Thursday, July 26, 2007

Stress Testing

I was away for three weeks in June, leaving Laev with my husband. Both of them survived. I was relieved to see that, and I think both of them were a little surprised by it.

Laev had developed a couple of "cheats" while I was gone -- the opening door had become a release equivalent to her verbal "free dog," for example -- but it took only a single reminder in most cases (the door can close if you break!) for her to return to her cleaner behaviors.

One thing I learned, though, is that Jon had Laev loose in the room with Melissa and her infant. Baby Emma is pretty dog-savvy for a 9-month-old (she can summon dogs to lick her face), and Jon had been correctly reinforcing Laev for lying down calmly while Emma was there. However, a baby squeal reportedly unnerved Laev a bit, who showed some agitation after that.

That didn't surprise me, as Laev has an extremely low threshold for sound and movement, but I do NOT want any kind of predatory arousal around the baby. Laev's typically very good around kids, when we meet them, but we're just not going to ever go there. So when Emma and her parents came again with other friends, I brought Laev into the stimulating houseful of loud people and vocal baby.

So here's Laev, being treated each time the baby sqawks. She kept looking anxiously at it at first, but quickly she figured out there was a more rewarding game in town. Somehow from there we built to a "Torture The Laev" session, with Jon, Melissa, Dave, Mark, Alena and Alicia (plus baby Emma) all trying to distract her while I asked her to perform simple tasks (sit, down, watch, front, heel).

WOW. If you ever need distractions...! Dave kept trying to step on Laev's wagging tail while she sat and watched me. Alicia meowed -- which conjures Laev's single biggest failing, cats! Alena got online and played ear-splitting clips of angry chimpanzees and then, oh heavens, a cat fight.

Laev did amazingly well with everything up until the cat fight soundtrack; she had to detour her recall to glance at the computer for that one. But we simply repeated, and this time she did the recall straight and correctly.

Probably a routine rehearsal of this kind of distraction would be excellent for her, but I don't know if I can take that much! I should, however, play the cat fight sound with every work session for dinner....