Two Months With Vivvy

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.

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.