Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Life Rewards For the Win

I've started walking Reyna regularly, I know, it's about time. Anyway I am really enjoying our nightly walks and Reyna's LL is seriously improving. Sunday we had a bit of a crazy walk, but I feel like it shows a lot about how we're doing.

If I'm taking Reyna on a walk I skip her dinner and load the kibble up as treats to take with me (I know I've said it before but it still amazes me...kibble...k.i.b.b.l.e...a year ago this dog wouldn't take grilled chicken if we were off my property. Sorry...moving on) So I loaded up our bag of treats and headed out. I decided to take a minute to test our LL and "stuff on the ground zen" so I set a treat on the ground, got Reyna, asked her to leave it as we walked by 1' away from the treat easily within reach, flicked a glance but nothing else. I'd call that a pass for sure! Tried it again with the leash off, perfect!!

Then we headed out, with the leash back on of course/

I normally walk about 2.5-3.5 miles on any given day, Sunday was a 3 mile day. A little way into the walk I decided to work a little more on leave it so I threw a treat way ahead on the path and as we approached it I would say leave it and we would walk by. After a couple of time I got brave and asked her to leave it as we walked right over the top of the treat, no problem....she's a zen pro :)

Then we got to campus. The wind was blowing and Reyna is always a little bit nervier in the wind so I took the time to help her settle. Then she balked at a textured section of the sidewalk that wheelchairs use for traction, so we spent a few minutes learning that it was really just a piece of ground and not a cleverly disguised dog swallowing cavern. About this time I noticed we had gone through half our treats and we weren't even half way yet, time for a short cut. What I didn't think about was that the short cut took us through a whole new section of the college where Reyna had never been so she suddenly started scanning. It took me a minute to figure out what was going wrong and that she needed help processing the environment. So I *gasp* slowed down to give her the feedback she needed...I know...it's a miracle!!!

We played Pattern Games...up and down, ping pong, 123 treat with stopping to feed, then 123 treat while moving and two things happened as a result of this process 1. I had my dog back 2. I was down to 3 pieces of kibble with 1.5 miles to go! ack! Then a dog brayed at us from across the street she looked at me...I had to pay up...now I had 2 treats left. The dog across the street was still barking at us, I had to think quick. Normally "go sniff" is Reyna's favorite non toy reward, often even more value than treats. But I could tell she needed way more structure right now than being told to wander around and sniff stuff. So I took our whole picture and looked at ways I could change it that would be rewarding for Reyna. Well we are ickily close to barking dogs...she would enjoy getting farther away from them. And we were out for a walk, and given the choice she would rather be out for a jog. I had it!

Dog barks, Reyna remains calm, Yes/Jog a few steps. People pass us by, Reyna keeps a loose leash, Yes/Jog a few more steps. We did that all the way home and managed to make it to our house with 1 piece of kibble left and no reactions or loss of focus.

I am very proud of both of us :-)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Leash Leaning

We have crossed L2 Sit off our list.
We worked through all the target stuff really quickly up to touch a sticky note on a wall. Now I just need to teach her to close a cabinet door. Our metal object was the end of a whisk, I wanted to challenge her...whatever, she loved it, she even jumped up to touch it in the air.

Her LL is going really well and we are doing alot of work making the "walk past a treat" better than it's written. Last night she walked over the top of a chicken bone on the sidewalk (yuck!) without looking at it. She saw it before I did and snatched it up, I had her "out" and "leave it" and then we walked past it once and over it once and she didn't even look at it. Something I have been trying to avoid in our Zen work is that tendency to steer WAY away from something. I would like for her to feel confident enough to walk right next to it without touching or looking at it, so she doesn't start to worry about the thing that I asked her to leave. So far so good. If I tell her "leave it" she will back away from "it", but if I then ask her to walk over or right by "it" she does so cheerfully and confidently. LOVE IT!

One thing I have to say about her LL is that her LL is not so lazy. She is what I call a "leash leaner". She doesn't "pull" really she just sort of keeps a slight pressure on the leash all the way up to a moderate lean at the end of the leash. Through our L2 LL the percentage of time she leans is going down and the amount of time and distance she has a U shaped leash is increasing, but I think the biggest hurdle is that I don't really care. If I can hold the leash in my hand and stuff my hand in my jacket pocket and remain there comfortably I'm pretty happy, even if that means there is some pressure on the leash. If she puts a little too much pressure I can clear my throat as if to say "excuse me I'm still here" and she'll correct her position.

In most situations she doesn't use leash leaning to actually get anywhere, she just keeps that slight pressure on it so she doesn't have to think about where I am, she knows because she can feel it. She is still walking with me, she matches my pace, goes the same direction, stops when I stop, she's just lazy (or efficient) and has decided that paying attention to the leash pressure is way easier that paying attention to exactly how far away she is from me.

There are some areas, like the stretch of road leading up the field we play in, where she gets a little overboard so I have started addressing those specific sections and I'm seeing marked improvement. That stretch of road has gone from infuriating, to frustrating, to mildly annoying, so it's just a matter of time before we get it all the way down to enjoyable.

Because she has arousal(excitability/reactivity) issues I am working more diligently on improving her LL because anytime I can improve self control in one place will help with self control across the board, but in general I am very happy with her leash manners on our daily walks.

Her behavior overall is improving immensely. We had some guys at the house the last couple of days putting a fence up and she has been totally cool about them being there, she's not even interested in playing LAT, she'd rather take a nap if that's okay...fine by me!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Trial and Success

We went to an agility trial yesterday!

No we didn't compete, but we did spend a whole hour wandering around the parking lot, walking past dogs in crates, dogs on leash, in cars, barking, sleeping, pooping...you get the idea...and no reactions!!!

When we got there I was a little nervous. I have never been to an agility trial either and the sheer number of people and dogs was a little intimidating. I promised myself I would keep Reyna under threshold and we found a parking spot.

I opened up the back of the car and let Reyna out, fully prepared for her to start scanning since there were at least 4 dogs in front of her when she jumped out...nope...she reoriented and sat with eye contact.

I was so taken aback I had her jump back in the car and do it again. Same result!!!

We started wandering around playing LAT and Pattern Games, she was so cool about the whole environment I would have thought we did this everyday. I even released her from the structure for a couple VERY short sessions so she could look around on her own and that's exactly what she did...look...not scan, look!!! Reactive Reyna was casually taking in the surroundings!!! Then when I asked her to re-engage she did with no problems. We walked by dogs just a foot or two away. We passed dogs head on. We even watched a dog get all revved up (from a distance) with no major issues.

She did go over threshold a few times, and by that I mean heavier breathing and some aroused tail carriage. When that happened I just lowered criteria and she came right back down. She did bark at one dog...right as we were leaving she was sniffing a corner and a little Border Terrier came running around the same corner. She didn't "knee jerk reactive" bark though, we both quickly walked our dogs in opposite directions and at about 40' or so she looked back and gave one "woof"...oh well.

We played around for about 30 minutes, back in the car for a 15 minute break, and then out again for another 20 minutes or so before heading home. We went through her entire breakfast and dinner of kibble, and some dog treats, along with bits of ham, cheese, and bread, but all that tells me is that she had just that many markable moments!

Did you notice I said kibble?! Reyna....REYNA...ate kibble as a treat at an agility trial and stayed focused!!!

I think it's time for us to enroll in some private lessons :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Holy Sit!

Reyna has a 30 second sit on the wood floor!

It took a couple weeks to get her up to 20 seconds and then all of a sudden she shot up to 30 seconds with no problems. I tested it, I tested the comeafter, I turned the page to see what exciting thing was coming next....1 minute sit...UGH!

Now I know why Reyna dislikes duration behaviors, it probably has something to do with the fact the I dislike duration behaviors...they are BORING. But they're also very important and working on them is helping Reyna's ability to deal with less feedback from me. She has much more faith in the system now and honestly so do I.

So we jumped right in and started working 1 minute sit stays. It took her two days to build all the way to 1 minute on the wood floor...WHAT?!? two weeks to get to 30 seconds and two days to get to 1 minute???

That's Reyna for you.

We're not ready to pass the test yet as it still takes a couple shorter stays to get her in the mindset before she's ready for a longer one.

In the meantime we are working LL also just to mix things up. To start with I asked her to sit and then reached to put the leash on, she stood up....hmm...maybe LL just morphed into sit stay practice after all. Sit, move leash one inch treat, two inches treat, three inches...she stood up, chute back to start...

Looks like despite my best efforts I am actually learning something....that sneaky Sue Ailsby!!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Getting it vs Got it

Holy shuffling feet...I wish I had the New Levels books when Reyna was a puppy. We are STILL on Level 2 Step 2 Sit. I could ask her to stay while I ran away from her with toy....no problem...but to sit for 30 whole seconds? Well that's just unheard of! This is harder for her to grasp than the 1 minute down because at least for that one she had a history of remaining in a down for long periods of time with Relaxation Protocol.

We just keep chuting back to 1 second. We are making progress though, she is up to 15 seconds on the wood floor and 25 seconds on carpet. She no longer shuffles her feet on the carpet and her sits there are much prettier. She is super lazy on the wood floor though,  I know she can sit without sliding because she does it while we eat dinner, but if I ask her to sit she immediately starts sliding backwards and her feet follow. It is getting better though, and I took the cue off for now....we are up to 15 seconds without sliding but progress is VERY slow.

On the upside all that work with did with down/stay is really paying off. It took about two weeks to get her to stay down for 1 minute, but only two days to have her stay down for 1 minute while I went and got my shoes and put them on. Then we didn't work it for about a week and the other morning I was going to take her for a walk, I cued down, it took me two minutes to put my shoes on (I hadn't had coffee yet) then I got up, walked over to her touched her collar and then released her. And last night I was tired of working sit so I asked for a down in a different room, walked through the bathroom into the next room, stood where she could see me, counted to 1 minute, returned, yes/treat.

So as frustrating as this whole stupid sit thing is right now I know once she's got it she's really really got it. And if she doesn't I'll slow down and remind her.