Training Challenge #10: Cows, Goats, Horses and Sticks

This weeks Training Challenge is a “reactive maymay” challenge. I find posts on reactivity very hard to compose probably because it is one of the rare things I can’t seem to find good enough language to describe. Usually, as is the case again here, I end up with these mile long posts that no one can slog through and understand. I apologize in advance.

The History
Maizey was taken from her litter and Mom at seven weeks, I was not told this by her breeder until several months later and now believe it could have been even sooner. She was in a house with many other dogs, but I think that being taken away at such a formative period robbed her of valuable learning she needed to know in order to not only be confident around other dogs, but even know how to play and interact with them.

Of course knowing what I know now and looking back I can see so much that I missed as early warning signs.

Things like the slight fear she showed towards Meeka on the day she came home, the way she was so sensitive to her space and getting “trampled” even at nine weeks really mean more to me than I gave them credit for at the time. I knew nothing of reactivity and little of raising a puppy and feel I chocked too much up to, “well she is little and they are big, she is young and they are older” type of excuses.

What I See Now
Now with Mangus in the house it is as if Maizey is not only leaning how to play with another puppy, but how to play LIKE another puppy. She play with toys she was never interested in before, she entertains her self with them instead of needing me to entertain her. She is more content to be alone, granted for very short periods of time, but alone still. She plays chase and tug games, another difference.

I am so happy to see her enjoying regular dog things that way now and have hope that the things she is learning will continue to help her grow confident.

The Reactivity Progress/Non-progress
As for her Reactivity I am, as usual, stymied. In some ways it seems so much better. She will call off and return, or reorient to me when surprised by most things. Her matt work is getting stronger, in the moment of a trigger she seems to move on from it a little sooner, though I still see the after effects of the trigger lasting. She is responding to new operantly conditioned cues in an episode, not just in training.

However, In some ways I wonder if she isn’t moving to some new levels of reacting. This weekend she reacted to cows, goats, horses,and twice to men that were outside the car. In order to break it down in more detail, and hopefully get some insight from all of you, I included the pictures of this in the next post.

I am trying not to make too much of these things, as I see a generalized nervousness in her that I think is due to high levels of stress hormones from all the life changes she has experienced these last few months. At the same time I am trying to learn from missing the early signs when she was a puppy and help her work through these issues sooner than later.

As For Sticks
As for the sticks part of our challenge? Well really not a challenge at all for Magnus, as long as he can find one! Magnus attitude to life at this point seems to be, “Sweet! A stick! Oh cool, look a leaf! Wow! This stick is awesome, I think I’ll lay here and chew on it! Oh my Sisser? She’s freakin’ out over there, but I’m all good cause I got a stick!”

"MMMMM sticks are so good!"


Training Challenge Week 5: Sweet Solitude

Solitude is nearly always sweet to me. Being alone is not a challenge, it is peaceful.

Not so for Maizey. Well being alone is okay to her, she doesn’t have separation anxiety per se, but rather, “Why the heck can’t I smother you in in face hugs crazymomlady!?!” anxiety.

If I am around and she can’t be in the room with me, near me, touching me, preferably smothering me with face hugs she is not a happy camper.

It causes some difficulty as she has no problem vocalizing her displeasure and disapproval of the situation. Not a surprise as the princessface has no problem vocalizing in general. (Yes this is me still sighing. . .)

It’s not surprising really when you consider the course her first year of life took. Everyone knows the value of early puppy socialization and I took this very seriously with Maizey. Which meant she pretty much went everywhere we went as much as possible to be exposed to as many things as possible. Thus much time was spent with her crazymomlady. (Note for those of you contemplating puppy socialization (me): work in puppy “alone” time with socialization and perhaps avoid this problem!)

Then around 6 months we started with the patella problems and two surgeries. When you have an 8 pound little girl with a chunk of change invested into her knees there is a lot of time spent, holding, comforting and soothing the poor Princessface. At that point she did 8 weeks after each surgery with no outside-off leash time at all, again much much time spent with the crazymomlady.

Thus in her life she hasn’t had to learn that she isn’t going to die if she isn’t in constant contact with me.

On our recent camping trip we had ample opportunity to work on the Solitude Is Sweet Crazymaymay! program.

The program? Well I have recruited helpers since the problem arises not when we are home and I leave her vicinity, but when we are out and about. So I got the people we are with the most to help by helping her manage her anxiety with a job. Simple tasks she can handle: sits, downs, touch, tag, etc.

I find with any anxiety she does better if she keeps her brain engaged and working, and this provides plenty of opportunity for positive reinforcement.

"I am not happy to be in here while you all have a party out there! Big meaneys!!"

I also have been more aware of opportunities for her to settle with out me around, simple things like leaving her on a park it in one area while I visit another. Yard, home, moms house. . .

Camping was great for this as I would leave her in the tent trailer while we were right outside and with in her view. Then I could easily reinforce quiet and relaxed behavior.

We have started cuing this as “settle it” and transitioning Meeka’s, “you don’t get to go with” cue of “stay home” to mean the same for Maizey.

I know this is another monster I created as she is just easy to take everywhere and I of course want her with me, she’s my buddy! However it’s not a monster we want to continue living with so we are working on it together.

An interesting aspect of this behavior is that if I just leave her, like at home in her crate, she is fine. She willingly puts herself to bed when she sees she isn’t going to be invited to accompany us. Also if I am just gone for a day and leave her with my mom and our CharleyCharley boy she will be anxious for a bit but settles down fine then too.

Again the trip was a good example. The day I took Meeka and Mehusbandy to the city to get the rental car and drive home she stayed at camp with the family. It was a whole day and she did fine. Thrilled to see me on my return as I was her, but no reported anxiety.

We will keep working on it, but I thought this would fit for Ricky’s Training Challenge as solitude is certainly out of Maizey’s comfort zone!

In the mean time, what do you all do to help your social butterflies understand solitude is sweet not scary?

DATE and TIME:  last of august, beginning september
LOCATION: on S.D. trip and at home. . .
SKILLS TRAINED: maizey knows how to relax when I am around even if she is not with me
SUMMARY: Is hard for her. Hard for me in the sense that I rarely think of it as a problem until it is. Esp challenging as Meeka is now also a constant companion at home so I must create opportunities to show maymay she doesn’t have to be in constant attendance to me. Example is teaching her to stay in her bed, crate etc when  I am at computer-a place she esp likes to sit with me and is used to being there. Important to me as it will build her confidence in herself  to manage with w/out me and stave off future more serious anxiety.


Training Challenge Week 4: CGC Prep: 2legged Greetings

As stated in the last challenge we posted for there were two areas of CGC prep that will be challenging for Maizey: Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger and Test 10: Supervised separation.

On our trip there was plenty of chances to work on both but for this weeks training challenge I thought I could show you some of the progress made in Accepting a friendly stranger.

Ahhh. . . this greeting a friendly stranger thing is nice!"

Technically for the CGC Maizey will need to sit and ignore a stranger that is friendly to me. I felt this was going to be too big of a lump for her to train all at once so we started with helping her develop more manners and self control when people greeted her.

I felt this especially important for in our real world interactions people generally bypass me and head straight to her, making it important she knows how to respond appropriately. I can’t say I really blame them, I mean who am I compared to her glory?

It was suggested that since she has such a good leave it that I apply that to help her not greet people that may not want greeted. (A totally foreign idea to my little social butterfly!) I started this when it would be easiest to help her succeed, while we were walking past people. It worked well, as I could keep her moving and use natural rewards of a destination along with treat rewards.

I also worked hard to be assertive in talking to people that wanted to greet her. Maybe I am so used to people crossing the street to avoid greeting my Meeka that the liberty people take to greet Maizey never ceases to amaze me. I mean I can understand people wanting to greet her pretty princess face, but the way people swoop in over her with their high squeaky voices to grab her long ears makes me want to jump on them!

So before we left I scripted some brief sentences I could use to direct the 2legged members of the meetings in more appropriate behavior. I tried to use language that helped them feel like they would be doing her a favor and not me, since it is her they love so much.

“Ooohh your dog is so cute!!”

To which I respond with a simple, “Thank you, she really likes to be petted under her chin.”

But the most successful was a simple, “Thanks! She is practicing for a test to help her be a good girl so could you please pet her only when she is sitting?”

Obviously we all know 4legged members of our environment often prove themselves easier to train then the 2legged ones so this wasn’t always successful, but it was good practice for me and I think my assertiveness helped Maizey feel more confident that I had things handled.

You can tell in the pictures she is not always sitting, but she is learning self control. I also tried to adjust the the criteria to the circumstances so if it was a high distraction situation I lowered the criteria from sitting to just keeping all four feet on the ground.

While still need to practice in a formal CGC Test type setting I am happy with the lessons we bothed learned and confident we will be able to practice enough to pass that area of her CGC, eventually.

"Sitting isn't as much fun as smothering you, but thanks for petting me anyways!"

DATE and TIME: August
LOCATION: South Dakota
SKILLS TRAINED: Sit for greetings from 2legged friends and strangers, sweet solitude
SUMMARY: While still need to test in a formal CGC Test #1 setting, using a “leave it” to prevent greetings altogether and assertive direction on how to greet her to the people involved we saw good improvement. Her supervised separation may prove more challenging. Left her with mom several times, will bark if she can see me. Left her in trailer, and on long line all supervised by family. Does settle eventually. Big test was day took mehusbandy and meeka to city to go home, was gone from 8:00am-3:00pm. She did good. Went on walk, had two reactive episodes, but was calm on my return, not stressed and happy to see me.


Training Challenge Week 2: Meeka’s Challenge and CGC is Hard For Social Butterflies

Meeka joins our challenge this week with “first time in a seat belt harness” substituting for something out of her comfort zone.

"Check me out, I'm wearin' read!"

Mehusbandy was wondering what Meeka was doing for Ricky’s Training Challenge. I told him Meeka didn’t really qualify for this challenge because there really isn’t anything our of her comfort zone! She is my solid, stable girl. Her 4legged lesson to me is always:

"be comfortable in your skin crazymomlady and don't worry!"

I always think of the CGC (Canine Good Citizenship) and in my naivety I think, “oh, she (whichever girl) could do that. . . or that. . . or. . .” well you get the idea. And Meeka could, no doubt about it. But when I started breaking it down I was surprised how many things there were that Maizey would find challenging.

I feel strongly that a dog who passes the CGC should really be able to pass with flying colors. There is nothing worse that a pup, or a child, or an adult, that says they qualify for something but end up being not such a shining example.

So with Maizey I really want her to be solid with the skills. Obviously Test 8: Reaction to another dog is not passable at this stage but I decided I was focusing too much on that as a problem area. While I don’t think that was really affecting Maizey negatively,it was affecting my motivation negatively.

So I decided to keeping doing what we are doing with reactivity and refocus on ALL her skills. Out of the ten items on the CGC test I see only two others that may pose a significant challenge. One is Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger and the other is Test 10: Supervised separation.

With test item 1 the problem is that she is too accepting of friendly strangers. She pretty much thinks every human in the world wants smothered by Maizey ‘face hugs’. Since she is too little to reach their face she settles with jumping all over them. Not that we allow this, but she thinks we fixed her knees to restore her position as resident spring of our house.

The CGC test rules state: “The evaluator and handler shake hands and exchange pleasantries. The dog . . . must not break position or try to go to the evaluator.” So meet and greets of the 2legged variety has moved to the top of the Maizey Lessons Priority list.

(Due to the sheer volume of her challenges this post has been split for easier management by all readers. So do you need a break before learning how many 2legged friends Maizey smothered on CGC Prep Training Challenge? Take a breather and then dive in to see if any survived!)


Training Challenge Week 2: My Social Butterflies’ CGC Prep

With that we meet the core of our Training Challenge for week. Since “real life” made my big plans to go to the farmers market unfeasible, I planned my “real life” tasks so I could take Maizey with me every where I went on Friday afternoon.

That meant she went into the local farm/ranch supply store for Bullies, and to a clothes store where she rode in the cart while her crazymomlady spent 45 minutes shopping for a new Dog Duffle for the trip. She also practiced waiting in the parking lot of the post office (no dogs allowed in there). As an aside mehusbandy gets double props and many thanks for meeting me there and sitting with her since it was too hot to just leave her in the car.

It’s always amazing to me how much training we do on these little jaunts out. To illustrate how many opportunities there are for challenging things I tried to see things from her viewpoint. Take CalRanch for example: getting out of the car means sit nicely for seat belt undone, sit and wait for okay to exit the car door (both fit into our Day to Day skills for boundary Zen), LLW into the store included 2 cars and a family of three walking past, a man coming past her with a cart, bails of hay and manure (even I could smell them!) Inside the store is a whole new set of challenges: At the counter she had to sit and down while I exchanged something. In total there were 3 younger women and 2 older women with their husbands who wanted to greet her (perfect for CGC#1), At this point we met a lab and a tiny dog of unknown origins (more to come on that later), then walking back to the dog section there were toys, a rocking chair, too many people to count and finally the park it next to the bully’s. (LLW, ZEN and CGC 1) And that list doesn’t even count the skills used while paying and leaving.

As for the clothes store that presented its own set of training opportunities. But let me just sum it up with the 4 year old in the cart that was hollering, “I wanna pet the puppy!! I wanna pet the puppy! Can I pet your puppy!?!” Now for some pups that may not have been a challenge, but Maizey LOVES kids. Must be cause their faces are more convenient for face hug smothering.

So for her the little kids were the biggest challenge. She knows she must be quiet in the stores with carts. (Could a shopping cart be a contextual clue?) And she was perfect, but when we saw the little kids she would wine very quietly as if she “just can’t stand it! There is a little 2legged friend crazymomlady!” (Which again fits into our CGC prep #1.)

"Seriously, who would not want to be smothered by this face?"

I am very proud of my little social butterfly. She did very well on what was actually a lot challenging stuff. It made me more determined than ever to keep helping her and who knows maybe she will learn that some 2legged friends are okay with not being smothered in Cavalier ears!

Next weeks Training Challenge: Week 3-who knows what we will come up with in the vastness of the Back Hills!

DATE and TIME: August 12, 2010 afternoon
LOCATION: CalRanch, Post Office Parking Lot and clothes store
SKILLS TRAINED: sit for meet and greet-#1 CGC; LLW; On the Road L3 tests: L1sit, down, target and zen, Two dog reacting: used holding her with stop it cue
SUMMARY: Sliding doors make a stunning distraction and blow LLW out of the water. USE DOORS AS DISTRACTION FOR L3 LLW. In CalRanch one lab and one little scrappy dog on leash came around corner of check stand. I picked her up, she reacted but ??on fear amount. I held her and did muzzle hold. She barked at them, but quieted. ??on effectiveness of holding her, but was easier in that pinch. Passed L1 sit, down, zen and target (L3 OTR) in post office parking lot. Post office also fit the bill for CGC #8 and our “solitude is sweet” daily task. was in clothes store for 40min. she ride in cart. Did perfect. Loves Kids, high on distraction scale.


Week 1 Training Challenge: Practice Travel

We joined Ricky and all his 4legged friends for a training challenge.

The challenge is to train once a week outside of your or your pups comfort zone. For week one we did a ‘get ready for the big trip’ run through.

Although not very exciting as far as training challenges go it was helpful to me for we have a family vacation fast approaching that is definitely out of my comfort zone. Ten days camping in South Dakota with 17 members of my family. Try not to all be envious okay?

Really I am looking forward to it, but it is Maizey’s longest trip yet and I want to make sure she is prepared. Things I am looking at as a new experience for her include two Chinese Crested’s and my cousins baby. (I can’t think if she has ever seen a baby before so that should be interesting.) She has never camped before or traveled that far so I know there will be many new things.

Which brings us to our training challenge for this week. I tried to think of things she may need to brush up on and then took her running around with me as much as possible. Things we worked on include her riding in the booster part of her car seat without the crate, some LLW work, sit and down stays while mehusbandy washed the car. (Good new experience with loud noises and busy street) We also worked on her staying in the car alone. (Don’t worry it wasn’t too hot and just for a brief bit at a time.)

"I like this booster since I can see out the windows!"

So while not completely out of our comfort zone it was things she need to practice and it went really well. Thanks for getting us going Ricky!

"Okay I'll stay, but man is it hot out here!"

Next week we have a brand new experience for Maizey that involves milling people, that way she can be ready for the milling hordes when we are camping! But you’ll have to come back and see what it is next Sunday!

Meanwhile check out some really exciting challenges from Ricky or Marie.

"My crazymomlady worries too much, doesn't she know I'm a no fuss no muss traveler?"

Each week of the challenge will include a summary of what we did, feel free to peruse as you’d like, but as it is mostly for my benefit it will appear in my short hand.

DATE and TIME: Tuesday August 3, 2010 evening
LOCATION: car, gas station, car wash, restaurant parking lot
SKILLS TRAINED: first time in booster without crate, LLW, sit-stays, down-stays, staying calm when crazymomlady is gone w/ mehusbandy and alone in car.
SUMMARY: Did good w/ booster, no complaining settled into down. LLW is miraculously still there. Only a couple back ups then worked fine, with treats. no clicker. L3 LLW 40′ w/ one distraction. Apx 50′ along curb w/ pink treat bag as distraction she paid no attention to it at all. Also worked sit-stays wants to settle into down. Don’t work downs for a while, pay for sits @ food with me working away form her. She stayed in car alone, I walked around corner she barked for apx 20 sec then quiet, I return jack pot through window. Then left again she barked for apx 25 sec but ry came back so got interrupted. Need to work alone time w/ out me.