Saturday, April 7, 2007

Training "touch"

The first thing you have to do is train the dog to alert you. You can do this in a variety of ways, and it really depends on the size of your dog. A little dog can't reach your hand, so it has to alert either by nudging your leg or pawing at you. My dog is 53 pounds and 24" at the shoulder, his head is right about at my palm when my arm is down, so it makes sense for him to nudge my hand.

I smeared my left hand with a meat roll* for dogs. My dog is bonkers for these meat rolls, he prefers the beef or lamb to the turkey. I cut up the meat roll and held the chopped roll in my right hand. I want him to nudge my left because all his training (except for agility) makes him have to be on my left and he's extremely comfortable with that.

To start, he sniffs the hand that had the stinky meat smeared on it. He got rewarded immediately. It's best to do this with a clicker, you can do it better with that but I can't find mine and have to buy a new one. So everytime he went to sniff my hand I said "Good Touch". After about three or four times, he would do it when I said touch. It's much easier to train something when the dog is doing it on his own, and him sniffing my palm is exactly that. After 10 times, I just let him be. Next day, same thing. 10 times touch, let him be. I do it in rapid succession too. Also, during the first day, I started to tell him touch before he hit my hand, and as soon as he did I just said "Good" because it's faster than saying "Good Touch" and it's imperative to reward the dog the instant he does the behavior.

Today, I advanced it. I was running around, he had to work to come up to me and get my hand while I was moving. The hardest part was to get him to nudge my hand when I was sitting. He did it when my hand was on my lap but not so much when it was beside me. Something to work on.

And yes, this has been done over about 60 hours time. Less than three days, only three or four training sessions. Dogs learn faster than you think. I will practice this until Monday, I believe. Today is Saturday.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Today I start to teach my dog to be my hearing dog. I am starting out with touch, which is to get him to nudge me with his nose on command. That will be looped into a series of behaviors that he needs to do to get my attention, show me what is making the noise, and come back to get me. This is fairly easy, it will be harder to teach the fire alarm. He's supposed to come to get me, then run to the door, not back to the fire alarm. Only to me and the door. I'll explain how I train touch in the next post.

Being deaf

What is it like to be deaf? It ranges from no different from anyone else, to being extremely frustrating and isolating. I live in a hearing world. My spouse is hearing, my family is hearing, I was mainstreamed in school. But I'm losing more hearing, and it is becoming harder and harder to function with lipreading alone. No one around me really signs. My husband is starting to learn more so that my stress will go down.

What bothers me most is that while my family acknowledges that I cannot hear, they don't take any steps to involve me in conversations that are not one on one. During family gatherings, I'm very excluded. As a result, I hate going. I get overly anxious before going in, because my lack of participation often translates as an unwillingness to be friendly and my inability to understand what is being said is often considered stupidity. It's especially hard dealing with my mother. She's overly solicitious in front of non-family members, but reverts to not looking at me when she speaks when she's alone with me or with my side of the family. She also over enunciates when I tell her repeatedly I cannot understand her and gets rather pissy when I give her a pen and paper to write down what she's saying. I honestly don't understand why it's preferable to her to repeat something as many as 15 times and deal with the feelings of anger and resentment that causes, instead of merely writing it down. Then again, she enjoys feeling angry over things that could be different. She's very passive aggressive in her relationships and it just makes everyone very resentful towards her. My mother in law, who is not a very nice person at all, has done more for me by taking sign language classes than my own family has. It's not fun feeling like you're not worth the time it takes to communicate with you.
It was summer of 97, August 8 to be exact. That day is forever seared into my brain, much more than the important dates in my relationship with my husband. I was a happy in my work in graduate school, and was riding home on my bike from a day in the lab when this idiot uninsured 17 year old rammed me with his car. I sprained a lot of bits of my body, but my wrist was unusual. The pain of the sprain wasn't going way. The doctors thought possible ligament damage, so surgery happened. It wasn't that. Unfortunately, the surgery was the worst possible thing to happen. The pain increased and it was about a year before I got a diagnosis. I had RSDS, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Sydrome, officially known as CRPS-I, or Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome-I. I then got the wrong treatment for almost a year after that. RSD has a very small window for successful treatment, and that treatment has to be started within three months of diagnosis. This condition is extremely painful. It manifests, for me, with massive burning sensation, about the level of a second degree burn. That is the worst part about having it, and I do have other problems from it as well that are secondary in annoyance. The worst of those is that I seem to be wrecking my shoulder joints because I constantly hold my arms stiffly in response to the constant pain. The RSD spread from that right wrist, up my arm and into my other arm, and it's across my back as well. I'm at the point where palliative measures are no longer working, and I need to have some electrodes jammed into my spinal cord, with a battery pack the size of a credit card and a quarter inch thick put into my belly.

To top this off, I'm also deaf, which in itself isn't much of an issue. I was late deafened, so my speech and English skills are excellent for someone who is deaf. And I'm deaf, not Deaf, but accepted by the Deaf, though they call me HOH or hard of hearing becuase my voice is good, not becuase I can't hear much at all.

Next post, my research interests, or maybe my dog interests. Have to decide.