In the News: Using the Canine Nose

In the United Kingdom, Tui, a flat-coated retriever is being trained to search for harvest mice.

Researchers are hoping Tui will be able to help them better estimate their numbers because it is believed that their population is on the decline.

You can read more about Tui and the reason for her mission here.

In ruled by paws news…

Rogue and I had an excellent tracking practice this morning, so this article was a great one to share.

We ran a CKC regulation length track in just over 8 minutes without difficulty.

We need to practice corners a bit more and work on Rogue’s article indication, but those are very minor problems.

I think I will break out the clicker and work on teaching Rogue to come “touch” me and then return to the article.

The countdown is on, 46 days until our tracking test.

I Just Wanted to Enter

Let me begin by saying, I didn’t want to cause any problems for the Canadian Kennel Club, I just wanted the same opportunity as others to enter a tracking test with Rogue.

Over the past couple of months Rogue and I have ramped up our tracking practice. I have been trying to get us ready for the upcoming tests that happen in October and November.

I knew we wouldn’t be quite ready for October, so I had my eye on entering the tracking test being held in Guelph on November 8th. Not only do we live in Guelph, so the trip to the test wouldn’t be too long, but it also gives us a better chance of comfortable weather and more practice time.

I talked to my instructor, who also happens to be our area’s tracking rep, about my plans to enter the test. She said she would talk to other judges and see how the rules work for my situation. After talking to other judges, she suggested I talk to the CKC because there is a rule in the book that says people cannot have help on the track, so taken literally, this would mean I could not have a guide.

I called the CKC and the woman I talked to seemed quite willing to help me. She read through the rule book and also didn’t know what should happen. She suggested I talk to my area’s tracking rep and also gave me the email address for the Tracking Council.

I emailed the council and cc’d my instructor, so she was aware of what I had done.

It took a few days, but I finally got a response from the CKC rep for my area and he seemed to understand that it was against the law in Canada to discriminate based on a persons disability. He cc’d the head of CKC events in the hopes that she would be able to clear up the confusion.

The woman emailed back and said that “the issue” was on the agenda for the council conference call that was happening in early October, but then went on to say that she would let us all know if any decisions were made and changes implemented at their general meeting in December.

I wrote her back and said that I wanted to enter a test in November and asked if it would be possible for a temporary amendment to be put into the rules, so that I can be accommodated. She wrote back to say that unfortunately it was not possible because the rule book says no one can have assistance on the track, so it was up to the council to make the changes at their general meeting.

This response was not acceptable. The council cannot decide wether to accommodate a person with a disability, they need to accommodate them because it is the law in Canada.

So, I went to Twitter and Facebook, asking my friends and family to share our story.

Remember, I didn’t want to cause an issue, I just wanted to be given the same opportunity as a sighted person.

About two and a half to three hours later I got an email from the CKC.

After some digging, they located minutes from a 2009 meeting that put forth a policy allowing individual judges to make modifications when needed, such as for persons with disabilities. The policy was supposed to be written into the rule books of the various CKC events, but some rule books are still missing this policy.

The woman apologized and said that she would make sure the judge of my event is aware of the policy.

So, I went back on Twitter and Facebook, thanked my friends and family for their help and announced that I would be entering a tracking test on November 8th with Rogue.

Maybe some people would push this further, wanting to make sure the CKC does not do this to someone else, but I just want the opportunity to participate in dog sports like everyone else. I don’t want to cause any drama or problems.

Thank you friends and family for helping me achieve my goal, and thank you CKC for finding a solution to our dilemma.

8 days until we can submit our entry (fingers crossed we get in), and 47 days until Rogue and I try for Rogue’s Tracking Dog (TD) title.

Won’t That Affect Her Work?

Won’t that affect her guide work?

This is a question I hear constantly when I tell other service dog handlers about the various activities I choose to do with Rogue.

No, it doesn’t affect her ability to guide.

When you have a good working relationship, like Rogue and I do, you can choose to do almost anything together.

Rogue knows the difference.

She knows that when her guide harness is on, or even if it is off and she’s just hanging out in my office at school, that she needs to be professional. She knows she can’t be sniffing everything, visiting everyone, or chasing small critters that cross our path.

Rogue knows that when her tracking harness is on that her job is to “find” the track and follow it to the “article.” She knows that she doesn’t need to be paying attention to anything else. She knows that it isn’t her job to keep me safe. It’s her job to find the “article” for me.

Rogue knows that when we are at a conformation show and she’s wearing a show leash and collar that it isn’t time to guide; it’s time to walk nicely beside Huib. She knows that when they stop along side other dogs in the ring, it isn’t time to greet them or to sniff around. Rogue knows it’s time to “stack” and let the judge check her out. She knows that Huib will let her know what is expected and that he’ll remind her if she forgets.

When we are at field training and she’s wearing just her martingale and leash, Rogue knows it is time to retrieve. She knows that it’s okay to run away from me and get the duck (bumper with wings for now), and bring it back to me. Rogue knows it’s not time to sniff for articles or show me obstacles, it’s time to “mark” (or look forward and see where the duck is dropping from) and then “fetch” it and bring it back.

It’s true that dogs are not good at generalizing, but Rogue and I have been working together since she was 8 weeks of age. We’ve practiced things in a variety of environments and we’ve learned what’s appropriate in each situation.

Rogue knows that I will let her know if she’s made the wrong choice. And, I know that she’ll turn to me for help if she needs help figuring out what is expected.

so, the answer is no, conformation, tracking and field work will not affect Rogue’s work.

And, if we decide to try something else it won’t affect her work either.

This is why I love owner-training. I can choose to participate in any dog sport I want with Rogue. With Cessna, this was not the case. I wanted to try out rally obedience, but her school said no.

For Rogue and I, the sky is the limit!!

***This post is not directed at anyone. The questions I’ve been getting just got me thinking that it was time to try and educate others. I am thankful for all of the questions.***

Field Training: Crazy Labrador!!

Tonight was Rogue’s official introduction to field work.

Last week, we had her with us because she had been at a meeting with me and we didn’t have time to take her home. She seemed to really enjoy herself, so I decided to see how she likes field work for real.

There were a lot of dogs present this week. There was Maverick (the duck toller) and his new little buddy Shelby (also a duck toller), Hank (the chocolate lab), Cassidy (the yellow lab) and her littermate Rainy (who is owned by Susie), Jayden (a female chocolate lab) and her buddy Reba (the fox red lab – darker than Rogue), Arizona, and of course, her buddy Rogue.

We arrived 15 minutes early, so did a couple practice runs with Arizona. Her first run was a bit rusty, but her second and third attempts were great.

No one had arrived yet, so we got Rogue out to practice, and she was TERRIBLE!! She ran right over to the bumper but instead of bringing it directly back, she ran around like a goofy puppy on the way. We gave her two more attempts and each one was worse than the last. We didn’t know what we were going to do.

When everyone had arrived and things were set up, Susie had us take turns working our dogs at their level. She had things set up like we were at a real trial and simulated what would happen if we competed.

Arizona and Rogue weren’t the only two at the first level, WC, Cassie is also just starting field lessons.

Arizona did quite well. She still tried taking the bumper to the “gunner,” but when they didn’t pay any attention to her she started back to me. Each time she dropped the bumper half way back, but then got it again and brought it the rest of the way. Her recall was MUCH better.

Rogue was okay. She ran directly to the bumper, but she didn’t pick it up immediately and on her way back she dropped it a few times. I will need to work on her “hold.” Her recall was good though. And, I overheard one o the other people say she has the drive to do this, so I’m sure we’ll get there.

Once everyone had taken their turn, we went to one of the ponds to work.

At first we didn’t think we would participate, but then we decided to take our turn.

I worked with Rogue first. She was SO excited!! She was very good about sitting beside me and waiting for the release word – “fetch.” She swam directly to the bumper, getting slightly spooked by a log under the water she bumped into on the way, but recovering quickly.

The problem came when she was coming back. Instead of swimming to me, she swam to the opposite shore – *rolls eyes*

Laura was the gunner, so tossed another bumper into the water and I got really excited, trying to coax Rogue to swim back in my direction this time. It worked.

Her second attempt was an absolute write-off. She sat and waited for the release great, and she swam directly to the bumper, but again she took it to the opposite shore. When Laura tossed another bumper into the water, she swam out to it, and again took it to her side of the pond. Then she tossed it again and Rogue swam back towards me, but dropped the bumper just before reaching the shore – Oh, Roga-Monster!

Getting down to the edge of the water was a bit nerve-racking for me, so when it was Arizona’s turn, I had Huib work with her.

Arizona is fine once she gets to the bumper, but she needs to get over the initial panic of not being able to touch bottom as she swims out.

Huib said she sat beside him and waited for the release perfectly. That once she got to the bumper, she did well at remembering who to return it to – Good girl, Airy Berry!!

When Rogue and Arizona weren’t taking part in the action they were not happy. Both girls were SO noisy!! Rogue quivered with excitement and talked constantly. Meanwhile, Arizona whined and at one point she was even screeching – Oh, Airy Berry, you are SO embarrassing!

Rainy and Cassidy didn’t take part in the water work, so once Jayden and Reba had their turns, it was dark so we packed up.

Arizona did well. She is really progressing in her lessons.

And even though we thought Rogue was terrible, Laura said she did pretty well considering it was her first time, so I guess things weren’t as bad as we thought.

Stay tuned for more field work adventures.

Progression in Tracking

Brooke and Rogue waiting for their tracking lesson to begin. Brooke is wearing jeans with a navy blue tank top, a white Roots hat with white Oakley sunglasses and white running shoes. Rogue is wearing a pacific blue harness from Ruffwear and has a black tracking line attached to the front which is held by Brooke.

Rogue has had two more lessons since her not so hot one. Now that we do not let her run free before the lesson her attention seems more focused on the task of tracking.

Huib is no longer tracking with her either, he is just acting as my guide, so maybe that is also why things are progressing. One thing with tracking is that you need to trust your dog and allow them to work things out, which is also a big part of having a successful partnership with a guide dog. I trust Rogue with my life, so why wouldn’t I also trust her in tracking? I also can’t see what is coming up, so she really has to do the work, I can’t direct her to the correct direction when she comes to a turn, even if there is a flag so it’s all up to Rogue and her nose.

Laura is pretty impressed with our teamwork, and says we are progressing well.

Maybe if we keep progressing we’ll be able to enter a trial in the fall… It would be nice to have an actual title on a dog.

Not So Hot

Today was Rogue’s second tracking lesson with Laura. It has been quite warm, so we were glad the lesson wasn’t until the evening.

Since Rogue tends to be a bit on the excited side when she first arrives, Laura suggested we go for a short walk around the property before starting. Rogue had a blast running around and checking out various smells. After about 10 minutes of running free, we attached the tracking line to Rogue’s pacific blue Ruffwear harness and took her up to the “scent pad” to begin.

I think Rogue ran too much before starting to track. She was all over the place and at times Laura said it looked as though she was on a walk with Huib instead of following a track.

When Huib and Rogue were finished the first track, Laura had us give Rogue some water and then put her into the car for a short rest. She then got her male lab, Tenner, out of the vehicle and suited him up. She wanted to show us how a more seasoned dog tracks. It was neat to watch him and to see how smoothly he works.

Rogue’s second attempt went better near the end of the track, but she was still not as good as other times. Huib and I are convinced she was too warm and that allowing her to run free beforehand wasn’t a good choice.

Hopefully next week will go better.

On another note, Laura was telling us that she has posted a few messages on the tracking email list she is a member of to see if anyone has any suggestions regarding how things will be handled at a trial if I choose to handle Rogue. She said that a few people have responded and all of them seem to think that I will not be able to trial in tracking with Rogue.

So, guess what? I’m going to prove everyone wrong and from now on, I’m going to handle Rogue at the lessons, not Huib. Laura is totally in favour of having me track, and is eager to help me show the others wrong.

Looking Back

The topic for this round of the assistance Dog Blog Carnival is “regrets.” I chose this topic because in exactly one month it will be 17 years since I was partnered with Phoenix. For new blog readers, Phoenix was officially my second dog guide from Dog Guides Canada, but to me he was my first, and the dog who started it all.

On July 23rd, 1998, I was matched with Phoenix, a 21 month old male yellow lab. He wanted nothing to do with me at first, he just wanted to be with his trainer. Around the two week mark of class, a switch turned and he was mine forever. From that moment in time, Phoenix and I ruled the world together. Even when he retired 7 years later, he was still my constant shadow. No matter how much Huib tried to win his affection, Phoenix would have none of it. When I was home, Phoenix was stuck to me like glue.

We finished my final year of high school together. We completed five years at the University of Guelph and walked across the graduation stage side by side. Along the way Phoenix taught me about unconditional love and the value of true friendship.

It’s true, I’ve had several dogs since getting Phoenix (not all guides of course), but no matter who has passed through my life since July 23rd, Phoenix had and will always have a big piece of my heart.

You’re probably wondering how this all relates to the topic of “regrets.” Well, looking back I have many regrets.

Looking back, I wish I had known about clicker training and that I had not used the choke chain and the harsh corrections that went along with it. It’s true that I stopped using all of this a year or so after getting Cessna, but I still have regrets.

Looking back, I wish I had known about feeding a raw diet sooner. Yes, Phoenix ate raw his final eight months with me, but it took me over 12 years to finally figure out how to end his constant fight with ear infections. It’s true that I figured out his allergies by the time he was seven, but he still got painful ear infections off and on, so I have regrets.

Looking back, I wish I had known the end was near. It’s true he was just two months shy of his 15th birthday when he passed. It’s true that I was not in school or working, so I spent every hour of the day at home with the dogs. It’s true that I fed him all of his favourite human foods, such as pizza, french fries, Kraft Dinner and beef jerky, when he’d eat for me. It’s true that he progressively ate less and less, while sleeping more and more the last month of his life, so I should have known the end was near. But, I have regrets.

I wonder if he would have stayed longer if I had not gotten Rogue. I wonder if he wouldn’t have started to give up if I hadn’t left him with friends for a few days while I took Canyon, Cessna and Rogue to Rogue’s breeder’s reunion. I will probably never know the answer for certain, and he probably would have still passed away, but I have regrets.

According to dictionary.com, regret means to: “feel sorrow or remorse for an act, fault, or disappointment.”

This definition seems fitting. I feel sorrow for the training methods I chose, which caused me to act poorly towards Phoenix. I feel remorse for not acting sooner to stop his ear infections. And, I feel sorrow for possibly causing him to pass away sooner than he might have if I had not chosen to get a puppy.

It’s true that I shouldn’t feel bad for these things, but I still have regrets.

Happy Anniversary!!

Can you believe it?

Rogue and I have now been working together full-time for a year!!

We did it! We made it! We are truly a working team Little Monster.

I can’t believe it’s already been a year since we did the Public Access Test with Sherman and Soleil.

I am so proud of the progress you have made over the past year. Now when we go out, I never worry about getting injured because I know I have my little red girl with me.

Thank you for teaching me so much over the past four years. I never could have done any of this without you Rogie.

Happy Anniversary to Us!!

ENGAGE 2015

On the 14th, I was invited to present at a student conference at the University of Guelph.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Making the Familiar Strange in the Social World.” The keynote speaker was Dr. Thomas McIlwrath.

The various presentations were broken down into sessions of four or five presenters. The morning and afternoon had two sessions of three choices.

I was the fourth presenter in my session and had another student follow me. When it was my turn, Huib set up my computer for the powerpoint and Rogue came with me to the podium.

I was SO freaking nervous!!! I was honestly on the verge of tears, so thankfully no one told me to speak louder or I would have probably started blubbering. I’ve never been so nervous and I didn’t even know you could be nervous enough to cry.

the talk went well. I spoke clearly and didn’t miss anything. Huib said he could hear the quiver in my voice, but that he felt I did really well. I had to keep repositioning Rogue throughout, so Huib suggested I stop next time and fix her so that I’m not having to do it over and over. In Rogue’s defence, I think she sensed my nervousness and wanted to take me back to where Huib was sitting. The only other thing that went wrong was that I got disoriented in where I was supposed to look and even though my body faced the group, I was looking towards the wall, lol!!

My powerpoint consisted of pictures of my dogs as puppies and in their working gear. I had pictures of Cessna, Aiden, Reece, Rogue and Arizona. I also had various screen shots of recent media coverage of service dog issues.

I memorized my entire presentation – it was just over 12 minutes long. I introduced myself and explained why I was interested in the topic. I gave a brief introduction of animal-assisted intervention and eased people into the world of service dogs. Then discussed my research questions and methods.

Once the presentation was over, I was asked questions from two different people. One person asked me about the methods I have chosen and how I planned to get participants for my interviews and focus groups. The other person asked me about the theory I planned to use as a guide for my research. I answered the first question pretty easily, but the second was tougher. I am planning to use critical disability theory. I understand the theory itself, but I didn’t know how to expand that knowledge to answer the person’s question regarding why I chose that theory.

Even though I was really stressed out about this conference and about presenting, I’m glad I did it.

For anyone who is interested, here is a copy of the long program for the conference. It gives you the abstracts of the various presentations. Mine is in the session titled Grab Bag.

Engage Program 2015_Long

the Case of the Mysterious Tapping

Ready for a story?

Last night I was exhausted, so fell asleep the instant my head hit the pillow. I woke up at 2:30am for some unknown reason..

As I laid there trying to fall back asleep, I heard a tap, tap, tap coming from somewhere in the house. I wasn’t sure where it was coming from, so I listened intently. Once I had figured out that it wasn’t coming from my bedroom, I decided to try and ignore it.

Tap, tap, tap…

Short pause.

Tap, tap, tap…

It wasn’t going to stop, so I got out of bed and walked to the top of our stairs down to the kitchen. I was wondering if maybe one of the dogs or cats were doing something. I didn’t want to go downstairs though because I really didn’t know where the noise was coming from.

At the stairs, I stood for several minutes listening intently.

Tap, tap, tap…

Short pause.

Tap, tap, tap…

It was coming from one of the cupboards in the kitchen. I quickly went back to bed.

Tap, tap, tap…

Short pause.

tap, tap, tap…

The noise was not letting me sleep. I didn’t want to wake Huib up though, he was snoring away, so I thought he was having a good sleep. The dogs were also fast asleep.

So, I got out my earbuds and decided to listen to a book on my iPhone.

After about an hour or so, I was getting sleepy, so turned everything off.

Tap, tap, tap…

A bit longer pause.

Tap, tap, tap…

I went back to the stairs to listen some more. I wanted to know what was making the noise.

I knew we had put a couple of mouse traps in one of the upper cupboards, but this was a really loud tapping noise. No mouse should be able to make that much noise.

I was totally convinced a mouse had got their tail caught in the trap and was running around the cupboard. I wondered if it could push it’s way out. I wondered if it would jump out at Dad or Huib the second they opened the cupboard door. I knew for sure I wasn’t going to be the one to open that cupboard and find out what was making the noise.

Tap, tap, tap…

A bit longer pause.

tap, tap, tap…

As I turned to go back to bed, I heard one of the cat’s jump up onto the table where their food is kept. I stopped to listen and see if they would notice the tapping noise. Nope, Logan just munched away, oblivious to the commotion in the cupboard above.

I went back to bed – it was now 4:00am, and I was very sleepy.

I thankfully fell asleep.

At just before 7:00am, I woke up again. I felt Huib moving around beside me, so asked him if he heard the noise.

Tap, tap…

Long pause.

Tap, tap…

I told him about my night and about my thoughts regarding what was making the noise and what might happen if he opened the cupboard. He laughed and laughed.

After a bit, he sat up and decided to go see what was making the tapping noise. As he stood up, there was a loud SQUEAK!!! We both roared with laughter. One of the dogs had stepped on a squeaky ball.

First Huib let the dogs outside.

Then he put his shoes on and went over to the cupboard.

Inside, he found one tiny dead mouse in a trap and in the other trap, there was a partially living, medium sized mouse.

He said the trap had caught it like normal, but that for some reason the mouse was still living.

He said the partially living mouse had moved the trap close to the metal vent cover, so that is where the noise was coming from and why it was so loud.

Mystery solved and case closed.