Fear and Fun: A Behavioral Approach to Vacationing

“As I mentioned before, I work in behavior, and my specialty is managing fear and aggression, so all my professionalism is coming to bear right now.”

I have newly returned from a dream trip I’d been planning for fully ten years, a visit to New Zealand and then a cruise back across the Pacific. Yes, it was awesome.

I wanted to take the fantastic opportunity to do things I cannot do at home. Indiana has plenty of caves (our limestone supplied Washington D.C.’s and most other major cities’ buildings and monuments, and limestone country is cave country), but we have a distinct shortage of glowworms, so I wanted to go down under to see them. And rather than take a boat, I wanted to do something a bit more adventurous. So I booked a spelunking tour.

I knew the tour would involve abseiling (also called rappelling) and swimming/floating through 50-degree water. I didn’t realize that the abseil would be 35 meters through a narrow neck into the cave itself, and thus would be the very first task.

Heights, dark, tight spaces, all the classic fears in one go. Whee! Continue reading

Training at the Vet Clinic

Doberman puppy on trampoline

I didn’t take a new pic of Undómiel (10 months) today, so please enjoy this flashback to 8 weeks old.

No time like the present…. Undómiel and I had to make a trip yesterday to the veterinary clinic for an irritation on her face, and while I had planned to get around to teaching a chin rest for vet exams and treatment, I hadn’t actually done it yet.

Yes, professionals can be lazy and distracted, too. Guilty.

A solid chin rest can be invaluable for vet exams, especially of the head or face. So there we are, sitting in the exam room waiting for the doctor, and I decided to get started. A few clicks in, I realized it’d be good to get some video of the process. Continue reading

Puppy Socialization: the Physical

I have been a terrible pet parent, and I have not been spamming the blog with puppy photos and puppy stories. I apologize, I’ve been crazy busy, and in the end it’s more important to spend those extra minutes with the puppy rather than writing about her.

But today I’m going to officially spam about the puppy.

Meet Undómiel, who is 12 weeks old now and already gi-normous. Her paws are dinner plates. She’s going to be bigger than Laev.

I went to Denmark to pick her up, so she could fly home in the cabin with me. Continue reading

Recall Roundup

This entry is part 22 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

Black Labrador Mindy in her green service vest beside an enormous prickly pear

Last November — yes, I’m more than a little behind on posting — Mindy took a trip with me down to my aunt’s ranch in Texas. I knew this would be an exciting trip for her for a variety of reasons, not least of which that the ranch is a seriously cool place for puppies to explore, with lizards, snakes, rabbits, deer, boar, turkeys, and many other things. (Some of these are fun to watch or even chase; some should be explored by sniffing their tracks only.)

The ranch is big, but not so big that a dog couldn’t find her way off it and get into local trouble. I would never have allowed Laev off-leash even for a moment there, if I’d ever taken her; Laev would have tangled with a rattlesnake and then chased a rabbit or deer straight off into a neighboring sheep ranch. There’s a ranch gate on the road which for years has been decorated with the hanging bodies of the latest coyotes or dogs which had been shot while hunting or harassing their stock. Continue reading

Training & Gaming at Gen Con

This entry is part 19 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

Mindy joined me at Gen Con this year. Because you can’t buy that kind of socialization experience. What is Gen Con, you may ask? Well, “Gen Con, LLC produces the largest consumer hobby, fantasy, science fiction and adventure game convention in North America. Gen Con, The Best Four Days In Gaming!™”

(Actually, I think it’s the world’s largest?)

A girl in a wheelchair is accompanied by a Golden Retriever wearing a service vest and carrying a plushed terrier on his back, dressed as Sir Didymus from the film Labyrinth.

Mindy wasn’t the only service dog at Gen Con. Here’s an assistance dog appearing as Sir Didymus (from Labyrinth).

It’s a gaming (and SFF, miniatures, film, etc.) convention which takes over much of Indianapolis each year. I posted on Facebook that Mindy wasn’t impressed by the 60,000 people, but that was an exaggeration; this year’s actual count was 56, 614 attendees. But of course, most of those people came more than one day, so turnstile attendance was 184,699. The con runs five days, but Mindy attended only three, including the two busiest. And she was a rock star. Rock star, I tell you. Continue reading

Fireworks Without the Freak-Out

This entry is part 18 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training
Fireworks on the beach on the Fourth of July. ...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So it was the Fourth of July this past weekend, Independence Day, with all the challenges that brings for pets and their people.

I was traveling with Mindy, the guide dog in training, and we did fireworks. With flying colors (terrible pun intended). Continue reading

Puppy Goes Hiking

This entry is part 17 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

Just a fun post of a day out with Mindy!

We went hiking at Turkey Run State Park. Mindy wore her Gentle Leader, which we don’t generally use but which she’s supposed to be desensitized to, just in case it’s ever needed in the future. I figured the best way to desensitize her is to put it on just before something really fascinating and fun, so this is her second walk/hike with it. She’s already used to it, because who can fuss about a (properly-fitted) Gentle Leader when we’ve got a whole woods to explore? Continue reading

Puppy Training on a FitPAWS Donut

This entry is part 16 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

So apparently I forgot to publish this blog post — sorry!

Set the Wayback Machine for a few months ago, when Mindy was small enough to use this size FitPAWS Donut. The weather was too bad (sub-zero Fahrenheit) for puppies to play outdoors for long, and this was not only a great energy burn, but an important skill development for a dog expected to handle lots of surfaces and challenges in her career. Continue reading

Toronto Training – a service dog in training hits the road

This entry is part 15 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training
English: Panorama of Toronto. Français : Image...

Panorama of Toronto. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I just made a short trip to Toronto with Mindy the Guide Dogs for the Blind puppy, and she was amazing. So if you don’t want to hear puppy bragging, you might want to move on — but if you want to hear about new challenges and how we met them (and how we used previous training to better handle these new situations), keep reading. Continue reading