Thursday, February 28, 2013

Unplanned Opportunities

I like to think that I'm pretty educated about dogs. That I understand their ethology and psychology, and that I know how to train them to encourage them to work alongside me. Without fail though whenever I start to get comfortable in my knowledge a dog knocks me back and shows me that while I may call myself a "trainer," I will forever be their student.
Please forgive the blurry photos - I only had my cell phone handy. Cody and I have done a single TTouch session before and it involved acclimatizing him to the touch of the wrap. I took a couple days break and figured I'd have at least one or two more sessions before doing an actual wrap on him.

Imagine my shock...
Cody wanted some of the scrambled egg from my dinner, so I grabbed a piece of the egg and fed it to him while I placed a doubled-over wrap under his chest. No reaction from Cody. I moved it back under his belly, a more sensitive area. As long as the food kept coming, he didn't care. I draped it over his neck and under his belly and tied it into the quarter wrap seen above. No problem. He followed me into the kitchen to get more treats...
I decided to go a little further and did the poor version of the full wrap seen above. These are not well-done TTouch wraps, but are instead wraps done in haste. I needed to give him frequent treats and since the wraps took two hands I had to choose between exact wraps and high rate of treating! Right now I am focused on him accepting the touch of the Ace bandage. More exact forms will come in time!
Dogs move at their own pace, and often us impatient humans are wanting to move faster than the dog should move. Sometimes though the opposite happens - we move too cautiously, not yet realizing how much the dog has changed, and they give us the opportunity to catch up to them. Special needs dogs are amazing teachers in particular, as Cody demonstrates to me frequently. Fortunately he is patient with his slow-learning human and doesn't correct me too often!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Yard Time

Spring is starting to arrive, and gloriously, this means more daylight hours! The trips to the backyard when we get home are lasting longer and the three terriers are getting more time in exploring the yard and playing ball.
Cody loves the backyard, and it never seems to lose its novelty. He spends most of his time sniffing around the edges, but he'll also head up the hill to see what's up there. Sometimes he'll even play with foster sister Maya!
Cody stays busy, but he'll humor me and come in for a little loving before headed back out to his business.

Of course Cody has to keep tabs on whoever is up on the hill - such as our 5 year old cat, Kezi!
When it's time to head back in and get dinner, Cody tells me quite distinctly by running to the door. As I approach he gives me his sweetest face and shows off his dancing feet!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Cody reaches a milestone!

I am absolutely delighted to report that Cody has reached a huge milestone - he is starting TTouch body work! TTouch is a series of touches, body wraps, and groundwork that works wonders for many dogs. If you follow Cattie Rattie's blog you will already be familiar with TTouch and know the dramatic difference it made in D'Light (formerly known as Dandy). When Cody came to me the idea of draping something over him or sustained touch was laughable. I draped a belly band over his back to test it one night and it triggered 30 seconds of spinning and snarling - and that was after I had removed it!
Unsure about this thing over his hips!
I cannot be more proud of this boy. In the two pictures above you can see his hesitant body language. Cody is unsure about the ace bandage touching him, but I work at his pace, never forcing him to come near me, and taking the wraps off quickly. Sometimes I give him treats from my hand, but often times I toss them on the floor to encourage him to move with the ace bandage over him. 
This brings body awareness to him as he feels the sensation of the bandage, and he learns that the bandage brings positive things. My goal here is to do short, repeated exposures paired with what Cody finds most rewarding - food! At times Cody would back off and take a break and while I would encourage him to join me again it is always his choice. If he stepped on the bandage, it fell off, even if he had bit and pulled it off, that would all be ok. I am there to encourage him, but its up to Cody to decide if the touch from the bandage is worth the reward I offer in exchange.

Watch for the change from the first video, taken just as we started, to the second video, which is after we had taken a few breaks and reinforced the ace bandage about 15 times or more.
Such a brave boy! This is a lot for Cody and so we won't be doing it two days in a row. My garage has been cleared out and I've gotten some novel items to use for TTouch groundwork. This is done wearing a harness and double-attachment leash, and while it can be done wrapped it doesn't have to be. Even though we will take 1-2 days between wrap sessions to help him settle down and not get stressed by too much, we'll still be working!
Sniffing for food as a loose bandage hangs on him.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Kibble Drop

A new game?
For our next food puzzle, we tried Kyjen's Kibble Drop. It has an opening at the top that you drop food through and it can fall into one of four tubes. The dog has to sniff out which tube has the treat and then open the flap.
This one?
To start out with I put food in all four tubes. Opening a flap that falls closed is more challenging than pulling out a bone or pawing something along a horizontal access, so I made as easy for him as I could.

 This is definitely a more difficult puzzle for Cody, but he really wants to figure it out so he keeps at it! 
At this point I made a big mistake. Cody had worked the toy for two rounds of food. Sappho was on the other side of the gate, huffing and growling at me that she needed to go outside. I get up and run to the back door to let Sappho out, and return a minute later. Even thought it was a short period of time I was gone, it was long enough for Cody to work the toy and get no reward for doing so - very frustrating for him!
Still working it...

Using a lot more force than before I left.
 I had screwed up majorly, and now I had a dog who felt that he couldn't get the food but was still hungry. I tested the waters to see if I could settle with me helping him with the puzzle to get his food.
Nope. That frustration he shows shoving into me and grabbing it as fast as he can one of his signs that he's getting too over-aroused. I don't mind some frustration, but I never make them feel frustration intentionally. Every dog will encounter a natural amount of frustration in their life and as you train them. There is no need to add more than what will naturally happen!
What I needed to do is to allow him to get the rest of his meal, end the session on a good note, and do it in a way that expended either physical, mental, or both energies so he could release that frustration tension.

I took the rest of the kibble and we played a bit of kibble chase. I threw a kibble somewhere on the floor so it skittered a ways, and as soon as he touched that kibble I threw another in a different direction. Very easy, but engaged the eyes, nose, and the brain to pinpoint the direction. It uses both physical and mental energy. It has a 100% reinforcement rate so he is rewarded each time he makes the effort. He has fun doing it, and he gets his calories.

The Kibble Drop will come back. But since I made an error that turned it into a source of frustration with Cody it has to come back at a later time once Cody has been successful at a couple other puzzles. Good thing we have plenty other puzzles to use!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Paw Hide

Is that for me?
What is Cody so excited about? Why, its all the new puzzles he got this weekend! We have 5 new food puzzles, and a new food toy! This boy is so clever that I have to get more puzzles and toys to engage that brilliant brain of his. It doesn't take him much time at all to master new games, and the Kyjen Dog Games Paw Hide is no exception!
This may look easy, but looks are deceiving! Each of those cups sit in a deep pocket. While a dog can paw one out it isn't very successful. Instead, the most efficient way is to bite the cups and lift them out. Considering that the cups are about as wide as Cody can open his mouth, this takes a lot of mouth coordination.
First Cody tried pawing at it, and he did get one out. The others didn't cooperate though, so it was ont a new method. The mouth method!
Here is video of the very first time Cody got the puzzle. Look how fast he figures it out!
Now, mean ol' foster mom isn't content to put all of Cody's food in one puzzle! After the first round I put the rest of his kibble in there for a second go! Not only does this double the mental stimulation and the delicious fun, but I wanted to see how fast he did it a second time. No hesitation on Cody's part - he's got this puzzle beat!
Onto the next puzzle! We'll keep rotating between puzzles and so the Paw Hide will return, but the search to stump this brilliant boy continues!
Please foster momma, can we go a third round?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Maya, Maya Part 2

Sappho's grand entrance.
After Maya and Maya had settled in, it was time to bring in Sappho. Sappho is an easy going dog but she does get nervous and will start to vocalize and posture. I chose to introduce My Maya first since she is a lot more tolerant of other dogs and rarely gets nervous.
At first we had some posturing and stiff movements, but once both dogs realized the other wasn't going to invade their space they relaxed.
Sappho has a grand love of sniffing and enjoys exploring any new area, especially if it has things she can root under, or root through like brush and heavily planted areas. While the Mayas hung out together, Sappho went off to explore the glorious backyard.
After her thorough investigations of the yard, Sappho came back over and Maya found her pretty interesting.
Teddy Maya decided to hang with Jeff and My Maya, while Sappho tried her paw at wooing Janet.
Teddy Maya took this opportunity to get a thorough set of sniffs in without having to be sniffed in turn!
We could see that Teddy Maya was getting tired, and tired dogs are more prone to making bad decisions or being stressed by interactions they normally handle well. The goal is always to keep Teddy Maya comfortable, so we said our goodbyes and headed out. We look forward to spending more time with Janet, Jeff, and sweet Teddy Maya!
Sappho especially!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Maya, Maya Part 1

Who is this cutie?
This beautiful girl is Maya, a 1-2 year old rat terrier. Her story started in Los Angeles, CA, where she was picked up as a stray. Best Friends Animal Society pulled her from the shelter and sent her and several other dogs to Seattle Humane Society as part of their program to send animals from high-kill shelters to shelters in other states where they have a better chance of being adopted. Janet and Jeff wanted a little dog, and when they met Maya they fell for her gentle nature and adorable Teddy-Rat Terrier body!
A little nervous.
Maya can be a little shy and underconfident, so her parents hired me to come in and help. The first two sessions Maya didn't want any touch from me. On our most recent session though, she hopped up beside me, asked for treats, and allowed me to stroke under her chin and her neck. Her progress is a huge testiment to the dedication her parents have to helping Maya gain confidence and socialize her to more of the world.
Perking up a bit.
One behavior Jeff and Janet are working on is Maya growling at other dogs. This is not an aggressive behavior, but is a pre-emptive warning because other dogs make her nervous. We set up a treatment plan for when she is on walks to first redirect Maya and then counter-condition her to change her association with strange dogs. Another part of the plan though was to expose Maya to my dogs who are stable and friendly towards other dogs. There is two parts to this - first, "My Maya" is very non-reactive and would ignore "Teddy Maya," and second, that she could be in the presence of other dogs without having to growl at them. Although she did growl at both My Maya and Sappho, she was able to work through her concern around these strange dogs.
My Maya came in first and paid little attention to Teddy Maya. All she wanted was her tennis ball! We started playing fetch with My Maya, and Teddy Maya hung back by Mom and Dad and watched. Her curiosity got the best of her and she kept getting closer to My Maya. After watching My Maya chase the ball, she decided it seemed pretty fun...
And she even went after the ball a couple times!
After the two Maya's settled in with each other and Teddy Maya relaxed in My Maya's presence, it was time to bring in Sappho!
Come back to see how Teddy Maya does with Sappho!