Tag Archives: dog

A Matter of Inches

I think that if you ask trainers what the most difficult part of their job is a majority of them will tell you, without missing a beat, people. You were probably expecting a different answer, right? Sorry, but it is the cold, hard truth. The problem with most dogs is most people. Don’t worry, I’m solidly in that category. I may be wrong, ask Lauri she will tell you it happens often, but I feel like I’m maybe a half a step ahead of some. (at least before I trip) (Editors Note: He is amazing with animals. Very intuitive. Sometimes, though, his stubbornness gets in his way.) I feel comfortable claiming my status in the pack for one simple reason. I know that I don’t have all the answers, but I’m rarely unwilling to ask the question.

Something I have learned, likely more than once, is that life is about perspective. I have changed mine over the years and try, now to take the path of the student. I have found it is much more fun than assuming I know everything. I still struggle to listen before I speak at times, but like I said, I consider myself a student and I’m learning. I take this view quite often as a service dog handler because I am well aware that I know very little on this subject. I don’t think there has been a visit to SDP where Carlene hasn’t asked me: “So, what are you working on?” If it isn’t her, it is one of the trainers. This question begs to know what issues we’re working out. I always have questions, and they always have feedback that I take with me. Some I use immediately, some I sit with and test. The test cases would be the answers I knew to be correct but maybe they didn’t sit with me quite right at the moment.

A long smoldering issue that I have is allowing Casper to pull. This is something he does more in new environments. Now, I have had talks with him about trusting me, but he keeps it up and I end up worn out. I clearly had not found the solution in reasoning with him. One tack that I found to work for me was to let go of his harness (he wears a planet dog harness at all times) and place an open hand on his service butterfly; he slows right up. This does  not help me though when I need him for stability, but it is a step in the right direction. We also regularly practice the “one-step crawl” especially when he tries to lead my dance. This is a process of taking a step and stopping, repeatedly, so that your dog is always at your hip; it is a great focus tool  to have. Still, this does not solve the problem and we keep trying. Then a day comes where I read something in the Daily Doggy, the SDP blog, that each recipient and volunteer is charged with reading on a daily basis. This allows us to keep up with what is on the collective consciousness for the morning, sometimes funny, informative or just anecdotal. Today though I knew I wasn’t alone when I read of another Dane pulling on walks. Don’t get me wrong, this is nothing like a dog at the end of a 15 foot lead dragging it’s owner down a sidewalk, but in the service world, for a stability dog any pull has potential to send someone to the ground. Of course our leader has an immediate solution. She said, “…the trick is to never let them tighten a lead; their head should be right at your knee and if it’s not you give a jerk, sharply pulling and releasing…A couple of those and and they will decide that the only way to stop you from jerking is to walk without pulling…Then praise, reward and walk on with your dog in place.” Of course I tried this right away and the response was just as we’d expect. Casper walked slowly with no pulling. The difference between the two was a matter of me changing my hand position and moving him back a few inches.

In the days since reading and practicing there has been much less pulling. Now the goal is to replicate this in all environments. Like I mentioned Casper is a creature of habit and he does very well at places like the office or restaurants we know well, but not so well in new ones. I have faith that we will get there with time and practice. The solution was simple, I just needed to learn how to show him that he can relax and allow me to lead.I still have all the support I need and we can both be more comfortable and enjoy our outings together.

Snow Day!

Hi Friends –

The other day the weather reports were all saying it was going to snow overnight and on our last walk of the evening, around 11pm, the snow hadn’t even started. Dad said that sometimes the forecast is wrong and that maybe this one will miss us and we’ll only get a couple inches. I said that all we can do is wait and see. I hoped it would snow because it’s so much fun to eat and play in. Dad, on the other paw hoped for sun and 80 degrees. He’s silly. Either way we planned on staying home because Dad has a pawsome job that lets him work remotely, and his office Alphas (managers) allow for the quick decisions that life shows the need for. As it turned out Dad woke up feeling a bit sick, so he changed his plan from a remote day to a day off. Of course, he still logged in and tried to work but his Alphas barked at him and told him to take care of himself. Thankfully he listened and only stayed logged in for about a half hour.

We spent most of the day inside catching up on shows and napping. I did most of the napping, but it was a great day. What made it even better was that Mom decided to take some of her comp time she earned from working extra hours over the holidays. We did go out several times for short walks. Mom and I tried zoomies in snow but it wasn’t really all that much fun because I quickly found that I needed to hop to get my feet out of the heavy wet snow; I just ate it instead. I love eating the snow.

Mom said the other reason she brought me out was to keep me occupied and not thinking about our time away from dad. We live in a large pack of kennels (condominiums) and our kennel has a smaller parking lot for our cars. So before a storm Mom and Dad like to move them to a bigger lot close by so the plow trucks can move and not pile huge mounds of snow in front of them. Once they plow the lot Dad goes into action and clears out my truck and Mom’s car and brings them back over to our lot. The problem is that I have to stay inside while he does this to keep me safe. I appreciate this, but I still get worried about Dad being out there without me.  If Mom wasn’t with us he would have brought me with him and just have me wait in the truck with the heat on and the rear hatch window open so we could talk. I can squeeze into Mom’s car if it’s just us and walk him back and forth to pick up the truck. It’s a long cold process, so I chose to stay in and cuddle.

I also want to mention that Mom and I were proud of him yesterday! He came in and told us that there was so much snow piled in front of Mom’s car that he couldn’t just drive it out, so he found the crew clearing snow and asked for help. This is a big step for him. In years past he would have spent hours digging on his own and refused help; this time he sought it out. With two shovels on the job they cleared him out in no time and were glad to help. He also accepted an offer from a neighbor to clear the top of the truck for him. The neighbor was several inches taller and had it done in minutes, again, happy to help. When he told us these stories I pointed out that he did well and had learned that allowing others to give is just as important as him giving of his time and talents. We truly are grateful for those that assisted and allowed Dad to see prosperity principles in action.


written by DFS