself with his bed covers.  Over time her owners can train her to put his covers back on him at night when he kicks them off, but for now, let's just learn to turn down the bed.

There is a lot of good in this video.  While watching you'll see Emma started uncertain why I had the basket upside down beside her and she was tentative about the lesson.  As the lesson progressed though you'll see she improves in confidence quickly which results in improved interaction with the blanket.  It was a wonderful progressive curve.  Very proud of Emma's progress now - she's starting to fly with her task training.

Emma - Turn Down

Can we visit Auntie Ronda next week?

After such success on Thursday with the Turn Down task I wanted to revisit it and really build it up.  She is doing so well on it.  As the video will show, she really got the concept and after sleeping on it was doing an even better job of moving the blanket and pulling it back for the size of the "bed" I had her working with.  I was very pleased with that progress.

Her family enjoys church and church related events and I felt one of the tricks Emma should learn is to pray.  I have a picture of the trick in my head, but trying to solve it on the edge of the basket didn't work.  I'll work on it again with a chair and lure her head into position and build up her duration, but I believe if Emma could "pray" with her handler it would be a bonding between them that he'll enjoy.

So, I spent the end of her lesson working on learning to pray.  I need to break it down a bit more for her, but she is making a real effort to solve the muddy picture I gave her.  It was a good end to a long week and she was clearly enjoying it with me.

The good of this?  She is offering putting her feet on something that even a month ago would have frightened her badly.  She's making efforts to solve problems, even when she's not sure what I want she kept trying and didn't just give up.  This is the beginning of persistence and lovely to see.  The face she's offering behaviors when I am not clear is a sign of problem solving.  That too is wonderful.  Emma is becoming a true thinking dog that can learn quickly and on the fly.  I am glad to see this development.

She spent 20 to 30 minutes loose with Max and Dieter while Malcolm and Yoda worked on a lesson.  She is no longer causing damage to my home when left between 30 minutes to 2 hours, though 2 hours is the outer most limit I would trust her alone at this time.  She is still making a racket when I leave, though it quickly quiets, it tells me she is not fully comfortable being alone in the house.

The week was productive and I'll continue to visit the tug tasks that Emma is working on.  She has been on a long and difficult journey getting here, but the past few months of working on confidence building, tug task work and more has lead us into a new frontier in Emma's training.  I am excited about this new development.

See ya next week!

Emma - Turn Down Part 2

Emma - Say Your Prayers

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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