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 leave...you 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!