Wednesday, July 7, 2010

July 4th 2010 Immersion Training Technique

During our last training class our trainer was talking with us about an immersion training technique. A couple of weeks before class we had a few severe storms. One night one of our big trees in the backyard got hit. It was incredibly loud and there was a sudden very bright white light at the same time. It unnerved Coco and me. What was interesting was that Coco tried to get me up and follow her a few minutes earlier. I was tired and telling her it's okay. It's just a bad storm. When I got up she insisted on walking me down to the basement. It is where we have gone when there has been a tornado warning.

After that night we had a few more stormy nights, even a tornado warning with sirens and everything. It is important that Coco can handle a scary situation and still be focused on me and being able to stay calm.

I realized saying, it's okay or all right wasn't cutting it. She was taking this as an it's okay to be nervous. So I started saying, "We're safe." When we went to the July 4th festivities it was the perfect opportunity to get her used to a new situation with sudden loud noises and her knew cues to feel okay..."It's safe." "Your safe." She stayed close and leaned into me and I don't think she was really keen on the loud noises but she wasn't skiddish or anxious. Despite the mock gunfire and canon fire and sirens from our fire department and bands from the local high schools.

When we left we walked past a couple of dobermans, she saw them and didn't give them any of her attention. She stayed focused on me and where we were going. There was no pulling at all and no nervous trying to rush.

I had put the prong collar on Coco just to make sure if she started to pull I'd be able to handle it because my wrists are weak and this was going to be a big challenge for both of us. I had my earplugs in and dark wrap sunglasses and a hat. So we were all set. If I needed to take one step and rest and then take another, she was calm and fine. We did great on our solo trip to a July 4th daytime parade.

Today when vacuuming, Coco was laying down and staying calm. She isn't afraid of it at all. I never teased her with it. But this time I decided to use the words, "Your safe." Especially, at a time when I knew she already felt safe. Just to make it clear that no matter what the sounds are, whether she understands them or not, when she hears me say she is safe, she will remain calm.

The bond, the trust has grown even stronger. I'm so grateful to the Morris Service Dog Program and our trainer Sarah for helping us bring our service dogs into this type of understanding and bond with us. It's amazing.

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