Thursday, February 14, 2013

Guide Dog Training Day 4: Double the Fun

Day four has been a much lower key day in some ways and yet not so much in others. It was mine and Paula's turn to go out to the relieving area earlier this morning and so we were up at 6:30. I really didn't mind since I seem to like mornings better than the other student. Besides, she is the one who let me get my dog first.
We of course had a great breakfast where we accidentally covered some of the topics our trainer had a lecture planned for. We talked about the new Equality Act that was instated in 2010 and how it has changed the access laws in Scotland. We called it our working breakfast since we stayed there past 9 just chatting away. After breakfast we headed out to the tennis court for some obedience. The sun was actually shining so it was quite enjoyable.
The trainer took the other student out first and ran through the routine with her then came and got me. We then ran through a myriad of exercises that included walking our dogs around one another while the other person's dog was expected to hold a "sit" or "down stay." We even switched dogs to hand them over without the dogs getting too excited. When our "group" obedience was over it was my turn to do a few things with Paula alone. We mostly focused on her loose leash heeling her focusing on me. After obedience it was time for our first harness walk of the day. I went second so I went off to my room to type up yesterday's post.
Paula and I are still working on no whining. She's managed to keep it to a minimum, but she likes to lay near the front door and sometimes chooses to whine. This morning while working away on my computer, I dragged her bed over beside me and told her "bed." This means she is to be in her bed with all four paws and is not to leave until she is released. This kept her from crying by the door and worked well. When the trainer arrived to take us for our walk I released her by saying "off you go."
Our second official walk ever went quite well. We did a reverse route of yesterday's walk, but with full sunshine this time. It was very enjoyable walking in the warmer weather. Paula did very well and despite me messing up my newly learned foot positions, we made it through the walk fairly fiasco free. The corner where I sort of did some kind of weird shuffle dance thing, Paula got confused as to what direction I wanted her to go, but I just had her sit so that I could collect myself and we were off again. We stopped on one corner, Paula holding a very nice sit, and the trainer called the woman that Paula lived with during her advanced training. He told her to look out her window and I waved to her. At one point we passed by a car parked against the curb with its doors open and Paula slowed down to carefully guide me between the outstretched doors and garbage bins on the opposite side. It was so good to see that she is already watching out for me. She found the van no problem and it was back to the hotel where I had about an hour to kill which I did by reading my book.
Lunch was excellent. We were joined by a new member of the Guide Dogs staff who wanted to see first hand what a training class did. She works in the office and often sees the dogs in their advanced training, but I think it was good for her to see what the (almost) finished product would look like. It shed a lot of light on why the trainer does the things he does when taking the dogs into the office, such as having them sit and wait at doors.
The afternoon session took a bit of time to get under way because the trainer and our visitor had to go out and set up the obstacles we'd be working around. This happens at LDB as well, but it goes much faster because you have four to five trainers setting up the obstacles as opposed to one. Also, the obstacles stay set out at LDB, but here the trainer has to have us sit and wait when nearing each one so that he could move it into our path. He said he'd get reported if he left them out.
We hopped in the van and drove a very short distance to the beginning of the route. Before getting Paula out of the back of the van, the trainer showed me with an empty harness the protocol for going around obstacles. This particular type of obstacle is called "off curb obstacle" here, but when at LDB and obstacle was an obstacle; no fancy names needed. What I was instructed to do was easy and made sense and so Paula was brought up and I put her harness on. This morning she had moved her face away from the harness a bit, but this afternoon she kept still and even lifted her chin a bit to put her head through; a very encouraging improvement.
We moved easily around the obstacles that the trainer put out for us. The first one Paula approached and then paused, kind of shifting her paws, as if she were thinking what she should do next. I stepped back to give her some room and she swung to the curb and sat. I told her forward,  we stepped off the curb, navigated around the obstacle and stepped back up on to the curb. The command for that is "over" whereas at LDB we used "Left, left find the curb or sidewalk,"" or "right" depending on what way you needed to move. We managed about four more obstacles without any troubles. Paula found the pole we needed in order to push the button to cross the street and it was pretty much smooth sailing back to the hotel. She makes me laugh when she finds buttons because when she gets close she basically leaps towards the pole and pushes her nose right up against it. She is very enthusiastic She did step me off the path on to the grass at one point, but the path was very narrow/curvy and we were moving quite fast. I was really happy with our afternoon walk.
The rest of the day was taken up by me reading more of my book while the other student was out and then enjoying a good dinner. The trainer has gone home now since he was only spending three nights in the hotel with us, so we're on our own. The other student and I finished our meals, had dessert (I had a fancy hot chocolate) and then headed to the bar for a drink since it is Valentine's Day after all. She treated me to a glass of wine and I promised to return the favor in the future; we do have two weeks left after all. There was a ver strict policy against drinking in my previous classes so I was surprised we could have a drink if we wanted. Both dogs behaved very nicely in the new environment and having to deal with a cyramic floor instead of the warm, carpeted floor that they have encountered in the rest of te hotel. It was a very enjoyable evening filled with good food and definitely good company. The only thing left to do today is Paula's last relief time, brush my teeth and then it's time to curl up under the covers.


Leye-Shprintse said...


I'm happy it's going well for you! I want to experience it again in one way even if I hope Hera and I'll have many years together still! Good luck tomorrow!

Leye-Shprintse <3

Hawkeye BrownDog said...

Hi Y'all!

Sounds like you and Paula are beginning to bond.

Y'all come by now,
Hawk aka BrownDog

Jason said...

Hi Jess, so great that it seems to be working out well with Paula... it sounds like the two of you are definitely a match. Hope the rest of the training is / has gone smoothly, sure you're looking forward to bringing Paula home.