Guide Dog Training At Home

I qualified with Vivvy on Wednesday 🙂

Last weekend was spent just familiarising Vivvy at home and making sure she had done all her busies in the right place. Thankfully she settled pretty quickly and has discovered all the toys in the toy box. Unfortunately, it seems like soft toys are a deffinete no no as she slobbers on them so much that they open very easily. She seems to like tug toys and harder toys like kongs and things.

On Monday, we worked on doing a big block route that takes about 20 minutes each way. i found it quite hard to trust her and stay up beside her so we got brushed by a couple of things. She worked really nicely up to her kerbs and it was a pretty good couple of walks for being at home.

Since she had done so well, we went in to town on Tuesday for some coffee and then back home again. Again, she worked well, but she kept speeding up and speeding up so i had to slow her down quite a lot. i wasn’t sure about slowing her as i didn’t want to worry her but she was just getting a bit too carried away with herself. she settled nicely in the coffee shop while we enjoyed some coffee and cake. On the way back, there was a funeral taking place at one of the churches near me so there were lots of cars parked quite awkwardly just before we got home. Unfortunately when there is a funeral, the estates surrounding the church can become quite jammed up. We only did the one walk that day as it was quite a big walk with lots going on.

On Wednesday, we did the block route again but in reverse this time. she did some really nice work but was a bit distracted by a cat on the way. She was very easy to get re-focused again though. It was also bin day so she had a lot to deal with. Sometimes, she lacks to the confidence to push right if an obsticle is on her left and she is taking me around it. I do think this will come in time though.

When we got back home, i was asked how i would feel if we qualified. Of course i was over the moon, but i was quite surprised at it being so soon. When i qualified with Ushi, you had to know 3 routes, but they were satisfied on my one route for now. We will do more routes as time goes on. After paying my 50 P, the contract was read out to me before i signed on the dotted line.

I went out to yoga that night and Vivvy was grand to be left with my sister for an hour or so until i came back.

Yesterday, we had quite a chilled morning, before heading out to do our two walks. I did the walk both ways and she was a little star. She had started to speed up a little the more confident she got, but i was able to slow her just a little. i thought that she had spent on our second walk as she walked under a hedge that was sticking out and she sat down under it. I have come to the conclusion though that she only sat because the hedge brushed me. She is quite good at going at home so hopefully this won’t become a problem.

The instructor was back out today and we worked on the route in to town. I had a few things to get anyway so decided that i would kill two birds with one stone, as it were. I decided that i wouldn’t do the route through the shopping centre as there is a christmas market with lots of stalls and things so i figured it could be quite busy so i decided to go the shorter route just until christmas is over. I don’t want to overwhelm her at this early stage. Today was the best walk we’ve ever done. I am starting to feel as if we will work out. I was able to control her speed nicely through the town and i was able to get what i needed done. I think the more i have her out, the more i will start to trust her and it won’t feel so disjointed.

We finished off the day with a lovely free run. Of course there were no dogs about as i wanted to see if she would be such a terror with other dogs and their balls to see what i could do to stop it. Her recall was pretty good, but then there weren’t any dogs about. I came armed with a squeaky toy in case we needed to use it but she didn’t need it. She did meet a golden retriever on the walk but she carried on after having a little play. I did have to use the gentle leader on our way back through the park after the free run though as she was quite interested in the ducks in the duck pond.

All in all, it has been a good week at home. I am sure in time everything will start to click but i have to remember that she is a new dog and i had a good 7 years with Ushi. I am looking forward to the next few weeks with her and seeing how we go. I really do think we will make a good team.


Guide Dog Training Days 6 To 12

I’ve been at home with Vivvy for the past two days, so i will try and recap the past week as best i can.

Saturday was a pretty horrid day weather wise. We did a walk in the morning, before tackling off kerb obsticles in the afternoon. Off kerb obsticles are where the pavement is completely blocked. Your dog will take you to the kerb and you step off the kerb and get back on the pavement as quickly and safely as possible. The obsticles that were used were artificial, but it was to mimmic real life obsticles such as cars parked on the pavement. It was back to the hotel after this for a quiz on dog behaviour and how to understand your dog. By the time all that was done, it was time for dinner for both dogs and humans. Unfortunately Viv was a bit sick after eating her dinner. She seemed fine in herself so i think it was just a case of eating too quickly.

Sunday was free run day. All the dogs were badly in need of this chance to be a dog. The dogs ran and ran and ran and still seemed to have energy to burn. We discovered that Vivvy is very very ball obsessed as she kept trying to take other dogs balls. So i will be doing a bit of work i think on that as when i’m playing tennis, i don’t want her to decide to take our balls. Her recall could also do with some work so i think i’ll be working on that too. By the time we were ready to go, the dogs were suitably wet and muddy. They had had a good time though so that was all that mattered.

When

We got back to the hotel, it was time to dry the dogs off and let them have a nice sleep while we all enjoyed a lovely carvery lunch. The rest of the day was our own, so my friend came up and we just chilled out really. Everyone else had their family members up with them as well. I think we all needed that chilled out afternoon to gather ourselves for the week ahead.

Monday was moving in to more busier conditions, putting in to practice what we’d learnt over the last week.

Tuesday we learnt how to get on and off busses with the dogs, followed by a trip to a coffee shop for a cuppa and to work on the dogs lying together not annoying each other. I must say that Vivvy is a bit of an instigator in trying to get the other dogs to play with her. She’ll lie down but move her face towards whoever is beside her. She is incredibly crafty like that. Thankfully she didn’t get the dogs to play this time though which was good.

we then did some group obedience in the afternoon. We had to walk each dog around the others while the others were sitting. There were then toys placed around and the dogs had to leave them alone. I needed my gentle leader for this one as she was very very interested in the toys.

On Wednesday, we went in to Conswater shopping centre for some indoor work. Viv worked lovely as always being very responsive to my commands. It was back to the hotel after this for a health and welfare talk from the dog care and welfare advisor. This is the person who we contact if our dogs need non routine treatment or if there is an emergency.

We did some traffic work in the afternoon. We learnt that there is near traffic, where traffic is on the right and we are on the kerb and far traffic, where you are crossing a road and a car comes from nowhere. The near traffic we can practice ourselves because we always stay on the kerb whilst telling the dog to go forward when the car is in front of us. When the dog doesn’t go, they get praised. If they do go, we don’t let them step off the kerb. This is called intelligent disobedience which is a good thing to have in a guide dog.

We headed out bowling after our dinner as the class night out. It was going to be a meal out, but we decided that we wanted to do bowling instead. It was a good night and was a good way to just chill out and forget about dogs for a short while at least. The dogs chilled out in the hotel with the tv for company.

We did some more traffic work on Thursday before heading out to the pet shop to get toys beds and bowls if we needed them. There was quite a lot of toys to choose from. I baught Viv a cuddly phasant, and a squeaky brussle sprout which unfortunately was destroyed within minutes. It seems like Vivvy can’t really have soft toys and needs harder, tougher toys as she slabbers a lot on them and then tries to rip the softer ones apart.

We did an evening walk afterwards as the media person from Guide dogs stayed for some lunch and we were all chatting and that before she took some pictures of everyone and their dogs for facebook. We did another busier walk, and eventually ended up at the Co-Opp to buy some chocolate. It was dark when we did the walk so it was a new experience for the dogs. Again, they coped brilliantly.

Friday was our last day unfortunately. The whole class absolutely flew in.

I had told myself that i was going to enjoy this class, and not be hanging on every word like i was with Ushi. But then again, Ushi was my first dog so that was nearly to be expected. I was nowhere near as nervous as i was with Ushi either. There wasn’t much to do apart from get all our things together and say goodbye to everyone before we headed for a last walk before heading home.

These past couple of days have been spent just settling in to home life again after the hotel. Vivvy is certainly lively off harness, but i do think this will work. Hopefully once we start working our routes, that will burn off some of the energy she has. I need to also remember that she is still young and that i had Ushi for nearly 8 years, so there is some difference between the two dogs. I am looking forward to the home training and hopefully, it won’t be long until i’m qualified.


Guide Dog Training Days 3 To 5

These last 3 days have been incredibly busy since i last wrote so i am going to try and summarise in one post.

On Wednesday, we did more lead work around the hotel, before learning how to do obedience. We did this in the converted bedroom come lounge where it was nice and quiet. We learnt how to get the dogs to sit and wait, and to down stay. We also learnt how to conduct health checks on our dogs before doing some short handle work with the harness without the dog practicing turns and following the harness.

It was lunch after this, before we headed out

On our very first harness walk in the afternoon. We just practiced a basic route that was in the shape of a flag pole. That first walk was good. I did enjoy getting out again with a dog.

It was back to the hotel after this, where we spent the dogs, before going down to prepare her food for the evening and her breakfast the following morning. I left her in the room as she was very distracted when the instructor tried to carry the food whilst i walked her to our room the night before.

After both the human and dogs had been fed, we all just chilled out with our dogs. Vivvy is certainly a live wire compared to Ushi. She would play and play but she does like to cuddle in to me between my legs for about 10 minutes before she takes herself off to her bed. I have never known a dog who wags as much as she does.

Thursday was a bit of a rotten day, so we all stayed indoors for the morning. This was again a good opportunity to practice walking down to the lounge from our rooms, nice and calmly. There was a lot of excitement in the lounge with all the dogs, so we had to redirect them a few times. Eventually, we all settled in with a cup of tea for a talk about how the dogs become guide dogs. This wasn’t just the usual about how they go to puppywalkers etc. There was a bit of that, but we learnt all about how they are conditioned to learn things, and how you can teach them things. We also learnt about positive reinforcement, and how you can still correct if you need to, but a lot of it is more on voice and redirecting their attention. It really was quite an interesting talk and it was fascinating to learn how dogs work in general.

After this, some people went out on walks, while some of us learnt how to groom our dogs. I’ve never known a dog who enjoys a grom so much as Vivvy. She was wagging away the whole time. She also wanted to hold my zoom groom as well as snuggling in to my shoulder at one point as i groomed. She certainly was a very happy dog.

Lunch was next, followed by another harness walk. Vivvy initially doesn’t like the harness being put on her back, but is fine after it is on. So i have to give her a treat to get it over her head. We are then ready to go on our walk. This was the same walk as the previous day, so that we can really get used to following each other and working together. Again, this was another really good walk for the two of us.

We decided after our dinner to bring all the dogs down to the lounge just to chill out. Vivvy was a bit of a tinker and kept trying to get the other dogs to play. She seems to get a second wind around 8 or 9 o’clock and needs to burn off her energy a bit. This was quite stressful as i couldn’t use the lead as much as i would have done with Ushi being on the half check and took a lot of redirecting before she would settle. Eventually though, she did which i was relieved about.

I have discovered that she will bark to herself if people are wlking about outside our door. Naturally, i don’t want this to turn in to anything, so i need to be very quick to tell her to be quiet when she does bark and not to encourage it. I really don’t want this to become a habbit. I was woken up in the middle of the night by a bark which scared the pants out of me. This was followed by a howl this morning because i was petting her this morning and not getting up right away to feed her. Again, i soon put a stop to that. I really do have a bit of a live wire on my hands.

Today, which is Friday started off with a walk straight away as Vivvy had a vet appointment

To make sure the little skin rash she came to me with from free running and catching herself on something was healing okay. So i went out first for my walk. Again, this was a lovely walk and probably the first walk i started to enjoy. Not that i didn’t enjoy the other walks, but i don’t feel like we are a unit yet, but then again, i must remember that we are still only getting to know each other and she is still young. Plus i had 7 years of Ushi working for me. It will take a while for this to happen for me and Vivvy.

It was off to the vet after. Vivvy was quite strong going in to the vet, but i was given a gentle leader to use for when i just have her on the lead. This goes over her head and nose and stops her pulling just as hard. This made a massive differentce and she was a ery calm girl on it. Thankfully her little rash is clearing up nicely. She did have to have a hibiscrub wash twice a day for the past couple of days along with antibiotics, but she doesn’t need the hibiscrub any more. She just needs to finish the course of antibiotics. I think the antibiotics are to stop the infection turning in to anything serious and the scrub was to keep it clean.

We had chill time after this and another client and our dogs chilled out in the lounge for a while. This was a much better visit and Vivvy was a lot calmer than what she had been.

So i felt we made a little progress with that.

After lunch, we went out on another walk, but this time it was in the opposite direction. Vivvy is a very cautious worker and doesn’t like to get things wrong. She lacks confidence to push me around obsticles at times, but that will come in time as our partnership grows. The extendable lead also came off today so we were kind of going solo with the instructor still behind us.

We decided to go down for dinner half an hour later than usual tonight where we discovered some slight changes to the menu.

The menu changes every month so we came when it changed to more christmasy dishes.

I again braught Vivvy down to the lounge and she was brilliantly behaved. I had played with her before we came down which seemed to get rid of some of her pent up energy.

Vivvy is deffinetly a challenge, but in a totally different way to Ushi. I can see us working together and am starting to believe it now. I just need to discourage her exciteability, or at least tone it down a bit. I am off to bed now as we’ve a busy day tomorrow.