We are now starting Week 2 of Madeline Clark Gabriel’s 1,000 Treat Challenge.
The behavior I chose for Clara is Relax from Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels, Level 2. As of this writing, we have had 10 sessions over 7 days, and used up 285 treats. We’re making great progress.
To review my goals from last time:
- Clara can lie down on a mat and immediately be still without trying a bunch of behaviors first.
- She will be moderately relaxed (not expecting a puddle of floppy dog yet). But no more quivering on the knife edge of expectancy. Things to look for: relaxation of facial muscles, especially in forehead. Slower respiration. Quiet tail. A shifted hip, if it is maintained that way and not just quickly offered.
- Clara can maintain this moderately relaxed state on her mat for one minute.
- Optional but hopefully: she can do this without staring at me.
Here, one week in, we have all but the first. Our biggest hurdle is the very beginning when she first gets on the mat. Reinforced habits of attention die hard! But I think her progress is great.
To answer a reader’s question: I should have mentioned this the first time. What am I doing while this is going on? I have my head slightly averted and am looking off into the distance. I’m breathing evenly, have slightly droopy eyes, and I try to make slow, relaxed movements when I do move. I am not looking back at her. It looked like it in the first video since she stared at my face the whole time but honest, I have not looked into her eyes even once!
Speaking of staring at the face, here is a really nice resource for teaching relaxation on a mat that starts off with a way to get the dog to look down instead of looking at you. The beginning part didn’t work for me since Clara turned into the Wild Gobbler (I just couldn’t get those treats down slowly and calmly enough and it triggered the whole throwing behaviors thing again), but the rest of it is similar to what we are doing. It is a really nice protocol. Nan Arthur of Whole Dog Training’s Relax on a Mat.
Interesting results of our training are leaking into real life. Now when Clara notices me watching her, she slows her tail, which is cute. As I show in the movie, she can now take a relaxed position in her crate, even when another dog is doing some active training right next to her. Also, she is definitely less aroused immediately after a session. I was going to film how quickly she goes from zero to 60 after being released, but today for the first time she didn’t do it! She just stood up, mugged my face a couple of times (losing that behavior would be too much to ask at this point), then solicited some petting. Yeah!
We still have a long way to go. I know Clara is not relaxed. She is lying quietly on her side. But what a start! And now I think we’re approaching the part where she gets bored to death, and I can watch for little relaxations. I’m already able to watch her more, now that she isn’t staring at me all the time. My job this week will be to start noticing all the little things. What are her tells? Since she’s got a short coat and bare belly it’s easy to watch her breathing. I’ve gotten a few sighs, and some slowdowns of her breath. I have noticed small relaxations in her back haunches. Sometimes her tail, instead of stopping stiffly, relaxes a bit. Maybe you good observers out there can give me some hints.
Here are some other folks who are writing about or filming the challenge:
- Madeline Clark Gabriel: 1000 Treat Start
- Sharon and AfterGadget: 1000 Treats for Default Zen
- Elizabeth at Raising Reyna: The 1,000 Treat Challenge
If anybody else is blogging/filming (this means you, Liz; we want to see a little sight hound!) , leave a comment and I’ll link to you here.
- Clara Relaxes: Video Progress: A handy page that has the whole set of three videos
Coming up soon:
- Clara at the vet: The face of stress (photos but NOT a contest)
- Level 1 Breakfast (quick behavior drills)
- Est-ce que votre chien veut VRAIMENT être caressé ? (Does your dog REALLY want to be petted?–the French version!)
Eileenanddogs on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/eileenanddogs