Thursday, March 31, 2016

Evaluation Time - Stealing your Heart.

Dylan at 9 1/2 months
At 10 months, GDA puppies spend a week in Slymar for a temperament evaluation.  During this time, each dog from Dylan's litter is evaluated.  There is the possibly of Dylan becoming a breeder.  They're checked for temperament and development for becoming a working guide dog.  So it is a BIG DEAL!  They may also be spayed if the females haven't gone into heat and are not being considered for a breeding dog.

Dylan goes up Saturday, April 9 after the obedience class and then stays the week.  At that time we find out how she did.  Some of our concerns are these:

She steals stuff — cute but not if you are blind.
She jumps on visitors — another no no!
She barks!  I think, too much.
Pulls too much on a lead.  She is getting a bit better at this.
She is stubborn when it comes to some commands — her "downs" need work and have been a source of concern.  (been working on these a lot lately)
She licks everything — not a good trait.
She will take off after a dog if left to her own decision making.  A very bad trait when it comes to her blind handler!

Are these traits something that could cause a career change?  Yes, but I don't know. She is not quite 10 months old and still not even a puppy teenager.  Remember, almost 50% of these puppies become career changed.

Areas that she does well; sitting quietly in a large group or at a restaurant, riding in cars or trains.  She will sit/stay for a very long time and not move.  Another thing she does very well, melting hearts of those that see her.  (not on the list)

Other things they check on include; behavior in establishments, toy possessiveness in a community and destructiveness.  Lastly, they check for environmental soundness — do they handle the overall environmental change well?  Do they easily scare, lack confidence or seem worried about new people?  They also look at the entire litter.  Some entire litters have been career changed because 3 or 4 of the puppies in that litter don't show the correct traits for becoming a guide dog.  That is how concerned GDA is about each potential guide dog and how it could affect a blind handler.

We get a complete report on these traits.  Along with a full report, we are shown ways to overcome any areas that are of concern.  We may be asked to bring Dylan back in three months to see how she has improved or become worse.  This is when you, as the puppy raiser, feel a bit unsure of how you're raising their dog.  And, since it is our first guide dog puppy, we are a bit anxious about the results.

So, there is time to work on some of the issues I listed, but if anyone has a clue how to stop a puppy from stealing, I would welcome any suggestions.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Riding the Rails...continued

Our four ladies with three puppies made their way down to San Diego via the Amtrak Surf Liner.  They spent most of their time around Sea Port Village near downtown.  Many sites were seen to expose our dogs to the outside world.  It is truly amazing how adaptable Lab pups are and why they are the preferred breed for guide dogs.  Retrievers are also a good dog for GDA, but seem to have more of a dopey disposition, not that's it bad, it's just not a preferable characteristic.

Dylan, getting comfortable in the isle.

Bravo with her doggy pillow aka Dylan

Walking along the piers where fishing boats and the Mighty Midway are anchored provided a fun backdrop.

Dylan with San Diego's fishing fleet.

Navy ships always make me proud.
I wan't stationed on this ship, but I was stationed on Midway Island in 1969.

This statue brings out emotions in any sailor or returning veteran.

Home is the sailor, home from the sea!

The  ladies took turns walking different dogs.  This is important as our dogs get a chance to experience different handlers.

Nancy, our area leader, here with Morgan and Dylan.

Then it was back to the train station and a homeward trip to Fullerton.

Peggy with Bravo, Chris with Morgan and Janice with Dylan

Janice's puppy, Berkley, is in Sylmar as she had gone into heat, but she didn't want to miss the trip to San Diego.  Having an extra person gave some relieve to the others puppy raisers as well.
One nice perk having puppies in training; the conductor noticed our dogs and saw the very long line of people waiting to get on board and quietly and gently ushered our ladies and their dogs to the front of the line to get first choice of seating.

The paws tell the story.

 Needless to say, Chris and Dylan were very tired when they got home.  But what a great experience and one that we will do again.  Next time, Santa Barbara?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Riding the Rails

Today Chris took Dylan on an all-day excursion.  She met up with Nancy, our area leader who is raising Morgan and her friend Peggy, who is raising Bravo and took the train down to San Diego.  Dylan has never been on a train before.  She left real early this morning.  Getting Dylan up was no problem.  Chris, on the other hand, was not the most thrilled to be up before dark.  They drove to Fullerton to catch the train.  I wasn't asked to go.  It was a ladies day out with their puppies.  I'm cool with that.

Chris has sent me a few pictures, so I'm sharing these now and will continue this saga later.

Bravo, Morgan and Dylan at Fullerton Station

Something about train travel that puts you to sleep.

To be continued...

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Leaning what to know!

Saturday we drove up to Sylmar to pick up Dylan from her three night kennel stay.  To say she was excited to see us is an understatement.  As others picked up their dogs, I noticed the same theme for all the dogs and owners.  It's hard to tell who is more excited, the pups or the people.  Jumping, licking and all that excitement makes you feel great.  Hey, they do recognize us, they do miss us.

Then it was time for some obedience training with all the pups in the 9 to 11 month range.  While listening to Yvette, it is very clear who these classes are for and it isn't the dogs.  Even experienced raisers need guidance because every dog is different.  Each has their own personality and intelligence level that puppy raisers have to adapt to.  Then this constant reminder to the raiser, "Don't look at your dogs while giving them commands.  Blind people don't do that."  "Don't over correct your dog because blind people don't do that."  Keeping in mind that these over zealous, cute and rambunctious dogs are not ours to keep, but ours to raise and train.

We did basic stuff; sit/stays, down/stays and the afore mentioned formal COME!  Just once, Dylan went from her down to rolling over on her back and wanting to be scratched.  Cute, but not acceptable.  Each dog went through their paces with guidance from Yvette to the handlers as to what they did well and what they need to improve on.  Dylan killed the formal come.  Good girl!!!

An ok sit.  Needs to be facing forward.

Ooh, look over there...
Then it was time to meet some of the other raisers and we were fortunate enough that Dylan's sibling brother, Darwin, was also there.

Darwin. Notice how calm his raisers are...

Then it was off to lunch with Nancy and a dog she was sitting for, a Black Lab named Bravo.  Bravo is an eleven month old Lab and very well behaved.

Bravo, doing what he is supposed to do.

Dylan sitting under Chris' chair, looking adorable.

Seeing the other dogs and raisers gives you great confidence it what you are doing.  No one is perfect.  No one has all the answers and besides we are all there to learn.  What a great day!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Some Kennel Time along with Peace and Quiet

Dylan goes off to Sylmar today.  Puppies need to spend a few days a month on campus so when the time comes for them to go for formal training, the kennels are not foreign or scary to them.  What does that mean for us.  Well, Bailey will be lost.  Every morning after each is fed, its play time.  Chasing the ball, playing tug-o-war and wrestling around for about an hour while I try and read the paper.  Bailey will be looking all over and missing Dylan.  Maggie will wonder where that little pest is who keeps watching her eat as Dylan waits and hopes she backs up just enough to snag her food.  Maggie will not miss Dylan.

Chris will constantly tell me how much she misses Dylan.  "It's so quiet when Dylan isn't here."  Me, I'll miss working with Dylan.  Walking her and praising her for the good job she does and scolding her when she jumps on me or others when she knows she is not supposed to do that.  Or stealing another sock or tea towel.  Puppies!

We will pick her up on Saturday, which is an official day of obedience training for all the guide dog puppies.  Participate in the class and then go to lunch with the other puppy raisers and compare stories and notes.

Its time to say good bye for just awhile.

It also gives us a taste as to what to expect when she goes for formal training.  The quiet, the peace and the missing!