Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Training day 7

So when I arrived at my trainer's house today my trainer said my "lovely" dog had been awake since 2am this morning. He was not sick or in pain just up! My wonderful trainer stayed up with him all morning (I wouldn't have done that). So needless to say by 10am he was pretty tired. Nonetheless we did bell training and he was really really good. He came almost every time. We then worked on the mat-getting him to lie down on the mat. My trainer has been working with him on this and he is so much better. He will willingly lie down on the mat and stay there.

Then we worked on getting him into the car. As we were walking outside my smart dog somehow pressed the button on my citronella spray bottle (used to deter stray dogs). Bailey was not phased by it at all. Now he has always been great in the car-doesn't get sick, doesn't whine. But we haven't been able to train him to jump up on the back seat. So today I was determined to get him up on the backseat. Easier said then done. My aide tried everything from luring him onto the seat with treats to pushing his butt up onto the seat. He didn't have a clue as to what we wanted him to do. And I was stumped for ideas too! So we asked my trainer to help us out. And she magically got Bailey to go up on the back seat. Well not magically. She opened the trunk of my van and called him from the back while gently tugging on his leash. And he jumped up on the backseat with no problem. We did it a few more times to make sure he got it. After that we went back inside and he crashed out. Now he normally naps while I'm there but today he passed out-hmmm could that be since he was up since 2am? I had to wake him up before I ate lunch to take him outside to pee.Up until now Bailey would stand and just pee, which resulted in him peeing on himself. But today he actually kind of squatted like a normal dog! Yay! And then we came back inside and he crashed again. After lunch I wanted to see if he remembered the van so we took him outside to practice. He did great. It's like he never had a problem. I then took him on a walk and kind of used the neighbors dog to practice him not barking. He was definitely interested but kept quiet. After the walk he was tired so I put him in his crate and left.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Training day 6- Sad dog is not sad

So as you all know, Bailey was neutered on Wednesday. Today was the first day I had seen him since the snip snip, so I was expecting him to be sad and lethargic.

Not the case.When I got to my trainer's house, he was playing in the backyard with a 3-month-old lab puppy. He was running around and tackling her. My trainer had determined that he was well enough to hang out with one or two other dogs but we were both surprised to see how much energy he had with her. This is the first time I'd ever seen him REALLY play with another dog since he's recently just come off of quarantine for having a parasite. He was leaping over the other dog, sharing toys, and playing keep-away.

After playtime it was time to work. We did bell training and he was pretty good. We started outside with distractions and he still responded. Then we moved inside and did 5 more minutes before he conked out.

Because I hadn't really planned for him to be his normal energetic self, I didn't plan any outings. After he woke up I took him to go pee and then ate lunch. He is becoming a vocal boy which is kind of not a good thing for a service dog. He doesn't bark incessantly but he barks a few times when he sees a dog. Not a mean bark, just a hello bark. Still I need to figure out a way to keep him quiet.

After lunch I walked him through the neighborhood. I decided to make him sit and wait before going through every door. I did this by just waiting at the gate until he sat and then going. It takes a while for him to figure it out but he'll get it. I had kind of a "roll up a newspaper and hit myself" moment when I realised he might be avoiding sitting because HE'D JUST BEEN NEUTERED! Duh. So I kind of let it slide today. After the walk he was tired so I just put him in his crate. I was not sure if I should put his cone on, but since my trainer was out I figured better to be safe than sorry. He looked so sad!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Training day 5

Well, again I learned you can't plan in dog training. I had a pretty mellow and fun day planned for Bailey since tomorrow he is getting neutered and that won't be fun. But my trainer is also a boarder and one of her boarders was not feeling well. She has a "dog room" where I usually work with Bailey. But since her boarder was in that room, I had to take Bailey and go.

I have wanted to take him to Petco to get a seat-belt, but because he had worms, I couldn't take him to places where other dogs would be and could pick up the parasite. So I figure this would be a good time to go. He did pretty well. He was great with people, even when a store employed measured him for a harness. He did however bark at a few other dogs. It was definitely not a mean bark- he greeted one golden retriever very nicely after barking at him first. But it's definitely something I will have to work on with him. We walked around and he saw birds, rats, chinchillas, and mice and was not fazed by any of it. I got him a tag (my trainer had a visitor tag on him) with "Service Dog" and her phone number. The reason I didn't put his name is because people might try to call his name and distract him.

After Petco, we went to Starbucks. He was an angel- just laid down and slept. It was pretty busy too! But he didn't seem bothered by all the people. I did encounter my first drive-by petters. Three to be exact. For people who don't know, drive-by petting is when people sneak up and pet your dog while he is working without asking you. This is a problem for service dogs because they lose focus and it teaches them to seek out attention while working. Two other people asked first and we politely said no and explained why.

We went back to my trainer's house and I went around the side of the house while my aide went to get the door for me. Then suddenly there was this pitbull and I was like "Hi?" I obviously knew she was friendly but I know my trainer prefers that the service dog puppies play with some dogs and not others. So I was not sure if this dog was one of them. Bailey did great. He was definitely interested but did not pull or whatever. Turns out she was "puppy approved" and we headed inside to eat lunch. Unfortunately Bailey couldn't eat lunch with us because I had to eat in the dining room while Bailey was hanging out in the kitchen with 6 other dogs. After lunch because the puppy room was still occupied and because it was 104 degrees outside, I decided to cal it a day. I usually see Bailey on Wednesday, but not this week. The next time I see him, he'll be coned. Today as not the day I planned, but a good day none-the-less.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Training day 4

Wow, what a difference 2 days makes. Today Bailey was energetic and wanting to work. We first did "come to the bell" and he nailed it. I brought him a yoga mat which I want to train him to use under restaurant tables, in class, and other places where he can lie down for a while. We clicked and treated every time all 4 paws were on the mat. Of course, most of the time it was by accident, but he will learn that whenever the mat gets put down he should lay on it. Then it was potty time. He just got cleared of Giardia (yay!) so I could walk him around the yard to go pee and so he could practice walking with me. He did well, although I did clip him with my chair once and he yelped. Now you all know I am 100% positive with my training, but I don't think that clipping him with my chair is the end of the world. It's how dogs learns to give me space when we walk. But hearing him yelp did tug on my heartstrings. During lunch we ate outside in the fenced in area and he just laid down. Then it was errands time. Now I was a little nervous because of the little growl he let out last time, but he was a total angel! We went to the drug store and I walked him all over the store. There were lots of people and he did great. He walked with me, didn't sniff things, negotiated obstacles (like racks and aisles), and did great in line.

I think the growling incident was because he and I are/were still getting to know each other. I took him to a strange new place with lots of people and he didn't trust that I wasn't going to let anything bad happen. I think over time as our relationship grows, he will be fine going anywhere with me.

After the drug store I put him in his crate and left. I'm so pleased about how well he did.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Training day 3- you can't plan in dog training

Almost all the SD (service dog) owners I know have said, "you can't plan in dog training," and now I know what they mean. I had a day planned for me and Bailey- we would have training, lunch, and then go to Starbucks. However, when we got to Bailey's house I could tell he was really tired. I tried doing the bell but he was just not into it. He then fell asleep for a good 30 minutes. Then I tried again with the bell and same thing. It was lunch time for the humans so I thought it would be fun to eat in the outdoor play area where he can be off leash and play. He played for 10 minutes and then passed out again. He was however really good again while I ate- not trying to eat food off of the table or me. He just hung out next to me and slept. After lunch I was going to try the bell one more time but he just bee-lined for the crate and laid down in it. I definitely took it as him saying, "Mom, I'm tired!" So we played with is favorite toy (the stick) and he enjoyed that. I took him on a mini walk and then put him in his crate. He has a big day tomorrow- possibly getting neutered.

Listening to your dog is extremely important. If I just did what I planned to do and did not take into account how he was feeling I probably would have gotten not desirable behavior or he would have done what I wanted but not enjoyed it. Service dogs must love to work for you and in the beginning you have to make it fun. Hanging out was definitely not a waste of time. Bailey and I are still getting to know each other so a less intense training session means more time for bonding.

Tomorrow Bailey is either getting neutered and getting his tooth out (a baby tooth that's stuck) or setting the date to do it. So I will either see him Friday (if he's not neutered) or Tuesday (if he is).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Training day 2

Phew, what a busy day. I got to my trainer's house at 10am. This was the first time he actually greeted me and licked my hand. I had a coffee date scheduled for 11am so I quickly got Bailey and we were off. We got there a little early so I took him on a short walk to get his energy out. As soon as we turned the corner onto the main street we were immediately flocked with people walking by. Bailey grew up on a wonderful farm so seeing a whole bunch of people at once is new to him. He let out a little growl which really surprised me. You can't see him but you can hear him.

At the cafe, we sat outside and he did surprisingly well- just laid down at my feet and slept. He did get up a few times but laid back down. He also barked a couple of times but was able to get quiet again. I was not 100% sure how to handle the barking. So when we got back I asked my trainer what to do if that happens again. She said instead of trying to calm him by saying things like "what's the matter" and "oh, are you ok?" in one of those troubled tones, you should use a happy voice and say something like "Who are you talking to little guy?" The reason is because you don't want to make him feel like there is a reason he should be nervous. If you talk to him in a pitying tone, he will feel like there is something wrong that he needs to be nervous about. Also, I don't ever even say "Quiet!" or jerk his leash, or do things to "snap" him into obedience.

When it was lunch time for me, instead of putting him in his crate, my trainer suggested I let him stay with me and see how he does around me eating. He was fabulous and only investigated a few times. Again, for rude behavior like poking his head near the plate, we just ignored him and he settled down.

After lunch we had a bell session and he did great. I had a secret weapon- bacon and cheese flavored Cheese-whiz. Yum! He looooved it and came 95% of the time.

He fell asleep kind of in the middle of the training session so I let him have a nap. After he woke up, it was play time! Because he kind of has to be quarantined (he's being treated for giardia) he hasn't gotten much play time. My trainer has a huge backyard and also has a smaller fenced in area where we can let him off leash. We played fetch for a bit and then with his favorite toy....the stick!

After that it was time to go. He's getting fixed this Thursday. We pushed it forward because he has to get a tooth out and if he's going under anesthesia, why not neuter him at the same time. All in all a good day.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Roll up a newspaper and hit yourself

This is a running joke in the service dog (and positive training) community. When your dog does anything wrong, you should roll up that paper you're about to hit him with and smack yourself instead. This means either you weren't paying attention to him and he chewed up your shoe or you rewarded him at the wrong time and now he thinks 'lie down' means 'chase the cat'. I had a minor newspaper moment during my last session. I totally forgot to bring treats on our outing. Now he didn't misbehave, but he might have been a little more focused if I was luring something under his nose.

My training philosophy is 100% positive reinforcement. This doesn't mean I let him get away with anything. If I want him to come and he doesn't when I rig my bell, no treat. there's no "you tried so here you go". When I ask for a behavior I expect for him to do it. If he doesn't we move on to something else or wait 5 seconds and try again. I think one of the most common misconceptions about positive reinforcement is that you let your dog do whatever he wants and reward him for it.

Positive reinforcement also builds a strong bond because you dog wants to please you. All dogs have some sense of wanting to please their owner so if you work from there you will have an even more devoted dog. This is especially important for service dogs. I can't physically dominate my dog (not that I want to) so my dog has to want to work for me- not be intimidated or threatened into working for me. I can't just jump out of my chair and alpha roll him (a horrible technique where you flip him on his back and yell him into submission).

Dominating techniques like the alpha roll, yelling, hitting, and forcing will ruin a service dog in training. This is because they will be afraid to trust you and you can't have a scared service dog. Scared dogs can pose a threat to the public because they may lash out and bite if they feel overly scared or threatened. So the quickest way to wash out your service dog is by using those techniques.

Tomorrow we are having our first restaurant experience. I'll be armed with a Nylabone to keep him busy.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Our first outing!

Today was a big day. I had Bailey all day with no trainer. First we went on a walk and it was the first time he ever walked with my chair. He did great! I bumped into him a few times but all in all, he heeled very well. (I'm in love with his leash) My aide said he kept looking at me to check in when we were walking.What a good boy!

After the walk, we went inside for a bell training session. He came when I rang the bell 90% of the time. Then I decided it was play time! I brought a 'Fetch Me' ball and stick set and although he liked the ball, he went crazy for the stick!

After that I took him to "get busy"- AKA go potty- and it was off to the bank. He was an angel! Except for when we got in line he knocked down one of the barriers with his leash and got a little freaked out. He just lied down when I was talking to the bank teller. After that we went to a deli to pick up lunch. Again, he was amazing.

I put him in his crate when we were eating because my trainer and I have not worked on "leave it" with him yet and I wanted to enjoy my lunch. I could also tell that he was tired from our trip. He napped while we ate. After lunch we had one more bell training session. He did pretty good except he was kind of burnt out so we did one final "get busy" before I headed home. I am so impressed with how well he did.
As much as I am so happy we had zero access problems I guarantee that it was because I am visibly disabled. I have heard stories from people with invisible disabilities that they get hassled. Obviously they need their dogs as much as I do. It just sucks that they have to go through another layer of bureaucracy just to get through daily life. I'm sure I will have access problems at some point, but not as much as the people with invisible disabilities.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Training ideas

  • Figure out the 22 eye gaze commands from Canine Assistants
  • Work on "leave it"- especially because I am a messy eater and often drop food on the floor
  • Buy or make a "settle" mat to bring to restaurants, classes, etc, so Bailey has his place
  • Work on eye contact with bell- possibly only click when he looks at me (after he gets "come"down)
That's it for now. Tomorrow I will be taking him to Petco and then to a deli to pick up some lunch.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Training Day One

So this was my official start of training Bailey. I was out town the first week he was here, so I hadn't seen him since I met him. Boy was he different. He had a haircut and went to the vet for a check up (he's healthy except for some intestinal parasites). He was more social with me, especially when he learned I was the peanut butter giver. I wanted to teach him to come, so I brought a fifteen foot leash. I tried to get a bike bell but the shop only had bells I couldn't use. Luckily my trainer happened to have one, and it was easy for me to use. So we practiced me hiting the bell and any time Bailey would look or respond he got rewarded with peanut butter. He caught on very quickly. Within ten minutes he would come with 90% accuracy when I rang the bell. I was amazed! He also stayed near me the whole time. I brought a fifteen foot leash because I thought I would have to reel him into me to teach "come". I never had to reel him in. He was so smart. I am very impressed with my five month old service puppy. Here is a video of him coming

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hi and welcome!

I'm Eva! I'm 27 and have quadriplegic cerebral palsy. I use a power wheelchair to get around and I am non-verbal. I am a college graduate and am planning to go to grad school in a year from now. Although I have full-time aides that help me out, I have always wanted a service dog to help me be more independent.

I have always loved dogs. I have volunteered for the humane society, owned a dog-walking business, and have always had pet dogs. All this was done with the physical assistance of my aides, with me directing them on what to do. As I got into my mid-twenties, I thought it would be helpful to have a service dog. So I called up all the famous service dog organizations and explained who I am and what I want my dog to do. Many of the organizations refused me off the bat because I am non-verbal. Others had crazy restrictions for non-verbal people like you must have a "guardian"with you and the dog at all times. The few places that accepted non-verbal people had a 7-10 year wait-list and I wanted my dog in time for graduate school. I know these organizations work really great for some people, but it was not for me.

Instead of giving up and saying, "Oh well," I decided to do it myself. I found a woman who trains and boards service dogs and guide dogs for a living. She knew of a breeder who had a dog who she thought would be perfect for me. My dog will be trained just for me, responding to my subtle commands, and without all the crazy bureaucracy that comes with other service dog organizations. My dog is a North American Retriever, a fancy name for a mix of lab, golden retriever, and standard poodle. He was bred for service work and is training along with his litter-mate and his half-brother (both becoming service dogs as well). I will be highly involved in his training, visiting and taking him out at least 3 times a week. This blog will document our progress, training hiccups, successes, and general puppy cuteness. I am also being filmed for a documentary!

I'm really excited and a little nervous since all this service dog stuff is new to me. I have been researching a lot but it's time to put my research into practice. Enjoy our journey!

Dogster.com: Picture of Bailey, a Labrador Retriever/Standard Poodle dog on Dogster
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