Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Meet SSD Dylan!

SSD Dylan is well on his way to becoming a service dog, and now you can follow his journey on our blog!

Dylan is one of the Rock and Roll Stars puppies that you helped name. He and his four brothers and sister are now six months old, and they are all with their puppy raisers learning the basics. They have certainly grown - Dylan weighs 53 pounds!

He is a very relaxed and attentive dog. When he goes to work with Mike or Kelly, his puppy raisers, he lays beside them or under the desk. He certainly enjoys being around people, but he can handle being on his own and doesn't usually whine or bark if left alone.

Dylan loves to swim! Over the summer, Mike and Kelly took him up to their cabin, and he went straight into the creek! He enjoys being outside and has been hiking several times. Now that it's winter, Dylan saw snow for the first time at the cabin. He loved playing in the snow!

His puppy raisers took him Christmas tree shopping. It was a challenging outing for him because of all the new smells. He was very focused on sniffing everything, but he settled down after a while. It was a successful outing!

So far, Dylan is doing well in his formal training. He knows "sit," "down," "stay," and "stand," and he's working on "heel." We teach the SSD dogs how to heel using a box. The dogs put their front feet on the box, which helps them anchor their front feet so just their back feet swing around until they're in the "heel" position. Eventually, we remove the box and have the dog pivot into the heel position with all four feet on the floor. Dylan is doing great with the heel box! He will pivot his back feet almost all the way around the box. His puppy raisers' are now working with him to get him to continue moving his back feet until his body touches his puppy raiser's leg.

Dylan's biggest challenge is greeting other dogs. He just wants to play with them. Service dogs need to stay calm when they're in the presence of other dogs, and when they're given the opportunity to greet other dogs, they still need to stay calm so they can easily turn their attention to their partner. Mike and Kelly are working hard to help Dylan learn how to greet other dogs calmly. They use the penalty yards method. When they see another dog ahead, they'll approach slowly, clicking and treating Dylan for walking on a loose leash. As soon as he starts pulling, they back up. Once Dylan is by their sides again and focused on them, they walk forward, always trying to keep the leash nice and loose. They continue backing up and moving forward until they reach the other dog. The goal of the penalty yard method is to keep the dog calm and help him realize that he can't just lunge toward the thing that he wants.

Mike and Kelly also try to have Dylan practice greeting other dogs in a controlled situation. Mike's brother has a lab, and they have the two dogs greet each other calmly. Hard work does pay off - Dylan was recently at the mall with one of our volunteer trainers and SSD Wrigley, one of our demo dogs. In the beginning of the outing, Dylan was excited to see another dog, but he settled down and was able to focus on his puppy raisers. Every now and then he would try to get Wrigley to play, but for the most part, he did very well. Nice progress!

Look for more posted about SSD Dylan in the coming weeks. We're looking forward to sharing his progress as he learns how to become a service dog!

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