Search Results for 'zen'

Default Zen Remediation Week 2 (in pictures)

We’re progressing with Zen training even though I have not managed to do a solid training session every day. We do at least a bit every day, though. We’ve probably used another 300 treats or so out of our 1,000.

How I’ve been starting it is when my PCA brings me a meal, I usually still need to cue Zen (either “Leave It” if I’m verbal or “Eh!” if I’m not) and then after one or maybe two cues, we move to the food and my eating being the cue.

Barnum will now look up with anticipation for a training session when he hears me chewing. This would seem to be counterproductive, and I admit that I feel on the knife edge of creating a behavior chain, so I’m trying to head that off at the pass. I can pretty quickly now get him from sniffing at me or the food to backing up and ending up on his mat across the room.

I’ve reduced the number of repetitions — lowered rate of reinforcement in going for longer durations — and this means that sometimes he gets up from the mat and comes over. I’ve decided that if he wants to get on the bed to look out the window while I’m eating, that’s fine. Anything that maintains “ignoring food” as the goal behavior is OK. But if he comes back on the bed, looks out the window for a while, and then sniffs my food, he gets (as Sue Ailsby puts it), The Big Prize! Which is that he gets to go and lie in his crate for a couple of minutes and then be released. (No treat.)

Here are some pictures from a session a three days ago. This was after we had taken a break from formal sessions for a few days.

Sharon sits in bed with a plate of food on a tray in her lap. Barnum stands next to the bed, looking intently at Sharon's plate.

Beginning of Zen training session with lunch as the cue for “back off.”

Same image as above except Barnum's legs are blurred as he backs up away from the bed.

Barnum backs up after not getting clicked for staying put.

Same picture as above except Barnum has backed up so he's almost out of the frame.

Barnum backs up more.

Barnum stands on a blue and white rag rug next to the wall on the left side of the room. The bed is not visible except as a shadow on the floor on the right edge of the picture.

A couple more backward steps takes Barnum to his mat.

Same view as previous picture, except this time Barnum is lying on the rag rug, his head up and looking toward the bed, which just has a little corner visible on the right edge of the picture.

Next rep Barnum lies down on his mat.

Same picture as above except Barnum's head is resting on his front paws.

While not actually relaxed, Barnum is offering a more relaxed pose (and he sighed after putting his head down, earning a click).

Peace,

Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SD

P.S. I’m keeping my blogging to a minimum and trying to do less typing in general, including alt tags for the pictures, because I’m having repetitive strain issues with my hands. That’s scary because I spend all my time on the computer!

Default Zen Remediation

Or, “100 Treats Down, 900 to Go”

My current favorite dog blog is my friend Eileen’s blog (fittingly named Eileenanddogs). It’s unlike any other dog behavior or training blog I’ve read because

  1. Eileen is, like me, a training enthusiast (reads a lot, learns a lot from great trainers online, watches videos, trains her own dogs) but not a professional trainer, and
  2. she often blogs about her mistakes, including videos of her training mistakes, which is incredibly instructive AND validating, because we all make those mistakes! Well, I certainly do.

Today she posted about an idea she got from another dog blogger to train one behavior with 1,000 treats:

I love this because I tend to be a little unfocused in training and pass out treats for good behaviors, cute behaviors, behaviors I vaguely like, etc. . . . What if every trainer took 1,000 treats, really concentrated, and spent them wisely on one behavior?

Immediately I thought of the behavior I have been puzzling about how to fix lately: Zen. The frustrating thing is that Barnum can do a terrific zen (leave it) when he knows we’re training, and he will go into “training mode” after one or two repetitions, even if I use “real-world conditions,” like my dinner plate that has leftover food on it. But it doesn’t stick to the next real-world situation.

But then I thought, “What if I put all my training energy — small as it is — into Zen? And what if I required a form of Zen whenever we did any work or training for which he is getting reinforced?

So, I counted the treats I’d just gathered for the day, and added another bag for good measure. It added up to about 100. (There’s no way I’ll actually be able to keep an exact count; my memory and my math are not that good. But it’ll be close enough.)

I started with Zen from the beginning of the Training Levels and worked up super-fast. Then, I did treat-bag Zen and treat-hand Zen: No mugging the treat bag or treat hand anymore! If he was clicked for any behavior (whether Zen or something else), if he dove at my hand or the treat bag, I’d just wait (close my hand, close the bag) and treat only once he backed off. After ten repetitions of this, he seemed to get this for most of the rest of the day.

My big goal is to have Barnum stay well away whenever anyone is eating or there is any food in the room. He does sometimes go into his crate without cueing when one of my meals shows up, but just as often he doesn’t. He might hang around and ignore my food, but he also might hang around and get “nosey,” sniffing after things.

Today, when my food arrived, I cued Zen, and started with just having him move his nose back. I continued with uncued Zen, clicking for him being farther away. By partway through lunch (the first meal I tried this with), he was off the bed, across the room, lying against the wall. YAY!

We managed to replicate that, with only one or two lapses, for dinner, too.

I don’t know why it’s always such a surprise when I set out with a sensible training plan, stick to it, and discover that it works. It’s like this whole clicker training thing to which I’ve devoted a huge chunk of my life over the past dozen years actually is based on something logical, or something.

I wish I had a picture of Barnum at the beginning of lunch versus the end of lunch! Let’s see if I remember to keep it up tomorrow. (That’s part of the reason for posting about it; I tend to remember and keep up with things better if I write about them and share them with others.)

My end goal is the for the arrival of yummy-smelling food to be the cue for Barnum to go to his crate. Or if he doesn’t want to go into his crate, to go several feet away and stay away unless called.

-Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SD

Retrieving a Fork with Food on It (Zen + Retrieve = Yippee!)

I’ve said all along that I wanted to train Barnum more and better than I did Gadget and Jersey. I wanted him to learn skills they didn’t know because I now need more types of assistance than I used to. And I wanted Barnum trained better because there were skills Gadget had that were good enough, but that were never really perfect. For example, Gadget was good at retrieves but lousy at combining the “hold” with other skills, like heeling or sitting or sometimes even waiting for the release (instead of just dropping the item in my lap).

One thing I never trained Gadget or Jersey to do is pick up silverware that had food on it without tasting the food. I just didn’t know how to communicate that part, because I didn’t know about doggy zen. Since dropped utensils often have food on them, this was a hole in our training.

Thanks primarily to all I’ve learned from Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels and the Training Levels list, I am a much better trainer now. I also owe some credit to Barnum for being harder to train than Jersey or Gadget, which made it impossible for me to be sloppy and take shortcuts like I did with them.

One of the ways Barnum is much better trained is with his “leave it.” I used the “puppy zen” approach to teaching this, and it’s an awesome tool to have in your dog training toolkit. (I’ve posted about zen plenty in the past. If you want to read some zen-related posts, click on the relevant tag or search “Zen.”)

We have been working on a default zen, which means that I don’t have to cue “leave it” for Barnum to know that he should not eat/sniff/touch/grab that thing/person/animal unless I tell him to. I wrote this earlier post on zen which includes a video (a captioned version and a noncaptioned version and a transcript of the video at the end of the post).

Recently we’ve also been working on combining zen and retrieve.

In general, I’ve been trying to widen Barnum’s repertoire of things he understands how to pick up, like big (wide) things, long things, heavy things, bulky things, flat things (e.g., paper), etc., as well as circumstances in which he picks things up (different rooms, outside, with other people around, with background noise like a video playing, over longer distances, with me moving, etc.).
I’ve also started combining zen/distraction with retrieving. I started leaving a treat on the floor and asking him to retrieve something while ignoring the treat. Over time I’d add more treats and/or put them closer to the retrieve items. Eventually I could put several treats under and around the item and still have him pick it up. The challenge was not with him snorking up the treats but with him being afraid to pick up an item that was within “the zen field.” (You can see the zen field at work in the video referenced above. If a treat was next to another treat that was also “zenned,” he wouldn’t eat it unless specifically cued to do so.)
Last Saturday he was doing really well with something we were working (I don’t remember what anymore) and for his treats I was using leftover cooked fish and fish skin that was very smelly and exciting to him. I was delivering the treats on a fork. I thought, “Hmmm.”
I got a clean fork and had him retrieve it. Then I smeared some fish juice on it and repeated. Then put a piece of fish UNDER the fork. And finally I used the fork I’d been feeding him from with a piece of fish speared on the end, and he retrieved it! (Without touching the piece of fish, I mean.) We did it a few times, including the fork ending up in different positions and having fish flying off it, etc.
In the following days, I tried it with pork and hot dogs. Each time, if I didn’t begin with review, he’d start toward the food end of the fork and I’d tell him leave it. But once I reviewed and he realized we were working zen AND retrieve, he’d switch to carefully picking up the handle end of the implement and leaving the food on the fork.
Today I finally made a video of him doing this, and I tried to show some of the steps leading up to it. It’s kind of a clumsy video. My voice wasn’t working, so we did it all without voiced cues, and he was not the most “in the game” he’s ever been, but hopefully you can understand what’s happening. (For the record, when I say, “Oops,” it’s not because he’s eaten the food, it’s because of the sloppy way he retrieved the fork which resulted in a piece of hot dog falling onto my foot plate, which he then went to eat, so I had to cue him to leave it.)
I am “signing” in this video, not speaking. I use the term “signing” very, very loosely because I am so out-of-practice signing that a lot of it is kind of incomprehensible mumbling from an ASL perspective, so the captioned version is as much for hearing folk as it is for Deaf or hard of hearing people.
You can watch the video (uncaptioned) below. . . .

The captioned version is here.

There is a transcript of the video below which might be of interest even to those who can watch the video, because there are some things you don’t see very well in the video that I explain in the description, like where the meat is, and that in the last retrieve the fork is right next to a piece of hot dog on the floor, etc.

Comments, critiques, questions, etc., all welcomed!

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget (she didn’t do this stuff with me! Boo!), and Barnum SD/SDiT

Video Description:

Sharon: I’ll show you how Barnum and I train zen (self-control) and retrieving.

Sharon picks up a fork.

Sharon: This is clean.

Sharon holds out the fork and Barnum takes and holds it in his mouth. Sharon grabs the fork in Barnum’s mouth and clicks and he lets go and gets a treat. Sharon tosses the clean fork on the floor and Barnum retrieves it for a click and treat again.

She spears a piece of hot dog onto the end of the fork and tosses the fork on the floor. Barnum moves around the fork warily. He picks it up but at the food end, so although he doesn’t eat the hot dog, when he hands it to Sharon, the hot dog piece falls onto her footrest. He moves to eat it. Sharon voices something that sounds like “Leave it,” and Barnum retreats from the hot dog piece.

Sharon: Oops. We’ll try again.

She holds up another fork that has a beef cube on it and throws it on the floor. This time Barnum picks it up by the handle. Sharon shows the fork to the camera so viewers can see that the meat is still on the fork.

Sharon takes two more hot dog slices and puts one on the fork that has the beef on it and tosses the other on the floor. Barnum doesn’t attempt to eat the one on the floor. When he turns and looks at Sharon instead, he gets a click and a piece of hot dog from her hand.

Sharon holds it for him to take, and then give back to her. She tries to hold it for him out to the side, but drops it instead. Barnum picks it up by the handle and gives it to her. Sharon shows the camera the pieces of meat still on the fork.

Sharon: Perfect!

Sharon throws the fork with the meat on it over next to where the hot dog is lying on the floor. Barnum retrieves it while ignoring the hot dog on the floor. Sharon clicks and treats him.

Dog Zen: Dog Impulse Control/”Leave It” Video

I recently posted some pictures of Barnum doing “pie zen” for Thanksgiving. The term comes from Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels. Zen is teaching a dog to get what it wants by not trying to get it. (Thus the name.)

Once you attach a cue to zen, it becomes the “leave it” cue for most of us.

There is also training “default zen,” which is when the dog learns, for example, not to snork up any food that’s on the floor unless they are specifically cued to do so. This is a very important skill for assistance dogs, so it’s one I’ve worked on with Barnum. Another way to teach this is Susan Garrett’s “It’s Yer Choice.” (Is it just me, or does it seem like a lot of clicker trainers are named Sue?) I’d started combining the two methods before I learned about It’s Yer Choice. Now I’m going back and retraining it some to fill in holes.

This video highlights mostly default zen, but it also shows how I can cue Barnum to eat treats on the floor or to ignore them. We had already been training this skill when one of my training heroes, Marge, the Rhodesian ridgeback rescuer and trainer, posted this video showing impulse control, which she trained via Susan Garrett’s method. Well, not to sound snooty or anything, but when I saw that video (and being a fan of musical theater), I thought, “I can do that.”

Then, Lynn, another trainer from whom I’ve learned much and who is on the same training list as Marge and me, tried it out in a similar fashion with her Weimeraner service dog, Lily and posted this video of it. She trained using the Levels zen method.

So, it seemed the gauntlet had been thrown down. Barnum and I may not be tops at everything. But he is getting to be quick the rock star in certain zen challenges. Okay, maybe “rock star” is a bit much, but it certainly looks impressive, doesn’t it? Well, see for yourself:

Note: If you are reading this post as an email, click here to watch the video.

A captioned version of the video is here.

Transcript of the video is below my signature.

You might notice that I say, “Leave it,” in a mellow tone. I’m not snapping or yelling it. Others use other cues, such as, “no.” Sue says it took her many years of clicker training (after crossing over from traditional training) to be able to use “no” in this way — not as a rebuke, but as a cue. I know that I am not yet capable of that.

Her new Training Levels books, Steps to Success, indicate that the cue is to be given in a “please pass the butter” tone of voice. I have started practicing whispering, “Leave it.” I might see how quietly I can say it and still have Barnum respond. He has excellent hearing, so my guess is that as long as he is focused on me — always the sticking point! — if it’s barely audible, he’ll respond.

I wanted to point this out because recently I had some guests, and one of them kept trying to cue Barnum to do a behavior (go to mat), which he wasn’t doing. I’m pretty sure the problem was that Barnum doesn’t completely know that cue yet. Since has only ever been given that cue by me before, and the person was not pointing to the mat (which would have given him an additional clue as to what was wanted), he didn’t recognize the cue.

Another guest told her, “You have to say it in a forceful tone of voice.”

The first person pointed out that I didn’t use a forceful tone. I was pleased to see that she noticed that.

This is one of the differences between a cue and a command. A cue is something that indicates to the dog that if they do something, they might get a reward for it. Thus, it doesn’t matter how you say it.

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget (whose “Leave it” was nowhere near this good, ever), and Barnum, SDiT and rising Zen Master

Video Description:

Sharon sits on toilet in small bathroom. Barnum is standing nearby. Sharon has a tray of beef cubes in her lap.

Sharon: OK, I’m gonna toss 10 cubes of raw beef heart on the floor.

Barnum looks at the meat on the floor and then looks at Sharon.

Sharon: Yes! I’m giving him one from my hand.

Barnum eats the treat and then looks at the meat on the floor again, then looks back up at Sharon.

Sharon: Barnum, sit.

Barnum sits.

Sharon: Yes! Go ahead.

Barnum starts eating the food on the floor.

Sharon: Leave it.

Barnum backs away from the treats. He has eaten two pieces.

Sharon: Barnum, platz.

Barnum lies down and looks up at Sharon.

Sharon: Yes! Go ahead.

Barnum begins eating the meat.

Sharon: Leave it.

Barnum backs away from the food. He has eaten three pieces. He looks up at Sharon again.

Sharon: Good dog.

She holds out her hand in front of Barnum’s nose.

Sharon: Touch.

Barnum nose-targets Sharon’s palm. Sharon moves her hand above his head and cues “touch” again, and then again lower down. At the third touch, Sharon says, “Yes! Go ahead.”

Barnum starts to eat the meat, but just as he’s about to eat the first piece, Sharon interrupts him.

Sharon: Leave it.

Barnum backs up.

Sharon: Go ahead.

Barnum sniffs and looks at the ground between Sharon’s feet but ignores the five pieces of beef that are still on the floor.

Sharon: Alright, foot!

Barnum gives Sharon a front paw.

Sharon: Yes! Go ahead.

Barnum eats one cube and is about to eat a second.

Sharon: Leave it.

Barnum backs up and circles the food, looking at it from a different angle.

Sharon: Watch me.

Barnum makes eye contact with Sharon.

Sharon: Yes! Go ahead.

Barnum eats the piece closest to him, which is a little farther away from the remaining three pieces of food. He looks at them and seems to decide he shouldn’t eat them. He looks at Sharon.

Sharon: Barnum, platz.

Barnum lies down.

Sharon: Yes! Go ahead.

Barnum gulps down the first two pieces of meat.

Sharon: Leave it.

He looks up at Sharon and backs away from the remaining treat.

Sharon: Good dog.

Barnum lies down and looks at Sharon.

Sharon: Good boy. Yes!

Sharon gives Barnum a treat from the tray in her lap. He eats it and looks down at the remaining treat on the floor and then up at Sharon.

Sharon: Yes!

Sharon gives him another treat from her hand, from the tray in her lap.

Sharon: [To herself] Let’s see. [To Barnum] Chin!

Barnum rests his chin in Sharon’s palm.

Sharon: Yes! Go ahead.

Barnum eats the treat on the floor closest to him. He looks up at Sharon again.

Sharon: Yes! Go ahead.

Barnum looks around but doesn’t move to eat a treat.

Sharon: I didn’t give him anything to do so he doesn’t believe me. Foot!

Barnum gives Sharon a paw.

Sharon: Yes! Go ahead.

Barnum eats the last piece of meat on the floor.

End.

Pie Zen (2nd Annual Thanksgiving Doggie Self-Control Pics)

Last year I blogged about my black-bottom pie, which I make every year for Thanksgiving. When I set it down to take a picture of it, Barnum came over. Thus, I started the tradition of Pie Zen.

This year, we had four pies for Thanksgiving, and it was my intention to take a picture of Barnum surrounded by all four pies. However, neither Barnum nor I were feeling well, so I stayed in bed while the others ate pie.

Fortunately, Betsy was available to help with a picture of pie zen:

Betsy sits at table with four whole pies in front of her. She is leaning back in her chair, eyes shut, a serene expression on her face, and her palms facing upward with thumb and middle finger touching, as if she is meditating.

Betsy practices pie zen.

Today, Barnum and I were both feeling better, so we were able to show Barnum’s skill, having gone from a Level One Pie Zen Master to a Level Four Pie Zen Master in just a year!

Barnum is lying on a hardwood floor. Next to his left elbow is an apple pie. Next to his left front paw is a pumpkin pie. Next to his right front paw is a pecan pie. And next to his right elbow is a custard pie. He is looking at the pumpkin pie.

Ooh, I like pumpkin!

Barnum still surrounded by four pies, but looking up and leaning away from the pumpkin pie.

What's that? I should leave the pumpkin pie alone?

 

Barnum lying very relaxed, legs spread out, with the pumpkin pie between his front legs, and surrounded by the other three pies.

This is a piece of cake. I mean, pie.

Transcript of Level 3 Zen Test

Sharon sits in her powerchair on her lawn. A thin woman with gray hair in a purple and pink tank top and loose light blue pants sits in a chair next to her. The chair has cup holders on each arm rest. Several yards behind them is a tall, chain-link fence.

Sharon holds a red leash loosely with her left hand. Barnum stands in front of them, on the leash.

>> SHARON: Okay, go ahead.

The neighbor takes some treats from the cup holder on her right.

Barnum comes over to sniff the treats.

>> SHARON: Leave it.

Barnum backs up and sits down, looking at Sharon.

>> SHARON: Hold it out. And don’t look at him. Just chat with me.

>> NEIGHBOR: Okay. What’s over there? Is that lettuce?

>> SHARON: I forgot to look at my watch. [Looks at her watch.]

Barnum starts sniffing the ground and lies down.

>> SHARON: Yeah, that’s lettuce. [Pointing off camera to her left.] We’ve got mesclun greens and lettuce. [Glances distractedly at her watch.] We had really good mesclun going but….

Barnum rolls over onto his back and rolls around on his back, all paws in the air, snorting.

Sharon and neighbor both start laughing really hard. At the sound of laughter, Barnum rolls back onto his belly and looks at them, ears up, his little stump of a tail wagging.

>> NEIGHBOR: See, I have good peripheral vision.

Barnum goes up to the neighbor and starts sniffing her pockets, putting his head in her lap, and wagging.

>> NEIGHBOR: [Laughing] I don’t have any treats in there! I usually do. I took them out before I came.

Barnum goes after the treats in neighbor’s hand, but she makes a fist, and Barnum wanders behind them and around to Sharon.

>> SHARON: Well, we went past twenty seconds, so…. Alright! [Click!] Good boy!

Barnum comes over to Sharon to get his reward.

>> NEIGHBOR: [Looking in her pockets] Or maybe I do still have some crumbs in there! I don’t know.

>> SHARON: I can check the time stamp, but I’m pretty sure….

Sharon takes out a tube of meat paste and squeezes some into Barnum’s mouth. Barnum wags his tail as he licks.

>> NEIGHBOR: Ooh, yummy.

>> SHARON: Yes!

>> NEIGHBOR: Yummy goo.

Barnum wanders off-screen, sniffing the air.

>> SHARON: Come here, pup!

Barnum comes over to Sharon and she grabs his leash.

>> SHARON: Can we just do it one more time, just in case? I really should check my watch.[To the camerawoman] Alright, can we do it one more time?

>> CAMERAWOMAN’S VOICE: I was filming the whole time.

>> SHARON: Now?

>> CAMERAWOMAN’S VOICE: Yes.

>> SHARON: You’re still filming? Oh!

>> NEIGHBOR: [Laughing] So you got it all.

Neighbor grabs a handful of treats and holds them out in front of Barnum’s nose.

>> SHARON: Leave it.

Barnum looks away, then scratches, keeps turned away, sniffing the air. Sharon watches her watch the whole time.

>> NEIGHBOR: Is that a different clicker?

[Click!]

>> SHARON: Good boy! Okay, here ya go!

>> NEIGHBOR: [To Barnum] I know! I feel like I’m teasing you!

Sharon holds out tube of meat paste. Barnum takes a few licks, but seems interested in something in the distance and wanders off.

>> SHARON: I want him to learn not to take food from strangers. [To camerawoman] Okay, off!

Video Transcript of L2 Zen Test

Sharon drives her powerchair from where the camera is sitting and rotates to face it and Barnum, who is lying on the floor in front of the couch.

There is a coffee table behind her, and a large wire crate behind that. On the wall, a blue clock with a pendulum swings back and forth.

Sharon takes a treat from her foot rest and holds it out in her hand toward Barnum. As she holds it out, she says, “Leave it.”

Barnum looks at it and then looks away. Sharon looks intently at her watch. After ten seconds, she clicks and tosses the treat to Barnum, who eats it.

She takes another treat, shows it to Barnum, and places it on the end of the couch seat. She says, “Leave it,” and Barnum looks away from the treat and stares intently at Sharon’s face. Sharon leans back in her chair and studies her watch again. After five seconds, during which Barnum continues to watch Sharon’s face, Sharon picks up the treat and moves it to a low coffee table.

She repeats, “Leave it,” and drives away with her back to the coffee table, timing him again. He watches her face. After five seconds, she backs up to the coffee table, clicks, and tosses Barnum the treat. She moves to the camera and turns it off.

Photo Essay: A Visit from Mina the Basenji

On Sunday we had a visit from a Basenji named Mina. I couldn’t resist the opportunity of working with a different dog — and an unusual breed of dog — which also afforded me the chance to work on Barnum’s self-control in a novel situation: focusing on me and holding stays when another dog was getting trained inside his house. Despite that I was really too sick — I have been paying the price since — it was an educational experience for all of us, I think. (Mostly for me!)

Mina very helpfully let me know our starting place should be Four-on-the-Floor.  (I’ve noticed that enthusiastic, food-driven dogs, especially small- or medium-sized dogs, tend to jump up with their paws on my lap because I’m sitting instead of standing.)

Sharon in her powerchair in front of glass doors with snowy wonderland behind. Mina, a small brown-and-white Basenji with prick ears and a curly tail, has her front paws on Sharons lap, nosing her hands that hold treats. Barnum is heading for his mat next to Sharons chair.

Beginning session: Barnum needs direction, Mina needs self control.

I started with ignoring her when she was on my lap and clicking/treating when her paws were all on the ground. A couple of times I lured her to get her paws off. I c/t Barnum for staying on his mat and not nosing into my session with Mina. He has a lifetime of clicker experience, whereas Mina was learning the clicker and everything else in a new environment — a big challenge. Barnum had a pretty clear idea of what was being asked of him or of behaviors to try to get treats, whereas Mina was really excited that she was getting all these treats without a clear idea of why at first. I bet she slept well that night!

But positive reinforcement works even before the learner has comprehended the “why,” so we were able to quickly move to having all her feet on the ground even before she’d figured out the clicker.

Mina is now standing on the floor in front of Sharon. Barnum sits next to Sharon on his mat. Sharon is feeding him a treat.

Mina now has four-on-the-floor and Barnum’s sitting on his mat.

Mina sits facing Sharon. Barnum lies on his mat. Both dogs are looking up at Sharons face.

We move on to “sit” for Mina and down-stay for Barnum.

Barnum lies on his mat, watching Sharons face. Mina stands on hind legs, one paw resting on Sharons seat, the other scratching at Sharons closed fist.

Hm, we’re back to paws-on-lap. Can you see what I’m doing wrong to cause this?

Hint: I’m not used to working with little dogs! I’m used to working with a dog for whom my lap is nose height!

Also, see how she’s pawing at my hand, above? That was interesting for me. I’ve taught a few dogs the beginning steps of Zen, and she was the first who tried lots of different strategies — biting, pawing, licking, etc., before finally backing off at all. Very smart and persistent. She’s a problem-solver. Using her paws like that reminded me of a cat.

Barnum lies on his mat, watching Sharon. Sharon is leaning over to hold her closed fist in front of Minas nose. Mina is sniffing Sharons hand intently.

Once I moved my fist down to nose level, Mina kept “four on the floor” to learn Zen.

But this position (above) was not sustainable for me, physically, so I adjusted. . . .

Sharon sits on the floor with her back to the glass door. Barnum on her right is lying on his mat with his chin resting between his paws. Mina stands in front of Sharon, gazing at her first.

I get on the floor to present my fist at nose height for Mina to learn Zen. Barnum chin targets the mat as his duration behavior.

Below is another behavior I’m not used to! Mina decided she’d had enough training and just hopped right onto my powerchair seat. I laughed really hard. A large, more cautious dog like Barnum learned to jump and sit in my powerchair after several shaping sessions. It took a lot of careful balancing for him. Meanwhile, Mina, the little, bold, curious, and nimble thing, just nipped up there herself as if she’d been doing it all her life. She wanted to see what she could see, I think. Or she was pretending to be a spaceship captain. Or both?

Barnum lying on his bed and Sharon sitting on the ground both look up at Mina sitting very erect and poised in Sharon's powerchair, staring out the window at the snowy landscape.

Call me Captain Mina! Full throttle, ready for blastoff!

What a way to start the new year!

– Sharon and Barnum, SD

P.S. Mina was gracious enough to let me back onto my chair once she’d finished training me to give her treats.

Signal Boost: Growing Compassion

Howdy!

I’ve posted before about how I’m study NVC (Nonviolent Communication, also known as Compassionate Communication) and how important it’s been for me. I actually see a lot of similarities in philosophy between clicker training and NVC, and I keep intending to write some posts on that topic, but I haven’t managed it yet.

Anyway, I got very involved in helping the organizer of an upcoming NVC telesummit, and now I’m really hoping some of my friends, readers, and others will want to attend because it looks like it will be an awesome event and it’s really fun to be on the phone with friends or people I know from online. It’s very accessible, too, for anyone who can use the phone (more about this at the bottom in my postscript).

For those who might want to participate in the calls — you do not have to know anything about NVC or have any experience with it. In fact, this is a great opportunity for people who haven’t studied NVC to learn from some of the most experienced and respected people in the field and get a large sampling of perspectives on a single topic: compassion.

BayNVC’s new telesummit is begining September 3rd. It’s called “Growing Compassion: Building on Interdependence.”

This month-long telesummit — available globally by telephone — will be led by 21 of the most exciting NVC trainers in the field. Each trainer will be sharing their wisdom of years of accumulated experience in compassionate communication and open-hearted connection.

Registration is open now. The Growing Compassion telesummit starts September 3. Not only will you be able to attend as many (or as few) calls as you want, but you will also receive recordings of all 20 calls! More information about this powerful and transformative event is below and here.

NEW BayNVC Telesummit – Registration Now Open!

Growing Compassion: Building on Interdependence

If you want to experience the spark of global community forged by shared learning and compassion, join us!

Program Highlights

  • Opening Call: Practices for Opening our Hearts. BayNVC founder Miki Kashtan will offer  tips based on her decades of study and work with thousands of people.
  • 9/11 “Enemy Image” Call: During conflict, we often lose connection with the other person and see them only as a villain. Lisa Montana shows how the Enemy Image Process offers a simple way to defuse this dynamic, get support, and open the door to solutions that meet everybody’s needs.
  • Zen Wisdom for Naturalizing your Practice: Are you interested in ways to actually practice NVC out in the world, with natural language? Coming from his perspective of Zen Buddhism, Jesse Wiens answers the question, “How can I get off the cushion and out into the world and make a difference?”
  • Calls offered in French, Spanish, and Hebrew – open to ALL. Marshall Rosenberg, author of Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, says about empathy, “It’s not the words!” Practice “wordless empathy” by experiencing the humanity of a person who speaks a different language than you do. Experience a heart-to-heart, personal connection which transcends words!

Dates and Times

All calls take place Monday through Friday, Noon to 1 PM Pacific Time (3 PM to 4 PM Eastern Time). Schedule of dates and trainers below. After registration, your call-in number, PIN, and further details about each call will be emailed to you!

Schedule: Presenters and Topics

Week 1 (September 3-7)

  • Monday: Miki Kashtan – Practices for Opening our hearts
  • Tuesday: Jesse Wiens – Out of the Workshop and into the World: Zen wisdom for “naturalizing” your NVC practice
  • Wednesday: Alan Seid – Supporting Compassionate Actions of Social Change Agents : Sharing tools, skills, and coaching for maximizing positive impact in our world.
  • Thursday: Meganwind Eoyang – Transforming Self Judgments
  • Friday: Catherine Cadden – Empathy First Responder

Week 2 (September 10-14)

  • Monday: Carol Chase – Compassion in the Face of Adversity
  • Tuesday: Lisa Montana – Enemy Image Process
  • Wednesday: Nancy Kahn – A Commitment to Self-Compassion in Our Social Justice Work Across Race, Class and Ethnicity Divides
  • Thursday: Arnina Kashtan – Falling in Love with My Judgments: Why I cherish judgments and how they teach me true compassion towards myself and others
  • Friday: Myra Walden (in Spanish) – Cariño a Mí Mismo: Calidez hacia Los Demás (Increasing Self-Love: Warmth towards Others)

Week 3 (September 17-21)

  • Monday: Mitsiko Miller (in French) – Communiquer de Coeur à Coeur avec Nos Enfants (Communicating Heart-to-Heart with Our Children)
  • Tuesday: Newt Bailey – The Compassion Switch: Finding and flipping on the compassion switch
  • Wednesday: Bob Wentworth – Finding Tenderness For What You Can’t Stand About Yourself
  • Thursday: Roxy Manning – Authentic Dialogues: Growing compassion across sociocultural differences
  • Friday: Aya Caspi (in Hebrew) – Meeting the challenge of opening our hearts to our loved ones (including self)

Week 4 (September 24-28)

  • Monday: Kate Raffin – Flowers, Tears, and Lightbulbs: Balancing my yearning to grow with acceptance of who I am right now
  • Tuesday: Selene Aitken – Your Adult Children and You: The dance of connection
  • Wednesday: Mair Alight – Self-Empathy Core Competency- Practicing with  Wisdom Circles
  • Thursday: Roberta Wall – Growing Compassion at the Checkpoints between Israel and Palestine: Empowerment or Submission?
  • Friday: Inbal Kashtan & Kathy Simon – Truth and Dare: Nurturing authentic, courageous relationships.

Join Us in Co-Creating World Peace through Compassion


Cost:
This is a continuing effort to financially support BayNVC. Requested contribution: $60 (includes recordings of all calls). If you are living in the Global South or your financial circumstances preclude your participation, please email Mair Alight so that you can be included in this event.

– Sharon and Barnum, SD/SDiT

P.S. About various access issues:

I attended a much more intensive telesummit in July that was life-changing. I was so grateful I was able to attend 17 calls (!!) even though I was very sick. The trainers and most of the participants, too, were totally accepting and inclusive around my disability issues. For the previous teleconference when I was experiencing spasmodic dysphonia, sometimes I used TTY relay, sometimes speech-to-speech relay, and sometimes people understood me well enough without relay. I loved the diversity of the people and topics under a unifying theme. I felt accepted and my disabilities were treated as normal, overall. Some of my friends from my chronic illness/disability NVC classes attended, too. (Because it’s a teleconference, I think this event is not accessible to people who are D/deaf.)

If you have difficulty attending events or classes in the flesh, due to your disabilities, location, or schedule, doing them by phone can be great. Also, it’s just an hour a day, which I find much easier than something long (which tends to drain me). Plus, you can go to as many or as few as you’d like, and you can listen to whichever of them afterward as often as you like, whether you attend or not. Also, there’s usually a pretty good mix of listening and participating, though nobody is ever forced to do anything, and my experience is one of a great deal of acceptance of whatever you’re feeling or needing.

There is also a commitment to financial access. The requested contribution (this is a fundraiser for BayNVC — many trainers are donating their time) is $60, which is for 20 calls and the recordings of all the calls. That is a pretty amazing bargain — $3 per call, not including the recordings. HOWEVER, I know many people with disabilities are struggling to get by and simply do not have $60. So, if you’ve read the info above and are thinking, “This sounds really amazing. I so wish I could go, but I don’t have $60,” please email the organizer, Mair at Mair@baynvc.org and ask her if you could attend for a contribution that you CAN afford (from $1-$59 sliding scale). She really wants it to be inclusive (and so do I, of course).

Would you like to help me out in my efforts to increase peace in the world? If so, I’d greatly appreciate any of the following actions on your part:

  • Sharing this post with friends, family, colleagues, and others who might want to learn about, or deepen, an NVC practice or learn about growing compassion.
  • Sharing this post or this link via social networking, including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc., and encouraging friends and followers to register.
  • Gifting the telesummit to someone you believe would enjoy and benefit from it. Whether you can attend or not, you can give the gift of NVC to friends, colleagues, or loved ones by registering them for this event!

Details about the Growing Compassion telesummit are on the BayNVC website. It start soon — September 3 — so your help in getting the word out now is greatly appreciated!

They’re “Assistance Dogs,” Not “Public Access Dogs”

Brooke at ruled by paws is hosting Assistance Dog Blog Carnival #8 on the theme of “Marchin’ to Your Own Drum.”

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival graphic. A square graphic, with a lavender background. A leggy purple dog of unidentifiable breed, with floppy ears and a curly tail, in silhouette, is in the center. Words are in dark blue, a font that looks like it's dancing a bit.

Marching to Our Own Drum!

Lately I’ve begun to realize just how much my current approach to training my service dog (SD) diverges from ideas, approaches, and perceptions of SDs in the larger US culture. Specifically, my main focus is on training my assistance dog to perform behaviors that assist me, due to my disabilities. This would seem to be not only sensible, but the very definition of an assistance dog, wouldn’t it? Indeed, it is. If you read the service animal section of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you will find this:

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

Yet, more and more I am coming across individuals, organizations, and websites focused primarily, or in some cases, exclusively, on training dogs in obedience and manners so that the dog can accompany its person in public. (Here is an organizational example of a focus that is primarily on public access. Here is an organizational example of a non-task training approach to SD work.)

It’s understandable that public access training (which includes a dog being obedient, well-mannered, and unobtrusive in public as well as being able to perform necessary assistance tasks in public) is receiving so much attention. Public access is a legal issue, so it’s natural that organizations and individuals are concerned about complying with the law. Further, there are more assistance dogs working and being trained than ever before, which means more SDs are showing up in public. Into the mix add that more people are partner-training than ever before (with a great range of experience and skill) and that many partners have hidden disabilities that make them more vulnerable to access challenges. Finally, and sadly, there are an increasing number of people who wish to commit fraud by trying to pass off their pet dogs as SDs — both people with disabilities who have not done the necessary training and people without disabilities who simply want the companionship of their dog away from home. The pressure on the SD handler to make sure their dog behaves with perfect comportment at all times is thus a very big deal in the assistance dog world.

Meanwhile, here I am, training my dog to help me around the house — open and shut doors, turn on and off lights, pick up things I drop, carry messages to my human assistants, etc. We are barely doing any public access training simply because I spend almost all my time in bed and very rarely leave the house, so training in public is very difficult, and having a working dog in public is much less important than one who helps me at home. Barnum has to be “on call” at home at any time I might need him. Fortunately, his personality and the way we have trained mean that he is eager to jump into action.

Barnum stands back a few inches from the fridge door which is now open a few inches.

Barnum opens the fridge for me.

I realize our situation is not that of most teams. In some cases public access is always crucial to the dog’s work. Guide dogs often work exclusively outside the home and are off duty at home. Their work involves assisting their human partners to get to and from work, school, restaurants, hotels, conferences, and subways. Thus, public work is essential for a guide dog.

For people with other types of assistance dogs, too, there is usually an expectation of public work — alerting or guiding or providing mobility assistance in stores, on the street, at work, etc. Most people with assistance dogs bring their SD with them everywhere for two reasons:

  1. The dog’s work is necessary or important for the disabled person in public, and
  2. The working bond between the partners is strengthened by ongoing work and training in a variety of settings and/or on a daily basis

Still, the proliferation of both SD fraud and poorly trained SDs have led some assistance dog organizations to require passing a public access test as proof that a dog is a service dog. For example, to be a partner member of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP), I have to sign a form saying that my SD has or would be able to pass their public access test/definition. So, even though I have had two previous SDs and have been an IAADP member for a dozen years, now I’m no longer a partner member because Barnum and I don’t go out. I feel very sad about this.

Yet, Barnum is a working service dog around the house. You can see how much we’ve accomplished in this regard in just a month by comparing this recent post from July to this one from June.

I feel frustrated by this, and the irony does not escape me: the more disabled I am, and the more I need my service dog, the less I fit neatly into the category of a SD team. In fact, I can trace the changes in my disabilities in part by what my service dogs have done for me at a given time.

My first service dog, Jersey, did help me around the house, but the biggest difference she made for me was that she enabled me to occasionally go out by myself. I trained her to cart my oxygen tanks to and from the car, and to carry groceries from the van to the front door and then to the fridge. At doctor’s appointments or other occasional outings, her carrying my water and other things in a pack left my hands free to push my oxygen cart if I was walking. I went grocery shopping once every month or two with her and my mobility scooter, which was something I had previously not been able to do since I got sick. Before Jersey, I always needed someone to take me shopping.

[Note: I have some great photographs of Jersey working, but they haven’t been scanned into a computer yet. I hope to get the pics inserted by the time the Carnival goes up. Please come back in a week or two, and hopefully they’ll be here!]

Even the things she helped me out with around the house are different from the tasks I need canine assistance with now. For example, Jersey helped me fold and put away the laundry. But now I have human assistants do that. She also carted gardening supplies, which enabled me to garden. Now I’m much too sick to garden. Once, when I walked into my backyard to pick apples, I was too sick to walk back unaided, and she helped me get back home. Now there’s no question of me wandering out on foot into a field.

Sharon in an elementary school library, a folder of papers in her hand, wearing an oxygen canula, leaning forward with her mouth open, as if reading or talking. Gadget lies on the ground next to her in a green pack, looking up at her. In the foreground are several first-graders, looking in many different directions, some of them obviously moving around.

Gadget in a calm down-stay and paying attention to me while surrounded by little kids.

Gadget, my second SD, learned the same things Jersey did — bracing, carrying a pack, retrieving, loading and unloading groceries — but I also added some additional skills so that he could help out with more stuff at home.

Gadget runs with grocery bag from van/end of ramp

One of Gadgets favorite skills, carrying groceries to the house.

He learned how to alert me to the kitchen timer, to let the cat and himself in and out, to open and shut doors, to bring me the phone. When I got Lyme disease and became much more disabled than before, those skills became much more crucial than the ones for going shopping or putting away laundry. And then I taught him new things that were much more important — getting Betsy or my PCA when I couldn’t speak, turning lights on and off and bringing me water from the refrigerator to take my pills when I couldn’t get out of bed, etc.

Meanwhile, Barnum has learned to do things that Gadget didn’t. Barnum has a much more refined “go get person/deliver message” than Gadget did. He is helping me with undressing, which Gadget never learned. He alerts to my various alarms and pumps. And I still have plans for him to learn additional skills that we haven’t gotten to yet.

Barnum with a red plaid flannel pouch about 3 inches by 3 inches velcroed to the back of his collar.

This is the pouch Barnum wears for transporting messages or small items to or from others in my home.

Some of you may remember that when Barnum was younger, I was concerned that he’d never make it as my service dog because he was such a distracted, hyper flake in public. The irony is that since he’s matured, on the occasions I have taken him into public to train, he’s done really well — especially considering his age and his bouncy nature. I could have passed Jersey off as a fully trained SD before she had finished her training because her manners were so perfect and calm in public. She could have been doing nothing to help me, and we wouldn’t have been challenged because we “looked like” a SD team.

I once read about a SD program which had a separate category for dogs who could assist their people in the home but not work in public (due to anxiety or distractibility); they called these dogs “companion dogs” and they were not considered service animals. That has always bothered me. A “companion animal” is a pet. Dogs, cats, birds are all referred to as “companion animals.” However, a dog that opens and shuts the fridge, turns lights on and off, helps with the laundry, and retrieves dropped items for her disabled handler is a service dog, not a pet. If that dog doesn’t do well in public, obviously the dog should be left home when the person goes out. But that doesn’t make the dog any less a service dog. Why not just call that type of dog an “in-home service dog”? It would be more accurate, and in my opinion, more respectful to both members of the team.

Barnum standing on hind legs, front paws planted on the wall, nudging switch down with his nose. He's over 5 feet tall this way.

Barnum turns off the lights.

Barnum is already, by legal definition, a service dog: he increases my independence and safety by performing assistance tasks, which is what assistance dogs are supposed to do. The fact that my level of function and my level of dependence on humans is more than most assistance dog partners (and more than my previous level) doesn’t change that. However, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to say he’s a SD in the eyes of assistance dog organizations, because I don’t know if we’ll do enough training — if I, myself, will leave the house enough, let alone with him — for him to pass a public access test. I try not to let it get to me. In the scheme of things, what’s most important is that Barnum and I are happy and productive together. I do hope, though, to feel a greater sense of acceptance and respect from the assistance dog community one day.

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum SD/SDiT

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