Sunday, August 18, 2013
This picture of Valora was taken at a downtown Vancouver restaurant right after her evaluation with our community field representative (CFR). Miss Valora is almost 11 months old. It's been hard to believe that she will be returning to campus in 4 or 5 months. I'm very pleased with her progress. This month has brought a new level of maturity and I can see Valora is outgrowing puppyhood. We are still waiting for Valora to go into season, and I'm hoping that doesn't happen the month before she returns to training. The evaluation went well and Valora demonstrated how she isn't afraid of anything like noisy downtown traffic, the MAX, waterfalls, or construction. She walks over all kinds of surfaces and grates without hesitation and she can walk past distractions like people sitting on the sidewalk eating lunch without being distracted by food. We were pleased to report that Valora is capable of spending time alone in the house without being destructive, and we are very happy with her house manners. We still have a few things to work on as no dog is perfect, but I feel like Valora is coming along nicely and will be ready for formal training when it's time.
After we finished our meal and Lyn was returning our plates to the restaurant, I saw Valora staring at something and I followed her eyes to see what she was staring at. I then also became fascinated by a nature drama in the weeds by the building. A yellow jacket had found something that it appeared excited about but dropped it to go to another area when it suddenly got stopped by a spider web string. It couldn't get out and in a mere second the spider was there wrapping it. I kept thinking that it was going to be a battle of who had the stronger poison, but really the yellow jacket never had a chance. Alas, Lyn did not share our enthusiasm in this drama when he returned and wanted to leave, but I think I know how everything turned out. A moment to remember with Valora.
I was able to participate in Fun Day this year (with a dog no less). The day before I got to Follow the Trainer in downtown Gresham. This was a wonderful experience and I highly recommend it to anyone who is able to do this whenever the opportunity is offered. As the name suggests, follow the trainer involves following a trainer as the trainer works with a string of dogs in formal training. Keep in mind that none of the techniques demonstrated are puppy raiser approved techniques. These are all techniques that are part of formal training.
My group followed three dogs working in phase 4. Each dog is worked on a route individually and the picture below is the first dog being released from a kennel to start work.
On this particular day, the dogs were learning how to find a bench. The trainer was marking when the dog approached the bench, then marking when the dog touched the bench with her nose, then adding the command, and then when the command was understood, the trainer asked the dog to find a bench on the opposite side of the first bench. This dog is being marked as she touches the bench with her nose.
All three dogs learned this command very quickly. From bench targeting, we followed the dog and trainer through downtown Gresham. This is a great place to begin training because there are so many distractions. One of the main things the dogs were working on was dog distractions, and there were a number of these.
We came to an outdoor seated area where there was a dog sitting with people outside. One of the things trainers have started doing with dogs who are distracted is to take a "time out." This means stopping for a short time, shortening the leash, and ignoring the dog so she can regroup and focus back on the trainer. Then they walk on past the dog, unless the dog is still showing interest at which time the trainer goes back and repeats the process again.
It was fascinating to watch the trainer with dog distractions as unwanted dog encounters can be the bane of my existence. Even though the dogs were a bit distracted, every dog showed improvement in dog distractions by the end of the training session.
Another issue with one of the dogs was body sensitivity to the harness, but there are techniques for everything and that was not ultimately a hindrance to working. Once that harness was on, that dog was one focused and serious worker. As per dog distractions, the trainer is looking for improvement in the behavior.
The dogs that we watched had just been listed as being in phase 3, but it was Friday, the day the trainer submits the report to her supervisor, and these dogs were finishing phase 4. Sure enough, they were listed as being in phase 4 on the next week's phase list and were in phase 5 on last Thursday's phase list report. So, essentially by the time we get the phase reports the dogs are usually almost a week ahead of what is shown on the report.
Following a trainer is a great workout. We moved at a fast clip and I think we may have walked at least 5 miles in the two hours we were following. I was happy that I was able to keep up. I was glad I was able to attend and I hope to do it again some day. I also wish the opportunity could be provided more than once a year so more people could attend. I think every puppy raiser should do this at least once.
Fun Day was nice and Valora got to see her brother Vicente and half brothers Fogerty and Frederick. We met at the same time so we just combined groups.
That's Valora and Vicente. Here are the two V's and two F's in a group picture.
The other highlight was the R+ talk in the auditorium that talked about the future changes with positive reinforcement in the near future. I know not everyone is excited about this change, but I'm ecstatic. I can't wait for the changes to take place.
So, that's sort of a Valora catch-up. She's doing well. She's met Elliott and was very appropriate in being able to stay by my side on leash or going to her bed when asked to do so. When showing interest in seeing him, she appropriately sat down (although I didn't let her see him up close). I think our dogs are amazing, but I'm trying to teach all the dogs in the house how to be around infants and young children, and hopefully teach young children how to act around dogs. I don't think I'll be one of those posting pictures of a toddler hitting a dog to demonstrate how tolerant our dogs are.