Thursday, August 21, 2014

21 Months: Training - Days 342 - 345

Just over a year ago we lost Ms. Attitude.  Emma, on the
other hand, still tries to help me type the same way.

I must apologize - I was overloaded and Emma's blog fell way behind.  Any video I commented I would include I am unable to at this time.  I am releasing these posts so that Emma's blog is updated and will write a blog post catching every one up to how she's doing soon.

I tire easily and can be over done by too much chaos in my life.  I have had a lot of chaos and with the addition of Chevy for 17 days of board and train, I was left over the weekend so exhausted that Malcolm and I used the weekend to recoup our strength.  I wasn't fully up to snuff by Monday morning, but at least I was dressed, showered and had coffee in my by the time Emma arrived.  She was on time and rearing to start her day.

She spent the weekend working as a service dog for her handler.  She did the tasks she's been taught and continued to proof her Go Get Help task.  She's polishing her skills, building the teamwork between her and her handler and learning to understand him when he cues her.

As per my instructions, she was to be cued by him and if she didn't understand, cued by a family member to help pair his cue with the ones we've taught her already.  This pairing won't take long and soon he'll be able to cue her to help him and she'll understand.

I gave her time to play in the yard and settle in before taking the crew in for breakfast.  I fed Max and Dieter their full meals and Malcolm half of his and while they were eating setup Emma's meal and got the material I would need for her training session ready.  She works for her entire breakfast now and it seems to cheer her up to do so.

This is the light board I have been using.
I setup in the kitchen with the x-pen blocking it off and the light board I made at the beginning of Emma's training to begin light switch lessons again.  When she was four or five months old I had introduced it to her for the purpose of teaching her to close a cabinet door.  At the time she got interested in the light switch and I let her work out how to flip it off and on.  I haven't revisited that lesson since.  When she saw the light board she went straight to trying to push the "cabinet" side of the board, but when that didn't work she went to the light switch and began working it.  Amazing how much they remember from their early training when you use shaping to get the behavior!

We also worked on Go To Mat.  She goes to it and lays on it, but tends to have most of her body off of the mat.  This behavior is being created so the family can have a default mat for door greeting and help her better control herself when people are at the door.

I had her approach the mat from different directions and settle on it and got her more on than off the mat.  I then started clicking for rolling over onto a hip and putting her chin down.  Once I could see her lay down and automatically roll on her hip and I could see she was more relaxed and calm I began knocking on the cabinets.  I did it soft at first and then built up to a solid normal knock.  She did fantastic, but right now it's a kitchen behavior and needs to be moved about the house to help her better generalize the behavior.  Once I have a solid generalized behavior I will attach the cue of a door knock for her going to the mat and waiting quietly until released to greet her guests.

She was flipping the switch by the end, but needs more work and eventually to learn to stand up against the wall to do the entire behavior.

Eventually Emma will be doing this!

I didn't set my alarm last night.  I didn't have an early appointment or anyone coming over early in the morning and late last night I started to feel sick and dizzy.  That feeling really wouldn't leave by morning.  I still have Emma's blog to update, but I was so done last night that laying in bed the bed was spinning.

This morning I was still dizzy and feeling like I was trying to walk through mud physically.  It wouldn't be until almost 5:00 PM that I figured out the problem.  I had rheumatic fever as a child and have valve damage from it.  Sometimes my heart goes into an irregular beat and that makes me feel sick and exhausted.  I remember a day when working for Benchmark it got so bad that I had to lay down right where I was and rest for about 20 minutes to be able to continue to work.  I had more than one of those days when working for Benchmark and thankfully, I was working from home and could stretch out and let my heart settle back into a normal beat.

We worked on Go To Mat and Light again today.  This time I gated off the office to make a new training room and brought the mat in with us.  The video attached for the day shows how Emma's lesson went.  Note:  Emma understood she was to settle and rock onto one hip and put her chin down, but she missed that we wanted her to do that on her mat as part of the exercise.  The fact she's settling off the mat as a behavior was lovely to see.

We went to the kitchen to work on Light again.  I setup the x-pen to block off the kitchen and we worked again on flipping the light on.  She was struggling a bit at first, but slowly got the idea.  In the end she was on fire and even though our time expired on the timer I didn't want to loose the sudden breakthrough she was having.  I had a few kibble remaining and we worked for them as I attached the cue.  She's doing good, but this is not a proof or even functional task yet.

I started to really feel out of whack during Spirit's appointment. I had felt pretty bad before I went, but during her appointment my chest was hurting and I was feeling flushed.  When I got home I returned a phone call to a potential client and I was having problems tracking and even speaking.  It was after the phone call I decided to lay down.

The dogs followed me in and I changed into my night clothes and laid down - it was then I checked my heart beat and could feel it taking three or four powerful beats and then a long pause and then repeat the sequence.  It then went into normal rhythm for a few blessed beats (probably about 20 or 30) and then it would beat normal, not as strongly as it had been, and then speed up and then slow and speed up and then back to the three or four powerful beats and a long pause.  Well no wonder I felt like crap!

It would be a major effort on the dog's parts to wake me 2 hours later.  I had Malcolm get up on the bed and lick my lips (I jerked, gently pushed him away and went back to sleep) and then was starting to wake as I heard a lot of tap dancing on the floor by all of them, especially Emma.  I was considering getting up when my Mom called to check on my schedule for the week.  I think she realized that trying to work on my garage when I am not home isn't working out and is trying to work within my work schedule.

I am feeling much better now that I slept and my heart is beating normal again.  It looks like it's time to make another appointment and talk to my doctor about this.  This will be Malcolm's first appointment at my doctors, so it will be interesting.


Emma is up to consistently turning the light switch on and is now working on turning the light switch off.  She got it the first time, but seemed to forget what she was doing afterwards.  She makes me laugh as she's trying to solve the problem.  She grips the switch and growls low in her throat at it.  It's the first time I have ever heard her get frustrated.  She used to just give up when she couldn't get it the first time, but now that the pressure is off of her she's working twice as hard to solve the problem.  She's wagging her tail more, is out from behind the recliner more and is starting to speak out in frustraion while working hard to solve a problem.  It's great to see.

She is also working hard on the Go To Mat lesson and really enjoying it.  I see her wheels turning and instead of folding into herself she makes a new effort and checks in to see if she got it right.  It's all new and the first edges of being 100% in the game.  There is still a level of hetancy in all of her behaviors, but I am seeing more of her emerge now that she's not pressured into being something she's not.

I am about to move her to standing against the wall and working on a switch once we have a solid stand with duration.  Until then, we'll keep working on flipping the switches and getting the behavior under stimulus control.


Emma has grooming on Friday, so Thursday was her last formal training day.  Grooming days are hard on both of us.  She starts her morning happy to head out and explore the yard and then munch on her breakfast.  She's overjoyed I am taking her somewhere and can't wait to get in the van.  Once in the van she rides well, though I can see a level of stress that Malcolm doesn't display.  She doesn't just lay down and relax like he does, but stands stiff and watches closely as we travel down the road.  She loves to go, is a bit worried about the travel itself.  At the groomers it starts.  We pull in and she begins to shake.  I put on her lead and take her in and she paces in a frantic attempt to get me to take her back out.  She's low to the ground and giving overt stress signs, yet her groomer doesn't really recognize them.  When the groomer takes her lead she presses her nose against the door leading into the kennels because it's the nearest door, but she's still showing strong stress signs and her groomer just says, "She looks fine to me" and shurgs off my concern for her growing fear of being at the groomers.  Poor girl is afraid and no one there is really aware of it.  Unfortuantely, she needs to go and it's the end of my week with her, but I hate seeing her so stressed and fearful each time I take her.

Thankfully, I wouldn't face that until the next morning.  On Thursday we worked on her mat behaviors again and this time I did it at the front door.  I crated both Malcolm and Dieter and placed Max on his mat.  I knocked on the door once she was relaxed on the mat and Dieter started to bark, which caused Malcolm to bark and thus Emma began barking under her breath.  I waited until she calmed again and rinse and repeated until she was just boofing lightly, but not trying to get up.  It went well enough.

I go up to opening the door and pretending someone was there and rewarding her for staying on her mat.  I did a lot of strange things at the door and the entire time Emma stayed on her mat and worked the lesson.  It went well overall.

We then went to work on light switches.  I had decided to work on Paws Up to the light switch in the hall.  Emma easily stood against the wall and after several times being rewarded for standing against it I began building duration.  She started to try the light switch, so I put an extendor on it and worked with her.  To my utter suprise Ms. Emma flipped the light on!  WOW!

It was a fanstatic end to the week.  She's off next week with her family, so we'll return to this when she returns.

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