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Monday, November 21, 2011

Last Day of Boot Camp

Ok, so here we are at the end of week one.   Bella was really good today.  She did not get all crazy over squirrels on her walk, she did not do any counter cruising, remote grabbing, over barking and did not attempt to chase Ranger when she came to the clinic with me.  When we has supper she laid down and politely waited for her kibble which she only got when she was calm.  She was so focused on sitting for her dinner, she cut her greeting to Glenda a bit short.  Usually Bella is all wiggly wagging tail which is ok for us.  Tonight she did a little then sat on her bed awaiting her kibble time.  Glenda was a little disappointed but proud of her at the same time.

Tom is using the learn to earn too.  This has helped a lot with Bella
 We will continue on this program until it becomes habit for her and us.  These next few weeks will be concentrating on her being less reactive around other dogs.  Look out for more posts!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The last days of Bella Boot camp

 I am combining Saturday and Sunday's progress for Bella.

I figured now is the time to up the effort.  Get Bella out amongst the squirrels, other dogs and things that make her bark ballistically - in her over reactive, uncontrolled impulse drive state.  So, we played ball in the mornings without any fuss.  There were fat squirrels running up and down our walnut tree and she looked but caught her ball and returned back to me for more play.  This is a lot of work for Bella.  Normally she would be jumping up the tree ( at least 4 feet vertical)  as she barked at the squirrels running up the tree. But Saturday and Sunday she just barked a little and did not tree them.

Tom is taking part in her boot camp. She is settled and taking kibble when good
My dad was over for lunch after church and usually Bella would bark and be very timid of his wheeled walker.  Today she was not as timid or barky.  She dropped her ball for him to play with her and accepted easily food kibble and settled on her bed in the kitchen. Dad even commented how much better she was.

 The big thing today - she walked down an alley where 2 active english setters stay in a pen. She saw the pen but only looked at them and was focused on me as I walked her past with an occasional kibble. This would typically have been a point of her jumping, barking, pulling at her leash etc, etc, etc. 
Now that Bella is not such a PITA he can enjoy the dog bed too
Bella did well today!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bella's boot camp

This is the long leash - harness for Bella to run on in our yard
Friday - day 5 of Bella's boot camp.  I am putting Bella on her harness and playing fetch with the tennis ball in the morning before breakfast  which has always been her routine.  2 milestones this morning - She barked at the neighbor walking down the alley but came when I called her and focused on chasing the ball as the woman passed.  Usually I would have to pull her in like a huge fish on a line, but not this am.

The really big improvement was when Bella saw the black and white cat.  There is a neighborhood black and white cat that Bella usually goes ballistic barking and wanting to chase after when she sees it.  It all started when she was a puppy and we wanted to chase the cat out of the yard because my friends 2 toddler children would not stop trying to pet it.  So that night long ago, we put Bella and Butterscotch out on their long leashes and they barked at the cat so it ran out of the yard.  Since then, Bella sees the cat and wants to go chase it.  Talk about quick learning!

Butter gets his rewards for being calm too
So this morning as Bella runs to get her ball, there is the black and white cat sitting about 50 yards away right in the middle of the street.  Bella looked at the cat, but did not bark or run out towards it.  I called her and she came to me with her ball and we continued to play!  For her to not react to the cat, chase, bark and be able to be called away is huge! 

There was still a little barking at dinner time, but not as much as the day before.  Improvement is coming every day.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bella's boot camp

So, day 4 with Bella in her learn to earn program.  She did well most of the day. Dinner was a little trying with her barking a lot at Glenda and the food kibble jar on the table.  Barking did not get any kibble to her, and after a few minutes she started to get it.  This is her old pattern - bark and to get her to quiet down she would get a food puzzle, play or let outside for tennis ball time.  Guess what? That was encouraging or reinforcing her barking!

So why was Bella now barking?  She was trying out the old technique to see if that would still work to get her play or food.  This is the extinction burst - as the old behavior is going extinct ( forgotten) there is a sudden rush of attempts to use the old behavior to get her way - hence the barking. Now this is the point of testing the patience of the person working on changing the behavior. Do you have the patience and understanding to stick with the program so you do not reinforce the extinction burst? In Bella's case that meant not telling her "quiet" because that was like barking back - or looking at her - or getting her a toy to settle her.  We had to totally ignore her.  It worked but it was a test of both our wills.
This is the point where training or using leadership programs breaks down. It is not easy to ignore the barking or nose nudging to get attention.  It can really drive you crazy!  Counting the number of barks or nudges  before they settle, helps to see that the program is working and keeps you going on the ignoring.  I won't say it is easy.  Overall she is much less reactive and settled at home, so a few breaks are not that bad. Keeping the big picture in mind is really important to saving your sanity.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bella's boot camp

So day 3 is over and still more progress.  Bella did not steal any pens off the end table at all.  There is always one or 2 pens laying around especially since my daughter likes to do her homework sitting in the comfy chair in the living room.  So a common attention tactic is to take  a pen and parade around with it then start to chew on it.  Pens are safe today!

Bella politely drops the ball on her own to play more
There were short spurts of barking in the morning but Bella settled down and got her kibble as she sat and laid on the bed.  There was even a time when I dropped some kibble and she stayed quiet on the bed. That really shocked me.  We had a good time playing ball in the yard as well as getting walks. It is kind of funny.  You can almost see her thinking as she figures out that barking and grabbing things is not going to get my attention or anyone else's.  I am seeing how this leadership training by her focused on me or Glenda as leader teaches her how to control her impulses. We will see what tomorrow will bring.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bella's boot camp

Bella's boot camp day 2 -
This is where the remote lay all day - nice!
So Bella finished off day 2 with a pretty good report.  The biggest wow was that she did not steal the remote this am!   It was on the end table in full view and reach and she left it alone!  Typically she will grab it and proudly prance through the kitchen towards the addition area.  I had always traded up which she would surrender the remote but unless we put the remote up high, you could guarantee that she would be running by with it in her mouth.  Just one less pain in the rear thing to deal with and that is nice!

So far so good!    

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bella's boot camp

I am going to blog daily ( or as close to daily as I can) this week.  After listening to Dr. Sophia Yin's talks at the Illinois State Veterinary Medical convention in Peoria this weekend, I decided to give her version of the learn to earn program a try to decrease Bella's innate impulse drive.  Our little black beast Bella - who is loved very dearly- has been increasingly naughty in the mornings pulling things off the counter, grabbing the tv remote if it is not up, etc.  Tethering as needed has helped,yet I felt that she did not see me or my family as her leader

Bella Boot camp day 1.

Bella is looking at me for what she needs - the first steps to improving leadership
Now Bella brings the ball and waits for me - nice!
Say please by sitting is the core of this program.  Meals come as the rewards for polite behavior.  So starting yesterday morning at 6:30 am Bella went out on her harness to relieve herself and a little bit of ball play time.  When we came in, I put her measured meal in my pocket for individual rewards rather than the usual food puzzle.  Bella already knows her sit, come, down but is not always obedient.  I did not tether her to me, as I wanted to see how fast she would catch on to me ( plus I was a bit coffee deficient to have the energy to do all parts of the program).  She quickly caught on that when she sat nice a kibble came right to her.  She did very well for the majority of the am alternately sitting and laying on her bed figuring out what made the kibble come.  She was much less reactive the whole day to things outside, and even came to me on her own when she was barking noisily at another dog . I could clearly see progress in just 1 1/2 hours!   My staff commented how much more settled she was. She had walks and her active ball time during the day so there was not any denial of her favorite play or activity time.  Lets see what happens tomorrow.