Monday, August 24, 2009

My Day with Fame

Raising a puppy as a service dog is much different than raising a puppy to be a full time pet. I took classes 15 years ago on how to raise a pet. I now must learn how to raise a service dog.

Little things I didn't think about, like, offering a reward (piece of kibble) and dropping it before getting it into the dogs mouth. I would normally just point to it for Bailey to pick up. You don't allow a service dog to pick up something dropped (food, clothing, anything!) because you don't want them to pick up something a blind person might drop.

On walks, no stopping to smell/mark because they will be leading a blind person and you certainly don't want that to happen while walking the blind person to work. They'd be late everyday! Now that's not to say they won't have the opportunity to greet other dogs or humans. Sure, but not everytime.

Holding the leash. I learned in Puppy Kindergarten with Bailey that the loop is held in the right hand and slack in the left. A service dog leash is all held in the left hand. The dogs will wear a collar & leash with harness and the blind person will hold it all in their left hand.

Calling them to you. Hahahaha! How many of us would do this: Bailey come here. Bailey Come here. tug on leash BAILEY Come here!!!! pull really hard BAILEY I SAID COME HERE! Then I go over and get Bailey fussing at him the entire time. It is a LOT different..something like this....Fame, Let's Go! count to 10. Fame, Let's Go! count to 10. Walk to her, get her attention with a kibble, Fame, Let's Go! and walk. There's lots more you can do to get the puppy's attention, but that's the big change for me. No pulling or tugging on the leash.

That's just the tip of the iceberg so to speak.....and when Debbie offered me the opportunity to have Fame for the day I said Yes! I need the practice. Habits are hard to break.

So at 8:00 Debbie brought over Fame (with her crate, reward kibble pouch, toys, peanut butter filled sterlized bones and several comfy blankets and pillows).

Debbie walked her around the house. Even upstairs, where no one has gone in months or with the amout of yarn and Guild things on the floor could even walk!

Then to the back yard so that Fame could "get busy". She did. Then off for a walk around the block. Debbie led Fame and pointed out to me what to let her, or a puppy, explore as it would give Fame new experiences to add to her list. Storm drains, manhole covers, they smell different in each neighborhood. We met "Amber" the dog. Debbie had Fame sit. Amber seemed a bit skittish so we chatted with Ambers mom and then continued our walk.

Half way around the block, I took the leash. That's where MY training comes in. Keeping her next to me in a heel, when to call her back to me, how to call her back to me, what to let her explore, how to recognise a new experience for her.

Just the 1/8 th of a mile I walked leading her showed me how much of a routine Bailey and I were in. It's been years and years since I walked up my driveway holding onto a leash. I would always (after checking for traffice) drop B's leash and let him race across the street, up the drive way and to the porch.

So yes, I have many routines to relearn.

Debbie left us after our walk. Fame and I played in the back yard. She took a nap in her crate. Got Busy a few times. Spent a good 2 hours playing with her blue square block in the house. At dinner time, Debbie came for Fame. She showed me how to use serving dinner to Fame as a learning experience for her. It was nice having a dog in the house again.

Later this week Fame will come to spend a few days and nights with me. She and I both will have new experiences.

See what I found

Having a 60 pound dog in your house is much different tha having a 18 pound dog in your house.


Becky said...

My goodness! That is a lot to think about and remember. I would have never thought about the "no picking up food from the floor" thing. Makes sense. Sounds like you and Fame had a fun day :)

katiegirl said...

I agree with Becky, that's a ton to re-learn! You never think about all the little things that are different between a pet and a service dog!

I'm really enjoying learning about this! I can't wait to see and hear more about Fame and your process of getting a puppy!

And a quick question. Do they have dogs that never make it as service dogs? If so, do they let the raiser adopt it?