Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Two Weeks with SSD Nubble

It has been a fun and busy two weeks for SSD Nubble! He went to the SSD Northeast Division holiday party, where he made all sorts of new SSD friends! Just like most puppies, he wanted to play with the bigger dogs. He seemed a bit intimidated by SSD Slate, a puppy that's about a month older than Nubble. It may be a good balance for Nubble, however, because he tends to dominate Gizzy, his puppy raiser's family dog. But even though he was intimidated by Slate, that didn't stop him from making friends. Donna and Lindsey, his puppy raisers, think he has a crush on SSD Sky, a pretty, black, 13-month-old female. All in all, he held his own, even though he was the youngest puppy there.

On the Saturday after New Year's Day, Donna took him to run some errands. They started at Walmart, which was a real test of Nubble's skills. The place was packed! Even though Donna only needed one thing from the store, Nubble has reached his limit by the time they left. He usually does very well with loose leash walking, but in Walmart, he wanted to chase every little piece of trash on the floor, and he was fascinated by people's shoes. Leave it worked fairly well, but it was still a more difficult trip. However, he did great at the next two stops! At Redner's and Wawa, he sat beautifully next to Donna while she checked out.

Nubble is growing, growing, growing! Donna has 2.5 acres for him to run around, but when they first got him, he could barely make it 1/4 of the way around the property. Now he runs the entire thing! He even found a new toy to play with outside - leaves, especially leaves blowing across the snow.

He is very smart and loves to learn, but just like a child, he'll play and get into trouble if he's left alone. "I really need to stay focused on his training. Otherwise, he just acts like a typical puppy," says Donna.
And Nubble is not a typical puppy. Although he's certainly allowed plenty of play time, he also needs to learn the skills and behaviors that will help him successfully assist his future partner.
In puppy class this past week, the Northeast Division worked on shaping. (To learn more about shaping, read Clicker Training: Shaping a Behavior.) This class was a learning session for the puppy raisers as much as for the puppies. The goal was for Nubble to move a mini-skateboard. To shape this behavior, his puppy raisers started by clicking him for looking at the skateboard, then for touching it with his paw, and finally for pushing it with his feet.

At home later, Donna and Lindsey continued working on shaping with Nubble. He had received a toy plush box from the volunteer leader of SSD's Northeast Division, and Donna and Lindsey used shaping to get him to pull a squeaky toy out of the box. It went well!

This past Saturday, Nubble went with Lindsey to her winter track meet at Lebanon Valley Community College. What a well-behaved boy he was! Donna took the opportunity to work on going in and out of doors. All SSD dogs are trained to wait patiently at the door, only allowed to go through once they get the "go on through" cue. Donna found that even though he was in an unfamiliar place, Nubble had a much easier time waiting patiently at doors during the track meet than he does at home, possibly because there were no other dogs or cats around to distract him.

Nubble was fascinated by the runners and their bright shoes! With runners constantly going past, it was a good opportunity to practice sitting nicely while they went by. Eventually, Nubble got the hang of it, and by the end of the day, he chose not to chase every single runner. However, he did try to take a toddler's toy, and Donna spent some time working on leave it.

Overall, the track meet was a very successful outing. Nubble did great! Many of the adults at the meet asked lots of questions about him. In fact, people seemed to recognize that his purple puppy harness meant that he was a service dog-in-training. Because people seemed familiar with service dogs, they tended not to rush over to pet the puppy - one less distraction for Nubble.

"It makes me feel good when we have a successful day!" says Donna.

Needless to say, Nubble slept very well that night. Instead of whining for a long time when he goes into his crate for the night, now he only whines for 30 seconds before falling asleep. What an improvement!

Look for more about Nubble next week!

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