Thursday, February 14, 2013

Guide Dog Training Day 3: Settling In

It's kind of funny how old habits really do die hard. Yesterday morning was my first morning with Paula and the first thing I went to do upon the alarm going off was to take her out and then get her breakfast. I had to stop myself because her relieve time wasn't for another hour and she is currently eating only once a day. I've been running dogs out even before I use the toilet in the mornings for years and it was weird not having to rush for the dog's leash and my shoes. On that note, we had a successful morning bathroom break and I was happy when Paula left me a present to pick up. Knowing that your dog's bodily functions are working properly is usually a good indicator that they are starting to settle in.
After morning bathroom break and human breakfast, we headed for our make shift lounge to have a small discussion on dog body language. It was interesting and was a repeat of a lot of stuff I already knew, but only because it's something that interests me and I've researched it to death. We talked about dog communication with each other and with humans and covered the debunked theory of Alpha dog training. I was glad we covered this.
After our discussion it was house obedience time. Our trainer took us one at a time and we wandered the hotel,practising "sit" at closed doors, lying calmly at tables and then we covered an obedience routine. The routine consisted of us standing in a wide hallway and putting the dog through a series of "sit," down," "stay," all mixed in with us walking around and away from the dog. We even hid from the dog, telling her to stay. I think Paula did well considering strange people kept walking by her and it was our first morning together. She did get up at one point towards the end of the routine, probably because she was bored, but went back into her "sit" no problem and finished the routine cleanly. The bell she wears on her play collar really helps me know if she is moving and where she's moving to. We also practised this routine outside with the trainer also guiding us in order to practice loose leash heeling. It was blowing and snowing at that point so we kept it short, but Paula did very well.
Lunch was tasty as always and everyone behaved nicely. We weren't sure if we'd be able to do our first harness walk yesterday because the weather was atrocious, but we braved the rain/snow/wind and completed our first official harness walk.
The other student went first so Paula and I were left to our own devices for about an hour. The nice thing about training this way means you get to wait in your hotel room instead of in a bus or training building. There will be days where it will be easier for the trainer to take us both at the same time and we'll have to wait in the van, but it's not an every day thing.
I took Paula out before the walk and she did her business then we loaded her into the back of the van which has ben outfitted with dog crates. She promptly began chewing on a smoked bone and seemed happy. I told the trainer that we weren't going to be able to get her out of there because she liked that bone so much. We drove a very short distance and got Paula out and geared up. This is also different from my experiences as we always traveled in mini buses and your dog would lie at your feet. I was impressed with Paula's self control as I reached into the back of the van and fastened her working collar/leash back on and waited for me to call her out. I put the harness on which she ducked away from at first. The trainer told me she used to do that with him, but eventually stopped. We both figured that if she didn't stop that we'd start using kibble to lure her through the opening and eventually she would stop ducking away. Just something to keep an eye on.
Our walk was incredibly wet and cold, in typical Scotland fashion, but it was fantastic. I had a hard time keeping up to my little bullet because I was wearing Wellies and my feet felt clumsy, but she was very responsive to me asking her to slow down. My other dogs' cue for slowing down was "steady," but Paula's is something that has completely slipped my mind right now. She worked very well despite the weather conditions and was very good when I reminded her to "straight on" when she was being too nosy and peaking into people's gardens that we past. There were a few curbs she refused to move up to when we were nearing the van, probably because she knew we were getting close to a dry place, but we reworked her up to those curbs and made sure she sat and waited for me to tell her to turn. She found the van no problem and waited patiently for me to take her gear off and get her up in the van again. It was a short walk, but it was very satisfying. The trainer obviously walked along behind my shoulder, but he let us do the work and wasn't attached to us in any way. My first few walks with Jetta the trainer had a leash clipped to her harness, but since then I've been free to fly solo.
Upon arriving back at the hotel we toweled off and sat down to have another short discussion. To be honest, I can't quite remember what it was about because we all went off on tangents about guide dog owners being responsible for picking up their dogs' poop. After that the other student and I sat around chatting and then it was feeding time for the dogs. It was our first meal on our owns and I was very proud of Paula. She went to and stayed in her bed until I blew the whistle then came charging over to me and gobbled down her food. Then it was human feeding time again.
We spent the rest of the evening just sitting in the bistro and I pretty much collapsed into bed after taking Paula out for the final time. She did both and I was satisfied with that. I did deal with some whining yesterday from time to time, mostly when the trainer walked us back to our room, but it was minimal in comparison to the day before. She also seemed to settle a lot more after our short but speedy harness work. I think working is so exciting for her that she associates the trainer with working and therefore is incredibly attached to him. We will be doing more harness work today and I really hope it will help solidify that I'm fun and exciting in her mind.
Last night she took a minute to settle again. She whined a bit and stood at the front door. When I called her name to get her back to her bed she galloped over to my bed an leaped on top of me where she continued to tap dance despite my "offs." Eventually, I managed to pull myself out and point at the floor and say "off." She promptly hopped off and got into her own bed. She slept soundly after that. So soundly, in fact, I had to poke her in the middle of the night because she woe me up with her very loud snoring. She may give Otis a run for his money in the snoring department.
I think it was a good second day and I definitely see potential here. I do recognise that I need to watch the pitch of my voice though because if I am too happy or excited when I ask her to do things she either doesn't do it or gets way too excited and rushes. This goes for both obedience and harness work. Otherwise, I am very happy.
PS: Happy Valentine's Day everyone!


pattib said...

Happy Valentine's Day to you!

Leye-Shprintse said...


I hope you'll get better weather! I also got my dog during the winter and it was difficult to work in the winter storms.

Paula sounds to be a awesome girl! I can see my own dog in her!

I love to read about your experiences! Good luck!

Leye-Shprintse <3

Hawkeye BrownDog said...

Hi Y'all!

Had a few minutes to catch up with y'all...sounds like you both are learning quickly to communicate.

Let me just say, regarding your post about her name, we once had a Flatcoat Retriever with the same name as my cousin...nobody seemed to the dog kept his name. We always name our dogs according to the name to which they will "come".

Y'all keep bonding!
BrownDog's Human

torie said...

What you're describing is so so normal. She sounds just like my Ushi in a way. Only she didn't go for like three days in the er, busy department lol. I'm so glad you two are doing good. With us for the first time we were connected to the trainer, but that was probably first dogs and all that. I loved the craic we all had on class. I was like a spongue always asking questions lol!

Reading your blog reminded me of when i trained with Ushi. I hope it continus to go well.

And paula? Rather weird. I read on facebook about a girl who couldn't say the "er" part of ersula so she calls her dog "sula". Another woman i know her dog is called Marcel. She never imagined calling him that, but she says he feels like a marcel lol.

Xxx and keep it up!

Martha said...

I'm glad your training is going well; it's interesting to see how it's done in other countries.