Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Training Tuesday

I want to play the relaxation game, Mom!
If you won't set up the crate, I'll figure out how to get in myself!

Relaxation Protocol
Maisy and I continue to work on the Relaxation Protocol. Although I haven’t been quite as consistent about it as before, we’re still doing it several times a week. Our progress has slowed down a lot, though: we’re still on Day 5. This is a hard one, especially the task where the dog remains calm while you walk to an entrance and touch the door knob. For the first three days, Maisy stood on her hind legs to peek out the top of the crate when I touched it. I celebrated mightily the day she finally remained lying down.

Despite the fact that she’s remaining lying down for the duration of the day’s protocol, she still doesn’t seem relaxed. Well, to be fair, she never really seems relaxed, but she isn’t even faking it right now, either: she’s not lying her chin on the ground, she’s not rolling onto her hip, and she’s not taking the treats gently. My big question right now is whether we should continue on the tasks of Day 5, or if we should work on an easier, earlier day for a bit… any thoughts from those experienced with the protocol?

Crate Duration
The lack of relaxation during the protocol seems to be carrying over to the crate duration exercises. While we had been making rapid progress for awhile, we’ve currently stalled out. I do want relaxed behavior, not just patience. Currently, we’re working on 15 minutes’ duration, with a treat at every three minutes, but I think I need to either cut back on the duration, or increase the treats. Or both.

Well, Maisy definitely understands the poke behavior, but it’s coming out sideways and backwards. I should have seen that coming, I guess.

Last week, we were in the waiting room of the vet clinic when two large dogs suddenly came through the doorway. This surprise caused Maisy to lunge at them, growling and barking for a good 10 to 15 seconds. Although it’s rare that she actually goes over threshold, she did this day. Anyway, during the middle of this reactive episode, she suddenly rushed back over to me, poked me very hard, and then rushed back to bark once or twice more.

I guess that’s progress?

The other main thing we’ve been working on for the last couple of weeks is Treibball, which is a relatively new sport in which the dog herds large balls into a goal. Since Maisy’s heritage includes a herding breed, I was excited when I learned of a way she could use her natural instincts despite my lack of livestock. Even better, I’m taking a Sunday morning class with someone interested in Treibball, too!

This week, we’ve been working on the first step: sending Maisy to a target, where she automatically lies down. It’s going well so far, and she’s figured out what I want her to do. Now I need to start adding in distance. I’d like to be able to send her to a target 10-20 feet away in the next two weeks, but I’m not sure I have that kind of space in my house.


Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

No advice for you on the relaxation protocol. I was/am in a similar predicament with Vito's SA. When first doing the long formal program with Vito he stopped chewing his bones when I left. Didn't look horribly anxious, but obviously wasn't relaxed enough to eat and the willingness to eat his bones was the main indicator for me of our progress. I debated whether to stay at lower times or to push on. I first decided I really wanted the eating of the bones, so stayed low. But we still struggled with him being willing to eat anything when I was gone, and at some point I said screw it and upped time anyway. After a bit bone eating came back. then gone, then back, etc but he still remained in a comfortable enough state that he wasn't whining, pacing, or doing other anxious activities. I don't know if upping the time when he wasn't eating was the right answer but it did allow us to get to 1+ hr departures with him calm.

So long story, and one that is still being written, but I felt it was relevant in a way to you and Maisy.

I can't wait to hear about Treibball!!! I have seen it on youtube for awhile but didn't know we ha it here in the states!

Crystal said...

Laura, what is Vito's current status? Does he eat his bones? How long do you usually leave him alone?

I'm pretty excited about Treibball. This isn't anything official, mind you, just me and my friends training together informally. But, I have a copy of a Treibball training manual (from the site I linked), so we're working on it.

Raegan said...

"Anyway, during the middle of this reactive episode, she suddenly rushed back over to me, poked me very hard, and then rushed back to bark once or twice more.

I guess that’s progress?"

It sounds to me like progress! I consider anything where a little bit of brain asserts itself a good thing though. *grin*

Did she stop barking after the poke? I know you said she barked once or twice, but did she poke-bark-settle? Because that sounds like she poked you to self-inhibit. Which I do think is a good thing. At least she's getting it.

Also, Treibball is awesome. Kind of super jealous you have people to try it out with.

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

We still don't leave him alone that often, usually he comes with me or goes to grandmas to be babysat. But when we do leave him, Vito usually does eat his bones, for about 45min to an hour. Usually he is left alone for 1.5-2hrs, so it's the last half that he's not eating anymore, despite the variety of different bones layed out and his eagerness to grab one when we come back. I still videotape every time and can see that he looks pretty calm. Sometimes he will whine, quietly but he doesn't look anxious and is still laying down. He will not relax enough to fall asleep though.

So I still don't know what to do with him because obviously he can't be completely relaxed about being left alone since he's not willing to touch his bones, still whines off and on, and won't let himself sleep. Perhaps if I had spent more time with the in/out stuff... But we still ended up spending 13wks to get up to an hour in what what supposed to take 6wks for a full day. And he did go from not wanting to eat at all, to now chewing for an hour. And perhaps his whining is frustration now instead of anxiety? I am still terrified though of leaving him longer then 2hrs or really anything longer than that hour he chews.

I'm still torn with our work so I can't give you the answer with Maisy.

Crystal said...

Raegan- She stopped the reactive episode, at least in part, because the handler of the other dogs was smart enough to retreat. Once the dogs were out of sight, Maisy calmed down. So... I suspect the poke had nothing to do with her calming down.

Laura- Thanks for sharing. I never realized how lucky I am to be able to leave Maisy home alone. As much as I love her, it would be very, very difficult with my job to limit her alone time the way you do with Vito's.

Not that I'm saying you should or shouldn't- just curious- did you ever try medication with Vito?

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

I've never thought of using medication. He had major issues at a young age but I thought that your basic puppy training of crate games, impulse control, and ignoring vocalizations would fix it so never looked into it.

Crystal said...

And you've certainly done some nice work with him! I remain envious of his ability to relax in a crate at trials.

Kirby @ Dog.Nerd.101 said...

Hey Crystal! I'm doing the relaxation protocol with my Mudi puppy, Griff. I have found that the more treats I use, the more alert he is, looking for the next treat... not exactly what I am going for with the "full relaxation" thing. I think I mentioned this before, but I am taking the CU class with Alexa and we just talked about this in class on Monday. I think staying at the lower levels, until you achieve your true criteria (which as you said is not just patience, but true relaxation) that might help. Good Luck! I love reading about other people's experiences with this type of stuff!
PS. I just got involved in Treibball myself! I posted about it on my blog and was actually in touch with a producer from Animal Planet - they will be featuring it on It's Me or The Dog in one of the episodes!

Crystal said...

Yeah, it's so hard to know how to use the treats. On the one hand, I want to reward relaxed postures, but on the other hand, that puts her into "alert working mode."

Of course, part of my difficulty is that this is a dog who RARELY relaxes. But more on that tomorrow and next week...

Marra said...

I'd like to know if that reactive episode and the not-so-relaxed relaxation protocol sessions go together..? I'm with Kirby: I'd go back a day for a bit. Picked up something else as well- a trainer saying reward when they AREN'T looking at you. As in sniffing or whatever. Was related to something else, but seems like eye contact and 'ready to work' might be related, and not helping in this situation?

Crystal said...

Hi, Marra!

I think you're right to wonder if the not-so-relaxed sessions happen in conjunction with increased stress in other areas of Maisy's life. I haven't kept data on it (I should, though!), but my guess would be, yes.

My goal with RP is for Maisy to NOT make eye contact. I think you're also dead right that eye contact is a "working" behavior. I try to avoid eye contact during the RP, and I try to reward any and all signs of relaxation.

Maisy sees the veterinary behaviorist tomorrow, and I wrote on our pre-appointment form that I want to discuss how to get the most out of the RP. That will be one of the things I ask her about.