Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Overstimulation and Other Stuff

Lok gets overstimlated in certain situation. I've just recently realized this and I've just recently started using "off switch" games to fix it." For example, around toys he has a very, very hard time turning off in the middle of a game. If I say "all done" he knows the game is over and turns off immediately. But if, in the middle of a game, I ask for a "sit" or a "down" I get a blank stare and if I'm lucky, he will ever so slowly sink into the position I've asked for, usually getting stuck part way several times. It's something I've been working on with no success since I adopted him. I recently realized that he is not capable of relaxing if he thinks the game is still going on. So I've lowered my criteria. Rather than demand a down in the middle of the game, I've been hiding the toy behind my back and softly asking him to "relax." When he starts breathing again (instead of holding his breath), when his tail drops, he turns his head, and his face softens a bit, then I either reward him by starting the game again or ask for an easier behavior like a hand touch to be performed in a relaxed and self-controlled state. This is going MUCH, MUCH better after just a few days and I'm able to get a sit from him pretty easily most times now. So, hopefully I'm on the right track there.

Lok also has focus issues. He hates obedience and I'd really like to change that, since there may come a point where that is really all we can do together. He hasn't always hated it. In fact, he really enjoyed rally for several weeks, but then got sick of it, and getting stressed out at a competition sealed the deal. It's gotten to the point that he is regularly refusing to lay down on command. I'm not quite sure why. So I'm trying to fix that with mat work, since he is enthusiastic about running to a mat and laying down. I've also been working on basic obedience exercises outside in the context of Leslie McDevitt's "Gimme a Break" game with very high value treats and working on obedience exercises for a toy (though I first need to overcome above-described overstimulation problems).

Lok and I have been challenged to teach Lok how to fetch a hot dog without eating it for our tricks class graduation project. I have to admit, it's been a little humbling. I kind of thought, well, Lok knows how to retreive and will retreive almost anything, so how hard could it be? I just throw it and tell him to retrieve it right? Wrong! Lok wants to retreive it, but is torn between his desire to do what I ask and his entire three years of experience that tell him that a hot dog is food--NOT a retreiving object, and that food in his mouth is meant to be chewed and swallowed. He will hold it in his mouth, but not without licking and lightly chomping it at the same time! So, we've had to start with just holding a hot dog without chomping or licking for just a few seconds. We also had to start with a frozen hot dog, in a plastic bag, with vet rap around it. We've now progressed to just a frozen hot dog, but still haven't worked up to holding it for more than a few seconds. I doubt we'll have it down by this Thursday. But oh well, it's been a learning experience.

As for Lok's vision, the other night when coming in from outside, instead of just jumping up onto the deck, he slowed in front of it, stuck his nose out and touched it, and then slowly stepped up onto it. In anything but natural daylight, he can't see a toy thrown to him on his left side. Outside during the day he seems to do better.

And the obligatory Jun mention. Jun is learning colors. Or, maybe I should say, I am trying to teach Jun colors. So far, it's not going great. However, except for her left front paw, she will sit still to have all her nails clipped! She doesn't like me touching her left front paw for some reason. More desensitization is in order, I guess. I need to stock up on peanut butter.

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