Bravo is a 71 pound 8ish month old Golden Retriever puppy in training for Leader Dogs for the Blind. He is an almost perfect Golden colour with this gorgeous gold rim around his eyes; at least I'm told. ;) Bravo is being raised in a Michigan prison and I had the honour of taking him to my crazy, fur filled house for four nights. The puppies raised in the prisons are often taken out by outside puppy raisers in order to round off their already incredible raising experience. I wouldn't say I'm a puppy raiser, but I surely had a fantastic Leader Dog puppy in training staying with me and Mr. K.
*Note: the font may change or look funny because the text below was copied and pasted from my letter written to Bravo's raisers. I also forgot to add things in so I will add them in here*.
Hello Bravo’s raisers,
Just a little note to let you know how Bravo has faired this weekend as well as what he’s been up to. I say it’s a short note, but it’s actually quite long.
I didn’t get Bravo until Thursday evening after dinner and a second training session. He got into Kim’s car with a little encouragement and rode all the way back to my house nicely. He was quiet and I think he was pretty worn out from the whole day’s events. He wasn’t very responsive to the woman handling him, but I wasn’t sure why at that time. If she wanted to walk forward, he would dig his paws in and not move. If she asked him to “sit,” he just stood there.
At my house he was introduced to everyone one at a time. He greeted everyone with friendly enthusiasm. He came in and explored is surroundings. He met Rufio the cat and did very well. In fact, at first he wasn’t interested at all and then he started play bowing to the cat. So stinking cute. Rufio is not afraid, but not inclined to play back.
We had a bit of an accident; probably my fault. He peed inside; a giant pee. I didn’t know the last time he had been parked and should have done it when we came in, but completely forgot in the excitement of having him meet all of my other dogs and the cat. We just let him pee, mopped it up and then rushed him outside to see if anything was left in the tank. There wasn’t, but again, not his fault.
Bravo was not at all interested in doing anything I asked him to do unless I was holding a kibble. At first I thought it was because he didn’t do anything for anyone unless he was bribed to behave, but as the weekend has progressed, I have come to realise that he doesn’t do anything for anyone unless they are holding a treat if he doesn’t know or trust them. As our time together has gone on he has come to trust me and has been more willing to perform cues without being bribed. We didn’t use very many kibble on our outings at all.
I’m not sure if someone has explained the difference between a “bribe” and a reward” so I will here. If you already know then just skip this section.
Reward: giving the dog a treat after it has performed a task you have asked of him. You should not have to be holding the treat and rewards are often given at intervals.
Bribe: dog only performs cue if he knows you have treat in your hand and won’t perform without the treat.
There is a difference between “bribing” and “luring” as well. There’s a fine line between both. When you first taught Bravo to “sit” you used a “lure” which I guess could be called a bribe in a way, but you eventually phased the kibble out that had put him into position. Lure is okay, but can quickly snowball into a bribe if it’s not phased out. If I’m not being clear, just let me or Kim know and maybe we’ll be able to explain it better the next time we visit. Back to Bravo’s report. LOL
He slept well through the night Thursday. I put his mat on the doggie bed so he knew where to sleep. He slept next to Nala and he didn’t budge until about quarter to seven when he let me know he had to go out. He let me know by shoving his face into mine and sniffing/snuffling until I woke up. Then, he proceeded to tap dance about until I got my lazy bum out of bed. He parked no problem as he had the night before.
After park time we had a bit of a problem-it is a problem you mentioned in your letter and we also noticed it the night before. Bravo likes to bark and once he gets started he doesn’t stop. He barked for 15 minutes straight and it was so bad my neighbour banged on the wall. We live in a townhouse and the walls are thin. I knew his barking would be the thing we worked on all weekend long. (I did get some satisfaction when Hermione barked at the guy for banging on the wall at us LOL).
He sat nicely for breakfast and held his sit stay. I did some general house cleaning and had him follow me around while did it so that he could be exposed to various household noises/smells Etc. (I.E., banging dishes, dropped pan on floor, blow dryer, vaccuum). We worked very hard on his barking during this time as well. Every time he barked I used a kibble to re-direct him. At first all I did was stick the kibble straight into his mouth, click and say “quiet.” This continued on for the morning. He was less likely to bark if on leash as well.
Bravo’s first outing consisted of going to one of our malls just to walk around, be exposed to people and to see how he did on stairs. He did great. He was a bit heavy on the leash, but every time he came up to stairs he slowed down and paused on his own. So very impressive.
Does he wear the Freedom harness with you guys? He wasn’t a fan and walked much better with it off. When wearing it, it was like he would try to walk sideways away from it. We walked him through the pet store to see how he’d do and the only thing that caught his attention was an open bin of dog treats. He ignored the kitten, rabbits and rodents. We continued on to Canadian Tire which is a big anchor store that sells pretty much everything. We wove in and out of aisles, practising Bravo’s “heel” and having him to choose to “leave it” or being reminded to “leave it” if the temptation was just too much. We worked on name recognition as well because he didn’t seem to be aware that his name is Bravo. It could be that he just didn’t think he had to listen to us calling his name because we are new.
After walking about we went to the food court and Bravo showed us how expert he is at “under.” He did bark once when we were waiting at the counter for our coffee. He laid under the table for two hours while we chatted. At one point we looked under the table and wished we had a camera because Bravo had very gently placed his paw over Nala's. It was like they were holding hands. Bravo didn’t get up when another friend came to join us part way through. He doesn’t seem to have any sound sensitivity: rattling carts, yelling children and other loud noises didn’t phase him on any of our outings.
We had a quiet evening in and he spent some time playing with our dogs, chewing his bones and sleeping. It was an early night and he was a bit more restless that night. He would get up much more frequently. I took him out at 1 because he seemed like he needed to go. He parked and it was back to bed, but he just wouldn’t settle. He kept snuffling me. Eventually, he realised I wasn’t getting up and would lie back down. I knew he had done both businesses and so just ignored him.
By the way, Bravo’s house manners are AMAZING! He never stole socks, toilet paper or slippers. I even put socks out for him, but he didn’t even care. He did like wrestling with a package of bottled water. I think he liked the noise of the plastic wrapping that holds the case together. I let him be since it wasn’t hurting anything; funny guy.
That was Bravo's first little bit with us. Admittedly, I was horrified when he barked for the 15 minutes straight. All I kept thinking was, "we have four more days. My neighbours are going to call the cops on us!"