"Not My Dog": Tales from Puppy Raising

Monday, February 11, 2008

Miscellaneous catch-ups

The official word came from our GEB regional manager ... Nettie is officially not being looked at for breeding -- she'll be a worker. She may already be spayed at this point, and will get some recovery time before she starts up again.

In a way, I'm kind of happy. I know it would be an honor for her to be a brood, but I think it would be hard knowing she's hanging out with a family and it couldn't be mine. (We live too far from the breeding center to qualify to foster her as a brood.) And I still think working will be the best thing for her. She needs to be doing something.

We also got "her" postcard from GEB today assuring us that she is having fun and learning lots. It's a cute thing they do.


Not to be dog-less too long, we're babysitting a friend's black Lab for a week while they're on vacation. Ellie is 4, and is a released dog from Seeing Eyes. She got released for lack of confidence, and I can certainly see that. She is a sweet girl though and doesn't seem to mind that we keep calling her "Nettie" or "Nellie"! By tomorrow, we may have this right.

I also notice a big difference in energy and calmness between a 17-month-old Lab (even a medium energy one) and a 4-year-old! We played in the snow yesterday, and Ellie was done well before Nettie would have been tired out.

However, as sweet and well-behaved as Ellie is, there are some big differences between a pup in training and a pet:

1) Don't leave pizza on the coffee table. Nettie wouldn't have dreamed of looking at it; Ellie seems to enjoy pepperoni.

2) The ability to have a dog eliminate on command is very under-rated and something you don't appreciate until you're standing around outside in the cold waiting for a dog to go!

3) After training two of them, it's hard to not automatically do hand signals with commands.


I'm not sure how much updating I'll do from here on out ... probably very little until we hear something from training.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The IFT pictures

For those who are coming new to this process, the In For Training test basically tries to gauge how the dogs react to unexpected situations, and lets the GEB officials get a look at them. Dogs are handled by people they don't know. The GEB folks also have a lot of info about the dogs. I was trying to explain this to one friend, and the sports analogy I came up with was that it's kind of like an NFL combine for dogs -- they're trying to predict what dogs will be stars, understanding that they still have lots of training to go.

Anyway, it's a short, but nerve-wracking, process. Nettie had me worried -- she came out and was clearly already pretty wound up. I found out later that she was next to her kennel mate, so they were very interested in each other. Plus, the dogs don't use gentle leaders during the test, and Nettie had been using one a lot with me in training, with my RM's encouragement/blessing, to make sure that she didn't yank me off my (increasingly top-heavy) feet.

But, she made it. I'm fascinated watching the Guiding Eyes people and the dogs and trying to figure out what they're looking for. It can be very, very subtle body language. For instance, to my amateur eye, Nettie's sister Nadine looked good -- she was quieter than Nettie. But she was released.

Nettie was quite exuberant when they brought her in to see me after the test, but that seemed to be par for the course.

I also got to see her in the kennels. As I went to leave, I turned to walk away and she barked at me. I looked back to see her sitting with her head cocked, doing her eyebrow scrunch, as if to say 'Wait, aren't you going to let me out?' I had to get out of there.

Here are the pictures and my mental play-by-play:

Oh, Nettie! Less sniffing, more focus!

OK, thank you. Yes, pay attention to your handler.

The dreaded umbrella, but she seems to be ok...

Reunited after the test, and we finally convinced her to sit still .. for a minute.

And here she is (center dog) in the kennel.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Nettie passes her IFT!

Just a quick note to say that Nettie passed her IFT today. I drove down to NY from Maine last night after work, and then came back this afternoon. I'm beat, and will write more (and post pictures) later, but it was worth it to go. I wavered and really thought about not going, but I'm glad I did.

Our other two Maine dogs also passed, and two of Nettie's sisters were tested as well. Nia passed and Nadine was released. The three of them look alike -- same face shape, same coloring.

Much more later.