"Not My Dog": Tales from Puppy Raising

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

That's my girl!

We got Nettie's Phase 2 report today. I keep reminding myself that anything can happen during training, but I feel encouraged by this report. (And, my darling husband has shown me how to copy the form for posting. :-) )

So here goes:


Phase two is a time to fine tune the previous lessons, to continue working on obedience, to work on any residual behavioral problems the dog may have such as scavenging for food, distraction with animals, over-friendliness with people, emptying on route or concerns with the environment. It is also a time to use the learned lessons in Peekskill, a moderate sized town with added distractions such as traffic, stores, pedestrians, other animals, and unusual under-footings like grates or metal plates in the sidewalk. These distractions add extra challenges for the dogs as they continue to work on reinforcing basic obedience, guide dog commands and the straight line concept that they learned in phase one. New lessons will begin to include making turns, crossing streets and stopping at down curbs.

(P:Poor F:Fair G:Good F/G:Fair/Good, etc. ) Being worked on

Application of guide-work basics: straight-line, forward, hup-up, wait, obedience.


Right and Left Turns - Using hand signals, verbal cues, specific foot movements by the handler and leash cues, the instructor teaches the dog to make 90 degree turns. The right turn is fairly easy but the left turn requires the dog to back up and then swing around 90 degrees to the left. At first turns are done in areas without obstacles such as poles but later the dog will have to adjust the turn to clear the handler from hitting objects or people standing nearby.

Stopping at Down Curbs - Dogs first learn to stop at the curb before stepping into the road or when reaching the end of the sidewalk or path. This is a crucial lesson since stopping will serve as a means of orientation for the blind person, providing a signal that the team has come to the end of the block. The blind person then decides to continue forward and crosses the street or to make a right or left turn or even an about turn. Much effort goes into training the dog to walk quickly up to the stopping point and to maintain a steady pace. The dog must stop with its toes right at the edge of the curb so the blind person can extend a foot and tap to determine that they have reached the end of the block. If the dog slows down before reaching the curb in anticipation of stopping, the blind person will interpret this as the dog indicating a narrow space or rough terrain.

Street Crossings -- The dogs are taught to cross quickly from one curb to the opposite curb and never to cross diagonally. Just as with every lesson, the dogs are first shown what to do with verbal cues and leash guidance while the harness handle is held.

Michelle's comments:
Nettie is progressing nicely with her training. She has been working mostly in the town of Peekskill working on her curbs, turns, and street crossings. She is a very willing dog and has proven to be very smart as well. She has relaxed considerably since my last report. She has settled into a comfortable moderate pace.

Nettie also took a trip to a local mall during this training cycle. Nettie works well indoors and on stairs. She is relaxed and settled.

Nettie is currently living with Annabelle, YLF. She loves to play with her sister Nia YLF. They are adorable.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The TV guide dog recap

Well, if you suspended disbelief, it was a pretty funny episode. My observations:

1) Although there's a reference that Carlos went to "school" to learn to work with Roxy the guide dog, it appears to have been for a very quick period of time!

2) Roxy growls at Gaby whenever she yells at or is mean to Carlos. I'm pretty sure that, however admirable the loyalty, that personal protection is not part of the training regimen.

3) Neither is fetching the remote and the other tasks Gaby was so hoping for. Although I think she also mentioned licking up spills ... and I would say that the pups I've raised, Murphy especially, probably could tackle that job if asked.

4) The dog following Gaby home after being dumped back at the guide dog school? Um, yeah. Right.

The dog was definitely a golden, I'd say, and the harness looked pretty close to real.

But otherwise, as they say, that's entertainment.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Comedic relief

Anyone out there a fan of "Desperate Housewives" ? That show is one of my guilty pleasures. Well, anyway, in next week's episode, Carlos is getting a guide dog. I can hardly wait to see how comedically inaccurate this is going to be ... One of the promos showed the dog in bed with him, with him saying that the trainers told him to do this to "bond" with the dog. The dog looks like a golden, from the brief glimpse I saw.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Nettie's Phase 1 report

Well, I'm finally getting around to posting Nettie's Phase 1 report, which we got two weeks ago (on the day Rebecca was born, hence the delay.)

I'm having trouble copying the form, but the headline is that Nettie got a "Good" on every category she was evaluated on: Obedience, Introduction to Harness, Forward Command, Hup-Up Command, Wait Command and Straight Line Concept.

She also got "Good" in Community Run, Kennel Behavior, and Body Handling. (I was a little surprised on body handling because, for me at least, she was always a pill about having her nails clipped. But maybe I'm just not good at it!)

I was thrilled, to say the least!

Here is Michelle's comment portion:

Nettie has been very busy over the past month. She has learned to pull in her harness and passed her 'forward' test two weeks ago. We have been working on self control with Nettie, she is so eager to learn and please that she can sometimes lose focus. She has done very well when her handler is low key and clear with commands. Nettie has moved on to working in Peekskill, focusing on the straight line concept, curb work, and turns. She is a smart dog and has done well with her lessons.Nettie is currently living with Nate GLABYM, and Razzle YLF. She has a lot of energy and enjoys playing with the big boys during community. She is a very sweet dog and I enjoy working with her.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The long arm of the law

In what may be a first in puppy raising, I found myself staring down the long arm of the law this afternoon, over a puppy that isn't even here anymore.

Gorham, Maine takes its dog licensing very seriously, people. And the cop on my doorstep was hot on the trail of the unlicensed Nettie Louise.

Fortunately it was a mixup, and I did not wind up being hauled away to the hoosegow.

The background: Dog licenses in our town expire on Dec. 31, and there is a theoretical "grace period" until Jan. 31.

Given that Nettie left for IFT on Feb. 2, I had called the town clerk in January to explain the situation and ask if I really needed to license Nettie for just a couple weeks. She had said that no, I didn't have to. (She was also awfully rude and snippy about it, and frankly, acted like I was trying to scam the town out of the money, but that's another story.)

Well, apparently, she never took me off the list for having the exemption .. and the town is now cracking down on dog license scofflaws, hence the officer's visit to my home today.

I invited the cop in, explained the GEB program and background to him, and invited him to feel free to search the house for Nettie if he liked. He wisely observed that if a Lab was in the house, he probably would have already seen or heard her.

He crossed my name off, and left, leaving me a free woman.

Just to be safe, though, I've called the Town Council chairman -- who happens to have recently retired as a vet at the practice that treated Murphy and Nettie both for free. I figure it can't hurt to make sure I really get off the list this time (and honestly, I intend to share my feelings about the clerk at this point, too!)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

"Human puppy" is here!

Meet Rebecca Jane, who was born on Friday, March 28. She weighed 8 lb 4 oz and was 20 3/4 inches long.

Things are going pretty well, other than being up most of the night every night... (Hmm, makes Miss Nettie's early barking seem a lot better in hindsight! Or maybe it was good practice.) I know we want to raise again and have a "forever dog" someday too .. but I know it's not any time soon!

Speaking of Nettie, I got her Phase 1 report -- nothing but "Good"s! I will post it later, but wanted to get this picture up.