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Friday, July 31, 2009

At the Garden Center

With an afternoon cool enough to contemplate an outdoor walk, I thought it would be fun to take Dakota to a nearby garden center. Here are some lessons we went over...

No matter how good things smell, I'm still expected to focus.




Wind chimes are annoying, but okay.


Not every container with water in it is for me to drink out of.


Trying to walk faster than Mom is pointless because she never seems to get tired of making me "heel"!


I may be the guide dog, but she still gets to decide where we go.



No matter how big a noise it makes falling over, a potted plant can't hurt you.


Work is fun!

And, to finish up, here's one Dakota has really mastered:

At the end of a day's work, the best place to relax is with a friend.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

It Takes All Kinds

Just like people, dogs have such interesting personalities. That's a big part of what makes puppy raising fun. And, just like with raising kids, you find that one size definitely does not fit all when it comes to training methods and motivation.

Dakota enjoyed having his friend Twist over last weekend, but stayed very busy making sure that she understood he's the one in charge around here! Dakota is quite submissive to people but likes to be top of the pecking order when other dogs come to visit. This is the opposite of the lab puppy we raised, Willie. He didn't care who was top dog as long as they would play with him! Duckie doesn't let his smaller size bother him, and in fact, sometimes he uses it to his advantage when playing with someone bigger. Twist didn't know what to do about this clever little tactic:


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The picture below is cute, but the funny thing is that Dakota really didn't want to share Tim's lap with another puppy. He's accustomed to posing for the camera so all was sweet and quiet until the picture was taken...but as soon as the camera was put away he chased Twist off!


We got a new box of dog treats last week, the kind with a bunch of different flavors. Dakota is very funny with them. He'll take one from your hand ever so politely and delicately, then retire to a quiet spot where he can sniff it and lick it. You really wonder what he's thinking: Hmmm...bacon again? And here I was hoping for chicken! If we have another dog visiting, he'll eat the treat right up. But on his own, he's much more leisurely about it. He'll carry it around the house and play with it as if it were a toy for quite some time before finally eating it. The one below lasted from 8:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Pretty amazing! Twist, on the other hand, has been known to swallow these treats whole. So again, it takes all kinds!


Well, yes, we have done more this week than lie around the house eating milk bones and playing! One of our more interesting outings was downtown. We worked on all kinds of things: going up and down stairs...

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...practicing "finds"...

"Do I get bonus points for finding you the shady seat?"

...not to mention all the quirky little unforeseen obstacles, like this steep ramp that dumped us right into a crosswalk. It was a good place to practice "steady," and was tricky to negotiate even without having a visual impairment!


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Distractions ran amok. The sound of sirens, brakes, and engines filled the air. Pigeons flapped around. Enticing smells poured out of the shops we passed. But, as usual, Dakota's biggest distraction was all the passersby. Although many people understand that he's working and leave him alone, many others try to talk to him or pet him. We just have to work through it as best we can. Practice makes perfect, or at least, that's what I'm counting on!













Keep up the good work, buddy!





Friday, July 17, 2009

On the Road Again

Yep, Thursday's training walk involved a road trip. We drove down to meet Michelle for some work at a San Antonio mall. Dakota was very happy to get going...perhaps too happy! When excited, Duckie tends to get ahead and also go "wide." Once he's settled down he does better. Here, he's gotten ahead of me and I'm bringing him back into position with a "heel."

That's better!


Nice job on the stairs, buddy! Dakota indicates a "down" step by sitting.


Next stop: a little tour of Build-A-Bear. This is a great place for Dakota to practice manners and self-control around crowds of kids. There's a birthday party in progress, as well as several families shopping, so it's crowded.








Whatever they're doing over there, it looks like fun!



























After hanging out for a while, it was time to go. Nice work, Dakota!








Moving on, we reach some "up" stairs. Dakota's demonstrating good form by stopping with his toes on the edge. His partner will be able to feel from the harness how high to step. Way to go!


Coming around the corner, we had a little surprise planned. Guide dog puppy Jethro (Twist's brother) was relaxing at Starbucks with his handler.

All the excitement was a bit much for Jethro, who gave in to a little barking fit. After all, he's only 16 weeks old! Michelle settled him down, then settled down the security guard who had come to investigate. After that we carried on with the walk, taking turns leading and following. Dakota much preferred leading.








Open stairs like these can be intimidating, but Dakota took them in stride.









He's also quite calm about walking near the edge of a 2nd floor overlooking ground level, like in this photo. He seems to know that he's safe and doesn't have an undue fear of heights.









I saw the sign for the restrooms and wondered if Dakota could "find the girls'" for me in a strange mall. Sure enough, he went straight to it, even though it was around a corner and down the hall. Scent finds seem to be the easiest for dogs. I don't know about you, but I'm sure glad I can't smell the restrooms that far away!




Jethro sits calmly just a few feet away. Isn't he a handsome boy?


Finally, with both dogs tuckered out, we headed outside. Dakota and Jethro got to sniff noses but by this time they were so worn out they didn't even try to play.
















Dakota talked his new friend into giving him a little tummy rub. Funny how he always manages to do that...

But there was more in store for the Duck today. Before getting back on the road to Austin, we had to stop off for an appointment with Dr. Bonney, an ophthalmologist for dogs. He had to dilate Dakota's eyes and screen him for any eye problems. Of course, Dakota took the opportunity to make several more friends. I promise, you could never hope to meet a more friendly dog than this one!

The receptionist wondered what color she should call Dakota on his records. His original puppy chart says "red," but the color has really lightened up since then. I suggested "caramel," but I'm not really an expert. What do you think? At any rate, the appointment went well, and Dr. Bonney gave him the "all clear." Cool!



Nothing wrong with these eyes!

Friday, July 10, 2009

A New Twist

It's been an eventful week. Wednesday evening, Michelle came to pick Dakota up and take him down to San Antonio. He had an x-ray screening scheduled for the next morning, one of several tests all guide dogs must pass to ensure they are physically sound enough for their career. As the test involves some pretty serious joint manipulation, dogs get an IV with anesthesia for their own comfort. Remembering how sore our last puppy was afterward, I was naturally concerned for Duckie -- but I needn't have worried! When he bounced back into the house on Thursday afternoon, he was as spunky and lively as if he'd just had a day at the spa. What a guy! Official results won't come back for quite a while on the x-rays, but I don't anticipate any problems. Now Dakota sports a funky new 'do on his right foreleg where the IV went in.

Thank goodness hair grows back, right?

He brought back a new pal with him too..."Twist," a beautiful 16-week old German Shepherd. Her puppy raisers needed a sitter, so Tracy and I are splitting puppysitting duties between us. Twist will be in and out of our house a couple of times in the near future. She's sweet and bouncy, with the most adorable little "worry wrinkles" on her forehead.


Everything's more fun with a friend!