Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay"

Tuesday night was our second night for Dylan's obedience training.  Sit/Stays were the order for the night and Dylan excelled.  Breaking only once when the instructor had us walk behind our dogs and come to our dogs right side.  GDA doesn't have us do that, so she was a bit confused.  But settled in and did fine the rest of the night.

Sit Ubu, sit!
Wednesday was a fun day as Chris had booked us on a whale watching trip out of Long Beach.  I have to say that having lived in L.B. for 42 years, this was our first time doing this.  But, we made up for lost time seeing two pods of grey whales heading south towards Cabo.  Six whales in total along with bottle nose dolphins and common dolphins.  Throw in a few sea lions and harbor seals and it was quite a day for our Dylan.

Sittin' on the Dock waiting for her first boat ride
When the captain was introduced, we discovered he had been a fire boat captain for L.A. Fire and of course Chris had to meet and introduce him to Dylan.
Meeting Captain Stan.

We were leaving the dock and two bottle nose dolphins came into view.  Dylan got very excited.

Two bottle nose dolphins just submerging

Then it was off to catch us some whales.  With in 45 minutes we had two gray whales in sight.  There were 3 in this pod and then another 20 minutes later, three more appeared.  

Dylans' ears were a-flappin' in the wind

Two grays right off the coast.

Heading in we came upon a pod of common dolphins and Dylan was in heaven.  With dolphins jumping all over, she didn't know where to look.

Finally, it was time for a bit of relaxation and some gumbo at Bubba Gumps.  Chris and I were 20 for 20 on the Forrest Gump trivia questions our waiter threw at us.  I got a free refill.... of ice tea.


Looking for Capt. Dan
A great time!  We are planning to see the blue whales this summer.  

Friday, January 22, 2016

Puppy Sitting with Morgan

Play dates are important in the socialization of guide dog raising.  It covers two basic needs.  First, the dog is exposed to other territories, other smells, other dogs and gives them a chance to play and frolic with other puppies.  Second, and this is most important, it gives one puppy raiser a break from being a puppy raiser.  Now, before you get all uppity about that statement, let me explain.  We volunteer to do this.  Some people have raised multiple dogs for GDA and other dog centric organizations.  We love it.  The rewards are amazing.  The gift to another human is priceless.   But sometimes you need a break.  The other cool thing about watching two puppies for 8 to 10 hours is it makes you appreciate the fact that you only have one puppy 24 hours a day.

Nancy and Brian, our area leaders, have 3 dogs.  One is their guide dog in training, Morgan, whom we are sitting today.  Their other two were both breeders for GDA.  Both are Black Labs. We received a call that they needed a sitter for Morgan as both would be unable to take the puppy with them.  Morgan is just one month older than Dylan but they look like sisters.

Morgan and Dylan

After the initial spasmodic 30 minutes of tornado like action, they finally took a breather and rested on a towel.  Then they passed out.

Maggie decided that holing up out of the way was a wise thing.

They gone yet?

It was fun to see them interact after they settled down.  Chris gave them all an ear check and we worked both puppies with heeling, sit/stays and down/stays.  Then we took Dylan and Morgan to Erin's classroom so her kids could have some puppy time.

Erin's class had seen Dylan before and were thrilled she was back with another puppy.

Dylan!  Off.....OFF.  Oh never mind!

Morgan was a hit, even while asleep.

Dylan lovin' life.

Ms Richey with a student and of course, Dylan.

Then it was back home so  they could do what they do puppies.

Tug of war with Bailey as the ref...

A fun day for everyone!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Obedience...A date with Apples and Oranges!

GDA has all their puppy raisers enroll their dogs into an outside obedience class.  Along with the GDA obedience classes, this gives the dogs ample opportunity to interact with many different dogs and people.  Dylan, being 7 1/2 months, has had limited opportunity to do this.  I mean, Bailey is different, but I don't thing that's what they mean.

So we set off to Recreation Park to begin our 6:15 PM class.  Rose is our instructor and has been doing this training for 20+ years.  She was the instructor when we put Randi, our first Lab, through obedience class.  She is very good and the guidelines she uses are AKC guidelines.  Which is ok, but AKC and GDA are like PC and Apple.  An example;  AKC has the dogs sit as soon as they stop while heeling.  GDA wants their dogs to stand until told to sit.  When you call your dog to come, AKC wants the dog to come right in front of you and sit.  GDA wants the dogs to come to the left of you, circle and then sit.  This is so the blind person can put on their harness.  Very small differences, but nevertheless, different!

At GDA, all the dogs are just about the same.  In Dylan's GDA class the dogs are 5 to 8 months old and most are Labs, Retrievers or Lab/Retriever mixes.  This class has a very diverse gene pool.  Most are small, vary in age and there wasn't a distinct breed we could discern except for one 5 month old Golden Retriever, Jackson, who was as beautiful as he was out of control.  Another rather large mixed breed dog was so aggressive, they had to work outside the circle of the group.  That is exactly what GDA wants.  They want their dogs to experience this diversity and for us to benefit from working with our dogs in this environment.   Of course, Dylan spent most the time looking over her shoulder and wondering why that big dog was barking so much.  But she did great with just a few lapses.  It usually happened when she came up behind a small dog who wanted to let Dylan know it was not to be trifled with.  Dylan wanted to teach them otherwise and play.

Small breeds don't play with large breeds!  At least not on the first date.

Why is that dog barking?

Small dogs abound.

Listening to Rose

Both looking down, not good Tom!


Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Little Help from our Friends.

The wonderful thing about GDA is the support you get.  Having raised dogs most of our married life, we thought we had a good handle on how to raise, train and guide our dog in socialization and obedience.  Well, we didn't know squat.  In fact, it would be better if we had never raised a dog before so as not to have a predisposition on what we needed to do.  Things you say and do raising your guide dog puppy are as important as feeding them.  

Having GDA and area leaders who know what to do is so important for the puppy raiser.  Last week, we were paid a home visit and we worked with Yvette from GDA and her career change German Shepard, Cheyenne.  Dylan would get very excited when seeing another dog and really wanted to play.  I had trouble keeping her under control, in fact, I could not keep her under control.  Yvette explained that Dylan is still a puppy, wants to play like a puppy and the techniques needed to control her are a very authoritative voice, and even more important, praise.  Not nagging, anger or pleading!  Which were my stock and trade.  Working with me and Dylan in a sit-stay, she would walk around us with Cheyenne.  As long as Dylan didn't break her sit-stay, I would heap tons of praise.  If she broke, a sharp tug on the training collar and repositioning her, followed by praise for sitting and staying.  Then we switched positions with Dylan walking around Cheyenne.  Within about 30 minutes, Dylan was not breaking to play with Cheyenne.

Then Saturday, we went to Sylmar for obedience training with 30 other 5 to 8 month old Lab puppies.  Now, you could say this is a formula for complete disaster.  And, you would be wrong.  Yes, there is a moment or two of excited dogs and frantic raisers, but it passes.  Heeling, sitting, downs and stays were done without too much trouble.  Well, there was Dozier, one of Dylan's litter mates, who got off leash and decide it was a good time to run.  You could almost hear him yelling, "I'm free, I'm free!"  Dylan sat there and watched him run, tried to follow, but with a good correction and praise, she went back to a sit-stay.  "Well, that was our distraction for the day," said one of our trainers.

Now, I'm not saying we got this down.  GDA will tell you, at 9 months, puppies forget everything they've been taught and you have to start again.  So it's not so much us, but the puppies.

But, it is great having help from our GDA friends.  Next week, we begin obedience training with untrained, mixed breed dogs from the parks department of Long Beach.  It can only get better.

A Sit-Stay. Executed perfectly!


Litter mates, Delany (L) and Dozier (R)

Another sister, Dinah.
A down-stay.

Tons of praise...

A little down time with a bunch of black labs.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Stealing our hearts, etc, etc!

Getting bigger and bigger.
Dylan turns seven months this week.  She is 46 pounds and almost as tall as Bailey, our retriever.  With the holidays past, it is time to get ernest in our ongoing training.  I'll admit, during the latter part of December I became a bit lax and after todays walk, it shows.  Dylan demonstrates many of the traits pointed out in our puppy raiser handbook.

Barking is now on Dylan's menu of no no's.  She is not an excessive barking dog, but usually joins in when Bailey starts the show.  The command to correct this is not "Shut UP!"  As this just reinforces their barking by you joining in on the barking.  We need to use the word "Quiet" then quickly distract them.  We're working on this command.

Another area that we humans do is comfort our dogs during times of distress or anxiety.  They whine or bark and we say, "it's ok" and sooth our dog.  It seems that sort of comfort would be a natural response here, but it tells the dog, "Hey, I can get attention this way".  And, its for the wrong reason.

She does demonstrate some good qualities.  She sits/stays before eating  up to one minute or longer.  Her formal "Come" is getting better.  Distractions are an issue on our walks.  Another dog goes by and Dylan is in instant play mode.  We are going to ask GDA for help on this one as I seem unable to correct this behavior.

Lastly, it is noted in the manual that at this age labs are into crime.  Stealing whatever you deem valuable becomes their most enjoyable part of any day.  Think about it.  Your puppy is playing quietly but being ignored.  Boredom quickly sets it and what better way to get the pack involved in play time then to steal something that doesn't belong to them.  Glasses, socks, remotes and in Dylan's case, Chris' bras becomes a game of chase or hide and seek. Seems she can't get enough of this game.  When we witnessed this while she was playing with Bailey, we thought, "playing keep-a-way is so cute." We should have read ahead in the manual.  

After reading the manual Chris said, "Dylan is right where she's supposed to be, stealing our hearts and stealing our things".