Escalators Are Fun!

Rogue wanted me to share some pictures from her first escalator trip.

She was such a brave little monster!

Levels Progress

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how I had decided to start seriously working through Sue Ailsby’s Levels with Rogue.

Today, I thought I’d give everyone a progress report, and let everyone know where Canyon is, since we also started Level 1 recently.

Rogue has COMPLETELY passed Level 1!

Since implementing the training suggestions I received from the woman in Wyoming, Rogue quickly learned the “touch” command and her recall is improving daily.

Rogue now not only touches my palm, she literally nose-butts it lol!

We have now moved on to Level 2:
Come (from 40 feet, 2 cues)
Crate (enter, open/close door with 2 cues) – Passed
Distance (goes around a pole 2 feet away with 2 cues)
Down (from sit with 1 cue) – Passed
Down Stay (while I walk 20 feet away/back with extra cues)
Go To Mat (from 5 feet away with 2 cues)
Handling (tail, ears, feet) – Passed
Leash (loose for 1 minute with 1 distraction)
Sit (from stand with 1 cue) – Passed
Sit Stay (while I walk 20 feet away/back with extra cues)
Stand (from sit or down with 2 cues)
Stand Stay (without moving feet for 10 seconds)
Target/Touch (nose to marked end of stick with 1 cue)
Trick (can be a very simple one)
Watch (eye contact for 10 seconds with 2 voice cues)
Zen/Leave It (5 seconds in hand & 10 seconds on chair with 2 cues) – Passed

Rogue and I are still doing the short washroom training sessions to learn new things, in addition to short ones in other places to practice her Level 1 behaviours. Since I do not feel comfortable teaching her the “look” command, I have assigned that one to Huib, but have been working on: stand, sit-stay, down-stay and come.

I haven’t started the touch stick targeting yet because I’m trying to decide on a more accurate, blind-friendly way of teaching this one. I’m thinking I might use the bell we have hanging from the outside door for this because she really likes going outside and it would be useful to have her learn to touch the bell when she wants out.

I have also purchased a cheap lime green yoga mat for teaching her and later Canyon to go on to it when asked. Cessna knows this one pretty well, and has generalized it to mean going onto whatever I point to (bed, mat, chair, etc.).

As I mentioned, Canyon and I have also started to move through Level 1 together. He is really interested in having his “special” time with me, so I decided to re-start teaching him “touch”. We’ve only been working on it for two days so far, and he is already able to “touch” my right palm with one cue. He can still only do it when I have my palm right in front of him, but I think its only a matter of time before he can do it as well (maybe not as hard) as Rogue.

Once he is through Level 1, I’m thinking I might try teaching Aspen, but we’ll see what happens. Aspen is a lot more stubborn and sensitive, than the others, so I find it a little more frustrating to teach her new things.

I’ll write another Levels update when I have more to report.

We Can Pose Anywhere!

These are the sorts of things that happen around here when Huib has too many days off work in a row lol!

The $10 Puppy

Hiya,
Roagie here. Mommy wanted me to share this picture for her. Her and Daddy thought it was pretty funny to have me pose under this $10 sale sign at our local Walmart.

I didn’t think it was that funny…

Do you guys think I’m only worth $10?

It’s Halloween!

Happy Halloween Everyone!

This year Huib and I decided to try being artistic, and make a Dr. Seuss themed pumpkin.

Canyon The Wizard

Cessna the Christmas Elf

Aspen The Ladybug

Rogue The Fairy Princess

Only Aspen seemed to enjoy this little game of dress-up.

Wonder what they would all think, if I made them all wear their costumes tonight…

6.5 Month Old Rogue

Huib catches Rogue in a natural position.

Huib tries to get Rogue posing.

Fun With Toilet Paper

Rogue thinks Cyndi Lauper was right when she said “Girls just wanna have fun.”

Closing Doors

Cessna will be turning 8 on Sunday. It’s hard to believe how quick time is passing with her, but we’ll talk more about that in a few days.

The reason I wanted to write today, was to tell everyone about the new skill Cessna is learning.

Cessna is learning to close cupboard doors.

I was practicing “touch” with Rogue in the washroom on Tuesday, and Cessna wandered in. She started to try and “touch” my hand as well, so I decided to take a moment with her. I put Rogue into a down and then opened the cupboard door under the sink. I then got Cessna to sit a couple of feet from the door and then pointed to it and said “touch”. She wasn’t sure at first, so I I pointed to the cupboard door and said “touch” again. She walked over and nudged it lightly with her nose. I immediately said “YES!”, and gave her a treat. I then put her back into a sit a couple of feet away, made sure I had her attention and then pointed to the door and said “touch” once more. She walked over a little quicker and nudged it harder, it almost banged close, but not quite, so I decided to ask her to “touch” again. She nudged it a little harder and the door closed with a bang, and we partied!

After finishing her treat and getting tons of praise, Cessna looked at the door, so I put her back into a sit and opened it. I pointed, and said “touch”. Cessna walked over and nudged it almost closed, so I said “harder” and she pushed again and it banged closed. She looked at me, swished her tail, and we had another party!

Since Tuesday, she has practiced with the washroom cupboard a few more times and does it with just one cue! We have also started to practice with the big door of our pantry, our freezer’s door (we have a fridge that has the freezer on the bottom as opposed to the top), and the doors under the kitchen counter. She can close the pantry almost perfectly now, still needs a couple extra cues for the freezer, and has a bit of trouble with some of the cupboard doors in the kitchen. Cessna has no real issue with the doors that open on the left, but when I ask her to close the ones that open to the right, she’ll often start trying to grab things to bring me from inside the cupboard lol!

I think that with a couple more days of practice though, she’ll be doing all cupboards without a second thought.

Cessna never ceases to amaze me with her eagerness to learn new skills.

Training With The Rogue Puppy

As I mentioned in this post, I ran into some training issues with the Boarder Collie Lady, and with the help of Sharon, from After Gadget, I have created a new training plan.

After reading my post, Sharon, Karyn and others, suggested I forget about the Border Collie Lady, and start looking for new training resources.

Well, my first step in this process was to join the Training Levels Group with Sharon’s assistance. This was probably the most important decision I have made in the four months, since picking up my little girl.

As soon as I posted my introduction to the group, a wonderful woman from Wyoming, e-mailed me to introduce herself and immediately took me under her wing. She first gave me blind-friendly suggestions on teaching “touch”, and then called me a few days later, to discuss where I was so far, and where I wanted to go from here. She listened intently, then told me a bit about the process she went through in training her 20 month old male, standard poodle, who has now passed his public access test. She commended me on our progress so far, and told me to continue doing what I am, but to also start working more closely on Sue Ailsby’s Levels. She said that for the first year, she mainly socialized, exposed and trained her dog using the levels. The following day, she sent me her training plan for me to follow when Rogue is ready to begin her task training (or guide work).

Since our phone call, we’ve traded e-mails every couple of days. It is so great to know there is someone willing to invest their time and energy in helping us succeed. She has also suggested I start working on some of the Level 2 behaviours, since Rogue is pretty close to passing Level 1, we’re just working on targeting and come.

Here is where Rogue is with Level 1:

Come (from 20 feet) – In Progress
Down (with 2 cues) – Passed
Sit (with 1 cue) – Passed
Target/Touch (nose to palm) – In Progress
Zen/Leave It (5 seconds in hand) – Passed

Here are the behaviours Rogue will/has learn in Level 2:

Come (from 40 feet, 2 cues)
Crate (enter, open/close door with 2 cues) – Passed
Distance (goes around a pole 2 feet away with 2 cues)
Down (from sit with 1 cue)
Down Stay (while I walk 20 feet away/back with extra cues)
Go To Mat (from 5 feet away with 2 cues)
Handling (tail, ears, feet) – Passed
Leash (loose for 1 minute with 1 distraction)
Sit (from stand with 1 cue) Passed
Sit Stay (while I walk 20 feet away/back with extra cues)
Stand (from sit or down with 2 cues)
Stand Stay (without moving feet for 10 seconds)
Target/Touch (nose to marked end of stick with 1 cue)
Trick (can be a very simple one)
Watch (eye contact for 10 seconds with 2 voice cues)
Zen/Leave It (5 seconds in hand & 10 seconds on chair with 2 cues) Passed

I have started to do regular little training sessions with Rogue when I’m in the washroom, and she really seems to be catching on to the “touch” behaviour. I am not naming it yet, but think she is pretty close to being able to “touch” on cue. I think the random, short sessions are working out a lot better for us both, because she isn’t expected to pay attention for more than 3 minutes at a time, and I am not having to worry about the others getting upset about being left out.

“Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly.” – Robert H. Schuller

Achieving The Confidence

As mentioned in this post, the topic for this round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival is “achievement”. I have been racking my brain for weeks, trying to figure out what to write about.

I finally came up with the perfect idea.

I’ll write about how I achieved the confidence to begin raising and training my future guide dog.

Are you ready?

Here we go…

On Friday, May 27th, 2005, I was matched with a spunky female black lab named Cessna. From the start, we struggled. She had so much spirit and an endless amount of energy. When she wanted to go, there was really no stopping her. When I wanted to just chill out, she couldn’t figure out what she was supposed to be doing. Cessna’s work was always 100%, but she pulled like a steam roller, and jumped around like a kangaroo when she saw other dogs and small critters. I tried using all of the training methods I had been taught while in class, but our progress was slow and at times seemed to move backwards. To add to our troubles, Cessna had some unknown fears and emotional trauma, which would leave me scratching my head, wondering what I could have possibly done to cause such a reaction.

Fast-forward almost three years.

On Saturday, March 1st, 2008, the Director of Autism Dog Services, brought a 10 week old caramel colour lab to our home. With all of the struggles and challenges I had overcome with Cessna, I felt we could use our knowledge to raise a puppy for a young child with autism. Aiden was a big goof. He had an amazing personality and loved to please everyone. We taught him so much within such a short amount of time. People used to stop and watch us in malls, smiling at the four month old puppy, performing his favourite tricks (roll over, give five and show your belly). By the time Aiden was approaching 7 months of age, we started to search for more direction and training ideas for new skills. This is when I began my training sessions with Dogs In The Park.
Aiden and I participated in the weekly “stay classes”, while Cessna joined me for “Levels”. Aiden had the most reliable “stays” of all his fellow ADS trainees, and I learned how to teach him complex skills and tricks, such as some of Cessna’s more basic guiding commands. By the time aiden was recalled for formal training, on Friday, February 6th, 2009, he was able to confidently leash guide me, throughout our neighbourhood and within quiet stores to find Huib. It was at this point, when the Director of Autism Dog Services, suggested that I think about raising and training Cessna’s successor.

This thought sat in the back of my mind for over a year and a half.

On Saturday, February 14th, 2009, Huib and I went to a small kennel in St. Agatha, Ontario, to pick up our second ADS foster puppy, Reece. Cessna and I had been participating in the weekly Levels classes for almost 7 months at this point. Our relationship was flourishing, and I had learned new ways of working with her, that did not include leash corrections or any other forceful methods. We began our raising adventures with Reece, trying to closely follow the new training methods I’d learned through my time with Sue Alexander. We used his lunchtime meals for training and taught him everything using the clicker and praise. Reece wasn’t as quick as Aiden in the learning department, but his trainer was delighted with his weekly progress. With aiden we found it next to impossible to teach him loose leash walking, so with Reece, we worked on leash walking from day one. By the time Reece was six months old, he was able to walk on a loose leash with anyone. Unfortunately, around this time he began to develop a limp which seemed to be coming from his left front elbow. It took the program staff five months to make the decision to wash him out.

On Friday, December 18th, 2009, Huib and I picked up a 6 month old male golden retriever from a Mennonite farm in Chesley, Ontario. Canyon (formerly Sparky) had absolutely no name recognition or manners. He mouthed, jumped up on everything, relieved indoors and would pace when he was nervous. We spent the first week teaching him his name and what the clicker meant. We then moved on to teaching him to sit through “capturing”. We knew he loved going outside, so would wait for him to sit before clicking and opening the door as his reward. Once he was sitting reliably, we named the behaviour and started to use it at other times, like before meals and when he’d go to jump up onto something or someone. Through using solely the clicker and treats/praise, we found our relationship with Canyon grew quickly, and his fears subsided easily. Over the next year and a bit, I taught Canyon all of his basic obedience commands without the use of anything other than the clicker and treats. I also continued to work on training with Cessna, teaching her to do various tasks at a distance and expanding her use of the “touch” cue.

During the winter of 2010 and 2011, I began working with a trainer to learn more skills and to try and expand my training knowledge. Through these lessons, I learned how to teach Canyon to turn right and left with a simple gesture, and how to better teach him to walk on a loose leash. Training an older dog, compared to a young puppy, can be a bit more of a challenge. The Border Collie Lady taught me how to do things differently in order to move past some of the obstacles we’d encountered.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to see what Canyon had truly learned through our lessons with the Border Collie Lady. He walked calmly and confidently at my side through the St. Jacob’s Market while Cessna guided us around people and vendor tables. It was such an awesome feeling to be able to smoothly walk through the market with two dogs at my side. He even surprised me at one point when he showed a desire to try some fire escape-like stairs that Huib was showing Rogue and my friend Karen was coaxing her 13 month old foster puppy up. I handed the leash over to Huib and Canyon walked up and down the stairs as if he’d done them a million times.

In February of this year, I learned that Cessna had begun to develop cataracts in both eyes. It was at this point, when I decided to seriously look into raising and training her successor. I researched breeds, looking at the golden retriever, flat-coated retriever and Labrador retriever. After deciding on the lab, I started researching breeders in Ontario. I e-mailed close to 10 different ones, before settling on Red Labrador Retrievers, a small kennel in Maidstone, Ontario.

We picked up our 11.8lbs, female butterscotch colour lab on Friday, June 10th, 2011.

I’m honestly not sure I would have made such a decision if I had not been matched with my little black firecracker. Through my struggles with her, and experiences with Aiden, Reece and Canyon, I’ve learned tons and developed self-confidence.

I’m hoping Cessna will never stop challenging me to become a better person, and that she will help me teach Rogue how to walk in her shoes.