Feb 2, 2011

Trainer's Workshop

Today I took Joey down to the SEGD Discovery Center in Sarasota for a “Trainer’s Workshop”.  This is a time when the general public (and puppy raisers of course) can talk to the guide dog trainers about dog training.   When we got to the center, we were greeted at the door by one of Joey’s old friends from our puppy raiser group, Jeannie.  I first met Jeannie last April when I attended my first raiser meeting.  She was a normal energetic puppy of about 10 months, one of the oldest in our group at the time.  I was surprised at almost every group meeting after that first one, by how mellow Jeannie was becoming (without pharmaceuticals).  She was very nicely maturing into the guide dog I am sure she will become.  Anyway, Jeannie was just laying on the floor at the center when we walked in.  Joey of course was dying to go play with the dogs, but he was in coat and I had to keep an air of professionalism around him.  I kept a very close eye on him as he strained to get closer to them.  Jeannie calmly got up and walked over to meet Joey, only to be stopped by the volunteer that was handling her.  I took Joey around the corner into the puppy hugging area with a three foot high wall so he couldn’t see Jeannie and the other dogs that were behaving very nicely.  I was hoping Joey would calm down enough that I could go out and join some of the other people in there.  Every once in a while, Jeannie would get up and just mosey on over to where I was keeping Joey in a down, stay.  She remembered her friend from the meetings and just wanted to come over and see what he had been up to the last few months since she went IFT. 
Anyway, I was the only person who was there for the workshop, so it was some real nice one-on-one time.  I was able to discuss with the trainer, Lynn, my concerns about Joey’s doggie distraction issues.  While we were talking, she was observing how Joey was reacting to the other dogs in there and probably even more important, how I reacted to the  situation.  I was pretty good on how I applied timely and consistent corrections, but Lynn wanted me to stop petting and soothing Joey as much as I was.  Apply correction, get Joey to sit or down, stay, praise him for that, then leave him alone.  This was hard for me.  At that first raiser meeting last April, they were discussing puppy stress.  It doesn’t just come from fear, any excitement can be stressful to the puppies.  Reaching down and stroking your puppy, letting him know you are there, can be very calming.  I do it without thinking.  Lynn let me know that he is not the little baby puppy he used to be, he doesn’t need that much comforting anymore.  And in those few moments of me not constantly comforting him, he seemed to be able to tolerate being close to those other dogs a little better.  Lynn did take his leash for a little bit when he did act up, applied correction and had him sit or down, and stay.  She observed how Joey tried to get to me.  She recommended that we set up a puppy camp to help break the bond between Joey and I.  Now, at our last group meeting just last weekend, we were taking about camping and were going to get something started, so that was already in the works.  As we were driving home from the center, I got a call from our area coordinator, about Joey starting his camp.  I just need to contact the person he will be going to and arrange a time for us to swap our puppies.  She will be getting Joey, and I will take her dog, Barkley.  They are the two largest dogs in our group.  Barkley is four days younger, and about 5 pounds lighter, so there is very little difference between them. 
So, Joey.  You are going to live with somebody else for a couple weeks.  Better be good. 

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