“A Walk in the Park” Is Supposed to Mean “Easy” – When Aggression Isn’t Funny

0529141318bYesterday Mindy and I met some friends at the park for a picnic lunch. I debated and then decided to make it a rare “non-working” outing for Mindy, so she wasn’t in her vest and was free to sniff around and be a puppy. (She gets plenty of puppy time at home, remember, but everyone can take a vacation once in a while!)

Another dog was with us, too, who has spent years recovering from severe fear aggression. She’s remarkably functional now — no one could guess, looking at her, how fearful and reactive she used to be — and she was really enjoying her day, too. Mindy and I respected her space, sitting at the opposite end of the picnic table, but everything was absolutely fine.

Until we started walking. Continue reading

Practicing Recalls

This entry is part 14 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, which has distracted me from the blog. But some of those travels are going to provide fun new blog posts, so in the long run it’s been worth it.

But now that I’m home, it’s more obvious that Mindy’s starting to mature, in that way when puppies are no longer quite so dependent on us for every little asset and therefore feel more comfortable to venture out on their own for more and longer periods of time. Or, as clients more typically phrase it when they call me, “she doesn’t want to come when I call.”

guinea fowlTo be perfectly fair to Mindy, my yard has gotten a lot more interesting. I’ve acquired a small flock of guinea fowl to combat the local ticks, and they were just turned loose this week. They’re still clinging near the house, and they are FASCINATING to a young retriever. Continue reading

Mindy is proud.

This entry is part 13 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training
black lab puppy lying down and chewing on dried beef trachea chew

“…delicious trachea chew….”

So Mindy’s unlocked a new achievement — she can now jump on our (taller than usual) bed. As she’s not allowed on the bed, this has resulted in repeated escorts to the floor.

Today, however, when we went out to the car, I didn’t pick her up. As I was putting in our gear, she jumped into the car and went into her crate. I treated, and away we went to the dealership for an oil change.

As we were leaving, I took Mindy to the back of the car. She looked at me, and I invited her to jump in.

Proudest moment today. Mindy got to put herself in the car, like a big dog. She was smug for whole minutes afterward. Continue reading

Clicker Expo and After

This entry is part 12 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

What a week! Mindy and I traveled to Clicker Expo in Norfolk, Virginia, and because I didn’t want to fly her, we drove. It wasn’t a bad drive, about 12 hours, and I broke it up into two days with a bit of hiking each way.

“Not a Real Service Dog”

On the way down, we had our first access trouble ever, when Mindy and I were ejected from a hotel after we were checked in due to her not being a “real service dog.” Continue reading

Service Animal Etiquette. Seriously, People.

This entry is part 7 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training
Cebus apella group. Capuchin Monkeys Sharing

Capuchin Monkeys Sharing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was at a restaurant once when a woman was seated at the next table with her service animal, a Capuchin monkey. I was horrified when a man brought his son to her table to “meet your monkey” and pet it.

Seriously, mister, would you bring your kid over and say, “We think your electric scooter is really cool and my son wants to push its brightly-colored buttons”? Of course not. So why would you assume you can handle other medical equipment, which is what service animals legally are?

I’ve heard horror stories from those who use service dogs daily, but still I’ve been really surprised since I started working with Mindy at just how rude some people are around service animals. And while most people are pretty good at not interfering with her or at least asking before reaching for her, there are others which are ruining the picnic for everyone, and I don’t get it. I mean, we’ve had service dogs among us for nearly a century, right?

(Warning: I acknowledge openly that R+ is the best behavior modification option. But this blog post contains P+, in that I strongly criticize. Proceed with caution.) Continue reading

Steampunk Puppy: “They call me CAPTAIN Mindy!”

This entry is part 10 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training
IMAG0492_1

Laura & Captain Mindy, reporting for duty.

Fun puppy socialization outing this weekend! And some socialization opportunities are too good to pass up.

In one of my other lives, I’m a costumer, and we were presenting some costume panels this weekend at a steampunk event. Saturday my husband was going to be very busy and couldn’t keep the puppy at home, so she had to go with me in the morning. And of course that meant she had to go in costume, right? Continue reading

A Big Day 4 (and end of the first week)

This entry is part 6 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

My husband met the puppy for the first time Friday morning. They’ve seemed to hit it off pretty well.

black lab puppy lying in man's lap with green dragon toy IMAG0316

I had made plans to go to the Home Show with others, and I knew it would be a great big experience for the new pup. It also had the potential to be too big an experience, so I packed an entire day’s worth of kibble and an extra bully stick, more on that in a moment.

I picked up the vest and gear, and I put on my coat, and Mindy launched from my husband’s lap and ran to join me. Remember how I said I wanted most of all to condition that outings were fun? I think we’re on target.

And then we headed out to the State Fairgrounds for a socialization adventure. Continue reading

Puppy Tales

This entry is part 5 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training
She got a glamour shot before going into ClickerExpo. Kinda cute!

She got a glamour shot before going into ClickerExpo. Kinda cute!

A bunch of vignettes and little announcements today….

Breed Differences

Remember, I’m coming from Dobermans, who are generally happy to play in puddles or lakes but regard falling water as acid rain. I had to work a deal with Laev, introducing her to a hose spray during bitework: “If you let me wet you down so you don’t overheat during hot, humid training sessions, we will then immediately go to get the bad guy.” It was a valuable enough reinforcer for her to stand the spray, and we transitioned it to baths at home: “If you stand still for the bath, I will frequently reinforce,” and then, “If you stand still for the bath, then I will pay big at the end.”

So this was my first time to bathe a Labrador. I started by turning on the sprayer and running warm water, then scattering a few kibbles in the spray and puddle. She ventured in, curious and only briefly hesitant, and I scattered more kibbles as I shifted the sprayer to catch more of her. She was totally off-leash for this, not trapped, so she had a clear choice. I wanted her to be still, so I sprinkled kibble occasionally as I picked up the sprayer and began to wash the puppy (no shampoo). Continue reading

The First Day is a Big Day

This entry is part 3 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training
Yes, your face WILL stick like that.

Yes, your face WILL stick like that.

A California puppy haiku:

Snow is weird and cold.
OMG! You can eat it!
Ow-wow-wow brain freeze.

Due to a lucky “break” in our cold snap, Mindy experienced only a 70-degree drop in temperature when we arrived home late Monday night. I took her out to urinate on the new paving stones installed for her toilet (GDB puppies learn to urinate on concrete, for the easy of urban work later) and watched it freeze beneath her. Brr! Continue reading