Thursday, April 30, 2009

Re-naming...(and introducing "Denver")

Mom has a new SDiT (Service Dog in Training)...named Denver. He's part of Fidos For Freedom...the organization where Mom volunteers as a trainer. (We also volunteer our time for Therapy Dog, Ripley, Xander and John too) Denver is a great dog...he's gonna go far. He's a lot like me, Mom says. She is very impressed by his ability to stay calm no matter what's going on around him. A lot like me. So far nothing has ruffled his feathers when Mom's been working him in public...he even works next to her when she borrows John's second scooter.

But there is one problem...he doesn't retrieve on cue. Now you all know...that Service Dogs have to retrieve on cue...that's a LOT of what we do for a living.

When Mom puts an object on the floor and says "Fetch" or "Pick it up"...Denver ducks his head and looks away. Even if she says this in a happy voice...he still does the same thing. If the object is handed to him, he will take it (sometimes)...but still looks away.

Now on the other hand, he will pick stuff up off the floor of his own volition...and carry them around happily. He carries his metal dinner bowl upstairs from his crate every morning, and will carry around shoes, clothing, and of course toys. But when you go to take that object, he ducks his head and often will drop it on the floor.

Mom has her work cut out for he obviously enjoys carrying matter what it's made of: metal, plastic, material, etc. So she's started a new campaign of re-naming these tasks. From now on...there is no F-E-T-C-H...there is "Get It!" (along with a big party). She's still thinking of a cue to replace T-A-K-E for things being handed to him. She says she'd call it P-I-C-K-L-E or W-O-M-B-A-T for all she cares, but since he's going to someone needs to be something that makes sense to the average person. She says maybe she'll use that would be cute. (whatever, Mom!)

When she's used "Get it" the past few days, Denver has happily been going for the object. She's also using clicker training to get him back on track...starting with just touching objects with his nose and then progressing to actually picking them up. The pressure of training though often shuts him down...too intense for him to work one-on-one with Mom when she's seriously training. Part of what she's been doing to work on this is to make his training part of his day. I mentioned that he carries his bowl upstairs each morning. (isn't he a goof?) Now she's been handing him other objects as he comes out of his crate all happy and silly. The past few days, he's carried shoes and leather leashes upstairs in the morning...all with a big happy grin on his face...and he easily turns them over to Mom (to hand!) in return for going out the back door for potty/playtime. Ya gotta do what works!

Mom's a big fan of re-naming...she's re-named all of us dogs (except for Ripley who had no name...) Xander was "Boomer", Inara was "Daphne" (seriously? I'm gonna tease her now!), Score was "Deeogee" and I was "Maverick" (Service Dog Maverick...nah, can't see it). She says that there is a lot of meaning to names...whether it's a cue word or a name for another living creature. So she puts a lot of thought into each name.

If there is a bad thing associated with a name...that word has to go. Some trainers call a cue with a bad meaning a "Poisoned Cue". For whatever reason the subject (dog, human, cat, etc) associates that word to mean something bad. Mom changes our names just in case...get rid of any unpleasant memories that we might name, new life. A fresh start. That's what she's doing with Denver. He stresses about certain she's starting over with new names...instead of forcing him to work through the task.

She says it's often more simple and easy to just change the word. I just hope she finds something better than Wombat.

~SDS (not Service Dog Maverick)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

We won an award!

Thanks to our friend, Inara (not my sister, Inara) over at Pit Bulls Make the World Go 'Round...for giving me my first award!

Here’s the description of the award, and the rules:

“The award states that “This blog invests and believes in PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time, and relationships!”

In other words, “These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”

I'm awarding the following 8 blogs with this award: (all the links can be found on the right-hand side of my blog!)

1. Hearing Elmo - the blog of one of our favorite Hearing Dogs (Chloe) and her mom Denise

2. "Speak" - a blog that chronicles Belle a former Assistance Dog in training

3. Stale Cheerios - Mom's new favorite, behavior and fun stuff

4. A Service Dog's Journey - All about Logan the Service Dog (like me!)

5. My Heart Dog - Borias the GSD Service Dog and his artist's always a joy to read this blog

6. It's a Dog's World - Assistance Dogs in Training...a blog from their point of view

7. Ask Dr. Yin - another new find of Mom's...great training and behavior advice from Dr. Sophia Yin DVM

8. TB Friends - a daily blog by a horse rescuer...sometimes sad, often happy...always charming

Thanks again pit bull Inara!

Monday, April 27, 2009 to get it!

Mom says that I should be more specific in how a dog can gain self-control. Of course I was just born this way (I'm cool like that), so I'll have to ask my sister Inara for advice. Since she used to be totally crazy, she should have plenty of help. So she's taking over the blog for today. Enjoy! ~SDS


Hey all! It's Inara here! Stupid Sawyer said that some dogs might need some help in the self-control department...and that I could write the blog. I don't know why he gets a blog and not me. I'm the prettiest could just be a blog about how pretty I am. Wouldn't you all read that? I could have mom help me post pictures of me...who doesn't want to see pretty pictures all of the time?

Okay, mom says that I have to get back on that I have a longer attention span, she says I have to stay on track. *pretty pout*

Here's a fun game that mom loves to teach in puppy class and to her clients. This is one of MY favorites too.

The Off-switch game.

*First grab a bunch of really good, smelly, soft-bite sized treats.
*Then work on getting your dog to sit or down on cue, if he/she can't already.
*Then the fun begins!
*Get really excited and silly around your dog...jump around, wave your arms, run in circles, shake a toy...whatever gets your dog up and acting silly too. Stay excited for about 10-20 seconds and then stop and freeze. (when working with kids, Mom will actually yell out "FREEZE!")
*Wait for your dog to settle into that sit or down...use the cue if you need
*Say "YES!" or use your clicker...and give a treat
*Start all over again!

Another thing Mom does to help us learn self-control is to make sure we earn everything. We have to offer a behavior (usually sit, down or stand) for every resource we want access to: food, petting, outside, walkies, car rides, etc. Our foster puppy sits for everything, and it's going to make him so much more adoptable because of this simple training. Sitting or down becomes a default behavior that we fall back on if we're not sure what Mom wants from us.


Mom also reinforces heavily for us working around distractions. From day one, any puppy that comes to stay with us has to learn to work around cats, other dogs, rabbits, rats and guinea well as John's scooter. Everyone that stays here learns that it pays off BIG-Time to work around these distractions.

Everything is done with postive reinforcement and clicker learning self-control is fun!

I hope this helps some! Now for more pics of me! *giggle*



~Pretty-pretty Inara

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's all about the self-control...

Mom says that's one of the first things she looks for in a Service Dog. She thinks it's so important to have self-control in this line of work. We Service Dogs experience so much...we have to be prepared for anything and everything.

How do we handle ourselves in the face of big distractions? Do we bark, lunge, whine or do we just hang out calmly with our human partner.

Very few things get me excited when I'm working. I really get excited about flyball...but when we're out on the lane for the meeting before racing, I can stand there calmly next to John. I don't start barking until my SD cape and harness come off, and my flyball harness goes on. That's because I have self-control.

Dogs and other animals don't get me excited like some dogs. I don't go crazy to see other people. When I'm working, I'm only happy to be with John.

Mom's new SDiT, Denver, is a lot like I am. He's calm and collected when he's out in public. Nothing ruffles his feathers, so to speak. Mom loves's so much easier to work with him when he's not pulling to say hi to someone...or whining because he sees something exciting.

We dogs have to be taught self-control...but some of us have more of it naturally. ;)