Well, we just experienced a pretty intense weekend of training and dogs and people and distractions and fun, fun, fun!
This was the FIRST Puppy Training Conference starring our Southeastern Regional Manager – Cheryl Herman and hosted by our friends down in Houston – the Houston Puppy Raisers! It was 2 days of training. Learning new techniques and new ideas – new for the pups and new for us handlers. There were 17 dogs in attendance. 6 little ones from the Dallas area, 10 older pups from the Houston area, and one little guy who was on his way to his new home in Ft Worth.
The training emphasis was on “Yes!” marker use and impulse control. The school uses clicker training when the pups go off to college in Florida, but they don’t want us puppy raisers using clickers. So, we use the marker word “Yes!” and treats! With this training, timing is crucial! If you miss the EXACT moment that the pup does the correct behavior, you might be training him to do something very different from what you’re after. We practiced this timing bouncing tennis balls. The “Yes!” had to come at the exact moment the ball hit the floor! And then a treat should follow.
Impulse control is also crucial. You can’t have a guide dog who is leading a visually impaired partner get distracted by another dog walking by, or food on the ground, or squirrels, or people, or strange noises, or whatever. Those working guide dogs have to keep their attention on their person and that person’s safety. It’s a serious job!!
Positioning is also crucial. A guide dog needs to be able to stand right beside their person – straight on without moving in front or sideways. If the dog gets out of position, it throws the person out of position and then everybody gets messed up.
Whew!! Lots to think about! And lots to work on!!
There was plenty of down time for the little guys. Play time, chill time.
It was a long drive to Houston, but well worth the time. Thanks to the Houston group and to Cheryl for making it all happen!!
Southeastern Guide Dogs breeds and trains working dogs – dogs who will hopefully grow up to be Guide Dogs for the seeing impaired or possibly service dogs for injured veterans. The school wants to be confident in the dogs that they place with these folks so they do all that they can to insure their dogs are healthy and happy and strong – physically and mentally.
Meeting new friends at the 7 Acre Wood
When their pups are about 8 weeks old they do a puppy assessment that gives them a pretty good idea if a pup will have what it takes to become a working dog. If the pup gets a good score on this assessment, it is placed with a volunteer puppy raiser to be raised in a family setting rather than a kennel.
The report that I received about Stephen’s assessment says that he is –
a biddable puppy that connects well with the handler. He will need support when checking out new environments and objects. Reward Stephen for independent exploration and allow him to check things our at his own pace. Repeat exposures will help Stephen gain confidence. Stephen recovers quickly from stressful situations.
Stairs can be pretty scary! Especially open ones.
A Biddable puppy. That’s Stephen. That means that he’s happy to do what you ask of him. He wants you to be happy. That is Stephen in a nutshell. I have found him to be curious about his new environment and quick to check out new things. No hesitation. No backing away. Sniff, examine, let’s go!
He knows his name and seems to be quite happy with it, coming quickly with a sparkle in his eye. “You called? What’s next?! Where’s that treat?!”
Doing a nice Sit/Stay at White Rock Lake
He enjoys training sessions and is quick to pick up what I’m asking of him. He’s looking to be a good one!
Tomorrow he and I are off to Houston for a Puppy Conference! This event is being hosted by the Houston area puppy raisers. There will be LOTS of pups there and a couple of trainers from the school. I’ve never been to such an affair. Stephen and I both will be experiencing a new situation. It should be lots of fun!!
After a 2 1/2 year hiatus from puppy raising due to family matters, we are back in the ballgame! Our family matters made it necessary to rehome Marni and she finished out her last few months with another family. She did go off to College and worked hard on her graduate work, but found it difficult to take charge and make decisions on her own. So, she was career changed and now lives a Happy, Happy life with my brother.
But now comes Stephen. On February 23, I flew out to Florida with other Dallas area puppy raisers who were ” turning in” their pups for college time. And we all came home with new pups! Siblings from the same litter. Stephen, Arthur, Griffy, and Dottie. Mom is Dolly and Dad is Buddy. They were born November 12, 2017 and were 14 weeks old when we picked them up. Stephen weighed in at 23.4 lbs. A nice big boy!
Those pups had a busy weekend in our hands! Dinner at Miller’s, a walk thru De Soto Park where they experienced their 1st river water! Lots of walking and smelling new smells and seeing new sights and meeting new faces. And we topped it off with a crazy gauntlet at the airport and a long rough flight home to Dallas. Then Stephen got an extra 2 more hours in the car to his new home in Glen Rose!
It was Puppy Pile time everywhere!!
Stephen has now been at the 7 Acre Wood for nearly 2 weeks and has already had many adventures. He’s had a lot to adjust to! Whew!!
So, stay tuned for more of The Adventures of Stephen in Wonderland!
Marni met one of our rather reclusive neighbors this week. He ambles through the area occasionally. Not too often – and doesn’t stay long. Never has much to say about his world. But he always smells fantastic!!
She was a polite hostess, but rather obsessed with her guest all day.
On another note, the young Labrador Retriever is just recently starting to dig down into her retrieving heritage and she’s finding it rather fun!
She doesn’t have much stamina for the game. Too many distractions that she finds more fulfilling –
July has been a month FULL of fun and new experiences. 4th of July parades FULL of horses, tractors, fire trucks with sirens blaring, kids on bicycles, flags waving – so many sights and sounds to take in!!
July was also FULL of wee folks! Kids, kids, kids! To play with and read with and sleep with and swim with!
And to top it all off – Marni invented a new game!
July is coming to an end, and it has been a busy month for Marni. Visitors from afar. Outings. Parades. River fun time. Training. New games.
We left off with the GDUI convention in Dallas. What an adventure that was for Marni! Hundreds of working guide dogs – everywhere – going this way and that. A bit stressful for Marni – and a stressful environment for the working pros as well. The convention organizers kept that all in mind. There were plenty of easy access “busy” areas and a play room for the dogs – with plenty of great dog toys! They also had a canine massage expert on hand, Carla Campbell from California, to teach sessions about massage and provide private therapy for anyone who needed it. Marni got to sit in on one of the sessions and it put her right to sleep!
After that bit of relaxation therapy, we met up with the other North Texas pups and SEGDI trainer Chrissy, for a ride on the Dart rail and a walk around the West End area of Dallas. We ended the evening with dinner at Spaghetti Warehouse where Marni got to enjoy a nice snooze.
So many sensations, sights and sounds to process! Marni proved to be a champ! As did all the pups!
More July fun to come!!!
The days and nights of a Guide Dog Puppy in training