Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bravo Comes to Visit: Last Chapter

After writing my letter to Bravo's puppy raisers I felt as though I had written a bunch of vague and disorganised information. I really wanted them to know Bravo's strengths and what a great job they are doing with him. I also made some suggestions for things to work on, but I really wanted the summary to really focus on the positives because, really, Bravo is such a great guy. :) Here is what I wrote in summary. (Note: for some reason there are random letters. I'm going to try to get rid of those).

Bravo is a gorgeous, easy going dog. He likes to walk fast and that is good because there some people, like me, who have a hard time getting matched because there aren’t as many dogs who walk fast enough. He shows caution around new things, but not fear. Caution is good when a dog is guiding a blind person-caution keeps the dog and person safe and alive. LOL
Bravo is excellent at taking treats. He never once snapped my fingers off.
Bravo is great at parking on command. Despite our accidents, those were human error and not Bravo’s fault at all.
Bravo goes up and down stairs like a pro. He pauses at the top or bottom and walks up or down at a controlled, steady manner. If he gets too excited, a gentle reminder makes him slow down again. (Even though he really didn’t need to work on stairs, we practised in the house. I have some steep carpeted stairs to the second level of my townhouse and whenever I go up I take him with me to practice. Rufio the cat also has his food in the basement and every time I go down to feed him which is twice a day I take Bravo with me. He has to sit stay while the cat gets fed. The stairs down into the basement are slippery, wooden and open backed. He again is a total pro. Pretty impressive that he just sits there while I pour kibble into the cat's dish and then ask him to go with me back upstairs..
Bravo is not bothered by strange noises and doesn’t startle easy.
Once Bravo trusts you his response to commands such as “sit,” or “down” is fantastic.
Bravo bonds to his person really well; so important for guide work. He’s such a love bug.
Bravo is a quick learner. He picked up on “quiet” very quickly.  (Do remember though that you will probably have to start from the beginning of the cue as he probably has not generalised it yet. It was something he learned with me, in my house. It will be something he will have to learn in new areas with new people).

Keep on him with the barking. It’s easier to stop him before he starts. Most blind people are of a lower income bracket and probably live in apartments or townhouses. The dogs cannot bark incessantly the way he did the first morning I had him. He gives little signs that he’s going to bark and they are:
  1. he gives a little whine.
  2. B. He snaps his jaws together.
  3. C. He gives a little grunt; like he’s blowing air out of his mouth.
  4. If you say, “no, quiet” when any of these things, happen he will most likely not go into an uncontrollable barking fit. he often barks when he is over excited or over stimulated. Not all situations can be anticipated, but think about the situations you’re going into and if they will get him excited. If they will, keep him busy so he doesn’t think to bark. I.E., ask for touch, he loves to do touch and is really good at it.
    1. Bravo likes to rush to the end of his leash and pull. He’s a big, strong dog who has no problem dragging me around. Well, at first he did. I started knowing when he would do this and would stop him by either having him “sit” asking him to “touch” or reminding him to “heel” or “easy.” Often when he ran to the end of his leash I would ask him for a sit because it relieved the pressure on the leash and my arm. It showed him that it felt nicer than yanking me all over the place.
    2. Bravo also gets excited to go places-very good, but it means he  rushes doors; especially the ones that lead outside. We worked on this too. If he rushed a door we’d either go back inside and do it again; have him sit and stay and only move when he’s ready not to rush; and/or I’d use my body to block his passage so he had to go slowly. We had food delivered for supper on Friday and I had Bravo on leash and sitting while I got the food. He got many kibble after the door closed because he stayed put. I had to keep reminding him, but he did not rush the door. 
    3. I would say these three things are the areas that can be worked on. Name recognition when spoken by someone he’s not used to being handled by would be good as well. I think Kim has suggested this to others and I will suggest it to you: swap dogs. You guys have an amazing resource having all of you there raising puppies. It will help the dogs generalise the cues. Yes, someone else may do things a bit differently, but that is not a bad thing. it is a learning opportunity for you, for that handler as well as the dog. Once the pups are back at Leader Dogs they will be handled by many different people and ultimately their blind handler. I can guarantee you, having been through four training classes, that not a one of us handle our dogs the same or say cues the same or use the hand gestures exactly the same. Guide dogs have to be able to listen to someone else willingly even if they say or do things a bit differently.
    4. You guys are doing such a good job with Bravo. Whoever gets him in the end will be so lucky. My husband said that he wanted him back if he doesn’t become a guide dog. LOL Thank you for allowing me to have him for the weekend and experiencing such a fantastic dog. It was so fun and he has so much personality. We got so many compliments on how gorgeous he is and how well behaved. The people who asked about him were absolutely shocked that he was still just training. I think I’ve  written a novel here, but I keep remembering little things to tell you. I still feel like I forgot funny things that he did-like when he climbed a snow bank taller than me to park. His leash was extended and he decided that pooping above my head was better than any of the other snow banks around. After much stomping and spinning he did his business, but I told him that there was no way I was going up there to pick that up.
I obviously couldn't get rid of the letters.

1 comment:

pattib said...

That was a great summary. It sounds like you and Bravo worked some kinks out and everyone had a nice time. Good experiences for all! Thanks so much for sharing. :)