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.

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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.”

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**

19 Days

Rogue and I have 19 days left to practice before we do our first CKC tracking test.

Over the past month we have been practicing at least a few times a week.

We have also been playing a “find the glove” game in the house to reinforce her “indications.” In order to pass the test, Rogue needs to clearly indicate that she has found the glove because the judge needs to know it was her and not me who found it.

We had a mock test on Thanksgiving Monday, but we completely bombed it!!

Rogue seemed excited to track, but Huib said that from the start she seemed unsure, and as the track went along she got more and more insecure. I also became frustrated, so near the end, I got her to come close and we walked together to the end.

After I’d calmed down, I was SO embarrassed, we assessed the situation. We realized that the track was over an hour old (to that point, she’d only been doing 40 minute old tracks) and it was extremely windy.

Despite being unsuccessful, the experience was also useful because it gave me an idea of what things we need to work on before the actual test.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been doing 3 tracks, with each one being 10 minutes older than the last. She seems to be doing well and I think we’ll continue this up until the test.

In the meantime, I need to remind myself that even if we fail, we learned something and we can always do it again next year.

In the News: The Sentient Debate

According to the National Post, the members of Quebec’s National Assembly are “currently debating a bill which proposes animals be seen as sentient beings, rather than property.”

The bill in Quebec is not the first of its kind, there are a number of groups in Canada and the United States that are trying to make society accept the fact that animals feel pain and have the ability to think.

This article provides a very good look at some of the animal rights issues that are being considered in various countries, including Canada.

One thing I learned from the article is that there is an Animal Law Working Group, based out of a firm in Ottawa. The spokesperson for that group stated that there has been an increase in the number of Canadian dog and cat owners trying to sue for damages when their pet is injured or killed while at the vet.

This is definitely a debate I will be keeping a close eye on.

From my observations and experiences living with the ruled by paws gang, I can definitely tell you that animals can think and feel pain.

Maybe these are very silly examples, but:

Just think of the times you’ve accidentally stepped on a tail, or for guide dog handlers, the times your dog stopped you from becoming street meat.

Here at the ruled by paws house, it is accepted that everyone is a thinker, so it is up to the humans to try and stay one step ahead in the thinking game from the canines.

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.