Tuesday 4 April 2017

Service Dog Training: Day 2

We started off day 2 with some free play in the dog run at National Service Dogs.  Icon and the others (Halo, Kaiser, Koda, GeeGee and Kane) enjoyed getting some off-leash time being dogs.  It was really nice watching them run and play together.  It made me wish I knew more people who had dogs, so that we could make sure Icon can still have this experience when we get home.

Today we concentrated on leash work for the morning.  We kept working on sit, down and stay.  But we also learned how to deal with "forging" and "lagging", when a dog isn't in the heel position, but instead tries to go ahead or hold back.

I had a lot of trouble with it.  Which shook my confidence, which made it harder.  I had to take a moment and clear my head before I could get Icon's attention back and start getting him to follow my instructions.  We also tried the two different types of collars, a chain correction collar and what's called an EZ collar, which goes over the muzzle.  I discovered Icon was a lot better behaved with the EZ collar, so I suspect that's what we'll be using more.

After lunch we went back to the mall and practiced parts of the handler test.  Like having the dog stay despite not having the handler nearby and having a lot of distractions.  Or having the dog follow commands despite no one holding the leash.  Or successfully ignoring food right in front of the dog.  Icon had a lot of trouble with that last one.  The trainer had to take the food away because Icon was going for it.  But we'll practice and keep going.

One key thing to remember is that the dogs have all passed these tests before.  This is a test of our ability to handle the dog, not the dog's ability to do the work.

We finished up by picking up a new dog bed at Costco, which Icon quite seems to like.  We were planning to go out to play fetch with his Kong, but he came into the hotel and crashed.  This is a long and tiring week for all of us.

All day, I've found myself being overwhelmed by the reality that Icon will be coming home with us.  This is no longer an abstract dog, but a real one.  One with his own personality and abilities.  I'm hoping we can make this all work where Alex is happy, Icon is happy and the two of them can be friends and partners.  I'm hoping that I'll be able to cope with the extra responsibility.  I'm hoping that I don't mess this all up.

Dave and I have been dividing the responsibilities.  He does the morning feeding and relief, I do the evening feed and relief.  This will match how the routine usually goes, since I'm the one who gets the boys ready in the morning (leaving Dave free to concentrate on the dog) and Dave deals with his chores in the evening. 

The trainers have been emphasizing how important it is to have Alex be involved with the dog as much as possible and Nathan as little as possible.  We're going to have to do some serious thinking.  And see about getting Neelix as soon as possible for Nathan.

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