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.|
|Tons of praise...|
|A little down time with a bunch of black labs.|