Halfway Through Madeline’s 1,000 Treat Challenge: Clara is Relaxing!

Wait ’til you see this! Clara and I are halfway through our 1000 treats for Madeline Clark Gabriel’s  1,000 Treat Challenge and I couldn’t be more pleased with our progress.

The behavior I chose for Clara’s 1000 treats and structured training is Relax from Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels, Level 2.  As of this writing, we have had 14 sessions over 22 days, and used up 450 treats.

Clara is pretty relaxed!
Clara is pretty relaxed!

Sorry for the drab colors in the photos; I’ll do better for our grand finale when we hit 1000 treats.

If you haven’t seen the previous posts, here is the first one where I started the project, and here is my update after one week in. Or at the very least you might want to watch my “before” video.

To review my goals:

  • 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.

We missed several days in the last couple of weeks, first because Clara had an acute GI problem (she’s fine now), then because I wasn’t feeling well and was too grumpy for these long sessions. But I am extremely pleased with our progress.

In the video this time I show a series of stills extracted from the video about a minute apart, and you can actually see Clara melting down into relaxation in time lapse. I am frankly amazed! Even while the session was going on I didn’t know we were doing that well! She settles down within 10 seconds of our beginning the session (no more throwing behaviors), and she is also cooling it with the eye contact. She is still looking at me, but is much more relaxed about it as far as I can tell (I’m making a point to not return eye contact).

Sometime in the last handful of sessions, Clara has started to get it about relaxing.

By the way, I don’t show it in the video, but Summer, in the crate, is getting some treats too. Having here right there may make it a little harder for Clara, but when we’re going through these periods where she is getting the lion’s share of my attention, I just have to do something for my other dogs.

I’m not going to film again until we get to 1000 treats. Since we have achieved my initial goals I am adding three more:

  • I would like the momentary excitement when she gets a treat to lessen.
  • I would like to see her brow unfurrow. That’s the last visible tightness in her body.
  • And while we’re at it, I would love it if she would close her eyes. I think it’s within our reach.
A little love fest after the session
A little love fest after the session

Here are some other folks who are writing about or filming the challenge:

If anybody else is blogging/filming, leave a comment and I’ll link to you here.

Coming up soon:

Eileenanddogs on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/eileenanddogs

13 thoughts on “Halfway Through Madeline’s 1,000 Treat Challenge: Clara is Relaxing!

  1. Professor has had 14 sessions of crate, and 13 sessions of zen. We’ve used 675 treats for crate, 625 for zen. WOW. His zen is incredible. Even out and about, he now gets pee zen (not the ornamental plantings!) which we certainly don’t work in the house! I drop kibble in the kitchen, and he lies down in the dining room, watching and waiting. He even zens the 14-year-old, who really, really doesn’t want to play. In the crate, he goes in and downs. And waits to be released. I’m increasing the time he stays in before being released. And on the occasions when he has to be crated (workmen in the apartment, or if I go out) he’s much, much calmer. We also missed a few days because of illness (mine) but he was a very good boy and just snuggled. I’m already planning my next 1000 treat challenge behaviors. Thanks for finding this and letting us know about it. Amazing how well it works to just train a behavior. And amazing how many treats it takes to “train” something.

    1. Wow Liza, that’s fantastic! You’ve created a Zen monster. Great about the calmness in the crate, too. I agree this is a really cool exercise. I guess I need to move on to the next dog to even things out a little. Let me know when you start another challenge.

  2. Ok ok , now I feel the real REAL pressure, from myself, to participate in the 1000 Treat Challenge. I also want the relaxation. Thinking of doing it right here, in my ‘library’. My Muddy, yes, that is the name of my chosen victim, red ACD or Australian Cattle Dog. Now, did you make, or chop up, cannot remember what treats YOU used, Eileen. Maybe if I look back… but they should not create too much, or any, excitement. Mudd is 7 yrs old, right now throwing behaviors, and squeaky toys. Oh, and has suspicious behaviors galore. jan & Mudd- awaiting your 1000 treat post eagerly, but completely relaxed!

    1. Go for it, Jan! I didn’t cut up all my treats in advance, but so far I have used only Natural Balance roll, in what are for Clara smallish pieces. That’s a medium value treat for her. Thanks for commenting. It’s nice to be encouraged. Back atcha!

  3. Amazing Eileen! I still haven’t climbed over the snow bank to the shed to get out our crate yet, but I have been rewarding calmness and I can see a difference (throwing themselves against the cupboards at the sight of food has decreased about 75%…did I mention they were a bit dramatic?). You mentioned the “long sessions” and I’m curious to know how long those sessions have been, especially, in the beginning? I’m afraid I’m going to have to get a very comfortable chair!

    1. Congrats on the calmness! It’s so wonderful to see progress. Clara’s and my sessions have been 10-12 minutes long, but they wouldn’t have to be. I was using a certain number of treats because of the Challenge (up to 40 at first, now usually 25), and I would just keep going until they were gone (as long as it was working). I thought a few times that I should have done some shorter sessions to practice the “beginning” part more, since that’s when she was throwing behaviors. So I don’t think sessions need to be so long in general. For what it’s worth, they were pretty pleasant for me, even at the beginning. I was always surprised to see how much time had passed.

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