Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Team Training: Fun at the Whitaker Center

Team Training was full of fun and games today! We went to the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, where our new service dog teams practiced their skills.

There's always something new at the Whitaker Center, and this time was no different. On November 10, Bret Michaels is coming to the Forum, and in honor of his appearance, the Whitaker Center created navy blue bandanas, which are Bret Michaels' signature item. All of our service dogs, partners and trainers got to wear one of these bandanas. They even let us keep the bandanas!

While dressing up in the bandanas was fun, it was also a nice training experience for the dogs to let their partners dress them in something other than their service dog harness. SSD Phillip sported the bandana just like Bret Michaels - folded and tied around his head - but Phil decided it wasn't quite his style, and he wore it around his neck for the rest of the outing.

The Science Center at the Whitaker Center is a wonderful place for the service dogs and their partners to practice their skills. There are all sorts of distractions, from loud noises like the rain machine and the earthquake simulator to visual distractions such as floating beach balls and fake food in the children's area. Because it's getting close to Halloween, there was a special table set up where children could learn about pumpkins. SSD Phillip's partner loved this area! Not only did she learn whether a pumpkin floats or sinks in water, but she also got to explore the insides of a pumpkin! Watch the video of her removing the seeds. Notice how SSD Phillip hangs out at her feet the entire time she was at this table.

SSD Caspian and his partner enjoyed going through the different exhibits. In this video, Caspian is very interested in the whiffle balls spiraling in the funnel, but he is still able to pay attention to his partner.

In addition to practicing their skills (and having fun!) in the exhibits, our service dog teams worked on skills that may seem simple but are still very important. They practiced getting on and off the elevator, and going up and down stairs. At the elevator, the dog must wait until their partner blocks the doors to keep them from closing. Then, when they receive the cue "go on through," the dog walks into the elevator, turns around and looks at their partner. Their partner can then move all the way into the elevator. The process is the same for exiting the elevator. It's especially important to enter and exit the elevator properly because you don't want the doors to close while you are inside the elevator and your dog is outside.

On the stairs, dogs must walk calmly beside their partner without pulling. If a dog barges up or down the stairs or pulls on the leash, he may cause his partner to fall, and the risk of injury is much higher on the stairs. Watch how SSD Teddy walks calmly next to her partner as they walk up the stairs to the next floor of exhibits.

Thank you so much to the Whitaker Center! It's a great training experience for the dogs, and we always have a wonderful time!

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