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Tag Archives: service dog project

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.

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Happy Howlidays!!!

Hi Friends –

We’ve been thinking of you and hope you are having a wonderful holiday season.  I have been having so much fun with the family, and have been so busy that we run out of time in the day to write and tell you all about it. The catch to all this is when I did get to talk to you more I didn’t have to try and remember all the doggone crazy that happens. With that in mind I do want to say Thank You, to everyone who has extended such warm wishes to me and my human family. There are so many of you that sent Facebook messages, cards and emails that brightened all of our days.  Your support is always so amazing.

This was my first Christmas away from SDP (I love SDP) and with my forever family. Christmas morning was pretty great. The human puppies and I got Mom and Dad out of bed so could see what Santy Paws brought for us. I know Santy but I didn’t know that he would come and visit our houses just like he stops into SDP every year. We live in a condo with no Chimney, so he used the Magick key that Mom leaves on the door knob. It’s a special key that only works for Santy Paws; after he drops off gifts he locks up and puts the key on the tree for the little human puppy to find. I was so happy to see him that I let him in without even a growl. I knew that if I woke the puppies we’d never get them back to sleep. Santy said that he was very proud of me and he left me and the cats all kinds of toys. I got things like stuffies, antlers, and he even left this box that Mom and Dad have to use but it’s really for me. It’s this machine called a dehydrator. He said it was so they could make me treats out of meat without having to go completely raw or buy questionable “grain free” items in a store. Wait, I get MEAT as a TREAT? To quote the little human puppy, “Booya! Score!”  I can’t wait, if there is one thing that is better than cookies, it’s meat! As soon as Dad got up I showed him the box, this is all I could talk about for awhile. I told him all about how Santy Paws came and left us all gifts, and how I can have meat as a treat. Dad seemed impressed and said we can try it this week. I’m SO excited. This is going to be almost as good as steaks in a case you guys! No, better, because I never did get a steak from that stupid case! I played with my toys all morning while the human puppies did the same. I was glad when dad took me for walks because I was so busy I forgot to ask a few times (Dad knows me pretty well).  Oh, another Christmas thing I need to share with everyone. Have you heard of this drink called Eggs-log, or Eggsnog? Oh whatever, you know what I mean, I know you do!  I don’t know what happened to the eggs but Ohhmydog that stuff is delicious. If you haven’t checked it out you need to! I stole some from the puppy’s cup when she wasn’t looking. It was so good I told the cats, and they grabbed a few licks too before Mom took it away. She was afraid I’d get a belly ache or something. Dad seemed to be guarding his cup pretty well over the past couple days, I’m not sure what that’s all about? We ended our Christmas night by curling up on the couch together and watching the most important thing on television. Of course, I’m talking about Doctor Who. It was such a roller coaster; everyone was so happy The Doctor was back, but we knew that not only do we have to wait for the new season but we have to say good-bye to Matt Smith. He’s Dad’s first Doctor so it’s hard for him, even though he says he’s excited for Peter Capaldi and appreciates the past as well. That’s all I’m allowed to say about the show just in case you haven’t seen it. I don’t like spoilers.

So this was all the highlights of my Holiday. I hope yours was just as joyous. I can’t wait to share with you all in the New Year, so please keep coming back and we’ll be sure to be here.