Friday, January 28, 2011

Week four

This past Saturday Bailey and I just chilled. On Sunday Bailey and I went to the mall with my Mom. We went into one shop and my Mom went into the dressing room to try on some clothes. We stayed outside and Bailey just laid down next to me the entire time. What a good boy! Then we went to get some ice cream. When we sat down to eat the table next to us was full of loud teenagers. Bailey was nervous at first and growled a little bit in their direction. My Mom kept talking calmly to him and he quickly settled down. After that he didn't give the teenagers any more of his attention. After the mall we stopped at Ralph's and Bailey did really well inside the grocery store.
  On Monday we played "go find Eva" (his favorite game) and did a round of fetch. He definitely understands fetch now. After our afternoon walk we went to Starbucks. Bailey did great inside the store but on the way out saw another big dog and made a fuss. He wanted to say "Hi" pretty bad but I redirected his attention.
  Tuesday was a big day. First we worked on fetch aka "go get it". He did really well. Then I wanted to work on his "stay" command. Sometimes when we're playing "go find Eva" he gets so excited that he doesn't wait for the command before he runs to find me. So I had my aide tell Bailey to "stay" and then walk to the other side of our yard. Bailey didn't want to stay and as she was telling him to stay he growled at her defiantly. We both cracked up at his mini temper tantrum. Eventually he did really great with his stay command.
  On this day I also made a big decision about Bailey's training. I'm giving Bailey a break from work for the next few weeks. I need to work on his confidence with strangers so we're going back to the basics. Because I want Bailey to feel comfortable around all people I'm taking him out as a pet to encourage more positive interactions with strangers. I'm also letting people pet him so that he will feel comfortable and not growl or cower away from them. So on this day we went to the Occidental College campus where I knew he would encounter lots of new people. He let three different women pet him and took a piece of steak out of each of their hands. But he still acted a little shy around them. He enjoyed this walk around the campus and didn't growl at anybody.
 On Wednesday I began training a new aide. Bailey was a bit intimidated by this new person but did take treats from her. Later that day we went to Petco. We were walking through the store when Bailey suddenly began to growl and bark very agitated. My aide and I looked around and couldn't figure out what he was upset about. Then we realized he was standing in front of a display that included three fake dog mannequins made out of white cloth. We started busting up with laughter. We showed Bailey the fake dogs and once he sniffed them he was no longer interested in them at all. Also in the store Bailey said hi to a man and a woman without growling. At the check out Bailey also greeted three little dogs without making a scene.
  On Thursday Bailey made a visit to the vet's office. He was there for a follow up exam to check on his ear and I wanted to do the preliminary x-rays that would identify if he had any early signs of  hip or elbow issues.
During the visit Bailey was very chatty to a Rottweiler sitting next to him. Part of the time when Bailey is growling he's actually just talking. I can tell because sometimes he's in a very comfortable posture and is just kind of tilting his head back and half boofing half growling. He also did really well with the vet and her technician. He stayed very calm around them and let them pet him. Bailey was given a clean bill of health and his joints look perfect. Yay!!! This is major news because if Bailey showed any signs of future joint problems then I would not be able to have him as my Service Dog. He was much better with my Physical Therapist this day and let her pet him as well.
 I started a new command on Thursday "speak". The tactic I used was to just introduce the command and often when a dog can't figure something out he/she will bark in frustration. At that point you praise them for "speaking". Well when Bailey was told to speak he used every trick that he knew to try to get the treat in my aides hand. He sat down, he laid down,he rolled over,he gave me kisses and at one point he jumped up off the ground excitedly as if he had figured it out and then proceeded to run around the yard in a quick circle. It was hysterical. Bailey did become frustrated but never made a peep!
  Today I wanted to work on speak again and the same thing happened. So I tried a new technique. I played a cd of barking dogs which of course caused Bailey to bark. When he did he was given tons of praise saying "good speak" along with his new favorite treat, freeze dried liver. He started to understand and after a few minutes was speaking on command. We then gave Bailey a bath and headed over to the Rose Bowl for an afternoon walk. He let five different strangers, including three men pet him without being shy. This was an excellent week.


  1. I am so happy about Bailey's testing results! That is certainly good news.
    I also want to commend you, Eva, for recognizing that sometimes a growl can be vocalization. Our dogs often growl to communicate. You are wise to recognize the difference between a serious growl and a communication growl.
    I like your idea of letting him take a break and just meet people. I know he will do well and that this lesson will be a valuable one.
    Good work!

  2. Thanks for this post. I am getting a lot of ideas for understanding the behavior of my 2-year old dog and for training him. I try desperatedly to get him to stop barking when he barks for no apparent reason. I never considered turning it into a "speak" command. Thanks, Eva.