Wednesday, July 25, 2012

State of the Pack

It has been a busy week here at the Pawpower Palace. Yesterday, Bristol my fourteen year young retired guide went for her quarterly trip to see her eye specialist.
<"Dr da Costa">
told me that Bristol's cataracts have gotten much worse. She had several tests, and got her tear ducts flushed. She has lost a great deal of her sight and may be totally blind within the year. She has been deaf for a year now, so we are now focusing on techniques which will allow her to live as active and independent of a life as she can. And who better to teach her these things than a deafblind owner. People joke that Bristol just wanted to be like me, since being deafblind is so fun! :)

We are teaching her new tactile cues and I am going to get her a vibrating collar. I also plan to get embroidery on the collar which states that she is deafblind. This way, if she ever gets lost, the person who finds her will understand that she can't hear or see them.

Baylee went with Bristol to the eye vets and got her CERF exam. Her eyes are totally healthy and she is free to keep on training as Mister Pawpower's guide dog! Whew! Three cheers for healthy eyes! :)

In other news, Brooke from the <"Ruled By Paws Gang">
and I are working through Sue Ailsby's
<"Training Levels">

This has been a great deal of fun, and has taught me an awful lot. I also found an awesome iPhone app called See Spot Sit which has a really fabulous training log feature, plus tons of distraction sounds. I'm using these levels to help re-teach Bristol tactile cues.

So far, we are only on level 1. Today I was working on Zen with Mill'E-Max. Zen is the practice of ignoring what you want to get what you want. An example, dog ignores a treat on the ground and gets a click and treat. Keep in mind that this example is the finished behavior and we start much simpler than that.

So this morning I was practicing Zen with Mill'E-Max. I held out a treat, and was counting off five seconds before giving the treat (building duration). Mill'E-Max did a "down" right as I clicked for ignoring the treat. So Mill'E-Max, being the very clicker-savvy dog that she is, decided that I was clicking for ignoring food and laying down. Yikes! this dog out-thinks me! Therefore, I spent the next five minutes trying to click after she ignored the treat but before she went into the "down" so she would understand that I wasn't looking for any other behavior than "zen." Eventually she got it and I learned that dogs have awesome brain skills and that I need to keep on my toes. Dog training sure is fun.

Lastly Laveau has learned a new trick. We keep all of the dog gear-- leashes, harnesses, service vests and the like, in a big wooden cupboard. It is designed to be one of those cupboards in which normal people keep their televisions. It has a big open space where the television would sit. But since we aren't normal people, who don't own a television, we use the cupboard for our dog stuff, since it's right by our front door. Last week, I had taken Baylee to work with me for the day. I was on the way home with a friend and we decided to go for coffee. I texted Mister Pawpower and asked him to bring Laveau out to the car, and I'd swap her for Baylee. That way, Laveau would get to work a bit and Baylee could rest up. I wanted to focus on relaxing at the coffee shop and step out of dog trainer mode for a bit. Mister Pawpower went into the front room with Laveau and reached for her gear. Laveau was so excited to be going out that she leapt from the floor, into the open area of the cupboard, and stood there for Mister Pawpower to put on her gear. He thought that Laveau was so funny that he laughed and laughed. This was enough reinforcement for Laveau so she has now made this little leap a regular part of her day. Just yesterday, I came home from the eye vets, and was swapping Bristol for Laveau for yet another jaunt to the coffee shop. Again, Laveau launched herself from the floor to the cupboard and waited for me to dress her for work. I need to get this on camera, it is so funny. I love working with operant dogs who aren't afraid to do crazy stunts like that! I promise a picture soon

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