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.
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!!