In my last post, i had written about how i had just qualified with Vivvy. Things have been ticking along rather nicely with her and we have been working together for two months exactly. We will be qualified two months on the 12th of February.
Since i last wrote, we have done quite a lot together. We have been all around my home town, gradually getting used to the busyness of the main town centre as well as quieter routes like block routes. She has also been registered with the vets who were dying to meet Vivvy and were asking about Ushi and how she was getting on.
We have taken a few train journeys up to Belfast
And again, she has coped really well with this.
We tackled yoga a couple weeks ago and again, everyone loves having her in the class. She lies down nicely too after the initial excitement. I am still keeping her attached to something at the minute just until i can trust that she won’t dive on someone to lick them during the class. I bring a piece of vet-bed with me and she chills on that while we do the class.
We have attended a few meetings now and she lies down quietly which is what i expect.
I have had her out on many free runs where she gets to be a dog off the lead and her recall is great unless there is a dog with a ball and then she becomes totally fixated on that. We met up with a friend whos’ dog loves balls too and we had to put it away eventually as she really would not stop running after the ball. Because of her ball obsession, i thought that tennis would be extremely difficult if not impossible with her but thankfully she has proved me wrong. She does show some initial interest, but eventually she just curls up and doesn’t care about the balls bouncing all around her. This really is fantastic as i was really worried in case she couldn’t be around the balls and thought she might have had to stay with reception at the leisure centre which i was quite reluctant to be doing in the first place. I honestly needn’t have worried.
In the short time i have had her, i have noticed a massive increase
In her confidence levels. She will now confidently push in to me if we need to move over on the pavement rather than walking so close to the kerb on our matching visit that she fell off. This is brilliant to see. She absolutely loves showing me crossings, even if we don’t want or need them. This is probably more to do with the fact that she gets a treat at crossing boxes though. She is very good at remembering where places are and can sometimes anticipate a little. I still prefer to be giving her the directions though as i don’t think you should just say to your dog where you want to go and switch off. Yes, you can switch off a little, but i think you should always be the sat-nav of the partnership.
Her spending routine is fantastic. She will usually do both busies before we leave the house and can go all day if needed until we get home again. She goes on both concrete and grass which means i have more options if i am out and she does need to go. If she does get caught short, she will try to go up an alleyway or something as she does not like to do it in harness. This really is brilliant as i wouldn’t want a dog who would just stop and go although i know some dogs do and the owners just pick it up and carry on.
When i first got her, she would bark if she heard a sound that she wasn’t sure of or if someone was at the door. Thankfully, i have got the barking down to one bark maybe once a week if even. I did not want this to develop in to barking at every little sound. Thankfully she responded well to me telling her to be quiet when she did it but i need to get in there just before the sound takes place or as someone knocks the door, for example. This does work well most of the time.
When i first went to put her harness on, she would lower down quite dramatically. Once it was on, she was grand, but she didn’t like the initial act of the harness going on over her head. I had to experiment quite a lot as to how to put it on. If i put it on from above, she nearly lay down flat so i have to put it on nearly from in front of her. She does lower slightly this way, but it is nowhere near as bad as when i first put it on. Now, i don’t even need a treat as it goes over her head. I just give her belly a rub and she is as happy as Larry then. This is much handier for both of us as we are just getting it on without any messing as the longer i took to put it on, the lower she would go.
The only thing she really doesn’t like is traffic on her left side, particularly lorries and busses. She will push me very hard to the right if a lorry or bus goes past us, but i am not making a big deal out of it and just telling her “good girl” but carrying on as if nothing has happened. Some days this is worse than others, and sometimes she backs up from crossings if a bus is passing. Again i go with her, praise her as sometimes busses can be very close to the kerb, then we go forward again to the crossing. This seems to work for now, and again i am not making too much out of it as i don’t want this sensitivity to develop further.
Her social behaviour is impecable but we do have to work on keeping all paws on the floor when somebody strokes her. This is a work in progress, particularly with people she knows, but we are getting there. Overall we are doing brilliantly and won’t be seen again by Guide dogs for another 6 weeks unless we have any problems.
Vivvy really couldn’t be any more different to Ushi if she tried. She is a lively little character out of harness with a toy with bags of personality but she will knuckle down when i need her to and she takes her work super seriously. I can’t wait to see how the next few months pan out with her and i really do think we’ll make a great team.
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.
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.
I seem to have lost my blogging mojo, but thought i’d better write something about mine and ushi’s two year qualification. I always like to celebrate it. Plus it’s always good to compare. So i hope you won’t find it boring.
So on Saturday i celebrated two years with Ushi. Over the last year i’ve noticed some big changes. Ushi was always quite confident with her work, but over the last year she has become more confident.
She no longer hesitates so much with her obbsticles, and is usually more confident with tight spaces, although she does like to wait and make totally sure i will fit through the gap.
When we are crossing roads now, if it is a quiet road, Ushi has to wait until she is sure there is no car coming towards me. This kind of does get a little annoying, but at least she is being cautious. She does eventually go forward though.
There are two kerbs that she absolutely refuses to budge on. I have to physically step off the kerb and use the lead to get her going. (It is a quiet road, but you can hear traffic in the distance as there are four roads leading off it). I’ve tried bribing her with treats but no joy. It’s only on two kerbs too!
I’ve discovered how well Ushi works in busy conditions. I love working her in new environments if someone is directing me.
She has also started whining for her food in the mornings! She never used to do this, but i think me forgetting to feed her until 12 o’clock one day might have had something to do with it. Most of the time it’s a gentle whine, but there was one day she actually barked and scared herself lol. I used to feed her at half 5 for her dinner, but i’m now doing it at 7 o’clock since she was waking me up ridiculously early the next morning.
One of the biggest changes would have to be how she now will swim. Fair enough it is only in a still river, but it’s a start! I’d love to take her down to the sea to see what she was like with it since the last time we took her she didN@t like it at all. she was in her harness though so that might have had something to do with it. So i’d love to see her just off her lead.
The biggest thing i’ve noticed is how she has wormed her way into my uncles heart. He has never really liked dogs, but a few months ago he saw the article i did in the paper about me and Ushi, and wanted to meet her. So we met in town. I thought he would just put on that he liked Ushi for my sake, but he invited us up to his house one time when my sister was going up. From that day he has been hooked. He has Bipolar disorder so having Ushi really helps his moods. and his skin has got much better after Ushi licks him. I know it isn’t healthy but there is no way of stopping her really. she is so firm and he has said it looks much healthier after she is done. He doesn’t have to put his creams on as much either when she is there. She treats him like one of the family now.
He even got her bowls so i wouldn’t have to bring mine up all the time. Unfortunately the first food bowl was far too small and Ushi couldn’t move her food around in it, so she wouldn’t eat. I actually had to empty it onto the floor! So my uncle went out and baught her a new one.
She even has two pillows and a blanket for her bed.
she also has spare food up there and carrots that are Ushi’s. She even has her own jug of water!
My uncle now looks forward to Ushi being up, and actively calls her over to him. He loves the way she comes out to the kitchen when he is cooking, and has conversations with her.
Ushi has really benifited him as he is getting out more, and he enjoys having to focus on directing me when i am working her. I was worried in case he wouldn’t like me working her and would want to guide but he loves seeing the two sides of her.
I sometimes feel though i don’t work her as much as i should, or that i don’t deserve her. I know i do though and even if i am just doing a walk which is most of my routes, she is still getting her exercise and i am getting to meet so many people on my travels. i do wish i felt able to travel more independently but i know that sometimes it’s too awkward to do it if it is at night for example. I know the volunteer drivers don’t mind though but i feel that sometimes i am just making excuses.
So happy qualification Ushi. I’m so glad i’ve got you and i hope you don’t get bored of me. I really enjoy walking along and not having to worry where my next step will be. I hope you are with me for a good while anyway, and contenue working well. I do sometimes get bored of the routene but i don’t think i could go back to the cane.
I can’t wait to see what the next year of our partnership brings!
Here we are again with another recap. Last years post was
Quite an update
Which started with a visit from my instructors as i still wasn’t all that confident using zebra crossings. Now i use that route quite alot as it takes me into town!
I found it so hard in those early days to actually go out on my own with Ushi, and used to imagine that my instructors were still there in their cars behind me. It seemed to work though as now i can go out without a care in the world!
I also had someone try to direct Ushi that week. I was walking around his car and he decided to tell Ushi where to go. I think he huffed with me though once i told him that i could work out the way round the obsticle! Thankfully i have only had that one experience and people don’t try to do it as much now.
I was spending ushi on the lead at the time last year, but thankfully she will come in now after she has gone and she doesn’t dig as much now.
The problems were pritty minor compared to the problems i will describe in the next couple of posts. I really wasn’t prepared!
I was reflecting the other day about Ushi on one of my days out this week with my rehab worker. She can be quite a hard dog to handle, and if the instructors had known what a handful she could have been i don’t think they would have given me her as a first dog. I think i am well able to handle her now though and we have come along way in just a year.
When we were out on our walk today, we heard a firework and poor Ushi jumped a bit. Last year she was grand though with them so i’m not too worried.
In other news, I ordered a wax for Ushi’s paws called “Mushers secret”. It is meant to protect the dogs paws from the salt and all during Winter. I can’t wait to try it out!
Remember to check out that exhibition i mentioned in my last entry if you’re in that area! If you’re not, you can still listen to the audio.
I’ll write more soon about me and Ushi.
I was going to be learning a new route yesterday, but my instructor was sick. I went out in the morning anyway for our usual walk.
Everything and anything had to be a distraction for Ushi. First it was a little dog, and she went round me in a circle while I tried to control her. She got a major correction for not obeying me, and for being so wild!
We then went on, and I don’t have a clue what distracted her next. I told her just to “get on with it”, but I think one of her paws got stuck under my foot as I stepped. (She was still distracted but I was trying to get her going again). She gave a massive yelp. I felt a bit guilty, but at the end of the day, she shouldn’t have been so distracted!
She was a little distracted near the end of the route, but not as wild. I don’t know what was wrong at all with her. It had been rather stormy the night before, so that could have done it.
Today I was nakard for some reason. I had to stay up though since my instructor was coming today.
I decided to do a walk first, just to tire Ushi out a bit before going into the shopping centre and all. I wished I hadn’t!
On our route, there is this path with grass on our right. It is part of the main route to get to basically anywhere from our estate. Normally we do it grand, but something small must have distracted her slightly. There are apparently a couple of paths that go around the grassy part up to near some flats. The next thing I knew, I was up near those flats! There was nobody there to ask, or no traffic to orientate me! So I kept getting Ushi to go back, and to find a kerb, but there just seemed to be more grass. I eventually called my mum and explained the situation. She knew roughly where I was, so I said that I would try and work it out until she came to get me (luckily we live pritty near the grass part which is good). I tried to get a bit further on on the path I was on which was really narrow. There was grass on my left, but there was also a tree. I ended up going over the grass, until I felt the path again on my left. This was a good sign. And I could also hear traffic! That sounded bliss! I turned around towards it, and by this point, my mum was calling to me. I just had to go straight on, and there I was, back at the kerb I needed to be at in the first place! Thank god for mobile phones!! I don’t know what the problem was, but I thought that it was good that this has been the first time I have really really really got lost. It was still bad though! I didn’t even know those other paths existed!
So I went off to the shop as usual. Well I hadn’t been there for over a week. I don’t like going in there too often, since I hardly buy anything! It’s just a little corner shop type thing though so I suppose that’s good.
When I was coming home though, I must have corrected too hard, because the little identification disk that Ushi has attached to her collar came off! Luckily a nice kind man came to my rescue and gave me it.
I got home just in time to find my instructor waiting! She had called about 5 minutes before but I wasn’t back yet.
I explained to the instructor about getting lost, and she said that it was good that I was able to get home again, and that I didn’t panick! I panicked a bit, but nothing majorly.
We decided to leave Ushi at home for the first familiarisation of the new route. We didn’t want to confuse her by doing it wrong constantly. My instructor also gave me a ring with my identification disk for Ushi’s collar which was good.
We parked up at the shop, and then first of all walked the route on the instructors arm, then on the short handle. The route is quite simple really. You go straight down from the shop, and you come to a rounded kerb at the bottom, where there is a Zebra crossing. You then outdent on the up kerb, and you are on a street with loads of bollards and stuff. You then come to a big slope wwhich is the entrance to an alley way. It has no deffinete down kerb. You then go straight on, then two right turns, and then straight for a bit, then “find the shops”. I found a coffee shop so that if i am meeting someone, for example, we can go there.
The instructor says that I can get my dad to show me where other shops are, so that if I am out with him, and I take Ushi, I can work her. She says that they want to give me my freedom, it’s just a case of me getting more confident. I explained to her about our
Little shopping issue
And she suggested that I don’t work her around shops for now if I think she hasn’t gone. She says that it’s even embarrassing for her when she is training dogs. I’m glad it wasn’t just me!
I got dropped off at my house for a bit, before the instructor was going to return so that we could try the route with Ushi.
I have to say she worked like a total champ! She found the shop first time, and was able to pay attention to me even though there was all those people! The instructor says it doesn’t matter if a place has a few people. I was worried in case you couldn’t work a dog in a crowd of people lol. She said that there wouldn’t be very many guide dogs if they couldn’t work with people!
We went back to the house after that. My instructor says that I have really improved in my confidence. She says that if she had said to me couple of weeks ago that we would be in a shopping centre, I would have probably not liked it! I had to agree! Everything seems so much like second nature now. I think that’s a good thing!
My instructor is coming back on Thursday and Friday. She said that tomorrow I can walk the route with dad if I want, but i’ll see how he feels. I sort of want to try it myself, but think i’ll wait for a bit just in case something horrible goes wrong lol.
I hope I don’t get lost tomorrow! I’m so glad that i’m learning something new! Ushi’s tail was wagging loads today. It wags very gently on our other routes, but today it was really going! That was a good sign.
When we were in the car, I said about putting on the smaller collar. The instructor says that is more effective. She says that if you are to jerk back, but not release, it chokes the dog, and toughens their neck or something. What does that mean? I always when correcting just flick and release. They say it’s more effective that way.
I can’t wait to go further! I’m so pleased that I am doing more routes!