With most of my posts and life focusing on wedding details or triathlon training, I haven't sat down and given you a really good "Glacier" update. It's not entirely because I've been crazy busy and doing what seems like, a million different things, but I wanted to give us some time to work on the things we had learned at
Leader Dogs for the Blind
during our retraining.
Glacier and I were placed together on September 24 2008 and struggled through the first two years and a half of our working relationship. We were having some serious communication issues and I wasn't even sure if he wanted to work anymore. With our move to Scotland looming, I knew things had to change. Either Glacier and I needed to re-bond or he would have to retire. Thankfully LDB took us back for twelve days of intensive training and I learned a lot about myself, Glacier and the way we were/weren't working together.
Glacier and I have been home just shy of a month and I am thrilled to report that we are doing fabulously. It's like I got a brand new dog without some of the problems that come with a new dog. His personality has really started to show again and he follows me everywhere. Even if I go to the bathroom he head butts the door to get in and wait for me. His recall in the house is fantastic (before we left, it was practically non-existent) and gets super excited when I pull his harness out.
Just today I was talking to Mr. K on the phone and had him talk to Glacier. Mr. G leaned his head into the phone and tilted his chin towards the ceiling. After listening to Mr. K talk for a few minutes, Glacier let out a little grunt noise and looked at me as if to say,
"well, I hear him. Shouldn't you get him out of there-that has got to be too small for him in there."
Mr. K and I laughed. It was so nice to see Glacier do something like that: it proves that my big, goofy yellow fellow is back.
Not only is his personality shining, but his work improves every day. He still gets a bit distracted, but he is much easier to re-direct with "kissy" noises and a gentle verbal "leave it." Mom, Glacier, Jetta and I took an hour walk Tuesday night along a bike trail that eventually opened up on to a residential area. I did not have to collar correct him once even though we passed other dogs, kids, cyclists and joggers. His curb work was flawless, stopping perfectly at each "down curb" and crossing each street cleanly. There was one oddly shaped curb that required him to make a half circle in order to cross safely. Mom told me to have him go left, but instead of giving him a direction I asked him to "forward" and he eventually maneuvered us to the safe crossing. I was so impressed. He didn't need me to tell him to find the curb. I think sometimes our problem is me giving him too much information. I sometimes forget that these dogs are taught to make decisions too. We are in a partnership, not an master/minion relationship. :)
In stores I will still put his Newtricks on from time to time because he can be a bit too sniffy. This head harness allows me to have control of his sniffing without getting out those leash corrections which, I must add, I am getting much better about not using.
I do make mistakes and correct him, but it's almost become second nature NOT to rely on them. The majority of the time I won't even instinctively reach for the leash. If I do, on the rare occasion I can usually stop myself. I have snapped he leash once in a while and sucked in a deep breath knowing I shouldn't have done that. What is interesting though, if I have had to use them for excessive sniffing or if I accidentally use one where a "kissy" noise would have worked just fine, Glacier doesn't shut down on me anymore. He just carries on, wiggling the tip of his tail and guiding me carefully along. I am very happy with the progress we have both made. As long as I continue to use the tools LDB gave me, Glacier and I will have a very long, healthy and happy working relationship. :)