Wednesday, November 24, 2010

SSD Taz Is Thankful for Puppy Huggers

Young puppies are like sponges. They soak up new information and experiences. The things they learn when they are young set the stage for the rest of their careers as service dogs-in-training.

SSD Taz is thankful for the volunteer puppy huggers who visited him and his brothers and sisters when they were young puppies. These volunteers helped teach Taz that people are friendly and not something to be feared. He got lots of hugs!

But puppy huggers do more than just hug and play with the puppies. Puppy huggers also handle the puppies so the pups get used to having all parts of their body touched - ears, mouth, paws, body. It's important for service dogs to be comfortable being handled. When they're paired with a partner, the dogs need to be comfortable having their ears and teeth checked and cleaned and their nails clipped. A dog that pulls his paws away or nips at a person's hands may injure their partner.

Once the puppies go to the kennel for a week before they join their puppy raisers, puppy huggers visit to work with the puppies. Puppy huggers begin to teach the puppies loose leash walking, which is one of the most important things a service dog learns. Loose leash walking is all about self control. The dog walks nicely next to its handler with the leash nice and loose and doesn't lunge toward interesting smells, food, people, other dogs or any other distractions. Watch a video of Taz walking on a leash at the kennel with a puppy hugger.

Puppy huggers also helped Taz learn good crate behavior. They would put him in a small crate and close the door. Once he was quiet for several minutes, they let him out. This may be one of the most difficult things puppy huggers do. Some of the puppies bark and whine to be let out of the crate, but puppy huggers must ignore them until they're quiet - a difficult thing to do when our instinct is to comfort a whining puppy!

Taz is very thankful for all of the puppy huggers who helped start his training! Now, he and the other Gemstones puppies are almost five months old and are training with their puppy raisers, who will train they until they're 18 months old. On Friday, SSD Grace will tell you all about our puppy raisers and why she's so thankful for everything they do!

SSD Taz and the rest of us at Susquehanna Service Dogs wish you a very happy Thanksgiving!

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