Friday, October 8, 2010

The Joy of Raising SSD Nubble

Raising puppy to be a service dog can be a lot of work, but it is also a lot of fun and sometimes even makes you laugh out loud at the antics of the dogs.

"Nubble is a goofball. He makes me laugh every single day," says Donna, Nubble's puppy raiser. "He is so exuberant and bubbly."

In a previous post about Nubble, we mentioned how he picked pepper's out of Donna's friend's garden. Well, he was up to more tricks in Donna's garden. He picked one of her pumpkins! He had it in his mouth and ran around the yard with it. The pumpkin barely fit in his mouth!

Although this was a funny moment of puppy mischief, his puppy raisers turned it into a training opportunity. Once they got the pumpkin away from him, they practiced walking past it without trying to get it. Eventually, they were able to toss it back and forth without Nubble lunging for it! Great job, Nubble! (In case you're wondering, the pumpkin survived and is now on Donna's front porch.)

Training opportunities are everywhere, and it's important to recognize them and take advantage of them. In another instance, Nubble managed to get a potato out of Donna's bag of potatoes in the kitchen. From another room, she heard Nubble tossing something around, and sure enough, he was playing fetch with himself with potato. Once again, she turned it into a training opportunity, asking Nubble to "leave it." He is getting very good with that cue. When he knows that he is supposed to leave something, but he really, really wants it, he gets a little frantic. Donna can almost see the inner battle going on in him. He keeps looking back and forth between her and the object and takes the treats as if he's desperate to stay focused. But once he wins that inner battle, he calms down. He is maturing constantly.

By now you probably know that stairs are a big challenge for Nubble. He and Donna have been working hard to conquer the stairs. Donna found a stairwell where they can work off leash without having the worry about Nubble running off or being distracted by other people. Her sister's apartment building has an enclosed stairwell with doors at the top and bottom. Donna has been shaping Nubble to to up the stairs. At first, he wouldn't even go up the first step. Then once he conquered that first step, he dashed up the rest of them. Donna worked with him and got him to slow down nicely. However, as soon as she put the leash on him, he didn't want to take that first step. When Donna took the leash off again, he was fine. The Northeast Division trainer suggested practicing with the leash attached but without Donna holding it, so they're going to work on that.

Going down the stairs, Nubble did fine, although he did want to leap down the last three or four steps. By the end of last weekend, though, he was doing much better.

They have also practiced stairs when Nubble was wearing his comfort trainer, a head halter. Donna had the leash attached the halter, and as soon as they went in the door leading to the stairs, Nubble went right to work. He didn't even rush up the stairs! It was like he was a completely different dog. He may not have completely conquered stairs yet, but Donna is definitely seeing progress.

In puppy class, Nubble is learning to give a behavior no matter where or how the cue is given. To practice, they had the dogs sit and puppy raisers sit with their backs to the dogs. They then gave a cue and the dogs had to learn to follow it despite the fact that their puppy raiser didn't seem to be paying attention to them. Nubble caught on quickly!

Another game they played was putting the dog in a "down" and then crawling away. At first, Nubble thought it was playtime! Donna is working on it at home, and he is starting to do very well with it. They also practiced recalls. However, there is a twist. They asked Nubble to do a "down" halfway through his recall. He's getting very good at it!

These types of games are very important for the dog's training. Nubble is learning to give behaviors in any environment, no matter what his handler is doing. It's great preparation to be a service dog, because service dogs will need to be able to assist their partners no matter where they go.

Keep up the good work, Nubble!


  1. Nubble is so handsome. Keep up the good work!

  2. I love this family!! Dedication personified!