Working Service Dogs at DragonCon

My friend Emilia sent me photos of this great PSA at Dragon Con this year. Dragon Con is an enormous pop culture convention annually in Atlanta, GA, with attendance of about 80,000 guests. They have a lot of service dogs working at the convention.

Because many people still don’t know how to let service dogs do their job without interference, Dragon Con posted a PSA on their internal feeds so that attendees with service dogs could enjoy the event as much as everyone else. Continue reading

Pet Safety During the Eclipse

eclipse with red coronaI’ve already seen some chatter on social media about pet safety during the Great American Eclipse of 2017, and some of it has been quite off-base. So let’s talk about safety!

First, unless you’ve been living in a cave (perhaps a reasonable choice, given the recent socio-political climate), you’ve probably heard about the eclipse predicted for August 21, 2017. This will be a total solar eclipse, particularly notable for many Americans for its convenient path of travel right through the center of the continental US. I myself will be traveling to observe totality. Continue reading

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

Puppies and Imagination

Do dogs and other animals have imagination?

While scientists now agree that animals are conscious (duh!) and many or most agree they are sentient, it’s harder to say how much creative and meta-thinking animals might do. We can listen to a human child tell us a silly story he’s invented, but the language barrier makes it harder for a young animal to do the same. Take away a common language, and would we think an other-speaking child incapable of inventing the story, just because we can’t hear him tell it?

We know animals can think creatively for problem-solving; it’s one of the aspects we treasure about clicker training in particular, this encouragement of creative and analytic thinking in our learners. But I hadn’t thought much on if or how animals use imagination on their own. I’m a storyteller, but only for my own species. I mean, a game of keepaway can be just as fun if it’s a piece of wood or some faux treasure, because the game is in the chase, right? When we play tug, it’s a fun game whether we’re pulling on a rope or a freshly killed caribou. Imagination isn’t a clear component. Continue reading

Mindy-Penny and the Return to Ordinary Life

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

So Penny, née Mindy, is a pet dog now. Aside from the obvious things like no longer accompanying us into restaurants, church, grocery stores, etc., her life has changed in other subtle ways. Like, I can feed her what I want now, instead of sticking to a national brand available at any big box store. And she can have treats beyond her strict diet, like popcorn which falls on the floor during game night, which she previously had to ignore.

This has been a rougher transition than you would think. But really fun.

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

The Unseen Fun of a Service Dog’s Life

This entry is part 8 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

I'm not sure I've ever known a puppy who didn't like the chewing texture of wood.

I’m not sure I’ve ever known a puppy who didn’t like the chewing texture of wood. Our rule is, you can sample the pieces in the firewood holder, but not furniture. Seems to be a good deal so far.

Several people have asked me questions about service dogs, whether they’re always “on the job” or could have normal dog lives. A few were under the heartbreaking impression that because one isn’t supposed to pet service dogs while they’re working, that service dogs aren’t ever to be petted, even at home.

Definitely not the case! Continue reading