Well Good Morning! It's the start to week 2 of training! :)
We started with the routine 6am wake up call and a quick shower before feeding and watering Boomer at 6:45am and then out to break at 7am. I'm very pleased at how easily he breaks, even from the very get go. We came in from the break area, which we work to each door and stop at the door, for him to "show" me the door and then I tell him Forward, Straight to "xyz", wherever xyz may be. :) We work our way down to the dining room for breakfast and we are finally getting the hang of the down and under the chair command. I was finding that when I'd say down, he'd go down so fast it was often facing the wrong way and I couldn't get him to move under the chair. Trainer Mark suggested to try just saying under and not give the down part of the command. So we'd been working on doing it this way for the last couple of days and had an "AH HA" moment this morning as I've learned to quickly sit down in my chair before he gets the chance to turn around and in one swooping motion, give the Under command and move my hand at an angle under the chair and under he goes super smoothly and right into position. He was willing before, I was just kind of struggling with feeling like I was wrestling his head in the right direction and so forth, so now we are working together well as a team to do it smoothly, quickly, and quietly. Yippee! :)
Breakfast was a fruit cup, a bowl of oatmeal with baked apples in it, half of a bagel, and some eggs. Barb and Jody came in and let us know we were headed to Patchogue this morning and it was a bit of a drive, so to please make our way to the gathering area as soon as possible so we could get back on time for lunch. So we went back to the room and gathered up my stuff to take with, since I knew the drive would take a bit and the weather was rather chilly this morning, in the upper 30's. I'd layered with my thermal pants and jeans, a t shirt and sweatshirt, and then wore my fleece jacket. So we made our way to the gathering room and one by one the group started loading up on the bus. We then made the journey to Patchogue and I started listening to the book Eragon on the way there.
Upon arriving, the trainers set up chairs outside the bus and several of the teams got out and sat in the sun, even though it was a little bit cool outside. I decided to stay inside and listen to my book instead, since a couple of the guys have high carrying voices. Two other teams went on their walks and then one of the teams decided to come back on the bus, so I was ready to go outside as well so I did so. I'd also brought my brushes with me, so I figured I'd work on brushing Boomer with the slicker brush while we sat there waiting. Soon it was my turn to go on my walk and Barb took us over to an empty parking spot to let Boomer go busy busy. We harnessed up and she directed me to make a right down the sidewalk.
We worked our way to the corner by the library and then made another right, taking us a full block up to the main street of Patchogue. Upon reaching the end of this sidewalk, we went straight to the curb, and then made a right to walk down the really wide sidewalk along the storefronts. There were lots of people, strollers, and even a metal cellar cover that Boomer walked us over well. He did very well and I honestly was surprised at how close people would come in front of us, cutting across and such, which I struggled with not trying to steer and direct him clear of these situations, but I had learned with Rei to wait and let her handle it and WHEN she messed up or we hit something, then worry about correcting/saying something. Boomer too is impressing me more and more each day as he is taking me past objects, poles, branches, and bushes with such precision and within inches but not hitting a single thing. He was no different here as we worked down the main sidewalk and turned right to work our way back towards the street we'd started from.
I learned more here as when we came to the curb and there was a fence outcropping, I learned I need to advance my position up to his head and angle myself to the left towards where I want him to go- all in tune to the straight lining concept- point myself in the direction we are to go. So gave him the command to Forward, Over Left, Find the curb! So we worked around the outcropping and quickly got back to the sidewalk on the other side, which was a series of "stair step" corners. We went straight, then a 90degree right turn, then straight, and a 90 degree left turn, then straight, then another 90 degree right turn and then straight on to the street. Here we made another right turn and back to the front of the bus. Another team went after us and we all loaded up on the bus to head back to the Foundation, as we were running a bit late.
We got back to the Foundation and unloaded from the bus and took our dogs in, watered them, went to the bathroom ourselves, and then took the dogs out to the break area to give them a chance to break. We came in from the break are and went down to lunch, which was a barley soup and turkey sandwich. I was also snacking on the dried fruit I'd gotten from Costco when on the bus too. We were able to make up the lost time as lunch went quickly and we all gathered again in the gathering area to head back out again to Patchogue for the afternoon walk. We made the drive there and one other team went first and I took Boomer outside and sat in the warm sun. The other team came back and it was our turn.
This time, we went the opposite direction that we'd travelled this morning. We went and did the "stair steps" first and I angled myself towards the other direction, towards where I wanted him to take me. We worked through this and up to the main street. This afternoon, the sidewalk was MUCH more congested with lots of people walking and going around. There were people standing and talking, a guy riding a bike, and my favorite part of the whole walk was when we were moving along at a really good clip. There were two ladies walking along slowly, in which we came up behind them pretty quickly and I told him to steady. There were two other ladies walking towards us and you could just see the wheels in his head turning, as Boomer slowed down very slightly and surged ahead doing a very quick backwards "S", first to the left and immediately to the right to avoid the oncoming walkers as the distance was quickly diminishing and once past them he went back to the left to go back to to the middle of the sidewalk where we were supposed to be and within 10 feet passed dog to dog, the other golden team that is on class, with the two dogs not even so much as turning their heads towards each other. Through this all, I didn't touch a thing and he did this so quickly and cleanly, that Barb actually got stuck behind the people walking towards each other and had to get around them to catch up to me. :) I have to say I was QUITE impressed! :)
Barb was just chuckling when she caught up to me and as we approached the corner, as this guy was standing there just in awe at the two dogs as he had just watched Boomer had just done and then the two goldens passing each other within inches of each other and not even flinching. He said to Barb, what kind of dogs are those??? Barb looked at him and said, "They are both golden retriever guide dogs." He was just like Man, those dogs were just amazing!!!
We then did a left turn from the corner in which Boomer took me cleanly around the large light pole that was there on the corner and then back to the right to center us down the sidewalk again and on to the street that the bus was parked on and such. We did have a bit of excitement though, as when the other golden team got back, trainer Jody had taken a tumble in the street. :( She was so focused on watching the team that she didn't see the pot hole that was about 6 inches deep and she went down right in the middle of the street. The guy of this team immediately turned to come get her and Jody was like NO! Stay there. A guy from across the street came running and a car stopped and the driver got out to see if she was OK. She skinned her knee a bit and her arm too and jammed her shoulder pretty good. We were all very worried about her but she kept right on going, doing another walk with another team and when when done, we all loaded up on the bus asking her if she was sure she was alright. We made the 25 minute trip back to GDF and my stomach just started churning more and more.
We got back to the foundation and unloaded from the bus and took our dogs in, fed and watered them, and I made a bee line for the bathroom too as my stomach and bowels were rumbling more and more violently. We also had another student join the class at this time and as we were all out in the break area, Barb brought her the dog she was getting, a gorgeous poodle. :) Thus bringing the class to 1 yellow lab, 3 black labs, and 2 golden retrievers. :) The other golden and Boomer are the two biggest boys in the class, and are affectionately called the golden bookends, since often times the other handler and I are sitting together outside and the dogs tend to sit with their heads facing each other.
Once everyone was inside, Barb and Jody came to work with me again on the alerting. We put his alert collar on and this time Barb stood outside the door to do the knocking and smoke alarm. I sat on the bed this time and when she knocked, I'd say Alert! and he'd push hard on the disk and then I took the short leash and he took me to the door and sat. I praised him big and treated him. We did this a couple of times and then worked on the smoke alarm. The first time, I sat on the bed and he at first kind of looked to Jody and then came to me and I said Alert! and he pushed on the disk and I took the leash, but he was more focused on receiving the treat than going to the door. I keep saying "What?!" and would take one step, so we worked our way to the door. He's doing well and getting the hang of it. The second time, I went and sat in the bathroom and Jody had him come stand by her. Barb started the alarm and for a few seconds, Boomer was looking to Jody, even jumping up to try to alert her and she took a step back and you could see it on his face, he spun and looked on the bed for me and then bounded to the bathroom where I was sitting and pushed hard on the disk as I said Alert! and then took me to the door. The trainers were both pleased and said that next time they would try with a piece of double sided sticky tape for him to push on, to start working away from the disk.
So then it was time to go out for break and then we all came in from the break area and to the dining room for dinner. Dinner was a large chef salad, stuffed Italian shells, meatballs, and Italian sausage with garlic bread. Thankfully I had Kevin give me half portions, so one shell, the one meatball and half of a sausage for me! Then I couldn't resist the chocolate cake that they had, which it think was what did me in for the night that was to come ahead for me.
After dinner, we had our Harness & Leash correction lecture, which is ALWAYS a fun lecture to watch. Trainer Mike gives this lecture and he makes it fun and informational at the same time. We learned that the #1 purpose of a correction is this--- To get the dogs attention. The key to harness and leash corrections is getting the dogs attention with the least amount of correction needed, which honestly comes with experience and time with your dog, thus learning what your dog needs in what situations. Often times, a verbal correction will suffice, but other times if the dog is severely distracted, a single, strong, quick leash correction is needed to get the dog's attention and then we are to quickly give it something to do and praise the dog if it does it. The philosophy of corrections has been changing over the years, even from when I got Rei to being here this time. Training and corrections seem to be more positive reinforcement based and using treats to reward the desired behavior in the beginning and then wean off the treats and utilize more and more praise.
For this lecture, the beginning of it is where we listen and interact with talking about the different things, what we should and shouldn't do. Then was the interactive part of the lecture, where Mike has a handle on a dowel rod and pin allowing the handle to swing and a leash attached to this dowel too. Each of us went up and showed how we did both a harness and leash correction. Mike also showed us how to get the most effective leash correction by the posture of our arm and the motion we make with our arm when giving the correction. He also showed us how to give a correction if the dog has wandered from our side and pulling to the left- which is by stepping back with our left foot at the same time as giving the correction. He called me up first as he knew I'd been here in April and was able to give them appropriately. At this point I was welcome to stay or go on back to my room if I desired. I had to make another dash for the bathroom again as I was finding that I was pretty much running to the bathroom nearly every half hour throughout the rest of the night and my stomach and bowels were still churning something fierce and revolting violently. However after the trip to the restroom, I came back and it was good to watch the others as they learned this and other things came up through questions and thoughts while working with the other students.
After we were done with the lecture, it was nearly time to break the dogs for the last time of the night, so I ran to the restroom again and then hung out until they called us to take the dogs out. We did so and I came back and then skyped with Mike and the kids for a bit to talk to Mike about his first day on his new job. He had a pretty good first day on the job and was oriented to the building and settled in his new office. After telling the kids good night, I took Boomer down to the grooming room and gave him a good grooming all over before heading back up stairs quickly as I had to run to the bathroom yet again. :( At this point I went to the nurse and asked if she had anything like Kaopectate or Pepto bismal, which she did and I took those and they finally kicked in to slow things down after about 2am. I was still up 2 or 3 times before getting up the next morning though. So not a good night of sleep, but to tomorrow will be a new day!