Training At Square One

Today we had a puppy training session at Square One. I have only ever been to this particular mall once or twice before, so was amazed by it’s size and variety of stores. We arrived about an hour into the session as we went to visit Phoenix’s foster mom before – she had a stroke in early January and is currently living in long-term care. After walking around a bit we found the rest of the group and the trainer asked if we wanted to go and get Aiden – of course we did! As usual Aiden was excited to see us and we made sure to cherish the short time we had. I am not sure how many more of these times we will have, so gotta make the best of the ones we do.

Both Reece and Aiden were well-behaved in the mall. They weren’t overly excited around the other puppies at the session, but they were quite interested in all of the smells when we decided to take them to PJ Pets for some treat shopping. I am not a huge fan of stores who sell animals in their stores, but I know that this practice will not stop until people stop buying them. Aiden, Reece and Cessna were quite interested in the puppies that were behind the glass, but when the puppies began to make tons of noise we made sure to leave the aisle in a hurry. After the pet store we went back to the group and did some down stays and proper greeting with the boys – as usual they were fantastic! I think Reece is going to be a wonderful little guy to raise, as was his predecessor. I am not sure if it is the puppies themselves who are born amazing or if the older ones in our house teach them great manners, but one thing I do know is that I am spoiled!

Reece had his second set of vaccinations yesterday and was given a pretty much clear bill of health. He has a minor ear infection, but otherwise he is doing well. He weighed in at 24lbs and we were told he is going to be another big one. He was so tolerant of the vet and her assistants checking him over and didn’t even care about the vaccinations themselves or with the thermometer being shoved up his bum – he was more interested in the treats! After the check up was all over and we headed over to the desk to pick up the ear ointment, Reece decided to settle back onto the scale for a quick nap – crazy boy! He will go for his final set of vaccines on the 14th of April along with Aiden who will be getting his yearly’s – oh what fun!

Back To Training


Aiden left this afternoon around 3:00pm to continue his formal training. It is so quiet around here without him. Reece and him spent hours playing together, now the poor little guy is curled up asleep. I am not sure if it is to catch up on all the sleep he missed while Aiden was here or if it is because he misses him. Aiden will be back for Easter though so it won’t be too long until our house is full of play once more.

On another note, Reece turns 3 months this Friday. He turned 12 weeks on Saturday and has grown so much since we got him 4 weeks ago. He now fits his puppy coat better and has pretty much grown out of his puppy collar. I think he will be a similar size to Aiden because he really seems to be following his growth pattern. He goes to the vet on Friday for his second set of shots so we will know then how much he weighs now.

Reece had his third puppy class with Dogs In The Park on Sunday and did very well. He knows how to sit with very little convincing and he comes as soon as you call him. On Sunday he began to learn the “touch” command and also began learning doggie zen– when the dog won’t take a treat in front of them until the “take it” command is given. He did pretty well with the doggie zen when we did it, but when someone else tried it he was happy to take the treat…lol! He still has 5 more classes to go though, so lots of time for more practice.

Road Trip


Aiden arrived home last Friday around 1:30pm and immediately settled back into his normal routine. We never really realized how much we actually missed having him around until we spent a few hours alone. He is such a wonderful little guy, so full of personality and love. He follows me everywhere and has such focus when we are out. The first evening was spent on a puppy outing to Conestoga Mall where him and Reece met up with Amber and Honey. All of the puppies were well behaved and Aiden showed off his maturity and improved heeling abilities. The following day we hosted a puppy social. We had about ten dogs in attendance and all got along except this little black lab (Jasper) who decided it was a good idea to mount everyone!! He had a huge crush on my friend Jess’s guide dog Glacier, poor guy took it well though.

Sunday morning we got everyone packed into the rental and set off for Lindsay where we picked up my uncle. Cessna and Aiden slept in the back of the SUV while we chatted about the scenery and how excited we were to be looking at houses soon. Our first stop was in Bracebridge for some snacks and coffee. While at the Walmart my sister and Aiden got a picture done with Sponge Bob who had stopped there on his across Canada tour. Aiden did well, just sat beside him and allowed us to get a good picture. Our next stop was in North Bay for a pee break and some more coffee. I never realized North Bay was as big as it is. Aiden and Cessna loved the treats and pepperoni sticks they got throughout the drive, but weren’t overly happy being stuck in the back while we sat up front. Whenever we stopped somewhere Cessna would jump into the seats or Aiden would bat my sister in the head because he was bored. When we finally arrived in Kirkland Lake the dogs were excited to finally get out and be able to release some energy in the hotel room. Aiden had fun jumping from bed to bed while Cessna rolled around on the floor excited to be able to move around and get some belly rubs.

The house we looked at in town was nice. It needs a little more work than the sellers tried to say, but overall it was exactly what we wanted. The dogs did not come in with us as the woman who was still there at the time had a little dog so we didn’t feel it was right to bring ours into its territory. After the viewing we went to dinner at a restaurant not far from the house. The dogs had some water and then settled under the table for a bit of a nap. It was so nice having the two of them with us. Our other three are also great dogs, but often need more care or require special attention. I think they will like their new home though – it has lots of space and a fully fenced back and front yard. After dinner we returned to the hotel and played a bit of fetch with the dogs before getting ready to watch a movie. Both Cessna and Aiden curled up on the bed with my sister and I while Huib and my uncle had the entire bed to themselves. The following day my uncle and I packed up the room while Huib and my sister went to their perspective appointments. We had some lunch at the same restaurant and then set off to look at a house in the country about 30 minutes drive from town. The house was a 5-bedroom log home on 40 acres of land. The property was absolutely gorgeous, but the house needs tons more work than we can afford at the moment. In order to even live in it a great deal of work would need to be done so we just asked the real estate woman to keep us informed about any changes in price. It would be a great place to buy for the land and as a pet project for Huib to fix up over an extended amount of time. We let Aiden and Cessna run around a bit on the property before we put them back into the vehicle to begin the long journey to Deerhurst Resort.

The drive was beautiful, except for a bit of rain. The scenery along the roads are so nice to look at and the traffic was pretty light the entire drive. We saw a spot in the road where there had been a rock slide, another spot where a truck had lost its load of logs, and then about 10 deer in two different fields. When we were about 30 minutes or so from Huntsville there was a large truck which decided it was a good idea to hug the bumper of our car. Huib tried to speed up a bit and get the truck away, but the driver was persistent until my sister and Huib began taking pictures. We arrived at the resort around 8:00pm and immediately upon arrival the dogs began to run and play together in our suite. We had reserved a 2-bedrom suite for the night so the dogs had tons of room to play with one another. It was funny to see that Aiden still had his love for the tub because as soon as I entered the bathroom he followed and jumped right into the Jacuzzi tub to check it out. We got some good pictures of him in it and even got one of my sister sitting with both Aiden and Cessna.

The following morning Huib and I took the dogs for a bit of a walk around the resort and got some good pictures. Around 1:00pm we packed everything back into the car and headed off to Lindsay to drop off my uncle. The drive was quiet and we only stopped once to get some coffee and have a pee break. After dropping my uncle off we started the drive back home. We stopped at my aunt’s place to see if she was home, but no one was there so we continued on to Toronto. In the city we picked up Reece from another foster family and then went home. It was so great to finally get home and see Phoenix. He had stayed with our neighbour and was absolutely beside himself with excitement when we arrived.

We picked Aspen up at her breeder’s place Wednesday evening and were happy to see her again. It had been almost a week since we had dropped her off, but we knew she was happy there so weren’t too worried about the length of time. She was not overly happy at first when we arrived, but then after a few minutes began jumping up and making her whining noises. We let the other dogs out of the car to greet her and then everyone (Aspen being the second) jumped back into the car to head home. I think Aspen was really excited to see them all, her breeder has two dogs (Aspen’s dad & another retired stud) but they are older so not as into playing with her. She did get a chance though to play with her half sister Moose, who came to visit for a bit while her family was at work.

Aiden will be staying with us until Tuesday. We got an e-mail from his trainer when we arrived home to see if we wanted to keep him longer – of course we said yes!

Training Session In London


Last Saturday Reece (10 weeks – 16lbs) and I went to London with another foster mom and her puppy for a puppy training session. We arrived at White Oaks Mall around 10:00am (who decides on these insane times?) and met several new foster families, as well as, some I hadn’t seen in a while. Reece was good overall, especially considering his age and considering there were over 10 puppies he didn’t know. He walked well on the leash, still bounces like a bunny, but is no longer refusing to walk. He did his “sit” well and settled for a nap under the table after the session while we ate lunch.

My aunt and cousin came to the mall to see us, they just live 5 minutes or so away. It was nice to see them, but the best part of the whole trip was that I got to see Aiden!! He is maturing so much and listened amazingly well. He has always been a good boy, but I just saw the maturity shining through which made me smile. I passed Reece on to another foster mom and spent the entire 3 hours with Aiden. He was so excited to see me, I was squatting to teach Reece to lie down when he arrived and I was completely knocked on my ass. He gave me tons of kisses and I was just as excited, giving him all the hugs I could possibly give him before asking for a“down”. He was so focused on me the entire session and so willing to do whatever I asked of him. When our visit was over though he was happy to get back into his trainer’s van. This made me sad at first, but later it made me smile because I knew I had done well and that he was enjoying his time in training. I think what made it easiest though was knowing that he would be coming home in less than a week and that we would get to spend a few days together again.

Aiden will arrive tomorrow around noon and we will get to keep him until our return from Kirkland Lake on Tuesday. We have tons of exciting things planned while he is here. On Saturday we are hosting a puppy social for raisers and families of service dogs, then on Sunday morning we are heading to Kirkland Lake for a day to look at houses and get a tour of their hospital. Then we will head to Deerhurst Resort on Monday afternoon and spend the night there, as well as, part of the following day. I think it will be nice to just have Aiden and Cessna with us, it will be such a break not having to worry about the other three. Aspen left for her breeder’s house this morning and Reece will be going to stay with a fellow puppy raiser on Saturday after the social. Phoenix will stay with our neighbour and our cats will stay home as they aren’t the traveling types.

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” – Josh Billings –

Aiden Is Gone


So I did it, I sent Aiden off to begin his formal training. It is weird how at ease I am with doing so. I was more concerned about his trainer’s visit than I was with Aiden leaving. I know that must sound so weird, but with the disagreement we had back in the summer I was so worried that he would no longer allow us to foster. Well, the verdict is in and our new little bundle of fur, as long as all goes well, should arrive within the next week and a half or so.

This morning I took Aiden with me to my volunteering job and let him say good-bye to all of the people there. We then came home and cleaned up the house, we are doing some renovations so it was a little cluttered in areas. We packed up Aiden’s bag – his squeaky Cookie Monster toy, a smoked bone, and some food – then gave everyone a rawhide chip and relaxed. His trainer arrived and we chatted for about half an hour. Aiden was excited to see him and then fell asleep until he got up to go. I gave him Aiden’s bag and then Huib carried the bag of food to the van. Aiden didn’t even seem to care, he just followed the bag of food and jumped into the van.

We will not see him this coming weekend at the usual puppy training session as we have no reason for going and I have another commitment, but once we have our new bundle of fur we will make sure to attend and get a chance to watch our little man progress in his training. As well we have been told that if we ever want him for a weekend to let his trainer know and he will bring him our way. It is great not having to say good-bye forever and to know he will not be put into a kennel to wait for 4-6 months for his new partner. Aiden will live with his trainer along with other puppies who have also begun their training.

Good luck in your training Monkey Man! I will miss you, but I know you are now off to fulfill your destiny.

The Time Has Come

We got the dreaded message last Wednesday night to let us know that our little caramel bundle of silliness would be off to begin his formal training. We were so happy to be given just over a week longer to spend with him and to really get used to the idea of him leaving. He has matured so much over the past couple of months and we have really begun to see glimpses of what he can be. This knowledge has helped us to feel a little more at ease in saying good-bye. He gets so excited when we take his puppy coat down from the leash rack and has such love for people and for helping me out – even though he has never been taught or expected to do so. Even though I would love to keep him, seeing his love for the job and his passion for helping, I know that it would be selfish to make him mine and stay home as a regular dog. He is destined to become a service dog and has always showed us this side of him. Other dogs will play for hours, but Aiden will just sit back and observe or go and play, but make sure to check in every so often.

I wish Aiden the best of luck in his training and will be so proud to see him in his working jacket standing beside his new family and partner in crime. I will keep everyone posted on how he does, but for now I will close this post by sharing a poem that has been circulated for years amongst puppy raisers.

Ode to My Puppy Raiser
by Melanie S. Meenen

So when you remember me. . .

Goofy grins
Dancing eyes
Flopping ears
Spiked teeth leave
Fuzz changes to fur
Puppy breath vanishes
Hindquarters follow front
All obedience basics practiced
Socialization continues day by day
Trainers nod heads in agreement
We all knew it was coming
My time has come to go
Their grins disappear
Eyes tear quickly
Heads shake
Hearts torn
Return
Train

Know I was born to set someone free!

First Birthday Already!


Today is Aiden and Libertie’s 1st birthday, where did the time go? I remember when we got little wrinkly faced Aiden at 10 weeks of age and now looking at him I wonder where those days went. He has grown up to be such a handsome young dog, with such a patient and loving personality. With this milestone though comes the knowledge that soon he will go for training and we will no longer wake up to his nose and tongue in our faces – eager to get the day started. He is so much like my old boy Phoenix that it makes me sad every day to think about his upcoming departure from our home.

Libertie has now been with us for a month and a couple of weeks. She has learned so much and has pretty much settled into the routine of living in our home. She has mastered: sit, down, come, and is wonderful about waiting for the “ok” command before going to eat her meals. She has learned to take treats gently and is well on her way to learning how to stay and settle down (with the use of a tie down or crate, but soon she will no longer need these either).

I am not sure why our personalities seem to clash, but I find myself often wondering whether she really likes being here. I will give her a command and she will keep walking and when I make her obey she will stare at me with her sad eyes because I guess in her mind I am a mean person not allowing her to do what she desires. When her sister Amber was with us for a short time she would often give me that same look. I wish I could allow her to do what she wants, but I also cannot stand having a dog who ignores authority. Maybe in a little while she will begin to understand that I am not being cruel, but only trying to teach her what I know will help her become the dog I know she can be. My sister and her seem to have a wonderful bond with one another, maybe it is because Brandi does not force her to obey all of the time, but seeing this relationship helps me to see that she will have a great home for life if she does not stay with us.

Aiden and Libby had a great day playing with their buddies and with their new presents. Aiden absolutely loves his stuffed monkey with rope arms and legs that squeaks and Libby loves her new cow hoof filled with rollover. Soon they will have even more new toys to play with as Christmas is not far away.

Eleven Months


Today Aiden and Libby turn 11 months. It hasn’t been long since Libby arrived, but it has been almost 9 months since Aiden came to our home. He has grown so much and matured even more. Given his size and maturity level people often think he is over a year of age. We had a bit of a rough period, but he seems to have gone through it and is moving along in his learning now.

We are not yet sure who our little guy will help in the future, but we believe he will make a wonderful companion for a young child. He has such a calm and laid back disposition and his personality is full of charm. I sometimes wonder what he will be like as an adult, seeing as he is already so mature and well behaved.

I am glad we will have Aiden until after his first birthday, but I also know that January is not far away. If for any reason he does not make the cut though, he will be welcomed back with open arms.

A Medley of News

Looking at my blog today I realized that I haven’t posted in over two weeks and there is so much new to say. Aiden has now had four stay classes and is doing wonderfully! He is understanding now that I will not pay attention to him if he is not lying down in a stay position and it takes very little time for him to go back down after getting up for a moment. When we first began it could take as long as 15 minutes for him to lie back down, but now it sometimes takes as little as me just turning my back on him. I am so proud of my little guy, he is only 9 months old now, but acts so mature and adult-like. This Sunday we will be missing our class, but I will continue to practice while we are away. Last week instead of just staying, the dogs are now learning to relax as well.

On Wednesday Cessna and I began a Foundations class with Dogs In The Park. In this six week class she will learn some of the basic obedience skills needed for becoming a competition dog. I know she should know her basic obedience commands, but in this class we are taking it a step further by asking her to do them completely off leash and slightly differently. She is learning to stay like Aiden is in his class, but instead of only doing down-stays we are instead practicing a stay they are not as good at…this varies depending on the dog. For Cessna it is the down-stay, she does stays well in a sit position, but she isn’t as good about staying in a down when asked. To her, it is good enough to have her bum always on the ground, she doesn’t see why it matters whether she is in a down or a sit as long as she is staying. The class began with us practicing stays, then we moved on to teaching our dogs to come to the front of us. Cessna caught on quickly to this, so we moved on to trying to get them to touch a “target”. She was not so good at this, she became impatient and started to paw me and bark in frustration. The next skill we worked on was heeling, because she is already able to heel well on the left we began to teach her to heel on the right (just a note, that all of this class is done off leash). Cessna took a bit to figure out what I wanted, but soon got really good at it so instead of just standing and waiting for her to get into the right side heel I began taking steps away as she approached my right side. I guess after a bit she will begin to just walk along beside me without any issues. The class ended with us introducing the dogs to the barrels holding the bar they would later jump over. We walked through and whenever the dog walk over the bar we clicked and gave them treats. Once they were good at this we began walking around the barrels and getting them to walk between and over the bar. I think this class will not only give Cessna different abilities and learning opportunities, but that it will also improve her guide work because she will learn to focus better and listen to commands easier.

My final update is about my friend Jess who has now returned from Beijing and is at Leader Dog in Michigan getting her new guide dog. In Beijing she ended her paralympic swimming career on a high note, breaking her personal time records. She is not yet sure what she will fill all her free time with, but in January she will be starting massage school which will hopefully lead to a position on the National Paralympic team as their massage therapist. She has been at Leader Dog since September 21st and received her new partner in crime on the following Wednesday. Glacier is a 1 ½ year old male yellow (more white) lab, weighing in at 67lbs. I have not yet gotten a chance to meet him, but we are going to visit her on Sunday and will hopefully get some pictures to share. Even though Jess and Glacier have only been together for a week and a half she says they have bonded more in that time than her and Jetta (her previous guide) bonded in six months. Jetta was a wonderful guide dog, but she was not an affectionate or playful dog. Jetta is settling nicely into her retired life with Jess’s parents in Sault Ste Marie. I will update you all on their progress as time goes on.

Stay Class

Sunday Aiden and I had our first “stay” class. He is the youngest dog in the class by far, but did quite well. He was also the only lab in the class which meant treats were a big distraction! He impressed us though, staying for more than 10 minutes straight most times. This was only our first group session so with time he will improve even more.

Today I met up with a classmate, who also used to be one of my professors. Our dogs were tethered to posts on opposite sides of a driveway and we walked back and forth between them…only giving treats when they were staying in a down position. Both Aiden and Tyson did well, getting up at times, but we didn’t need to wait long before they laid back down. I can already see an improvement in Aiden’s stays and am curious to see how well he can do them after the 8 weeks of class. I can really see the benefit in training a dog using solely reinforcements, but am wondering if whoever gets him in the future can keep this up. He is a very fast learner and I am finding that he seems to be learning the concept of “stay” a lot better using this method than the usual one of “punishment”.

For those who aren’t familiar with this method I will describe what we do. I will ask Aiden to lay down and then only tell him once to “stay”. I will then walk away and only return when he is staying in a down position. When he stands or does anything other than lying down I will keep my back turned to him. When he returns to the down position I immediately go over to him and give him a treat and then continue this cycle until the end of our session when I will “jackpot” him which means he gets treat after treat and then can be released from the “stay”. The opposite to this method is “punishment” where I would continually go back to him and put him back into a “down” position. The theory behind the “reinforcement” method is that a dog will begin to understand that he only gets attention when he is doing the desired behaviour and will be ignored when he is not.

I will update everyone on his progress as time goes on