Monday, September 14, 2015

What are we putting in Viva's tool box? Part 3

We have moved onto practicing some of Viva's new skills outside. 

In Part 1 we started working on these skills in the house.  Part 2 we moved onto our deck and here we go with the last in this series. 
While we are practicing these skills outside, I'm still managing the environment by choosing where we practice.  I like to use parking lots and school areas (minus any kids). With these locations I can see what's all around us and have an exit plan if needed should a dog come into the picture.

By moving outside there are a lot more environmental distractors.  When you are out walking with your dog pay attention to all that is going on around you.  It's really pretty shocking how much we are not aware of what is happening in the environment around us. 

In working with Viva, I'm constantly reminded of all the environmental distractors.  Environment distractions produce a wide range of behavior and that brings about an emotional response.  Viva has a wide range of emotional responses.  She gets excited (about a critter), she remains neutral (a passing car) and then she has a strong negative response (like seeing a dog).

Below are three important skills that we are going to be using a lot when we are outside on walks. 


You will see in the below video that Viva is having an emotional response - she's not completely comfortable with what is going in the environment.  What's creating this?  It's the electric bus passing on the other side of the parking lot wall.  When the video starts she is alert as she can hear the bus coming.  Then I say "find it" and toss treats.  She works through the bus noise and continues to look for the treats on the ground.  She does take a break from the game when the bus starts to move again and then she goes back to the game.  

Viva was able to work through the bus passing which was great progress.  If she hadn't started the game or hadn't been able to restart, we would have moved away from the noise of the bus (getting distance from the stressor/trigger) until she was able to engage with me and then I would have started the game over.

We practice find it outside a school

Another electric bus passing by - it's about 30ft from us and Viva watches.  Again by moving outside we encounter a lot more environmental distractions. Which is why you want to start the training in the house and build up to introducing more environmental distractions.  And of course, you always want to have a plan B if things start to go south.

Then we are back to playing "find it".
You see how much room I have to see what could be coming our way. 

Viva watching a jogger and good girl for just watching.  After some time watching, Viva did look to me and she was reinforced for that behavior.


Here we are outside the school and she's really a rock start with this verbal cue! 


And more practice in a parking lot


Viva has been with us for just over month and it makes me giddy with how much progress she's made thanks to using management of the environment and positive/force free training.  Viva is a wonderful training partner and she gives me as much as I give her.  She's really a joy to work with.


Here we are at another school and time to practice "lets go"!  This one is a big skill that we will be using when we see dogs that are too close.  It may not seem like that much but, what I'm building is that when I say "lets go" it's a fun, move your body verbal cue.  Hard to be growling and going over threshold when I'm asking Viva's body to move this quickly away from what I need her to move away from.  We are practicing & perfecting this now so that the fast movement by Viva & myself isn't a scary thing for her when I need to use it.


We are still practicing "lets go" and I'm starting to work in doing U-turns.  This too will be needed when we are out walking and see dogs.

Here we are doing "lets go" and U-turn.  As you can see Viva thinks this is a whole lot of fun and pays attention to what I'm asking of her.  This is exactly what we want.

And while we were practicing these skills, look what was going on at the end of the play ground.  A great distractor and Viva is able to work through this.


And remember we practice these new skills everyday!  It' really doesn't take much time and it has really solidified our working relationship while giving Viva more behaviors to use.   


We are still practicing "Go to mat" in the house and I'm using this skill for a variety of things which I will be sharing more about soon.

Here's the dogs while I'm making dinner which is an excellent time to practice "Go to mat" and we are working on duration.

Catty offering "sit pretty" hoping this will get her a food reinforcement.  And of course it did - both dogs were reinforced good behavior on the mat.

And where is D'light? He's being a goof ball during one of our practice sessions of  "go to mat"
"What do you  have mom?!"

"Oh I want that soooo bad!"

And look at those lovely rattie girls sitting so nicely on their mats despite D'light the distractor!

Stay tuned to watch all that we are up to as we are having lots of fun and having some great adventures!


  1. Cattie looks SO pretty sitting! Sending a shout-out from Virginia. And love the D'light photo bomb :) kudos to Viva for her good work with so many distractions...

    1. A bunch of goof ball Terrier's is what we have! Viva is doing great and she's super smart and eager to learn!