Saturday, October 16, 2010

Never Be Afraid to Look Stupid for Your Dog

(Originally posted on Sept 8, 2010)

It's come to my attention that since starting Changing Attitudes (CA), I will be doing homework for a dog class for the first time in a bout four years. Don't get me wrong, we do lots of little training sessions here at home and out in the community. But they tend to be structured along the lines of "I'm bored, I think I'll teach you this" or "This needs work, we'd better practice." I tend to make stuff up as I go along. Since I'm trying to follow an actual plan (specifically with the relaxation protocol), and I'd like to be able to chart my progress with a new technique, I'm going to put my notes on the homework in here. Hopefully then I won't lose it.

Side note: For those of you who'd like more information about the relaxation protocol, here's a site with the original relaxation protocol as developed by Dr Karen Overall: For CA, the protocol has been altered some from it's original form: we use a mat, the dog is in a down, and we don't talk to the dog are the big differences I noticed right off the bat. For those of you who don't want to read the whole article (I admit, I didn't), the relaxation protocol is done once a day with a total of three cycles each in a different location. And if you're a visual learner or are having trouble falling asleep tonight, here's a video of Day 1: Cycle 1 (It's suppose to be boring!)

So, Wednesday was class. 'Nough said.

Thursday: Mental Health Day. For the sake of our sanity, we didn't do anything even remotely interesting.

Friday: Started with the relaxation protocol. Cycle 1 in the living room: offered lots of behaviors, but settled down and was attentive by task twelve. Cycle 2 in the second bedroom: still relaxed and attentive. Cycle 3 out on the porch: interested in watching for squirrels, but easily refocused. Relax and attentive by task fifteen. Total training session time: 20 minutes. Played ball with all four dogs afterward.

Saturday: Relaxation protocol first: Cycle 1 in the sun room: relaxed and focused from the beginning, went right to her mat, but would get up and need to be reset several times when I went halfway around her. On task 21, bumped hip to the side to get more comfortable for the first time. Cycle 2 on the porch: more interested in squirrel watching than yesterday, but didn't get up when I went around her. Relaxed and attentive by task 12. Cycle 3 in the driveway: more on alert, got up and had to be reset several times, particularly when I moved toward the street (maybe thought we were going for a walk?). I felt stupid jogging in place were people could see me (Note: never be afraid to look stupid for your dog). Alert and attentive by task 20.
After relaxation protocol, we practiced shake and wave (both paws), name game, left finish, stand, and ask nice. Also worked on refocusing after going through gates/outside doors. Total training session time: 35 minutes. B came in and took a nap afterward.

Sunday: Relaxation Protocol: Cycle 1 in the living room: Piece of cake, hip bumped by task eight. Cycle 2 in the backyard: Waaaay harder. B didn't seem to understand the concept of being on the grass and going to her mat. Got up multiple times, didn't seem able to focus very well. Seemed to do better after task 22 when I decided to alternate treats with calm praise and slow petting - interesting . . . Cycle 3 in the front yard: Practiced "go to mat" and marking for attention for approximately three minutes before starting protocol. Went MUCH better this time. Got up once on task 3, otherwise stayed down, relaxed, and attentive throughout the cycle. Discovered on task 25 that there was a SQUIRREL behind me across the street. B definitely noticed it while we were working - oriented on it as soon as I released her from the protocol, but easily and happily refocused on me when asked. WOW. Total training session time: 28 minutes
After the protocol, we went for a walk around the park (about one mile). Went about like usual, took about an hour (no, it doesn't take me an hour to walk a mile, we work on a lot of training stuff while walking). Noticed a new pattern: Dog in yards, no problem. Dogs not in yards: NOT COOL.

Monday: I am too tired to train dogs today. I have thresholds, too.

Tuesday : It's raining, windy, and still dark out when it's time to do training today. B and I work throught the relaxation protocol in the house: cycle one in sun room, cycle two in the living room, cycle three in the basement (with the other dogs crated in the room). Did fine all three cycles: hip bumped, relaxed, and attentive, wasn't bothered by the other dogs in their crates at all. Was all gung-ho to play with them after the protocol, though, but I took her upstairs and trimmed her nails instead. Nail trim went about normal, although she did cheerfully roll onto her back so I could get her hind nails. She did that without any prompting whatsoever, which is new, but whether this is do to the relaxation protocol or all the countercounditioning we've been doing already with nail trims (or both!), I really don't know.

Wednesday: What a nice day! We do cycle one and cycle two of day five on the porch and in the backyard, respectively. Both go swimmingly, so I decide to take this show on the road. Right out the gate we run into trouble: a couple and two dog walking past the house. B acts like I expect her to - jumping and wailing. Interesting to notice she only reacts when the leash is tight. Clearly this is a pulling issue and if I could just polish up her leash manners, she'd be perfect! (lol, just kidding. It's not that easy - it's never that easy.) We spend some time in the driveway decompressing - we practice push-ups and doggie zen, to be exact. The we head to the park. I pick a spot about halfway through, tie her to a post, and start working. After a few tasks, it's clear that this is too much for her; she's very tense and distracted. REMEMBER and this is important - always set your dog up to succeed. What we're doing isn't working. So we go back to Day three's exercises. B gets up twice during the first five tasks, but aside from a brief hiccup when some people got too close, she had definitely start to unwind by the end. Her eyes were much softer, and she's more relaxed, although she's still pretty quick to startle at strange noises. We start to head back and WOW what a nice change! She offers about three times as much attention as when we started, and we got some really nice free heeling going. I decide to push our luck, and we stop again by the side of the road to do another cycle of day three. She got up once, I think, but for calm and relaxed the whole time. The rest of the way home, she continued to offer a lot of attention, so apparently, I just need to start carrying her mat with me every where we go. That, I'm sure, won't look silly at all. 

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