6:00- We wake up to Donna knocking on the door this morning. I was having a hard time sleeping last night as my mind was going.
6:45- I had quickly gotten dressed and it was soon time to feed, water, break the dogs. It was bitter cold out too. AJ didn’t want to sit for some reason with her food. She kept going to a down instead of a sit. So we finally got it and offered her water but she didn’t want any. We went out and she did a number 1 right off the bat but took a little bit longer than normal to do her number 2. We head back inside and go to breakfast.
7:20- Breakfast was a croissant roll, eggs, a couple of slices of bacon and a cup of grits. AJ really surprised me and went back in the right position under my chair and pretty much stayed there for me. I reinforced the behavior as it is where I want her to lay.
8:00- Because it is cold outside from the polar vortex that is affecting much of the country right now, it was 3 degrees when we got up, so trainers opted to not have us work the van routes this morning and we just worked out to break area and then to the vans themselves .
9:00- We went in the vans to Smithtown Mall this morning since it was too cold to work our morning routes in Huntington. The plan is to go to the mall this morning, come back this afternoon, and then spend the whole day in Huntington tomorrow to make up this mornings routes there.
We walked the mall twice. The first time going to the middle of the mall, making a stop and talking about a couple of things I want to do customization work on and then coming back to the food courts. I talked with Cristina about a couple of settings that might be intimidating for AJ, which one is attending track meets and that especially for home meets, the throwers are in the infield and that there are numerous “shots”’fired with the starting pistol from various positions on the track. Secondly I asked about going to the Central Park Zoo, since I do take my dogs to the Indianapolis Zoo and Cristina explained that the Central Park Zoo does not allow them to come in with dogs. She seemed a little surprised when I explained that I do take my dogs to the Indy Zoo. Lastly, I asked about doing something with bleachers since we attend orchestra concerts, awards programs, and sometimes sporting events at the high school that has wooden bleachers. I have found that the dogs are intimidated by the movement and vibration of the bleachers as well as the noise that reverberates off of them especially when cheering is happening. Cristina said she would talk with Brad and see what options we have.
So back to the mall, AJ did very nicely taking me around people and through the kiosks and aisle stations. On the way back to the food court AJ slows way down, anticipating a right turn to the elevators and we have to hop up there to get her to work past it. We wait our turn in the food courts and my student partner walks his route. We go a second time and this time we walk to the center of the mall and AJ takes me right to Brad that was standing in the center of the mall watching the teams.
We make a left turn and I fumble miserably on the footwork but am able to recover well enough to keep working and we work our way down the branch off and to the doors at the end. AJ pulls towards the Disney store and Cristina starts to laugh as she tells me that she had been in there with her dogs so that was why AJ is looking to go in there. We do an about and again I struggle with the darn left turn. AJ knows what she’s doing, it’s just that I have two lead feet. We work our way back to the food courts and then we work our way to the vans and head back to GDF.
11:30- We get back to GDF and it was still icy on the square so the trainers dropped us off at the sidewalks and we all worked out way to the break area with a chance to busy before we get inside. Once inside Cristina comes and has me harness AJ up and work her to the dining room. I am now allowed to work her in harness in the building.
Photo on the left- YAY! We can work in harness in the building now! AJ laying on the floor with her harness on and the stinking long handle laying somewhat across her back and she is looking up at the camera with big huge eyes.
Photo on the right- This was after a silly dog scoots about the room and wiggling butt after she came out of harness before lunch and getting a drink. AJ standing next to the door frame going into the bathroom, with her head slightly down, looking at the camera.
Photo: AJ surprises me and photo shows a dog laying next to my bed next to me and her nose nearly touching my shoe. Is she starting to "Turn over"?
12:00- lunch - Kevin made an amazing turkey chili with sour cream and Fritos in it. It was good enough that I asked for seconds! It was hot and Yummy!
Sadly we have had a dog switch on this class. I only bring it up to explain what it is. My understanding is that GDF tries to have two possible matches for you when they invite you to a class. It’s not always possible but they try.
So a dog switch is where a joint decision is made by the handler and the trainer that for some reason the dog is not working out for the person. It can be a personality conflict, the dog is too fast, too slow or the dog is has too much drive for the handler. There is honestly any number of things that can create the need for a dog switch and it is all about making sure the handler goes home with a good match and a dog they can control and work together as a team.
When a dog switch happens, the first dog is returned to the kennels and hopefully matches to someone else soon. If they have another match, the new dog is brought over from the kennels and the handler continues with the class but somewhat starts over with the new dog. Depending on how well the new pair does will determine if a trainer goes to the persons home following the class and continues work with the team to make sure the team is a strong team.
This is the primary reason that GDF doesn’t want the dogs names shared on social media, in case the match doesn’t work out and the disappointment to the puppy raiser that their dog is not graduating. GDF has changed their policy quite a bit in the last few years; being more open about the dogs coming up in training and the shutterfly site of dogs in for training site is shared on the GDF Facebook page when new photos are added each month.
1:00- We again did not work through the obstacle course to the van due to the cold and head back to the mall. I rode in the front and AJ leaned into my leg and put her head on my knee. This is really the first real sign of affection she has shown me since they brought her to me. Today she’s been wanting to stay closer to me as well opting to lay next to my foot and later on the blanket I gave her after talking with Cristina. We arrive at the mall and when we got there she popped up and put her front feet on my lap and wanted to look around. The. I got a bunch of wet Labby kisses too.
Left- AJ laying under the table in front of my feet at a table in the food courts of the mall.
Right: AJ also at the mall on the floor but now sprawled out on her side taking a snooze before the next job.
At the mall we work in to the food courts and for the second time today the sliding doors won’t open for me. Not sure what was up with that. We decided to try the gentle leader on her just to see how she did with it. We both didn’t think there was much need for it as she has been very good about walking through distractions and so forth. The only thing that I could see possibly needing to use it for is if she is scavenging, but that hasn't seemed to be an issue except when landed somewhere, she’s bored, and then sees something on the floor. So after putting it on, she really slows her pace and was working dejectedly, we opted to take it off of her. She immediately returned back to her perky fast self with it off.
AJ and I take off first and she first takes me directly to the Hagen Daus store instead of making the over left moving turn to the main walkway. Not sure what was up with that but we reset ourselves and took off again. We worked through the main concourse of the mall to the center and she kind of veered to the left for something that smelled good and had to re direct her straight. We continue on, going straight to the other end of the mall this time. AJ threads me between two people pulling carts loaded with boxes and as we approach the entrance to JC Penney’s and the children’s play area in front of it, a young girl is calling to AJ and she starts to veer left towards the kid, so I had to correct her and told her No! hop up.
We go on into Penny’s to work the escalators and find that they were not working for the day. So we worked our way back to the main concourse and head back toward the food courts and turn left into Macy’s. Macy’s is ALWAYS a challenge and creates anxiety for me with its make up department right in front with the super narrow aisles that you have to walk around and past and many open shelves in the aisles with lots of little bottles of products. AJ slowed way down and took us through here at a really good pace and we got around to the escalators. We worked up the first floor escalator and it is pretty much the same as it has been. I tell her to find the escalator and she targets the right side handrail for me. I then drop the harness handle and tell her to “walk” and we both move forward onto the escalator. After we are on I keep my right foot on the same step that her front paws are on and my left foot on the next step ahead, whether it is going up or down. I then use my right hand to rock the handrail back and forth. When in the middle of the lift, the handrail will be loose and easy to rock back and forth. When you approach the end of the lift, the slack and ability to rock it from side to side will disappear as it feeds into the track to go down into the floor. So this is my cue to be ready to exit off the escalator. I again tell AJ “walk” and we walk off the escalator together and praise and give her some kibble. So we worked up and down both floors of escalators and then back out to the front of the store and through the make up dept again.
We continue to the center of the mall and do a moving over left turn down the left side of the concourse which we had come up. This put AJ closer to the store openings and she became somewhat sniffy, so gave a correction of No! Forward to redirect her back to her work. Cristina comments that AJ definitely is looking like she is tired and I responded that my arm was definitely sore from her pull. I asked if she thought a little bit longer of a handle might help at all and she said that we could try one later so I’ll ask her about it again tomorrow since we were essentially done for the day. We move on and cross over to the other side of the concourse and make a moving over right turn back to the group in the food court. Cristina tells me that we were looking really good, that she was glad to see AJ actually be herself and “misbehave” a little bit as it gave me the opportunity to work her through it and that she like how I did my corrections and re-directed her back to her work.
We then work out to the van and AJ is not liking getting in and out of this van we are using. It’s basically like the dogs are trying to jump up into and hit a landing in a basket- the floor space is small and the seats in the way and for her being so small, she is balking. So this evening I got in first, which is what you are supposed to do and tried to call her up. Cristina lifted her and she went to the bench seat behind me. She wasn’t having it to try to come around the seat so we opted to let her ride there for this time and tomorrow we will work on this and probably have her get in first. So we leave the mall and head back to the foundation.
3:00- We arrive at GDF and my student partner goes first to work to the break area and as he got out, up pops AJ’s head. She isn’t on the seat but just has her paws on the front seat because she's so short, so she can see out of the van and watch what is going on.
Photo: A shot of the bench seat with AJ, a black lab with her paws on the seat itself, but her back feet on the floorboard and looking out the window of the van to watch everyone else unloading from the vans.
At my turn, I get her out and we work our way to the break area for her to go pee and then go inside to take it easy, warm up, and just chill until time to feed the dogs at 4:30.
We get inside and she does her wiggly butt dance with taking off her harness and leash. She grabs the extra large Kong toy to play for a bit. She then comes over and practically sits on my foot. I take the opportunity to love on her and she surprises me and puts her paws on my lap and starts licking my face. I love on her and she actually stays there for being petted and when she hops down I grab the blanket I had brought with me for my new dog if it was safe to allow them to have a blanket to lay on. Christina told us on the way home that AJ was good with blankets and would somehow scratch and nose her blanket in the kennels to be all neat and perfectly flat before laying on it.
I lay the blanket down next to my bed and she immediately comes and sits by me and then lays down on the blanket. I notice she’s watching where I’m going now and somewhat following me about the room and into the bathroom if I go in the bathroom too. We are now given the choice of heeling or working the dog in harness throughout the building.
Left- AJ curled up next to the bed on the blanket I'd just laid down next to the bed I'm laying on.
Right- This photo is the perfect representation of this girls Diva personality... AJ is sitting on a red blanket with multi-colored polka dots and looking over her shoulder and down at the floor with an expression on her face that implies that she is "the stuff".
4:30- the time comes quickly to feed, water, and break the dogs. I got up to go in the bathroom and she follows me in there and watches as I get her food for dinner. She sits and I blow the whistle 3 times to keep reinforcing the whistle for recall if I need it.
5:30- Dinner is beef stroganoff and Kevin made the best thick and chewy chocolate chip cookies. We all ate our dinner and I came back to the room.
I'm waiting for the 8:30 call to take her out and will be raking some ibuprofen and crawling in bed early tonight. The shoulder and arm are pretty sore tonight.
8:30- final break- I have her walk to the break area as I didnt want to mess with the harness in this cold wind. She did number 1 but wouldn't do a number 2. We tried for a bit, so she will have to wait til morning break now.
After break we come back inside and another classmate asks to talk together and we head down to the leather lounge. The classmate and I talk for a while and talk with Dan the trainer too before he went home for the night.
Left- AJ in her harness looking at the loveseat to my right.
Right- AJ and pup mate both looking at my classmate since the classmate is eating chips.
And so it's a Good Night All from AJ & Kacie!