Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What are we putting in Viva's tool box? Part 1

Ms. Viva and I are busy ladies!  We are having lots of fun building our relationship while learning new skills.  These skills/behaviors will build confidence and many of them will eventually help us as we work on her leash reactivity.

We often expect a dog to act a certain way and then when they don't behave the way we want, we blame the dog.  Often the problem is that the human doesn't manage the environment and we don't break the behavior down into doable steps providing opportunities for learning.  Another problem the human has is that we expect the dog to learn a behavior in the environment we want the behavior.

For example:  We want the dog to sit when we are out on a busy street.  But, we never practice sitting except on a busy street.  If we do that, the dog likely not be successful, the dog will be confused/stressed and lose interest.  Then we hear things like "My dog can't learn (fill in the behavior)".  My answer is "Your dog can learn you just have not set up the environment for learning and/or haven't broken down the behavior into doable steps".

So, what do we do?  We start off by practice in a low stress environment.  That's often in the house where the human can manage the environment and usually the dog feels safe and comfortable in the house.

Keeping this in mind you can guess that what I'm teaching Viva starts in our house.  I can put the other dogs away and reduce stress in the environment to create positive emotional responses and build Viva's confidence with success.

One of the first games I start to teach is an easy one and many dogs love it.


"Find it" is great because if needed, the dog can get distance from the human. And they are self rewarding (they are immediately reinforced by the food for finding the food).  This is an excellent game for  building confidence.

For Viva, I want her to master this game as I'm going to be using it on our walks when a dog or another stressor appears.  Viva struggles with seeing joggers, bikers, kids, strollers and random people when she's on leash.  So, my hope is that this game is going to come in handy.   

We start in the house, in the room that I do a lot of our training.


Viva has a rock solid sit you can read more about this in an earlier post Sitting and looking fabulous

Here are past blog posts with foster boy Royal learning sit


I'm teaching Viva "go to mat" because she's already started doing it and this is an excellent skill for any dog to have.  If people come over, you can ask the dog to "go to mat".  You can use "go to mat" when you need a dog to settle in one area. Catty practices "go to mat" twice a day everyday. She will sit on her mat while I make the dog's meal or our meals.  Catty will wait and wait and wait.  It's so much better than her demand barking us or getting under our feet.

Below are the girls waiting on mats while I make their dinner

Viva started "go to mat" before I taught it to her.  In the kitchen she would just go sit on the mat.  I reinforced her for this so, putting "mat" on verbal cue was pretty easy.

I bring the mat out of the kitchen and we start putting "mat" on verbal cue.  Of course she figures it out quickly.  When starting this I'm marking any part of her body that touches the mat.

After a couple of reps here's what we have

We move it to a different location and different mat

Look who wanted in on the action!

We go into the training room and no problem with changing rooms or changing the mat.

And here we go again,  and she misses the verbal cue "mat".  Why is this?  I'm guessing it was due to the environment.  We were having a bad wind storm and I'm pretty sure that created some stress for Viva.  So, I asked her for the behavior and she didn't get to the mat.  I step back and wait a few seconds and then reset.  Once I reset she get's it no problem.  And because she missed "mat" right before, when she does give me the behavior I give her the reinforcer much quicker.

Good girl Viva!

And this is just straight up goof ball D'light.  After this, I picked up his mat and had him go in another room with something to do. You can see that Viva is still working despite D'light's photobomb.

And Viva will go to anywhere she thinks there's a mat.  We are in our tiny bathroom and she's found the mat!

Our last behavioral challenging foster dog was Seven.  That little full on terrier taught me a ton and he made me a much better person in terms of how I work with dogs.  He transformed into a completely different dog by the time he was adopted.  It's because of  the success that Seven and I had, that felt I could help Viva.  So, Seven you fun loving, high energy, impulsive, reactive boy - you've paid it forward!

I did a lot of work with Seven and documented our work together.  Viva like Seven is ubber smart and when she isn't over threshold she picks things up very quickly.  Some of the things I begin to teach Viva, she is practicing well before I have a chance to capture it on camera.

Here's my post of "Go to Mat" with Seven  there's lots of good info on teaching "go to mat" from the beginning. Then a follow up post of Everyone goes to mat

Again we go back to Seven...  here's a blog post talking about Seven works on eye contact This is going to be a very important skill for Viva when we are outside.  To start teaching "look" make sure to watch the above link of "Seven works eye contact" since that starts with using a marker.  A marker is the clicker or the "yip" and Viva and are are beyond using the marker in the below video since she knows the verbal cue "look".
This was tough to video because I've already taught Viva the the verbal cue "look". She picked this up really fast, quicker than I was able to get to video taping the learning process.  Viva was so fast with learning because of the all the reinforcing we did in her first weeks when she looked to us.

Since there's very little distraction in the house there's not much else for her to look at other than me. Viva is smart and she onto our training session even before we start!  I thought this was worth taping because of the environmental distractor. That bark is Catty - she's not happy about being put away while I work with Viva.   I wanted to see how Viva did with the barking and she did well!


This is a work in progress as Viva wants to get at what she wants to get at.  She wants to get out the door to get after whatever.  So we are continually working on this one.
Here we are in full walking gear "wait"ing for me to open the door

Here's the video that we are using to help us both master this skill.  The video is Door Manners by Kikopup.

We are also working on "wait" coming out of the crate in the car. Same video Door Manners by Kikopup.  gives the steps starting at 14:56


I want the two of us to master this skill so that if we get into a jam on our walks (seeing dogs or whatever else is upsetting to Viva) I can say "lets go" and that cue's us getting away at a rapid speed.  When Viva sees something in the environment that is upsetting, right now she can't refocus which makes getting her attention pretty difficult.  So, my thought is that if we have the fun cue of "lets go" I can get her moving away from the trigger.  We'll see if this works.

She's a bit uneasy in the beginning of the video with Brett standing in the doorway taping but, she's able to work with me.  Good girl Viva and this is a good example of why it's important to start working on behaviors in the house.

No worries this time

And she does great!

So, we are moving right along and our next step is to do many of the above behaviors outside on our deck.  Why the deck?  It's still a controlled environment but, it's outside so more distractions. 

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