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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer School

Well, folks, the word is that Dakota's slated to head in for advanced training sometime around the end of this summer! Like an anxious parent with a kid headed for college, my mind is full of questions. Is he ready? Has he learned what he needs to know? What holes does he need to fill in between now and then?

With the weather so incredibly hot (we've had 13 days in the triple digits so far this summer), Dakota has been getting plenty of indoor malls, big box stores, office buildings, and the like. So, naturally, I'm concerned that he also gets enough work around the distractions of neighborhoods and city streets. To cover those bases while avoiding heatstroke, you pretty much have to be out walking before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m. Today, we're out in the evening.

After indulging in his usual "Oh-we're-going-on-a-walk-I'm-SO-EXCITED!" rolling and snorting all over the living room rug, Duckie calms down enough to wait by the door for me. I get my liver treats and i.d. badge, and we head off. It's nice to have such an enthusiastic student!

Right off we have a bit of overhead work. Duckie doesn't yet reliably stop for overhead obstacles, such as these branches, on his own. But he's quick to stop, sit, and "watch!" when I point them out. Sometimes I get the feeling he thinks I'm a bit compulsive with pointing out branches all the time.

"I know, Mom, I've seen that before! Let's get on with walking!"

Now we're back on our way. I'm happy with his relaxed attitude and responsiveness.

What was that? A loose dog across the street playing with a bunch of kids is a huge distraction. We practice "sit" and "down" (left, below) until I know he's listening to me again. Then we move on. He walks nicely, but you can tell in the picture (right, below) that his head is still pointed toward the group across the street! Well, as long as he's behaving, I guess that's okay.

Next obstacle: a car parked at the end of the drive, blocking our path. Of course Dakota knows we have to go around. There's not enough room for both of us to the left, so he goes right. Good move.

As we get around the car and head back to the sidewalk, Dakota remembers to wait with his toes on the curb for me to step up. Good dog!

We reach the end of the street and turn on a busy road. It's important that guide dogs be able to take traffic in stride, and I think Dakota's doing pretty well with that. He doesn't love the noise or anything, but it doesn't alarm him. We practice more obedience with cars, trucks, and buses whizzing by.

...well, it's not exactly glamorous work, is it? But piece by piece, I think his training is coming together.

I'm going to sign off today by saying thanks to the great folks at the Austin Public Library, especially the Pleasant Hill Branch! We're in there fairly often with Dakota, and they're always so positive and encouraging toward his training. Hmmm, looks like Dakota even picked a book to check out while we were there! Let's see...what's that title?


...Do you think he's trying to tell us something? Keep up the hard work, Dakota, and maybe we'll believe you!


Jethro's Puppy Raiser said...

you guys crack me up!! I'm certain Dukie is a genius! and his work is great so BREATHE!!! he will do great in advanced training!

puppyluver said...

such a clever boy!! and he WILL do great in advanced training :)