Thursday, May 23, 2013

Day 9: April 10- Wednesday

Beautiful sunrise over the training kennels this morning. :)

The veiw out my room window which overlooks the foundation training kennels

Favor looking out the open window intently with ears perked up at the day starting up outside the training kennels.

It was a really good morning this morning in Patchogue! :) We went up and down the main street, and passed LOTS of construction. We walked through the scaffolding temporary sidewalk, and went by a store owner cleaning the front sidewalk with a power washer and man with a really yappy dog too! :) She did great! Really, really pleased with her and I think we are going to be really good together. :)

I know that now I’ve just got to get used to the "My German Shepherd" stories instead of the "I had a black lab when I was a kid" stories. LOL! Seriously around here it's like they've not seen a German shepherd as a guide dog before. Guess the area is used to seeing the labs and golden retrievers instead! We went the Dunkin Doughnuts for coffee and this lady quickly honed in on the four of us as we were talking about the dogs and honestly just didn’t want to bug off. She kept going on and on about how her family raised shepherds as a kid and how she would protect me and so forth. We even went so far as to turn away from her and she still went on and then moved over to a table nearby and just stared at the four of us, which was almost creepy. I’m finding more and more through this training it’s more people coming up and asking about Favor than about the other two labs that my classmates have. The people that really know shepherds can tell she’s not a full shepherd, but are curious as to what she has in her, but the others that don’t are intrigued by the Shepherd thinking protective police dog. We headed back to the Foundation and it was time to head down to lunch.

Ugh- feel like the worst Dog-mom ever! :( We stepped out the door to go to lunch and we are on the very end of the hallway which is like a T- our room at one side and another guest door on the other side of the T. Since there was someone at the next room down the Hall unlocking their door to go into their room, I had stepped out, so Favor stepped out with me. I stopped abruptly as I realized they were there. Favor hasn’t been particularly fond of this dog so we were trying to give them clearance and because she stopped and I stopped so suddenly, I’d let go of our room door which is heavy and shuts completely.

The next thing I know is Favor jumps forward like a shot and starts yelping something fierce. Scared the be jeebers out of me and I don’t think I’ve ever seen trainers move that fast, as the rest of the class had just returned from their walks and two trainers came FLYING down the hall to see what had happened. Turned out that while Favor and I had both cleared the door in body, the tip of her 17 inch long tail had NOT. So when the door shut, it got the very end of her tail and as I’m finding out, Favor is very vocal when she’s not happy about something and this was no exception, and rightfully so! I was immediately in tears and felt horrible and one of the trainers checked her tail as she settled down and the trainer warned me to be careful at doors, that she may be hesitant to go through them or rush through them after this.

I got down to the dining room and I was thoroughly rattled. Greg came over and asked what had happened to her as he had heard her all the way at the other end of the building. One of the other students said she knew something had happened, as Greg had taken off running too, but when he saw the other trainers already on it, he went back to the lunch room and waited. It took me a good while to calm down and honestly, Favor seemed no worse for the wear and had definitely forgot about it long before I did!

For the afternoon, we went back and worked Kings Park again today. Greg got out the bicycle to keep some distance and to help get Favor used to a bicycle since I asked if we could possibly teach her to ride in a bike trailer. My hopes is that we can do family bike trips and then when we get out to sight see, I can use my dog. :)

Favor looking to the left as I'd told her to sit and stay- practicing obedience with her.

It turned into an interesting walk as city workers were there working on some ground by the bike path so there were two dump trucks parked on the path itself. Favor and I were booking it along and we buzzed right around and into the grass and past the trucks before they had a chance to realize I was on top of them. We flew on around the path and back to towards the van and it was good to enjoy the beautiful weather. After getting back to the van, Greg worked with my other two classmates and they took their turns going down the walk and back. I worked with Favor on some obedience while they did their walks.

We then went back to the foundation and at dinner and pretty much had a free evening for the night. I decided to sit in on the whole class lecture- about leash corrections with Trainer Mike Devlin. This lecture is always a fun one as he teaches you how to properly discipline your dog so it will work for you- and more importantly realizing how far to go in using discipline for your dog. This is one of the reasons I like GDF is that they have a floating harness handle which is attached to the harness by O rings. Mike Devlin is a really funny and good guy, love working with him and this lecture was no exception. He asked us all- what is the purpose of correcting your dog? Which the answer is- to re-direct the dog and use the minimal amount of correction to get the dogs attention back on YOU.

We are taught a series of corrections and they range in severity, starting from just a verbal expression to the dog- whether you say its name, “No”, “Leave It”, or something else to refocus the dog back onto you and away from whatever is distracting it. Next would be physical touch to the dog- reaching down and touching its shoulder, neck, or something to re-gain its attention. After this, the next step would be the harness correction- in which with the GDF harness, we can simply move our hand forward to release the tension in the dogs pull and give a straight snap backward with the hand and wrist, which makes a noise and also causes the chest piece of the harness to go away from and back against the dog’s chest. I really like this means of a correction and if possible is the one I go to if verbal and touch cues aren’t working, as it’s very quick, very much unnoticed by the public, and is most times effective in getting the dog’s attention back on me if it is that distracted by something. Lastly there are the leash corrections, which is at two levels as well. I really do NOT like doing leash corrections and they are quite frankly my last resorts or if the dog is so severely distracted that it’s obvious it’s not willing to refocus on me or putting me into danger. The first level of leash correction is the one handled snap- which is mostly used when holding the harness handle. Simply drop the handle with the forward movement of the hand- much like the harness correction, but do a very hard and quick snap backwards with the leash in hand and it can be quite loud and usually is very effective. The next step is the two handed leash correction- which is the ultimate of all corrections. Both hands are on the leash and giving a good jerk upward or to the side with the leash.

However, in my experience of having a couple of dogs now, I would honestly say that something big must be happening to get you to this point. Our jobs as handlers is to be in tune with our dogs and do our best to not let the dogs get so far distracted that it ever gets to a leash correction. I work hard to pay attention and listen/watch for things in our environment and continuously talk to my dogs to keep them focused on me. Yeah I talk to my dogs a lot! But I’ve found that if I do so, we can head off many if not nearly all corrections as long as I am focused and keep my dog’s attention on me. So attending the lecture with Mike Devlin was good, as a little had changed since I was there last and it was good to have a “refresher” on.

We then took off back to the room and I threw as much laundry in the wash as I could to try to start packing stuff up for home. I pulled out the suitcase and started putting the things in that I definitely didn’t need these last couple of days. Then it was time to call it a night. One more day and then the big day to fly home!