Sunday, March 25, 2012

Reyna Relaxing?!?

It's true! Reyna is not only relaxing on cue, but she can also relax after being mildly excited AND she passed her test for a one minute relax today! The next step is to get excited for one minute relax for one minute excited for one minute and relax again for one minute. A month ago I would have said never in a million years, but now I have no doubt that given clear expectations and patience it's only a matter of time.

In the midst of working on relax we also been checking off steps in other behaviors, like handling. Reyna is pretty cool about just about everything...except being brushed. I have spent the better part of her life chasing her around with the brush, fussing at her when she gets up, leashing her so she can't get the idea.

Then I actually decided to stop complaining and start training.

It was simple chutes and ladders. I measured out her dinner in the evenings and plopped myself on the kitchen floor...One brush stroke, yes/treat, two brush strokes, yes/treat and so on. At first I was doing more marking than brushing and I had to keep the rate of reinforcement even higher on areas like her tail that she especially disliked. If she got up I just sat there and waited. The first session she got up four or five times, but always came back, the next couple of times she only got up once and after that she hasn't gotten up mid brushing at all...a HUGE improvement considering it's a behavior that has annoyed me for almost two years!

I made sure to consider any whining the same as getting up and walking away...chute back to one brush stroke or even half a brush stroke.

Now after just a few weeks I have what I've wanted all along...a dog who lays still while I brush her all over, head to tail, with no fidgeting or whining. AND this evening I got sidetracked while brushing her and hadn't given her a treat for a long time...she looked at me pointedly, and went limp...RELAX!!!...she just defaulted to relax when she wasn't getting enough feedback!!! Mind-boggling!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Teacher and student at once

We checked off a few more levels steps over the last few days, nothing major....most of handling. I decided as a come after to see if she would hold a stand/stay while a touched her head tail and feet. She was sitting so I cued her to stand. She lifted her butt like an inch off the floor and plopped it right back down triumphantly...weird.

I cued stand again...same response, a very enthusiastic repositioning of her sit

I cued it again but with the hand signal this time...she laid down

Without a pause or even thinking about it I lowered the criteria all the way down as if I was reteaching from scratch. Asked for back up, as soon as her rear popped off the ground I marked and rapid fired ten treats in position, then released her, rinse/repeat two more times. The next time I did the same thing, but waited a beat before marking. Then I asked her to sit, yes/treat. Asked her to stand and her rump came off the floor BAM! mark and rapid fire treats. Down....treat...stand (she does) 2 second pause....yes and she got the last of the kibble.

So we didn't get done what I was hoping for which was a stand for exam type behavior, but I was halfway through the remind, reteach process before I realized that I had not gotten frustrated, I did not correct her, yell at her, or throw objects around the room. I just recognized that she was very confused and took the time to clarify what I wanted. 6 months ago I would have been irritated and would have killed off the enthusiasm she had in offering what she thought I was asking for in my attempt to tell her she was wrong. Instead this time she remained In The Game, I was enjoying the process and in the end she was still cheerfully sitting, but now she was also enthusiastically standing.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

2 Years Old

WOW Reyna is 2!!! Where did the time go?

When we were first talking about getting a puppy I told my husband that it takes two years of hard consistent work to create a "good" dog. Now that Reyna is two it's amazing to see where we are now...

-She hasn't soiled in the house since she was 10 weeks old
-She doesn't destroy stuff when we're gone
-I can walk her pretty much anywhere on just a flat collar, I don't even know where her head collar is
-She is even more calm and careful around Penelope than she is around David
-She has a pretty darn solid recall, even off of dogs, cats and an armadillo
-She is still VERY excitable, but I would now call her base reactivity mild
-Her motion reactivity is still moderate-to-high when it comes to other dogs
-I am learning that I never have to settle for halfway focused, with a few minutes of work I can go into a building on relaxed loose leash
-I have learned that a calm focused foundation is way more important than a list of fancy tricks she can't do because she's too distracted or stressed

We have a lot of work to do on her over excitement and a good bit left on her reactivity if I want to compete in dog sports. I missed a major window of opportunity by not addressing either of these issues until well into adolescence, but we are making up for lost time.

Even if we never win or even enter a single trial I have learned more from raising Reyna than I did in all the previous years and dogs combined.

Thank you Reyna, and Happy Birthday!!!!!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Almost through Level 2!

I've been wiped out lately, so we've been taking it easy and just puttering along on some level stuff here and there, nothing major.

I also took Reyna to a friends house about a week ago and got to play in their agility tunnel, Reyna had a blast with that. So much so that I signed her up for a private at The Dog's Place in Canton. It's not for a couple weeks, but I can't wait.

I've been really all over place lately, which generally means we both need to take a break and walk in the woods for a few days in lieu of training. Too drained from the rest of my life to be In The Game right now. So I figured it's a perfect opportunity to work on Relax. I sit down with some kibble next to me and read or write, or whatever and whenever she forgets I have kibble sitting there and slumps to the floor Yes/Treat. Which meant that she would immediately get back up again and we'd start over.

 The little smarty pants got the idea faster than I thought she would. The first evening she got the general idea that I was marking for non interaction, and the second night I started shaping our specific "cool it" position...laying down on one hip, front legs wide and head stretched flat on the floor. It took 1/2 cup of kibble and on the very last piece she got the whole thing....

But after doing that a few times I decided she looked much more relaxed like this....

So now that is our new standard. You may wonder why we don't follow Sue's example and teach her to flop all the way over onto her's because when she is overexcited/stressed and I tell her "down" she goes all the way over to her side but completely rigid, giving us the whale eye and pretty much looking like she was shot or stabbed, it's not becoming. I'd rather not do anything to encourage her to assume that position until I can get her relaxing on cue in a different one, and then hopefully I can transfer those feelings to "all the way over".

Tonight we got to the point where even if I tossed the treat across the room she would trot right back and offer the relaxed down so I started to name it "cool it"..."CHILL" is already in regular use, and supremely ineffective, so "cool it" it is! 

And for the daily dose of awww...

 Here is Reyna doing her favorite and most important job...munchkin guarding....


hmm...I'll pretend I didn't see that...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Just passing by

We checked off New Levels L2 Step 5 Target - Close a cabinet door. This was something I tried to teach her when she was little, but I didn't know enough and she got very frustrated with me and I with her until we dropped it.

This time around I actually know how to communicate with her on some level. If she started to open her mouth, a sure sign she was starting to get confused or frustrated, we took a break to play or just lay down. If I asked her for a particular criteria and she goofed twice, I didn't drill it, I changed something to make it easier for her to understand. For example, she had been doing great touching the sticky note on the cabinet door so I did 3 or 4 quick reps and then took the sticky note off and gestured toward to cabinet. She walked behind the door and looked at me. I brought her back out and reset, same response. Time to change something. I went back to the sticky note, she got 100%, so we did that couple of times and then instead of taking the whole thing off I tore a piece of it and stuck that back on. She got it right away, then I put a piece of clear tape, no problems, THEN I took all the tape/notes of any kind off and gestured toward the door again, she cheerfully bopped it shut....YAY!!!

Now she is solid on one cabinet door, very reliable on another one, and any other it takes one or two reps with a sticky note and then she can do it straight. I figure the more doors we do this with the more she will generalize.

So once we got over that hurdle we made quick work of a lot of the next stuff...

Passed all of NL2 Go To Mat behaviors...even ignoring treats on the ground near the mat

Passed all of NL2 Crate steps as well, but both of those are things she has done fluently since she was a teeny tiny puffball so that was no surprise

Passed most of Distance work with Bye as the cue for clockwise and Way as the cue for counter-clockwise. I need to have her go around a new pole and have her go through a doorway and turn to face me.

Jump shouldn't be too difficult, we'll see

Relax....that's a whole different story...I foresee every step in Relax taking quite a while to trudge through.

I am exceedingly happy with the results that I am getting out of working the New Levels. I find that when we hit a snag and work our way through it following the steps and advice in the book it really does make a huge difference. Leaving a treat on the ground on our walks helps her self control which means that when she sees a cat run by she starts to jump after it, but she gets herself under control much faster, and her reactions aren't nearly as strong.

I've said it before, but I owe my sanity to the combination of Sue Ailsby's Training Levels, and Leslie McDevitt's Control Unleashed program...I want to be like them when I grow up.