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Icy as my Service Dog and Training

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Please check out Lone Star's Diary

August 15th 2011 5:27 am
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Please check Lone Star's diary for more information on my training efforts. Because I thought I would be using her, I have been writing it in her diary.

Now that I have switched to Icy, I still write there so readers don't get confused.

Thank you for reading!


About Training "Aggressive" Rescue Dogs

April 28th 2012 2:32 am
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With a lot of "aggressive" dogs you just have to show them who's in charge. I learned this cleaning kennels at the a rescue. I would go into the kennels of dogs that had been hauled in and left leashes still on. They would come out quiet as lambs and wait for me to finish with their kennels. It wasn't till I was told not to clean those kennels by the boss that I stopped. All those dogs were down for termination. Partially because the guy who assessed them was afraid and they could sense it. And partially because the rescue couldn't tarnish its reputation by homing a dog that was "aggressive" even if the future owners knew about it.

Anyway, I started to learn with Kavik. Kavik was an extreme case as he had been seriously neglected and couldn't hear. I taught him signs and got him that vibrating collar so he would know when to look at me for a sign when we were out. His aggression was fear based. I worked with Icy in a similar way. We would walk and if we saw a dog and they were acting the fool then we stopped and they had to sit or lie down. In some cases I would roll them over and stand over them.

Teaching your dog to roll over is handy in many ways. It shows control and at the vet it can be instrumental in getting a big dog to either submit to examination or in Kavik's snake bite case, to show his swollen and painful testicular pouch. I had vets amazed when they didn't need a few hands to wrestle a dog.

I also don't allow any of my dogs to bark out the windows. I know this was a big thing at Icy's last home. I have totally broken him of the behaviour and Star will try to get him started and then gives up. If the dog stops barking I would give them a treat. It works if you have patience, this all works.

Anyways, Kavik was getting better but I think his problem was the hearing. He would get startled by another dog approaching. So I would generally walk Ookie and him away or elsewhere than any other dog.

A lot of it is repation. They need to know what response they will get every time they do something. Like I always have my dogs sit to get their leads on. Then sit at the door. Then sit as I'm locking the door from the outside. Then sit if they have a reaction to something. They sit at the cross walk. They sit at the median if there are cars coming. They sit at the entrance to the park. Then sit after one of them poos so that I can pick it up. Then sit at the poo container. They have to walk at heal till I say "ok" and then they can go to the end of their leads to smell things. Never pulling. Etc.

Yes yes, I'm a bit of a control freak. Not knowing a dog's history can do that to you.

When I picked Icy up from his previous home, he was around a small child and a small dog without any problems. When I got him home he would have killed my German Shepherd X Ookie. No doubt in my mind. If you have seen the Dog Whisperer, he was a Red Zone. By that point I had introduced a few rescues and I had the two meet in a parking lot away from the house. My Mother-In-Law handled Ookie and I handed Icy. It was a complete surprise when he would have killed her. I have never been near an animal with that much rage. I didn't even have a choker on him that night. Which id my usual way of controlling this breed (thick neck muscles). When I had got him his previous owners had a harness of sorts on him and it was way to tight. On top of the fact that it is the WRONG way to stop a sled dog from pulling! I had taken it off. After it was off he healed me quite well. I had walked him around by that point a few times and talked to him through the 2 hour ride home.

What I did was I stood in front of his line of sight. Speaking firmly to him and holding his collar. In dog terms I was sorting my superiority. When he was calmer I would ask my Mother-In-Law to keep advancing with Ookie. Thankfully Ookie wasn't really my dog (she was my young son's to the bone) but she wasn't happy about a strange dog talking roubish around her master. I would command her to stop barking if she started. She took my commands. I think Icy managed to calm down enough to realize that Ookie was part of our pack and not a threat. Beacause this was not fear but he was feeling off balance and threatened. I had my Mother-In-Law take her closer and closer and talked soothingly till she could sniff him and he sniff her. Anyway, 15 minutes later they were the best of friends and never had one fight.

My husband never believed Icy had this aggression because he never saw it. Not until he was out with us when I was service dog training him.

Icy was different in that he thought he needed to protect himself and me. I was teaching him that I could handle myself and by the end of that year he was mostly walking past dogs without comment (none close). I could have both dogs sit at the vet for me just fine. I also had Icy wearing a backpack and I would weigh it down. This is a good way to give your dog more of a work out for a shorter walk. I was recommended to try this to calm him down because of what he was bred for. It put him "in a working mode". It worked.

When i came out of the hospital, when I saw the way the dogs were naturally reacting to me, I thought to train Star. She's younger and I've never seen a problem with people or dogs. I finally decided to give Icy a shot as in the house he was so good (they both were) and he was more used to me. I had to change my training because of my disability. Icy immediately went back to sitting when he saw another dog and usually barking to tell it to keep away. I had to break him of this habit. And we started just walking along and I would ignore and try to get him to ignore the other dog.

I have never had to bribe my dogs to do anything. I've had to work on bribery since getting ill. It's reinforcing the good behaviour and ignoring the bad. When I came home they both had bad stuff they had picked up. I could go into that but that's not the subject right now.

As I had to walk with a crutch (and still do) I couldn't train Icy like I have in the past. I also couldn't hold a treat to give him if he did something right as I'd have to stop and dig it out of a bag or pocket and it felt like I would be reinforcing the bad and making him think stopping is a good thing. Icy is amazing with every situation but other dogs. I have managed to get him to see them as potential play things rather than threats. Which is the next step really. But I then need him to realize that while he's working he can't play. What I have resorted to is a muzzle. My husband had bought some cloth muzzles when I was in the hospital to stop the dogs destroying the house. They can't open their mouth much in them. I've never used a muzzle but I couldn't think of another way to get across that the barking was very bad. So when I stop, I put the muzzle on and he has to wear it for maybe 5 minutes at the most unless I see another dog. This way when we stop because of his behaviour he gets a very serious NO.

At my son's school I have offered to muzzle him so they would feel safer with the kids around him. I bought him a heavy wire muzzle for that. It's not pretty but he can breathe. Icy breathes a lot through his mouth. I continue to use the cloth one as his discipline one.

I am still aiming to walk both dogs at the same time. I have to move from a crutch to a cane first and that's all down to trusting Icy. Then trusting Star.

Anyway its working. Each dog is different and the training is different. I had to radically change my training methods because I became disabled. But understanding the dog is understanding the training.

If you want to read more about Icy and Star's work then have a look at Lone Star's Diary (because it's all there):


Icy, Your my Hero

September 1st 2012 7:16 am
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I saved you. You were an underweight big guy who had lost most of his fur from worry. I took you from your old home and drove 2 hours to bring you home. You never made me regret taking you in. You and I worked together for a year on your own phobias and the build up your muscle.

Then I got seriously ill and was in hospital for 4 months. When I came home I could barely use a zimmer frame and couldn't go down our stairs. You watched me and walked next to me and let me know you were there for me at every moment. You didn't care that we couldn't go walking. All you wanted was a stroke and you were happy. Then the physio told me I could start trying to go downstairs. You followed me even then and watched over me. You still follow me up and down even though I am stronger now. You lay and watch me do the dishes from my chair and make sure I'm alright.

Then you and I started going out walking again. You took care of me then and acted as my Assistance Dog even though things were strange to you and sometimes you worried about another dog coming to hurt us. You and I went on the bus together and to the GP, to shopping centres and to TESCO. You and I went to my little son's school and talked to his class about working dogs. The Head gave us special permission to go onto school grounds and in the building. We went to cafes and you had fish and chips on our last time out together. Then when a dog tried to knock me down you protected me with your big voice and no teeth or growls. Then I had to retire you from working with me because I am still weak. You didn't take it badly. You taught your replacement what she needed to know to keep my physical work up.

You are my hero, Icy.


SD/ Assistance Dog Training Continued from Lone Star's Diary

December 27th 2012 7:39 am
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Lone Star is no longer with me. Since she is gone I have thought to keep the diary running on Icy's site as any work will be with him. I miss her deeply.

I had been training Lone Star to pay attention to our surroundings and to how I was feeling, along with balance for my mobility. I originally trained Icy purely for mobility help and as like a "living crutch".

I had to retire him in the early last September due to a dog attack that made him to protective toward other dogs for me to work with at that point. Lone Star got me along enough that I can now walk on my own with one crutch and without a backpack without debilitating back pain.

I have been grieving and had no intentions of using Icy again to help me. I still have hopes that he will be a pet. But he has started picking up on things with me, like Star would have.

Recently I have started having black outs. So far just while sitting. Last night Icy started licking my inner elbow when I was about to black out and it brought me back. Maybe not for long but it did it. This is a totally new thing for him and I am amazed. All I can think is that the dogs learned from each other. I did not have to teach Star much of keeping me mobile and Icy knows all that stuff so he learned from her how to watch me.

I will see what happens with this. I bought him a Dogmatic head collar to help me get his protectiveness under control. I had bought it in the hopes to walk him as a pet. But if he learns to keep his focus on only me and these new finer ways of caring for me then I may take him out of retirement. He's a young guy and very smart.

If you would like to read about my past training with both dogs, it is under Lone Star's Training Diary on her site:


Icy noticing possible seizures

February 11th 2013 2:34 pm
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Last night I had another black out. Icy warned me it was going to happen and then woke me out of it with licks and a bark. Could be seizures. I'm on the list to see a Neurologist and my GP said it shouldn't be long till I see them. I think he has fast tracked me since I wanted to be tested for MS. I also gave a sample to be checked for Diabetes though I don't think this is from that.

His new harness should be here in a few days. As I had to take him off duty due to a dog attack that got him paranoid, my plan is to sit on a bench where people walk their dogs and do some training that way with the Dogmatic I bought. This way both he and I don't have to worry about my balance while he works through his worries. Of course I'll have plenty of treats. He's very smart and I think he'll pick up that not all dogs are threats, fast.


First time back on the job and at the pub

February 16th 2013 9:45 am
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Icy fell right into working like we had never stopped. Absolutely brilliant. I had him in a lie down next to me with leash loose. The only thing that startled him was when some blokes started playing darts. He got over it fast. Lots of distractions. At one point a lady came up to talk to him and he turned his back to her and put his had to the wall. LOL

This trip was 3.5 hours and included a car ride and a steep hill besides all the distractions in the pub. A toddler kept dancing around near him and people were drinking with no response from Icy. When I got up, he got up on his own and waited with a dropped lead till I was ready to pick it up and go.


Icy on his Dogmatic

February 22nd 2013 11:04 am
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Had a great walk with Icy last night to my 6 year old's school where we had a parent meeting for an hour and half and then walked home in the dark. He was perfect as usual and the Dogmatic was great. We saw a another dog and he started to get agitated and after one pull on the Dogmatic he settled back into his work. Was quiet and staid with a dropped lead in a lie down through the meeting. Food on the table and 10 people present.

Icy's a smart cookie. I always knew what I needed was a way to break his eye contact but with walking with a crutch, I could never carry any noise making thing or treat. I walked just fine holding the reg length leash attached to the Dogmatic in my crutch hand, My balance is much improved thanks to Star so when I gave it a tug it wasn't a big deal to compensate my stance.

I am glad I decided to use his normal length lead for the Dogmatic as it had to be held across the front of my body. It made me very aware of how much he scans everything we pass by. I gave him extra lead because he was moving his head back and forth so much watching out for me. Not watching for dogs so much as watching for things I might trip on and people/etc.

I get tunnel vision when I walk and one of the tasks the dogs have been trained for is to watch out for things almost like a dog for the blind. Star stopped me from walking in from of cars on 2 occasions though I do try and watch the roads.

I begin to see why they are both knackered when they get home with me! LOL I'm going to try and go out with him tomorrow afternoon for another thing at my son's school. Now that I feel more confident in the Dogmatic I am not worried if we see any other dogs.


Craft Day at my son's Primary School

February 25th 2013 9:18 am
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Took Icy out today for a creative parent/child thing that happens on Monday at his primary school. I've never been able to attend before but I am finally at the point where I can travel fairly well with a dog on my own. It wasn't to much strain. Had a great time and Icy was great.

At one point one of the 6 year olds jumped OVER him and he just raised his head. I told the child to please not do that again because it scared Icy.

He was dropped lead for about 2 hours. 8 six year olds and 5 adults doing arts and crafts. On the way home we walked home with a lot of the teens from the high school passing us and he was totally fab. He was told by the teacher that he was invited back. :)

Hoping to make this a weekly thing. My son was so happy I was there. He talked a lot about Lone Star (my deceased Assistance Dog). All the kids knew her and wanted to know where she was.


Trip on the bus and working on a busy road

March 5th 2013 1:27 am
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Our trip out yesterday was a great success.

I have a photo of Icy and I on the bus and one of just him with the door open and then one at that karate studio where my son has his classes and video I'll have to see about uploading.

He's an accomplished bus traveler but hasn't done it in about a year and this was his first time at the karate studio. It was very busy and people walked over him and around him and he got up and moved for people. Kids and adults with big bags. On the way to the studio is a very busy road. He's used to roads but this one is the busiest we've crossed together without a cross walk. He watched for cars and everything else.

Saw three dogs. He alerted me to the first until it was 15 paces from us, opposite side of the street. The other two came walking by in front of us. When I was in a bus shelter and about the cross a road. He alerted again but was really barking his full voice at these until they passed the certain distance. Working on how to stop this as I don't want him to gain a reputation for loudness.

We're working through his fear of being attacked again together.

All in he was very very good and it made me feel more comfortable about making the trip with him again next week.


Thank you!

March 6th 2013 6:52 am
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Thank you all for making Icy's newest adventure Dogster Daily Diary Pick for 06/03/2013.

We're both working together to get through Icy's fear of another dog attack and missing Lone Star SD/Mobility Assistance Dog (RIP in December).

It means a lot to both of us. And thank you for Icy's first Rosette!

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