Thursday, February 11, 2010

Nubble's Progress

Snow is now one of Nubble’s favorite toys. Lucky for him, there’s a lot of it! He burrows into it and pops up covered in the white stuff. He loves snowballs, too. Gizzy, his puppy raisers’ other dog, follows in the path he forges through the snow.

He’s getting much bigger! Look at the difference between him and Gizzy!

He now has very nice self control when Gizzy is eating. He lies down nicely and just watches her. Self control is very important in a service dog. They need to focus and not give in to whatever distractions may be around. Nubble still has some work to do – he still wants to investigate cigarette butts and food wrappers – but his leave it skills are improving every day.

As the dogs grow, they usually go through “phases.” One day they’ll perform skills beautifully and be perfectly behaved, and the next day they’ll “forget” the skills they know and want to romp and play all day. Nubble has been having a great time with a play retrieve, running for the toy and bringing it right back. Lately, however, he’s been playing keep-away with the toy. Donna and Lindsey have been ignoring him when he plays keep-away, but right now, he still thinks it’s a fun game.

Last Wednesday, Nubble had his first puppy evaluation. We evaluate each puppy to make sure that they’re on track with their training and to make sure that training to be a service dog is still a good fit for them. We also check in with the puppy raisers. Good news: Nubble is proficient in the puppy cues (sit, come, down, etc.)! And though his puppy raisers need to work on their handler skills a little bit, they’re doing great!

Donna and Lindsey have been working on shaping with Nubble. They borrowed a small platform, and they’ve been shaping him to stand on it. So far, he has progressed from just sniffing at the platform to putting one foot, and then two feet, on the platform. He does step all the way up with all four feet, but he still thinks he’s supposed to walk right over it, not stand still on it. We’ll update you on his progress next week!

Recently, Nubble went to the gym. His puppy raiser didn’t plan on working out. She just wanted to see how he would react in the new environment. When they first went in, he sniffed around a lot and pulled at the leash, but then he settled down. They walked around, and Donna sat on one of the weight machines. Nubble sat nicely in front of her. Nubble thought the treadmills were very interesting, and Donna used this as an opportunity to work on stay. First they practiced while just being close to the treadmills. Next, Donna stood on a treadmill and faced Nubble. When he showed that he could stay when she stood on the treadmill, she turned around as if she was walking on the treadmill – and he still stayed! Nice job, Nubble! They also practiced stay around the ellipticals, and he did great there, as well. Needless to say, his puppy raiser was very proud of his behavior at the gym!

We’ve mentioned that the dogs-in-training learn to give behaviors in all sorts of different environments and surfaces. This week, Nubble encountered several new surfaces. At the gym, Donna had parked next to a drain grate. Nubble walked right over it, no problem. After he got across and heard the water rushing underneath, though, he wouldn’t go back across. It took some time listening to the water before he grew accustomed to it.

He also walked on a frozen lake. (If the lake wasn’t frozen, it would have been only six inches deep.) Nubble went slip-sliding all over! He loved it.

Look for more about Nubble next week!

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