Update on Tracking

Our winter wasn’t as cold or snowy as most, so we did get some opportunities to track. We didn’t really do any field tracking, but focused more on urban tracking.

In urban tracking the dog is learning to follow scent on short grass and pavement and in high traffic (or highly contaminated) areas. We tend to practice in school yards, on the University of Guelph campus or in local parks.

Rogue is loving it! And, she’s doing fabulously. We try to lay a track a few times a week and then we attend a private Friday or group Saturday tracking session, depending on Laura’s schedule.

If all goes well, we will be entering an urban tracking dog (UTD) test in June that is taking place in London.

I am trying to get Rogue to spend more time exploring the ‘scent pad’ by putting more food on it and by introducing a start cue “are you ready to track?” in an excited voice, and then once she looks at me, “FIND!!”

Some people ask their dog to ‘sit’ or ‘down’ before releasing them to start, but Rogue is usually quite revved up and she really doesn’t enjoy either of those cues. I know, you’re wondering how a service dog can succeed while disliking ‘sit’ and ‘down,’ well it’s because I try not to ask her for them unless we actually need to seriously do it.

So far we’ve done 2 to 3 hour old tracks between 200 and 300 meters long with a variety of surface changes and different numbers of turns. Rogue seems to be struggling with wind, with harnessing her enthusiasm, and, at times, with highly contaminated areas. We have a couple of months to go before the test, so we’re going to try and practice at least a few times a week, in different places, on different ages and lengths of tracks.

I really think Rogue can get her UTD this spring/summer, and then we’ll work towards possibly getting her TDX (or Tracking Dog Excellent) title in the fall.

Arizona has also started to track. We are practicing on short grass and pavement for now because it’s convenient, and it will help her in the end when she actually starts training for her TD, which is the first level of field tracking.

Arizona has a bit of trouble starting, but once she gets into the zone, she’s awesome! Huib has chosen to track with her on his own, and says she seems to be a more methodical tracker than Rogue.

The club here in Guelph hosts TD and TDX tests in early November, so I think we are going to try and enter both Arizona and Rogue.

We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, so stay tuned for more tracking news.

Field and Obedience

I apologize for the long absence, it’s been a really busy few months.

Over the past few months, we’ve been doing weekly field and obedience lessons with the goldens, and sometimes with Rogue as well.

We’ve made a great deal of progress!!

We’ve been working on: heeling, sitting whenever I stop moving, walking in a figure eight pattern, stays, recalls, and having the dogs pay attention to my body language because in obedience I cannot talk to my dog.

I still need to work on their heeling and sit-stay, but overall the goldens are doing really well.

Rogue has a great stay, but she seems to be confused about heeling, when I’m usually asking her to lead out when guiding, so Susie has suggested Huib work with her and I continue to work with the goldens. Huib has said he’ll do that and I think it’ll b a good challenge for him and a great experience for Rogue.

Now that the weather is getting warmer, we’ll start focusing on field and our obedience lessons will reduce to once a month.

In field, Arizona is doing fabulously!! She no longer hesitates about retrieving the duck, and rarely feels the need to visit the ‘gunner,’ choosing to return to me as soon as she has picked up the duck. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been working on her ‘hold’ because she often drops the duck in front of me instead of giving it directly to me. In order for her to obtain her JH (or Junior Hunter), Arizona needs to be able to put the duck in my hand. For her WC (or working certificate) she can just bring the duck back and drop it near me. In order to reinforce the need to give the duck right to me, I’m starting to ask her to ‘sit’ as she approaches and then continue to ‘hold’ the duck until I say ‘give.’ She’s doing it really well at home, we just need to continue practicing it outside of the home.

Canyon has also been progressing well in field, but with his seizures Susie has suggested we not go for titles because he could have a seizure while swimming. We had been hesitant about the water portion of the test for other reasons, mainly because he tends to get hot spots after swimming, so when the seizure issue came up, we fully supported the decision not to work towards the titles.

The incident that highlighted the seizures as a potentially life-threatening concern, was that last night while Canyon was waiting for Arizona to finish her land retrieves, Canyon had a seizure. Usually his seizures only happen when he’s at home and relaxing, not when we’re out and he’s eagerly awaiting his turn. So, once this happened, we realized that his seizures could create a life-threatening situation.

Canyon still really loves field though, so we’ll give him the chance to take part in the lessons, avoiding the water portion.

Rogue does not hesitate to retrieve the duck, so I am working on her ‘hold.’ Currently, Rogue will run over to the duck, come back and toss it at me. I don’t think it will take too long for her to catch on to what I really want her to do. I am going to start by asking her to help me carry things through the house, like I did with Arizona when I was teaching her to carry things. I think in the end, this training will add to her actual skill set as a working dog.

With the warmer weather approaching, our field lessons will now turn into group ones and become our Tuesday evening activity.

Well, that’s what we’ve been up to in field and obedience. I will keep you all posted on our progress and hopefully I’ll get back to regular blogging soon.

Wrap-Up and Highlights for 2015

All of us at ruled by paws would like to wish our loyal readers a VERY Happy New Year!! We hope 2016 brings you all the good of 2015 and more.

2015 has been quite the year for us. It has had its downs, but it has been a year of mostly ups.

Here are some of the highlights:
December, Arizona finally retrieved her first duck;
November, Rogue earned her TD;
October, Rogue and I attended the first CGSB, Committee on Service Dogs’ meeting;
September, I signed and mailed in Cessna’s adoption papers;
August, Rogue came to Arizona’s field class and swam;
July, I did a poster presentation at the ISAZ Conference;
June, Canyon turned 6 and we didn’t really do anything, so it was a month of picture sharing;
May, Arizona had her 1st birthday;
April, Rogue turned four;
March, I presented at accepted to the 2-year stream for my masters program.

It has sure been quite the year for all of us.

I haven’t been as good about blogging on a regular basis, so that is one thing I’d like to do better in 2016.

A couple of months ago I was asked if there is anything I would change about where I am and what I have done. My answer was no, I am exactly where I want to be, doing exactly what I want to be doing. I think 2015 was the year things started falling into place for us and I hope things continue to do so because I’ve got some wishes I’d love to come true.

So, come on 2016, we’re ready and we can’t wait to see what’s in store.

See you all in the new year, but until then, play safe everyone!!

Biting My Tongue

Do you ever wish you could push aside politeness and just say whatever is on your mind?

I feel this way a lot, but like a good girl, I continue to bite my tongue.

Yesterday we went to see Huib’s former co-worker. We had been out shopping and decided we’d drop in since we were in the area.

At first, the conversation was great. We all caught up and Huib and his former co-worker chatted about work related stuff.

********************
Do you ever wish you had listened to your dog? I sure do.

While we were chatting, Rogue had two accidents in the middle of the co-workers office – how embarrassing!!

In her defence, she had tried to tell me she needed the grass before we had entered, but she’s not usually one to relieve herself when not at home, so I ignored her – which turned out to be a bad decision.

Just a quick aside to show everyone that service dogs, and especially their handlers, are not perfect.
********************

Now back to my story.

Another staff member then came over and the discussion turned to my dogs and how I trained Rogue myself.

The woman told me that her kid has chronic pain issues and the doctor suggested she look into a dog. The kid would use the dog to protect the painful side, making space around them when out in public, and the woman thought the dog could also provide companionship since the kid has some anxiety issues. I thought this was an interesting idea, until the woman started talking about how she felt a therapy dog would be what the kid needed.

I didn’t know how to step in and explain the differences between therapy vs. service dogs. Terminology is a big part of my thesis research, so this was a great example to show that the confusion is real. People really do not know what the difference is between all of the different types of dogs.

Then, to add to the frustration I was feeling, Huib’s co-worker started talking about how her pet dog had been ‘certified’ as an emotional support dog for her kid. Again, I didn’t know how to step in and clear up the confusion.

If it wasn’t bad enough to hear that someone had their dog ‘certified’ as an ESA, she then went on to explain that the dog seems to be more stressed at times than her kid. What the…?

Why would you make your stressed out dog do something they don’t feel comfortable doing? And, who ‘certified’ this dog to do this job?

Boy, was my tongue ever sore by the time we left and got back into the car where I could vent.

Look Out Donald!!

Arizona has finally done it!!

She finally retrieved her first duck!! I guess it’s time I get used to being handed one.

Even though the obedience part of our Thursday night didn’t go well in my opinion, our field part sure did. We were SO freaking proud of our little girl!!

Canyon seemed a bit off, and he was really distracted. Whenever I would stop, he’d lie down in order to sniff the ground or continually run to the end of his leash – Grrr!!! If that wasn’t bad enough, Arizona was revved!! She almost took off the tips of my fingers when I was offering a treat and she wanted nothing to do with staying in one spot.

I have a picture of Ari with her mallard to share, but I’m having some trouble uploading pictures, so hopefully in the near future I’ll be able to go back to the older posts and share the pictures. When that happens, I will post a quick message to let everyone know the pictures are up, and I’ll even try to give links to the posts so it will be easy to find the ones with newly added pictures.

We will be taking a break for Christmas, but our lessons will restart in early January.

Back Indoors

It has gotten too cold to continue outdoor field lessons, so we have restarted private obedience and field lessons.

It may take a while, but I would really like to enter an obedience trial some day with Arizona.

Two weeks ago we decided to start taking Canyon to the lessons. He is already six and a half years old, but I would still like to do some obedience with him.

When we arrived the first time, Susie had me work with Arizona and Huib hold Canyon. We started off by having her retrieve her bumper with two duck wings attached – she did well. She is getting really good about not dropping the bumper on her way back, so Susie is now having me ask her to sit before I ask for the bumper.

We have been working on this daily for the past couple weeks and Arizona still thinks she can’t do both at the same time (hold the bumper and sit).

After having Arizona retrieve her bumper a few times, Susie got a small bird out. It is a type of water foul that is like a duck, but smaller. As usual, Arizona went up to it, sniffed and returned to us without it. Susie tried several times to get her interested, but nothing worked, so she asked Huib to release Canyon.

Canyon has never done this before, but he ran directly to the bird and returned to Susie with it. She took it and tossed it for him a couple more times. I am thinking he likes fetch so much that he really didn’t care what he had to retrieve, he just got to play his favourite game.

Susie then asked Huib to hold Canyon again while she tried to get Ari to retrieve the bird. She did it twice!! It wasn’t a perfect hold, she dropped it a few times on her way, but she did bring it to me.

Afterwards, we did some heeling and tuck sits. I need to practice walking in a straight line, so that my dogs don’t get so confused and I need to reteach Canyon to sit because he sits too sloppy for obedience trialling.

Susie appears to really like Canyon and thinks that once I work well with him, it will be easier to teach Arizona, and later Rogue.

********************

Last night we had another lesson.

I have continued to practice Ari’s hold, asking her to carry almost anything for me. I have also been trying to get her to sit before I ask for the object, but she is still struggling with the concept of sitting while still holding something in her mouth.

We started by having Arizona retrieve her bumper a few times, then Susie tossed a small bird and Ari had her usual reaction to it.

So she put Ari on leash and then I released Canyon. Other than trying to chomp the bird as he returned it, Canyon retrieved it perfectly and even released it several times in a row.

Canyon has a bad habit of refusing to release objects he has retrieved, so I really wasn’t sure how this request would go after he had done it a few times.

Susie then had Canyon return to me and she released Arizona. Ari ran directly over to the bird, picked it up and brought it to Huib – we all praised her excitedly and stopped there.

Next it was time for obedience.

I put Ari’s leash on and worked on getting her to heel. Susie still has me luring her with treats, but I only had Zukes, so it was a bit rough because I dropped treats from time-to-time.

I really don’t like luring so much and I also don’t like giving collar corrections, Susie asks me to do it, so for now I’m doing it her way.

As long as we stop beside a wall, Ari does a perfect tuck sit.

I am having a bit of trouble keeping Ari’s head up though, so Susie has me attaching two leashes to her collar: one goes behind me and is held in my right hand, while the other is much shorter and held in my left. When I ask Ari to sit, I put some tension on the leash in my right hand, so that it will help Ari know where she needs to stay, and the shorter leash helps me keep track of her head position.

I need to buy a really short and thin leash. I bought a really nice leather one last winter, but it’s too heavy, at the moment, so I got another one this past weekend that is quite long, but I thought it would be thin enough, but Susie really thinks I need an even thinner one, so she has let me borrow hers. If you saw my leash collection, you’d think we had our own store.

I am doing a much better job of walking in a straight line. It sure takes a lot of concentration to walk in a straight line, keep track of your dog’s position and follow the directions of the instructor, lol!

Susie then had me show her what I had been practicing with Canyon.

As long as we stop by a wall, Canyon’s tuck sits are improving. I wonder how easily the dogs will translate this to times when we aren’t sitting next to a wall…

I don’t need a second leash with Canyon. He is really good about position when we stop, he’s just not very good about remaining in position while we walk.

At the end of the lesson Susie got the bird out again and tossed it for Arizona, she ran over, sniffed it and picked it up and brought it to Huib – we had a PARTY!!!

We are finally making REAL progress in field.

Susie is going to have me begin every lesson with an activity in leash respect. She feels the goldens need to learn that when the leash is on, they need to respect it and not pull.

We also agreed that starting with field was not a good plan because each time we walked past a spot that had had the bird, both goldens stopped to sniff.

My homework for this week is to continue practicing Ari’s retrieve and holds, while attempting to get her to sit and keep holding until I ask for the object. She also wants me to practice leash respect with the goldens and continue working on the tuck sit and reinforce positioning using a cheese string.

I think I am going to get the clicker out this week and restart the Levels with both goldens because both of them embarrassed me with their lack of an adequate “leave it.”

Article Indication

In the TDX test, Rogue will need to indicate three articles and follow the scent across a surface change.

Laura laid four different tracks for Rogue: two were quite short with a glove at the end, one was her usual TD track and the final was a short track that went across a driveway.

Rogue overshot the article at the end of the first track, but indicated the article at the end of the second one better.

She did the third track perfectly and indicated the article well.

Laura wasn’t sure how she would do on the final track since she had never done surface changes, but Rogue was not phased, she followed the scent without hesitating and immediately found the article across the driveway.

I am not sure how much longer we will be able to track in the fields before the snow begins, but I think this was a pretty good lesson.

Success!!

She did it!! Rogue passed her tracking test!!

She is now RLR Babe In Total Control TD CGN.

The test went REALLY well. Rogue was extremely revved before and during the test.

A gentleman asked me if my dog was ready for the test and I told him “I don’t know.”

It’s true, I didn’t know. Just like humans, dogs have their good days and their bad. I didn’t know what sort of day this was going to be for Rogue.

Well, it was a good day. Together, we made history. As far as I understand, I am the first blind person to track at a Canadian Kennel Club event.

Our track was 410 metres long and we finished it in just over 6 minutes. Huib and I were dying by the end, Rogue was freaking flying!!

I am SO proud of my little red girl! She has been a great friend and training buddy. Not only does she work well to keep me safe each day, she also works hard to impress me with her intelligence and willingness to try anything.

On Friday morning we are going to start training for the next level, TDX. If it is not too snowy or cold this winter we may also start training for our first urban tracking title.

**There are pictures from our tracking adventure, so I will see if Huib can help me post them in the next week or so**

Canyon Update

Almost two weeks ago, I wrote about Canyon having a really bad seizure.

We went to see Bianca, his vet, just over a week ago and after some blood tests and discussion, we all decided to wait a bit longer before medicating him.

Canyon had blood taken to run his various values such as calcium, hemoglobin and other things. Each value came back in a good range and Bianca could not find anything wrong with him physically. She gave us some Valium suppositories to have on hand if he experiences another cycle of seizures, but otherwise we all decided that he is young and his seizures continue to appear the same way, so instead of risking his liver we will wait.

Just under a week ago, Canyon had another seizure, but it was much more mild than his usual ones. He let us know it was coming and I sat with him and hugged him until it was all over. If we took away the really long one he had, then this mild one would be around the same timing of his usual ones that were happening about every 3-4 weeks.

We are hoping his poor brain will give him a break and that we’ll get through a couple of weeks without one. I will keep you all posted.

Understanding Dogs

Understanding Dogs by Clinton R. Sanders was a fabulous read.

Sanders is a sociologist and his book is an autoethnographic account of his life with dogs. While sharing some of his personal experiences and thoughts, Sanders also provides information he obtained through his interviews with veterinarians, service dog trainers and dog owners themselves.

I not only liked the book because he used a similar writing style to the one I am using in my thesis, but I also found it easy to read and extremely interesting.

My only real criticism is that he used the term ‘handicapped,’ which is a big no-no in my opinion. The book was not written that long ago, so I feel as though Sanders should have been more aware of the accepted terminology.