My Training Diary

12 November, 2010

November 11th 2010 7:43 pm
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Hello everyone!

Well, we are back from Coleraine for a flying visit home.(There is no internet there, so Mum is in withdrawal - all her communication is online!) Dad has been doing the locum there and we will be there until after Christmas so we will have lots of opportunity to meet with new people and tell them about Assistance Dogs! Coleraine is a small town as is Casterton, Balmoral, and a couple of the other places in terms of population numbers. Large hearted though! I've not had a hair turn when I've come into any shop or for dinner at the pub after Church on Saturday nights. They are better educated than a lot of city folk.

I had a bit of a blast from the past this week, too. AS a puppy, I started out being with Mum and Dad when he took Services in Retirement Centres and Nursing homes. (This was before Mum and Dad found out about Assistance Dogs) I used to upstage Dad a fair bit, too! So I was sort of a Therapy dog, for a while. It was nice to go there and visit.

The only disconcerting thing was the Staff had adopted a Maltese Terrier from the RSPCA - and he was really aggressive! He tried to eat a piece of me and then intimidated Beau. I know I'm not supposed to, but I told him off! Mum was really upset with me, though.

I had a very rushed time before we left to start the locum, trying to organise Mum and Dad for the Open Garden Scheme. This is the second year our garden has been open to the general public in the Spring Festival. Mum and Dad were a bit nervous, but Simon - The Kitchen Farmer, and Katie and their eight week old beautiful baby girl, Mary Elizabeth, came to have a look and were very reassuring. Simon and his brother Daniel built the raised beds, Esther Dean style, and everything is organic. So, I have lovely fresh, chemical free vegetables in my meals.

The best part was giving people an escorted tour through the garden. I did very well, I was told! I let Mum and Dad know when a fresh group arrived, too, so there was always someone to speak English to them. Being a Spitz breed dog, I talk A LOT, I'm told, but it seems that only Mum and Dad speak my language. Sigh... Mum says I'd talk under water with a mouth full of meat, but I'm quiet when I'm vested and working. It takes some doing!

I'm busy trying to train a new standard poodle puppy - you've probably seen him on my Dogster page? Beau? Well, let me tell you, this is something altogether new for me! I thought I had grown up in a Nursing Home for Elderly Dogs! Jack is 17 this December and Sophie is 13. Mr Tim crossed the rainbow bridge a couple of months ago and we have all been sad and missing him. He would have been 17 in December, too. He was Dad's shadow, even though this meant they often fell over each other. It's very quiet without him, even though Beau is here now.

It's great to have someone to play with but also a bit off-putting. He started out shorter and smaller than me but a fortnight later he's taller and a lot heavier and by the amount he eats, he's not going to stop in the immediate future!! But we are great mates. I don't know what the fuss was about. Everyone assumed I'd be jealous, but that is a waste of play time.

My Dad has early Parkinson's - he's only 48 in human years, too - so Beau will probably be trained up as his Assistance dog to help with coordination, balance and to break the "freezes". Anyway, I've taught him - Beau, not Dad! - to sit and drop already and to be clean in the house, even though we are living in two homes at the moment which could have been confusing for a young dog. I think we're doing pretty well! Mum is going to need a bigger boy for balance and mobility but we both think Dad's needs are more urgent.

Mum still doesn't have a date for my re-credentialising. It's worrying her that we don't have a date to work towards - a focus.Still we are working everyday on our tasks and work.

Talk again, soon,

Cheers,
Max!

 

Training for Assistance Dog Work

November 2nd 2010 11:00 pm
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Hi folks!

My Mum has made notes and sent emails all over the place about our training and what we are doing, but I thought I should have my own diary!

To catch you up: When Mum first brought me home, we didn't really know of any Service or Assistance Dog programmes that did the work Mum needed. Dad did a search on the internet - he's really computer savvy! - and found A.W.A.R.E. Dogs. He knew Mum needed help and was worried about her. They both had been through a very hard time, and Mum had been very unwell. When they read all the information they thought they had found answers. So, they filled out the forms, Mum's lovely doctor wrote out the prescription and other information, we were assessed as a team in training and , ta da! here we are!

This has meant a lot of training, and not just obedience training.

Although Mum had already taught me the basics, Mum and I joined the Ballarat Dog Obedience Training Club.We both thought this would be a good idea, as I needed lots of exposure to strange dogs as well as learning things that were new, but it was just too off putting to be access challenged every time we turned up to go into the clubhouse to fill out papers, or find information,even with me in vest and with my license.

Neither of us particularly liked the big groups, either, as we didn't know what they were trying to achieve as there were others who had already been coming for several weeks,and it was assumed that everyone knew what they were meant to be doing, so we felt a bit like we were starting off on the left paw, so to speak. The use of check chains, and the strong jerk corrections with the leash didn't appeal either.

Mum was pretty upset. So, we looked through the phone book for other trainers who would use a gentler method with lots of positive reinforcement and, after some initial confusion, found Sandra and Ian at Happy Dog Training School. Well, they are heaven on a stick! Or should I say on a leash!?!

I have passed Ideal Dogs Victoria with their help with flying colours. Now we have to find a few hours to redo the Public Access Test ready for our recredentialling from A.W.A.R.E. Dogs' Che Forrest in the next week or two. I'm pretty confident with this as Mum and I have been out in public training for this almost all day, every day now since March this year!

I have learnt to wake Mum (and Dad!) in the mornings, remind Mum to take her medicines, let her know if her blood sugar is low, create space betwen crowds and her when out in public, find the car and the way out when Mum can't. I'm trying to help her balance, but I'm too small so I'll have to help train up a bigger dog for that work!

Mum knows that if she needs to go out, she doesn't have to have Dad with her all the time to keep her balanced and grounded and safe. I do all that now! I let Mum know when she is not coping and we sit or stand somewhere out of the way, Mum pats me and matches my breathing and settles. I lean into her legs and put my nose into her hand to ground her. I keep my eyes on her, too.

I'm an easy traveller, I wait to be put in my seatbelt before driving. I let Mum know if she is unfocused! I like to go fast in the car, but not when Mum is anxious.

I know all about the magic of elevators and travelators. Mum won't let me use escalators because my feet are tiny and might be caught and hurt.

When we are in the supermarket I walk neatly like velcro by Mum's side and ignore children, rude people making noises at me, trolleys and other distractions. I am particularly focused when we go past the meat aisle - I half close my eyes, put my tail straight out behind me, ears back and walk through.

My trainers were pleased when we went out for coffee - I sat quietly under the table in the busy mall. A few people were startled when we all stood up to go and saw me there too. I love to surprise people in restaurants who haven't realised I am there until they see us walk out the door!

I most certainly don't touch any dropped food and refuse when someone is ignorant and tries to distract me with food or attention. I know that people think I should be social with them, but I need to focus on my Mum, so I ignore them, turn my head away. I'm sometimes not too sure about people walking over me, as I am a small dog. When Mum tells me to stay I do, though.

At the doctor's surgery we sometimes have to wait literally hours, so I have learnt to be very patient. I know to be a clean dog before we go out and I never relieve myself while on leash unless I'm told.

My Dad is an Anglican priest so I've learnt the order of service in Church and go with Mum every Sunday and some other days too. I love the Greeting of Peace and am in the aisle waiting for Dad to announce it! I go up with Mum for Communion and Dad gives me a Blessing! I sit very still and quietly at the communion rail and wait until the person on the left of Mum has taken Communion before I stand and make my way back to our pew. This way Mum doesn't sit in the wrong seat in church.

I'll be adding more to this diary on a regular basis, but this has caught us up in general terms.

Talk again soon!
Max!

 
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