The Second Rule of Emma

Discovering The First Rule of Emma (“When Emma doesn’t feel well she gets scared.”) was huge. But discovering The Second Rule might be the key to solving the Riddle of Emma.

The Second Rule of Emma:

During training, when Emma takes two steps forward, she will always follow with at least one step back.

In the past, we’ve referred to these “steps back” as “regressions” in Emma’s separation anxiety training. Now I am faced with the sisyphean task of teaching Emma to pick up a toy cigar 10-feet away from me, walk it over to me, and place it in my hand. I need Emma to do this in order to move onto the next level in my Academy studies. Sometimes I feel like my head is going to implode, because one day Emma will accomplish a necessary task in the training plan, and then the next day be too scared to do it again. So I have to back up a step or two or three until Emma relaxes before proceeding forward again.

“Emma had a regression in her retrieve training this afternoon,” I told hubz last night.

Woah. Did I just say REGRESSION?!? 

It hit me: This must be how Emma learns! She gains the confidence to do something, and then later on she’s a little less sure about it, and maybe another session or two she’s a little anxious and tenuous, and then BAM, she jumps ahead like a pro.

One day she can handle staying home alone for 30 minutes, the next day she can barely handle 30 seconds, and then a day or two later she doesn’t even look up if I am gone 45 minutes.

On her retrieve training:

One day Emma is afraid of me kneeling instead of squatting down low while she picks up the cigar. So we noodle around squatting and kneeling until she feels comfortable with both. Then we push to me standing, which she handles bravely. The next day? Emma whimpers in front of me with a furrowed brow when I stand, but she is perfectly fine with me kneeling.

For every two steps forward, Emma takes a least one step back.

But overall, we make progress. It’s the trend I need to focus on. With this knowledge, I won’t feel defeated when Emma is a little worse The Day After than she was The Day Before — it’s just her process.

Emma the Beagle WILL overcome her separation anxiety, and she WILL pick up that ridiculous cigar and bring it to me. She’ll just do it following The Second Rule of Emma.



2 comments on “The Second Rule of Emma

  1. I think this might be true for most of us–dogs and humans–when learning new things–at least it is for me :-). I’m really enjoying this series and can’t wait to see the next rule of Emma!

  2. And don’t I know it. Progress is NOT (as so commonly illustrated) a gradual improvement.
    As a mature (mature) age learner of the Snare drum, I know that one day I can feel elated because I have finally GOT it (speed, or a tricky piece ) and then the next day I can seem back to what I was several weeks (or even months) before.
    I now accept this, because the only alternative is discouragement and ‘giving up’.
    But it helps me understand and be more patient with ‘learners’ I am trying to teach 🙂

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