<![CDATA[Providing Assistance Dogs for Lifelong Partnerships - Dog Blog]]>Fri, 23 Feb 2018 02:12:40 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[How Important is Exercise For Active Puppies?]]>Tue, 16 Jun 2015 14:41:05 GMThttp://assistancecanine.org/dog-blog/how-important-is-exercise-for-active-puppies I have been raising service dogs for years.  We mostly work with labs and golden retrievers.  We occasionally have a few poodles and other breeds mixed in.  More recently my position with A.C.T.S. has made me the sort of "go to" person to ask training questions.  I've noticed that there is one thing that keeps coming up over and over.  Puppy raisers often feel they need to walk their puppies for extended periods to settle them down and make them reasonable to live with.

Certainly exercise is important for all dogs. And puppies can be wild and crazy in the house if they have no stimulation or means of entertainment.   Exercising your dog can promote fitness and both good mental and physical health. 

It is important to understand, however, when working with puppies that long walks with young dogs can be harmful.  Young bones need time to grow and form correctly.  Over exercise can, potentially, do more harm than good in young dogs.  

It is important to understand that mental exercise is equally effective and equally important.

Most people dismiss the idea that working with you puppy can be just as effective as taking your dog for a long walk.  When dogs work or train, they are working their minds.  While this is not terribly physical, working the mind can be tiring and can stimulate young puppies enough to help them be better citizens during down time at home. 

If you have ever traveled via airplane, then you likely understand how mental stimulation can be down-right exhausting.  For most people traveling is very tiring. Being in a busy airport, trying to find your way, worrying about getting to your gate on time, passing through security, and dealing with parking or airport transportation are all things that we do not do on a daily basis and when we do venture into the airport to take a flight, we are generally very tired at the end of the day.

This is why our puppies are so tired after they visit a new place or go out in public with us.  Even if they only went to the bank for a short while and then slept in a restaurant for an hour, the environment is different and they have to think which makes them tired.

Taking the time in your day for training sessions can also be effective.  If you are working on a new skill your dog is thinking and often struggling to figure out what you want.  His mind is working steadily and while he may or may not be in a familiar place, to him it feels different because there might be a different piece of equipment or a different behavior that you are looking for.  Challenging their minds makes them tired.  It is not uncommon for puppies to need a nice long nap after a good 15 minute training session.

I don't take my dogs for many walks.  My dogs go outside with me and run and play in the yard and we do at home training sessions.  I have a fenced in yard, but they rarely stay out long if I am not with them.  I keep training sessions relatively short and sometimes try to do a couple of them in a day if needed.  I try to break up the sessions with some review of old skills but also with something new to stimulate their minds.  If I don't have anything new I want to teach my dog, then I work on something silly like pushing a ball across the floor with their nose.  Silly skills often evolve into tricks and they almost always bring a smile to my face which is always good in training sessions.  I use the clicker and treats and reduce the size of their morning and evening meals accordingly. 

Training builds relationships and helps stimulate a puppies day, making them easier to live with and more likely to quietly rest or chew on a toy or bone



<![CDATA[2015 A.C.T.S. Graduation]]>Sat, 16 May 2015 20:22:54 GMThttp://assistancecanine.org/dog-blog/2015-acts-graduation All of us at A.C.T.S. are winding down from team training and graduation.  We had a great day for graduation and were so proud to graduate three new teams.  I wish all of our Facebook Family and other friends could have been there to see and feel first-hand the powerful effect our dogs are having on the lives of their new partners.

Beverly works daily with Skipper in a balance harness.  Without him she would be unsteady and unable to walk alone.  He provides her with the independence she needs to maneuver on her own.

Emily, our newest team, also works with her new dog, Saco, in a balance harness.  Emily has been waiting for over two years for her dog and is looking forward to the new independence he will provide for her.

Lyn is working with Bristol as a facility therapy dog.  Bristol works in a wounded warrior yoga program providing stress relief for veterans who participate in the program.  Bristol also works in a reading program in a local school.

As I stood in the graduation hall and looked out at the eighty or so people in attendance, I couldn’t help but think that each and every person there had a part in process.  There were breeders who donate the puppies, groomers who bath and groom the puppies, and veterinarians who care for the puppies.  There were puppy raisers and Aunties, board members and volunteers, and event organizers and donors. 

No one person’s role is too big or two small. Everyone is important, right down to the person in the park who willingly stops and takes a moment of their time to help us socialize a new puppy in training.   Each person does what they can to help us with our mission, and each and every effort, big or small, is so greatly appreciated. 

And on one glorious day a year we all gather to celebrate our efforts.  Thank you everyone!




<![CDATA[It's Not an Exact Science]]>Thu, 16 Apr 2015 03:23:39 GMThttp://assistancecanine.org/dog-blog/its-not-an-exact-science It’s Not An Exact Science

I have had four different service dogs in training at my house over the last month.  I have worked on fetching with each one of them.  More specifically, I have worked on teaching them a good solid “hold” with a dumbbell. 

Thanks to our amazing puppy raisers, most of the puppies come to me able to pick up the dumbbell and many of them will give the dumbbell to me.  So why isn’t that enough?  Our puppies have to be very precise about how they deliver the dumbbell.  They have to hold it until their person is ready to receive it.  In many cases it takes their person some time to prepare to receive the dumbbell or to move their hands into position to receive the item the dog is fetching. 

Because of that, we have to teach them to hold it quietly and wait until their person is ready.  And then eventually we have to teach them to deliver it to the hand.  So the first step is to teach them to hold it.

I love puppies and each one acts differently when I toss the dumbbell on the floor and ask them to get it.  Some dogs are really mouthy and will hold it but are constantly chewing and tossing it around like it’s some sort of great toy they stole from the dog park.  Some dogs prance around with the dumbbell as if they won one of those giant stuffed animals at the state fair.  Some dogs will only hold it if they are walking and drop it when they stop.  Some dogs like to play with it….  They might toss it in the air or run around the room a dozen times before returning with it.  And some dogs give up on the exercise and just lay down and start chewing on it, making me wonder if the plastic is flavored in some way.  Each one is different.

The puppy raisers often get frustrated teaching this skill and like so many things in service dog training, there is good reason for their frustration.  There isn’t any one cookie cutter method.  So it is hard for me to give them a simple answer to the question, “How do I teach my dog to do that?”  Often I give them an idea on where to start and when I return in five minutes they are looking at me like I’m completely nuts because it isn’t working.

When I work on teaching a dog to “hold” I have to break out my dog training toolbox.  I often have to try a variety of things and often have to make changes in how I do things to fit with each dog. 

As the skills we are teaching the dogs get more and more complicated, it becomes more and more of a puzzle.  It becomes time to realize that a cookie cutter approach to training simply does not work.  Each dog is different and often requires us to put our dog training hats on and observe, think, plan, try, and respond to each dog as an individual.

I think this is what I love most about dog training.  It’s not an exact science.  Each dog challenges me in a new way.

<![CDATA[My time with Rye]]>Wed, 08 Apr 2015 15:50:45 GMThttp://assistancecanine.org/dog-blog/my-time-with-rye Those of you who have been following us on Facebook know that I have been working with several of the puppies on the “hold” command.  Teaching “hold” is an important part of fetching and, as you all know, fetching is a big part of what service dogs do. 

Recently I had Rye at my house.  Rye is a cute little ball of energy and her idea of working with the dumbbell was to grab it and do a lab nutty all around the room before returning to hand it over to me.  I tried not to laugh the first time it happened.  I had a small degree of success restraining myself and with that, I knew what we needed to work on.

For me, teaching “hold” is the first step to teaching a nice “give”.  Service dogs really need to have patience with their “give” because their people will not always be able to move fast or easily towards them.  So my goal in teaching “hold” is to have the dog be still, either standing or sitting, while holding the dumbbell (still in their mouth) for a long period of time.

I worked with Rye for several days and was getting absolutely nowhere.  My brain would muddle through what I was doing all through the night as I tried to sort out why she just wasn’t “getting it”.  I’ve trained enough dogs to know that if they aren’t “getting it”, it’s usually something that I’m missing or not doing right for them. 

And then the lightbulb! 

I was reclined in my chair one night…  (More muddling time)   Rye slowly walked over to the side of the chair.  When I turned and looked at her, she backed up. “Hmmmm…. Interesting”, I thought.  “Perhaps she has never seen anyone in a recliner.”  When I reached out to her she backed up.  Interesting once again.  I didn’t think too much of it beyond that.  She seemed to get used to me in that position and all seemed to be fine. 

The next day I set out with newfound determination to master this dumbbell situation once and for all.  After all, I only had two more days with Rye.

We started our practice and it was going nowhere fast until I noticed that, from time to time, Rye would step back away from me.  It wasn’t a very big step, but it was there and that’s when I knew what I had to do.

Rye was quite used to eye contact with her puppy raiser and even with me.  She was well practiced with commands she knew and could sit in front of most anyone and stare right at them easily while sitting, staying, or laying down.  But when she was slightly uncomfortable (like with the recliner) the eye contact from her person represented more pressure and she would back away. 

When I was trying to teach her something new, she was struggling to figure out what I wanted.  The added pressure of me hovering over her and looking directly at her made her nervous enough that she wasn’t successfully learning.  She was struggling.

I started training her by looking slightly past her or just over her head.  I avoided direct eye contact and when possible turned so I was not facing her directly head on.  I watched her out of the corner of my eye.  When I started doing that, Rye learned to hold in a couple short sessions.  By removing the pressure of me looking directly at her, she was able to feel comfortable again, and was able to learn.

It seems that each dog teaches me new lessons.  Rye was no exception!  Thank you little girl!

<![CDATA[My Life working with Service Puppies in Training]]>Tue, 10 Mar 2015 21:57:18 GMThttp://assistancecanine.org/dog-blog/my-life-working-with-service-puppies-in-trainingI wish I had a picture to post of my first service dog in training.  He was a big chocolate lab named Luke.  When I walked him down the streets of Jackson NH people would hang out their car windows and in a very low and slow voice, they would drag out his name just loud enough for anyone close by to hear.  He would tilt his head and prance along as if to make a clear statement that he was the king of all dogs.  That was back when big tall labs were more fashionable and  when it was unique to see a service dog in training walking down the street.

That was in 1995.  I was that many years younger and that many years more naïve about dog training.  I had no idea what I was doing or where this journey was about to take me.  The arrival of that big crazy chocolate lab was the beginning of something that has made me the person I am today.

Today it's not so unusual to see puppies in training around town.  The area has, over the years, become a tiny mecca for service dog training.  People don't recognize me anymore without a dog at my side.  There are other raisers in the Valley now and people are mostly very respectful of what we are doing.  I have loved raising service dogs and I am thankful daily for the dogs that I have gotten to work with and for the people that I have met. 

As for Luke....  Well he graduated as a service dog and I, of course, travelled to his graduation with a friend.  When we parked a convertible pulled up next to our van.  In the back seat was a big chocolate lab soaking in the sunshine.  When I opened the car door, my friend spoke Luke's name in that way that everyone in town always did, and Luke jumped right out of the back seat of the convertible.  I guess that wasn't such good service dog behavior, but I was so happy to see him that I didn't care. 

In the end, Luke was an amazing service dog for his partner Andy.  The worked together for many years and he started me on my amazing dog training journey.