Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nubble: Still Growing and Learning

Nubble is growing in leaps and bounds! He weighs 60 pounds already, and he's starting to get taller, too! He even needed a new SSD harness because his old one no longer fit around his ribcage. Nubble is now much bigger than Gizzy, his puppy raisers' dog, but he still listens when she lets him know that he's playing too roughly. And if he doesn't listen, she goes into her crate and pulls the door closed with her paw!

Of course, since Nubble is getting bigger, he's also getting stronger - and he loves to bolt to the end of his leash. He has been doing much better with loose leash walking and not bolting, but when he does decide to bolt, he can pull Donna and Lindsey off balance or even pull them over. To help prevent him from pulling, we gave Donna a comfort trainer, which is a head halter. The leash attaches to the halter below the dog's head, and if the dog pulls, he will pull his head down. Although some people mistake comfort trainers with muzzles, they are NOT muzzles. The comfort trainer is comfortable for the dog to wear, and the dog can still eat, drink, pant, bark, yawn, etc. The comfort trainer is a training tool to train the dog not to pull, and it's part of our positive training techniques. We never pull on our end of the leash when the dog is wearing the comfort trainer. We use communication, giving the dog cues and using the clicker and treats. To get Nubble used to the comfort trainer, Donna is using classic conditioning. First, he gets clicked and treated for simply looking at it. Eventually, they'll work up to him actually wearing it. We'll keep you posted on his progress with the comfort trainer.

Nubble loves to skip! Well, he loves when Donna or Lindsey skips while he's on leash. It's a great new movement for him to get used to. As a service dog-in-training, he needs to get used to all sorts of movements. His future partner may move in different ways, and he will need to stay calm and continue to assist his partner.

Donna has been working with Nubble on not jumping on people, and he has gotten much better! When someone comes to visit, he sometimes starts to do little hops of excitement, but he doesn't actually jump. To help train him to keep all four paws on the floor, Donna asked her brothers to completely ignore him if he starts to jump on them when they come to visit. If he keeps all four paws on the floor, he gets lots of praise and attention. This method has been working! "It's so much easier to teach," says Donna, "when everyone is on board about ignoring him."

Heel is coming along quite nicely as well. He now knows both the hand signal and the verbal cue. Sometimes Nubble gets so excited that he hops and scoots into heel. Donna and Lindsey are still working on place (similar to heel, only on the right side). So far, Nubble is off the purple training box and is now working on the hand signal.

He loves to retrieve...when he wants to. Sometimes he just ignores his puppy raisers when they try to practice retrieves with him. Donna is working on figuring out why he does this. Other times, though, he loves it and does a fantastic job! He now sits and waits for Donna and Lindsey to throw the bumper. They started putting him in a sit first because he would get so excited that he would try to jump for the bumper while it was still in their hand.

Nubble went on a puppy outing with the other dogs-in-training in the Northeast Division. They went to the roller rink! In our next post about Nubble, we'll tell you all about his adventures with roller skates.

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