Thursday, May 30, 2013

Haddie Update #3

Haddie is entering Second Semester and the heat will be turned up a few as she learns new commands. The commands we worked for the 18 months that she was under our care are now solidly in place and they are working on the Advanced Commands that only the Canine Companion Trainers know and teach.

Haddie's May report came today. She continues free of negative check marks in the selection of negative behaviors, while all the positive boxes of behavior are marked (wow) . The new commands she is learning are: Retrieve, Hold, Get, Push, Light, and Interactive (not sure what that is), and she is working Ambulatory and with a Wheelchair.

I am amazed at the level of training she is receiving, and when the house is quiet and I am alone, I like to close my eyes and picture her in Advanced Training. To see her learning how to turn on a Light would be so much fun. I wish they would video tape and send me snippets from time to time. That would be very heartwarming!

The notes written by the Trainer state the following:

Haddie has been introduced to the Light and Step commands this month. We have also begun transferring known commands next to the wheelchair. She learns new skills quickly and continues to make progress in training. We have begun having the dogs maintain down-stays for periods of time while on tie-downs in the training room. Haddie has had some trouble with this and tends to sit up after a short time, but she has been responsive to correction. Haddie has had one incident of barking on-leash at a person who suddenly appeared in a window, but she responded to correction and recovered quickly. 

Her negatives in the written section are more obvious than prior months. I guess the part where she responds to correction and recovers is a key that things are still going well for Haddie. I am curious if the added pressure to work is making this girl a little stressed, or if she is trying to figure out if this is the life she wants to lead. But at the same time, it could mean nothing, and dogs just have bad days like we have bad days.

The barking surprised me. Haddie? Barking? Given the situation, it seems like she gave out a Warning Bark (which in my book, I wouldn't take as negative - but I am not the Trainer, nor a lucky Handler who can be a recipient of one of these beautiful dogs). I do know other dogs that have been released for Warning Barks, so this makes me start preparing my heart and mind.

In regards to the tie-out, yikes - I take responsibility for that. I talked with our Trainer tonight, she said it was not a big deal (yet). Here is the deal, however, because it never occurred to me while Haddie was living with us ... we use Tie Outs for a different reason; to secure our dog and walk away knowing they can sit, lay down, chew on toys, sleep, stand, whatever ... the dog is secure and you can take a phone call, do a house project nearby, etc. (we never leave the dog alone on a tie-out, we still need to be in the room/close by).

It honestly never occurred to me to command a Sit or Down while Haddie was on a tie-out. Never occurred. Sure, we worked off the tie-out on every command - and my Trainer knows that Haddie could hold an extended Down Stay like a pro (she saw when we practiced in class, at at Fair when it was a required judging piece). Haddie is a rock star on Down. Just not during a tie-out ... poor thing was probably really confused!!

So - that makes it hard for me, because I could have helped Haddie with this while she was here. Kolby will be getting a good dose of this (in time, per Trainer). I hope it clicks for Haddie; that she has to listen to the command even though she is on a tie-out ... because it would really, really make me sad if she is released for something "silly" that I could have prevented. Sigh.

Time will tell Haddie's ultimate future. The final answer, no turning back, end of this story, and the beginning of the next story will occur no later than August 16th, as that is her potential Graduation Day.

Stay strong, Haddie Rosa!!! No matter the direction you choose, I will continue to be so proud of you. I am so happy you made it to Second Semester!!! I can't wait to see you again. Until then, work hard and choose your path. Love you, Girl!!!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Who's our baby ...


I have never seen a more mellow five month old puppy in my life. Mister is just so adorable I can hardly stand it. He has this look about him that just dares you to fall in love, and give him everything he demands, which thankfully is pretty simple. He just wants to be touched and loved.
There is a retired Service Dog in our 4-H CCI Club that is this way too. I wondered what she was like as a puppy, and I am curious if she started out like Kolby. She is the most lovable dog ever, but it always seems she doesn't think she is ever close enough to you for physical contact. If you are sitting on the floor, and she is on the other side of the room, she has been known to cross the room and climb in your lap. Perhaps that is her "close enough". Love it!

Kolby feels it is his right to put himself into a Lap position when I am sitting at my computer (Lap: laying both front paws/legs across the Handler's lap while the Handler is sitting. Puppies elbows have to be touching the Lap of Handler too so the dog is not "standing" on the Lap of the person). There are days when I think I have trained him too early on some topics; ya' know, just the ones that he can't seem to understand that I have to give the command for him to perform it. This is a tough one for Kolby, it has taken a lot of firm reminders for him to obey when it is acceptable and when it is not. He is still learning.

Kolby came to Church again with us this past weekend. Again, he felt he needed to be on, in, over my lap in the pew the entire time. This was hard, because I had a dozen eyes starring at me and I had to be a good example of firm, yet calm (after all, to top it off, we were in Church!). When it seemed like he had four feet on the ground for an extended period of time, I issued the Lap command. Heaven came to church that day for Kolby. He stayed for the remainder of the opening Worship Music time - which is a hefty part of our opening. His eyes were glazed over and I thought he was going to fall asleep.

Before he could do that, I told him Off, he did - and stretched his loooong body across both my feet and my girls and slept during the entire Sermon. My girl and I looked at one another and issued the "Do. Not. Move." look. Anything to keep a happy puppy sleeping!

At home, Kolby is not one to grab a toy and solicit his own entertainment - unless a Kong toy is filled with a tasty treat. Otherwise, Kolby is in love with walking the house carrying his leash (I sound like a broken record, but he has not changed what he has always done). I will find him at my feet many times - just sitting. I was moving away from the sink after washing dishes this morning to shockingly find My Boy in a Heal position looking up at me. He actually kind of scared me. I thought he had been wandering the house.

His rowdiness comes when Cora is walking about the house at the same time. He is getting better about leaving her alone, but his behavior is like an Angel compared to Haddie and Cora trying to live together. Kolby listens. He is tempted many, many times, and falls for the temptation to grab her adorably long Beagle ears, or pat her on the back with his paw - both not acceptable - but he will stop as soon as I, or Cora, give him the firm reminder that four paws need to stay on the floor. And he will always come to me when I call him out - so he is within guidelines like way (which I think is the most important one - Yaay!).

Kolby is a little late in receiving his final Puppy Shot routine, but he will be fully vaccinated on Thursday. I can not wait to have the peace of mind that "we made it" and it is full speed ahead not "worrying" and being cautious and not going certain places as a result of our behind vaccine schedule. Being late in this category is tough when you are trying to socialize your pup in this critical early phase.

Who's our baby ... KOLBY!!! Without a doubt - the most lovable, sweet, melt your heart faced puppy. Mmmmm - love him!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

No More Sliding

As the rain pelted the back of my neck and soaked my sweatshirt, Kolby and I struggled in the department store parking lot to free Kolby from his kennel. It became obvious rather quickly that Kolby in fact had outgrown his kennel. With an extremely slow and puzzle-like team effort approach to getting him out, I am sure it was not a pretty sight for passerby's to view.

I was pretty wet as we made it to the entrance of the department store for his outing, and Kolby had to do the twist a few times to dry off too. The problem is that Kolby enjoys sliding out of his kennel, even when it is up high in the cargo area of our car. While it is adorable, funny, and creative, it really does not make for good Assistance Dog Behavior. Having to catch a growing 30-something pound puppy as his legs are straight and his belly is scraping the kennel floor, the cargo floor, as his body bends towards the ground with no sign of Kolby catching his flat-out-self leaves this Puppy Raiser laughing while helping him learn not to do that trick.
Yesterday I made him stand in his kennel. He had clearance. But said puppy would not bend his legs to make the quick dip of his head to get out the door. Would. Not. Bend. His. Legs.

I claim Kolby is smart. I know he is smart. But sometimes the elevator does not go to the top. Bend the legs, Buddy, and your head will make it through the door. 
I eventually had to reach in to bend his legs for him and bribe him to move forward. It was embarrassing and not our finest Team Moment. But he eventually came out and we straightened up his vest, my sweatshirt, and regained our dignity before we made it to the sidewalk.
The kennel he has been moved to makes a tight squeeze into the cargo space of our car. I remember fighting this for many months with Haddie before I purchased a seat belt vest that clips to the cargo area. Skipping the next kennel size in the car altogether, Kolby learned all-about seat belt vests yesterday.
 He was so curious and seemed very happy to peak out the window while we were moving. He sat the majority of the time, switching to a Down when his balance became tired. It was fun to see him in my interior rear view mirror. I wish photo captures were easy with black dogs. I am really missing out in sharing the true essence of Kolby. Haddie never sat while in motion - always, always was in a Down.
And - Kolby jumped in the car on the first command request every time yesterday. Praise!! Good job, Kolby!
My girl got in the back with Kolby while we waited for my son to get out of school. The two have a special bond. Kolby turns to a love-bug as he curls up in her lap, as if he were a mere ten pounds, and he will rest his head on her shoulders, and then stretch tall to get above her head. She laughs and snuggles right back. I adore watching their friendship grow.
Having a two hour round trip commute last night to Puppy Class was a fantastic "official ice breaker" for Kolby's new way of riding. He experienced back roads and highways and did excellent. He peaked his head between the seats a few times to snuggle on my son - simply adorable - otherwise he sat or fell asleep, not minding learning to balance with his (limited) freedom the seat belt vest provides, versus a kennel.

Nice work, Kolby. No more sliding out of the car, mmm-kay?!

Saturday, May 18, 2013


Kolby preserves his stuffed animals and so does our sweet Beagle. This makes for some great sharing of toys. This Giraffe was actually a gift to Cora at Christmas time, but because Kolby is so gentle, he gets a turn too. My daughter was able to capture several photos of this pose as Kolby enjoyed his rest time with Giraffe.
On monsoon, windy days like today - it is very easy to stare at Kolby and enjoy his mellow nature. To blow off puppy steam and break up his day, my son will play ball in the bonus room with the door closed. We are hopeful that this will not translate into running through the house, as he is just in one room, and we are commanding the Fetch and allowing him to trot, tumble, and run like uncoordinated puppies do. So far so good.

One Tired Puppy = One Cute Snuggle Time With Giraffe.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Katchup with Kolby

Our little Mister is not so little any more. He had a vet check and vaccine update last Thursday and he weighed in at 32.3 pounds. I personally don't think he looks to be in his thirties, because Kolby is all legs. He is tall, lean, and lanky. I love it. Typical teenage boy.
We took our RV out of storage last week when the temps were soaring into the 80's. Kolby enjoyed his first experience in the RV. We didn't go for a ride, but he got to walk around inside and smell everything. Our first excursion with Kolby will be at the end of this month. We are excited for his new adventure!
While it was hot, my girl had fun posing Kolby in her sunglasses. He didn't protest by pawing them off, instead he would just turn his head to check out his new view behind the colored glass and the shades would tip. It took a few attempts, but we got one shot.
Other just for fun and cute photos of Kolby growing up. His eyes are starting to change to the pretty Amber color like his dad's, Luca. I hope they fully change to his father's coloring, it looks so good against the black fur, which his dad also has. Time will tell.
Today we ventured out to a Hardware Store, a national brand that had 48 aisles which felt more like 96 because they were so long. We cruised each aisle, with the only agenda to get Kolby used to the sights, smells, and noises of a big box store such as this. We also worked on turning the corner - turning into the dog to make a Left (or Right, depending which side the dog is on) takes some practice for the Team. By the end of the aisle walking, Kolby was turning like a pro.

Kolby seems to be more aware of noises than Haddie ever was. I see a trend developing that he is more skittish. The good news is that he can recover nicely, and he always checks in with me while his tail is tucked and he's moving away. We'll get him there.
Case in point, before we closed the outing this morning, Kolby Sat and then Stood next to the large Paint Machine that mixes the paint. It was pretty loud and the employee was also banging a hammer on top of another paint can. The combo was perfect training for Kolby. He handled it well.

I think the biggest challenge will be in the repetition of a sound that worries Kolby. I have found that the sudden noises catches his attention more so than the consistent noise (like the paint can machine vs a quick banging of boards in the lumber yard). Some noises do not repeat. Kolby will either have to naturally out grow his concern with age and experience, or I'm going to have to go up to people and ask them to repeat their noise making. Ha!

Kolby continues to walk amazingly well on the leash. I bet he would have walked beside me the entire outing today at the Hardware Store if he were a pet-dog and could be off-leash. I never had to make a leash correction. That is my favorite part and something completely different than what I experienced with Haddie. Every dog has his/her perks. This one is Kolby's.
Kolby's house manners are awesome. I love how he enjoys tucking himself Under the dinning room table "just because". He doesn't get into any trouble, he just likes it under there. He is on a long leash while on a Release in the house.
He has no interest in playing with toys when he has "control" of roaming. Instead, he continues his love affair with his leash and will carry it around, making sure it keeps up with his pace. And sometimes, you have to be careful, because when Kolby comes up for Loves, his leash will get wrapped around your feet. No worries, Kolby is slow moving and the tangle is never a hazard.

He is such a good boy. Sometimes I forget that he is only 18 weeks old. He seems more like 18 months.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Kolby Chasing Leash

We have been advised by our trainer to not allow Puppies in Training to roam freely in the house without a long leash attached (to start). The reasoning is if you give a command that they ignore, you can not correct them quickly without it. Case in point, if you tell a puppy Here and it turns the opposite direction in a run, what is stopping you from correcting the puppy? Continued verbal cues that they are not obeying? It is not effective.

Once the puppies are reliable in their listening and obeying, they can roam without the long leash. But if they mess up and test you by disobeying, then the long leash is supposed to return until puppy can get the idea that every minute is a listening minute.

So far, Kolby is doing awesome with the long leash because he is in love with the long leash. He will carry it wherever he walks. All. Day. Long. I follow him to make sure he is not taking pit-stops for bathrooms, and not deciding on inappropriate chewing, but not so close where he feels hovered and not willing to explore and make mistakes.

I think carrying his long leash is better than a chew toy for Kolby. I wonder how long this will last.

(side note: he sometimes cheats on his long leash and falls in love with the faux grass at the base of the container holding our faux tree in the living room. Grrr, that is a mess to clean up and he is so sneaky about it. I am almost wanting to dispose of said faux grass and tree, but that would teach him zero).

Last week my girl caught Kolby on video tape. Bear with the crazy start to this video when it is turned incorrectly. My girl was studying on the couch when we noticed circular Kolby and she just wanted to get the video started.

If you don't get too dizzy, you'll have to complete the entire 2:30 minute video. It is worth it.

Will Kolby ever catch his leash??

Monday, May 6, 2013

Haddie's Second Report

We received Haddie's Second Report Card last week. I have mixed emotions - one of those pinch-me-I-can't-believe-it-is-happening moments. One the one hand, I think Haddie is amazing. On the other hand, I think I just can't believe that she is still in the program. Not from anything specific, and not because she is not capable, but just because I know how demanding the training is and to keep any dog around is simply speechless-worthy.
Haddie received a new trainer, and they are getting to know one another. Haddie continues to receive zero negative marks on her report. All of the positive check mark options have been filled out. Thank you, Haddie, for paying attention and taking college life seriously!! 

The written comments read:
Haddie has recently been transferred to my string and we are just getting to know one another. We have been reviewing her basic commands and have introduced the Push and Get commands. Haddie has displayed an enthusiastic work ethic and is making good progress during training sessions. She has been barking in the kennels during feeding and exercise times, but she has been quiet and well behaved when crated in the training room. She has also been well mannered during grooming sessions.

I am happy to read that she is getting herself under control in the grooming sessions as that was a negative written comment on her last progress report. Haddie making noise during kennel time doesn't seem to be an issue, but for a non-speaking dog, glad to know she does have a voice and opinion after 18 months of silence with us. Ha!

Haddie's Overall Performance check marks show Low in the Fear, Distractibility, and Energy Catagories, and a Moderate in Response to Motivation, Response to Correction, and Learning Rate. All good signs.

If Haddie continues at this rate ~ we will be making another trek to California in Mid-August. Trying not to get my hopes up, but also so excited she has made it this far.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Triple Adventure

On Tuesday, my sweet sister-in-law and I took a nice walk with Kolby through a town close by that we both enjoy and is a good middle driving locale between the two of us. While the walk was just something to do to wear out Kolby, I wouldn't say it was of any great training challenge for him. Walking is something we have been done lots of in many different places, so the journey was nothing really all that new or out of the ordinary for him. He enjoyed walking and listening to us talk, I am sure!
The real adventure was our stop at Subway for lunch. Because it was his lunch time too, I used his volume of lunch kibble to reinforce his Stay command. We sat at a high table with bar chairs, which gave Kolby an experience to be "farther away" from me than a traditional table.

It is amazing what a difference it made. A new challenge in training that I would not have guessed would have existed. I am so glad my sister-in-law chose that table (although she was very sweet to offer the regular size table, I was up for the challenge).

There was no real place for him to Under at our table, and being way-down-there, compared to my face way-up-there at the high table, he had to really focus on not scooting farther and farther away and into the lobby area of the cafe. He eventually understood he received more Kibble for staying closer to my feet.
Yesterday's Puppy Class had visitors. Three 2-week old Dwarf Goats joined our class. It was so adorable to watch the little babies walk all over our dog training tools and then jump off, twist their bodies as if they were kicking up their heels and doing the splits like people, before landing on their feet in a Perfect 10 mode. I am sure the puppies enjoyed the goat antics as much as the people.
Kolby was not overly interested in the Goats. Our Trainer was very clear that the puppies could and should sniff, and go up to the Goats, but that the pups had to keep all four paws on the floor and their tongue in their mouth. Also, once a puppy was "focused" in on a goat, the raiser had to call the puppy by name with the goal of the puppy turning his face to make eye contact with the raiser.
Every puppy did amazingly well!! And surprisingly, the Goats were more curious about the Puppies than vice versa.
This black and white goat followed Kolby all night, and Kolby would just keep scooting over and watching me for his Reward. He was awesome. I love how focused he was on me, and not the goats, and he would allow the goats to sniff his tail laying on the ground and bump into his backside. Adorable.
This morning we made a social outing to the local big box store. We walked the home good section, and the pet aisle before moving through the entire Dairy, Seafood, and Produce Departments on our way to Self-Checkout.
As we started our outing I remembered I was going to bring Kolby's little stuffed toy that our Trainer suggests to use to keep the "fun" in outings. The goal is the puppy will associate the toy like a treat, and can carry the toy as a stress reliever while learning. A way to break up all the thinking they must do to keep in line. And, we can stop and "play" with the toy and the puppy if a situation is really stressful, versus feeding a high value treat all the time. Make it FUN and the puppy should calm down.
Because I forgot the little stuffed toy at home, I decided we would select a toy at the store for Kolby to carry and play, so we went to the pet section first to pick it out. Although this toy isn't very small, it was a perfect toy to hold while walking. He did. Kolby was adorable and talk about an attention getter!! Try this!
Kolby is 1/4 Golden Retriever and I think they have it in them to Hold rather well (Haddie was full lab and she never got the Hold concept while under my care. And by that I don't mean I was using Hold as a command as I know we can't, but just give her a toy to hold/carry and she would drop it. Always. Immediately). I gave Kolby his toy and he just started walking with it. I didn't say any command words but gave him lots of praise.

Kolby held his toy throughout our store adventure, did a Drop for me to scan it for purchase, and then carried it out and to the car.
I put our purchase in the car and removed his Vest. We were going walking and I wanted to have him know to keep behaving in public even without his Vest on. The sun was awesome and we walked much longer than we were in the store. So. Much. Fun. and yes, Kolby behaved and I could have kept going, but he was tired. When he stumbles over his feet, it is time to stop. Ha!

Triple Adventure week and we aren't even done.