Friday, February 25, 2011

More Puppies?

With the Civil War and Game litters on the puppy cams, it's hard to believe that we might be having even more puppies. But that just might be the case!

Today, SSD Dee traveled to Guiding Eyes for the Blind to be bred with GEB Venture, a solid, handsome yellow lab. Dee originally came from Guiding Eyes for the Blind, and we're very excited that she is returning to her home program to be bred. We're hoping for more puppies in about two months!

We're very lucky to have such wonderful relationships with other guide dog and assistance dog organizations like Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

SSD GEB Dee. She's a small, very sweet dog.

GEB Venture. We hope this handsome guy becomes the father of Dee's puppies!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Dog Olympic Game at PawsAbilities 2011!

We have exciting news for all of your canine Olympians! This year, we have a new Dog Olympic Game at PawsAbilities - Temptation Tower!

In this game, you have one minute to build a tower of tasty dog treats while your dog watches. If you have the highest tower when time runs out and your dog hasn't eaten any treats, you win!

It sounds simple, but this Dog Olympic Game will test not only your dog's "leave it" skills, but also your skills at stacking dog treats!

Temptation Tower will be played on March 12 and 13 at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. You don't want to miss it!

And don't forget to buy your tickets to PawsAbilities so you can play Temptation Tower and our other fun Olympic Games.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Learning to Work as Teams

Today is the third day of Team Training, and our new service dog teams have been doing great! Although each person has a lot to learn in two and a half weeks, we've been having fun doing it!

Our new partners have been learning clicker training, shaping, how to care for their dog and lots of new cues.

Even though it was cold outside, the dogs still need to go outside for a little bit, and we all went out for a short walk around the parking lot. Learning how to work with their dog outside is an important part of training, especially since there are so many interesting smells and other distractions. Watch SSD York and his new partner take a brisk lap around parking lot, and look at York's attention on his partner when they stop!

Yesterday we worked on retrieves. SSD Misty has learned how to pick up all sorts of objects for her partner, and she can also take a piece of paper from the printer and hand it to her partner. Watch her do it:

After she successfully retrieved the paper, we moved the printer from the chair to the table. Her partner's printer at home sits on a desk that at is about the height of the table, so we had her and her partner practice the cue at this new height. Changing something as seemingly simple as the height of an object can make a behavior very challenging for a dog, and Misty had never retrieved printer paper from this height before. But she quickly figured it out, and successfully handed her partner the paper.

We're looking forward to seeing many more successes from all of our new teams!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Meet the Game Litter!

We have more puppies in our SSD family! On February 2, SSD Pearl gave birth to the Game litter!

Because of the snow and ice storm that was predicted for her due date, our whelping team camped out with Pearl at her breeder caretaker's house, and it's a good thing they did! Not only did the snow and ice show up as predicted, but the puppies showed up, too! Pearl delivered three heathy black puppies - SSD Rummy (female, red collar), SSD Atari (female, purple collar) and SSD Yahtzee (male, yellow collar).

Sadly, this delivery didn't go smoothly. Pearl also gave birth to two yellow females - SSD Jenga and SSD Taboo. Both of them were stillborn. Our whelping team reacted immediately to try to revive these two puppies, but they were unable to resuscitate them. We stayed in contact with Dr. Clemens, one of our veterinarians at Palmyra Animal Clinic, throughout the delivery.

We have been very fortunate that so many of our puppies have been born healthy. Sometimes, though, some puppies do not make it, despite our best efforts, and this is always a sad time. Jenga and Taboo were given their collars (tan and green), and they have been buried in a special area at the home of one of our volunteers.

Despite our sadness about Jenga and Taboo, we are very thankful to have three beautiful, healthy puppies. Pearl and her puppies went to the Palmyra Animal Clinic the next morning, and after examining all four of them, Dr. Hahn told us the new family was healthy.

Rummy, Atari, and Yahtzee are doing great! Pearl is an excellent mother, and the whole family is happy and healthy.

Thank you to our whelping team and our breeder caretakers for all of their efforts. We're looking forward to watching Rummy, Atari and Yahtzee grow!

Friday, February 4, 2011

January with Nubble

With all this snow, Nubble is having the time of his life! He loves to be outside playing in it. He went sledding with Lindsey and her cousins. At first, he climbed onto the sled and sat down. But once it started moving, he decided it would have much more fun running alongside the sled. He even helped pull the sled back up the hill! (Well, actually he grabbed it and ran off with it. But he did bring it back when Lindsey and her cousins called him.)

While Nubble was playing in the snow, Donna took the opportunity to practice recalls. It wasn't easy for him to stop playing with Lindsey and her cousins, but he did it! After Nubble came to her, Donna let him go back to playing so he would realize that recalls don't mean the fun has to end. Nice training technique!

Every January, the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex hosts the Farm Show. Thousands of people come to see the farm animals and equipment, agricultural displays, vendors, the famous butter sculpture, and of course, the Farm Show food. Donna took Nubble on a Sunday, one of the most crowded days at the Farm Show. There were so many people that it was difficult to walk, but Nubble did great with the crowds! People don't bother him at all.

Unfortunately, the crowds meant that Nubble didn't have as much exposure to the animals. He and Donna stayed on the fringes of the crowds near the exhibits. They could have gotten closer, but then the crowds would not have allowed Donna to remove Nubble from the other animals if he started barking or became worried. This is good thinking - when we take our dogs in training into environments that could be stressful for them, such as the Farm Show, we always make sure that we can quickly and easily remove the dog from the situation if it becomes too stressful for them or the other animals.

Despite the crowds, Nubble got to see a cow, although he barked at it. Then they went to the chicken area. Donna and Nubble stook just inside the door so Nubble could watch the chickens. Donna clicked and treated him for watching calmly. He did very well for a while. Then he caught sight of an odd-looking chicken and started barking at it. Donna quickly removed him from the area.

They visited the large arena, where the horse teams were demonstrating what they do. Nubble did great, laying nicely at Donna's feet.

To get upstairs, they had to take the stairs because the lines for the elevator were so long. If you've been reading about Nubble, you know that he's not a big fan of the stairs. However, Donna has been working very hard with him to get him to walk calmly up them. At the Farm Show, he did fairly well with the stairs, even though they were crowded. Donna blocked people so he wouldn't get squished while they were walking up. The top of the stairs was challenging for him, though, because everyone seemed to stop right at the top. They had to do the stairs a second time later on, and again, he did okay until they got close to the top. Later, Donna took him outside and they practiced on the stairs out there, where there were no crowds. He did very well, as long as he could walk up at a long angle, moving from the bottom left to the top right.

Although they didn't stay for a long time, it was enough for a young dog. It was a wonderful experience for him!

Donna and Nubble are now attending some of our puppy classes in Harrisburg so that Nubble can get used to interacting with dogs he's not familiar with. They have been to two of them so far, and although the first class was a little stressful, they have been making good progress. One of our trainers suggested clicking and treating him when he's looking calmly at another dog. Nubble made great progress that first class! Although Donna had to take him out of the room a few times, he settled down quickly and was able to return to class.

When dogs get too excited or worried during puppy class, their puppy raisers take them out into the hallway to give them a chance to calm down and focus again. When Donna goes to puppy classes in the Northeast, she takes Nubble all the way outside when he gets too worried. She has decided, though, that she's going to stop taking him all the way outside. Since outside is a fun and exciting place for Nubble, she's just going to take him out of the room to calm down.

Their second puppy class in Harrisburg was even better. He ignored the other dogs most of the time. Nice progress!

Donna has been working on "paw" with Nubble. He is learning to pick up his paw and put it in her hand. Although he usually learns new cues fairly quickly, this one is a little challenging for him. Right now, he doesn't want to put his paw in Donna's hand. When Donna holds out her hand, he will lift his paw, but won't put it in her hand. If he's laying down, he'll let her handle his paws, but he's not ready to offer his paw to her. Donna is confident that he'll get there eventually. They're continuing to work on it.

They have also been working with the target stick, which is a stick with a piece of duct tape on the end. The dogs target the duct tape with their nose. Nubble likes the target stick, although he always wants to chew on it at the beginning of their training sessions. He eventually settles and uses his nose, though. Donna has started using the target stick to teach him "under." "I've never taught 'under' that way, so it is nice to see different techniques," says Donna.

At one point at puppy class when Donna and Nubble were outside, Nubble saw a covered outlet on the wall. It must have looked like a piece of duct tape to him because he targeted it! He used his teeth the first time, but when Donna gave him a look, he targeted it nicely with his nose.

We have stairs in the building we use for puppy class (Keystone Children & Family Services), so our trainers got to see Nubble navigate the stairs. Donna plans on practicing the stairs every time she and Nubble come to the Harrisburg puppy class. Right now, Nubble has a tendency to turn around and go up backwards if Donna stops partway up the stairs. They're working on it.

Then we played puppy tic-tac-toe, where the dogs are the Xs and Os. The dogs on the board must be in a sit or a down in order to stay on the board, and just like the game, the teams tried to get three dogs in a row. Nubble sometimes gets worried around other dogs, but even though he was in a down very close to another dog, he wasn't bothered at all. His main distraction that class was SSD Dee, a small black female that was visiting from advanced training. Nubble was very aware of her anytime she was moving around.

Two more fun facts about Nubble: He loves his Jolly Ball toy, and he loves being vacuumed! The Jolly Ball is a tough rubber ball with a handle that Nubble loves to grab and toss around. He'll usually grab the ball and run around, but because it has been so cold, he has had to adapt and play with it by grabbing the handle.

Yes, you did read correctly when you read that Nubble loves to be vacuumed. Donna noticed that Nubble always follows her around when she vacuums. Since she knows that some horses love to be vacuumed, she wondered if Nubble might enjoy it. Using the upholstery attachment, which is gentle, she ran it over his back. He just stood there and looked at her, so she did it again, and this time, he leaned into it! She did both of his sides and he loved it!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Canine Therapists

Those of us who have dogs know that they have an amazing ability to make us happy. Even if you don't have a dog, you may have noticed that petting or even just seeing a dog can lift your mood and make you smile.

But did you know that your dog can become a certified therapy dog. As a therapy dog, your dog will have the opportunity to bring smiles to lots of people. At PawsAbilities, you and your dog will have the chance to take the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test and the Therapy Dog International (TDI) test to become a certified therapy dog.

In order to become a certified therapy dog, dogs must first pass the CGC test. CGC is a program of the American Kennel Club to certify that dogs have good manners at home and in the community. Dogs will be tested on ten different categories, including acceptance of a friendly stranger, recalls, and their reaction to other dogs and distractions. The TDI test builds on the CGC requirements to include the dog's reactions to medical equipment, leave it, acclimation to infirmities, and reactions to all people, especially children.

What is a therapy dog?

A therapy dog is a pet that has been certified as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs have wonderful temperaments and get along with people, especially children, as well as other dogs and animals. Therapy dogs may visit schools for reading programs and other activities, or they may visit hospitals, hospice, nursing homes, libraries and shelters. Some therapy dogs may even make home visits.

Many therapy dogs can sense when someone needs them, and they'll go right up to them for some cuddle time. The TDI website has a beautiful story about a therapy dog named Alex that helped a little boy come out of his depression and smile again. [Note: To read this story, you'll have to scroll down in the middle column on TDI's homepage.]

What is the difference between a therapy dog and a service dog?

People sometimes confuse therapy dogs with service dogs, but they are not the same. A therapy dog is a pet, while a service dog is not.

Service dogs have public access, meaning they can accompany their partner anywhere that caters to the public. They can go into grocery stores, museums, movie theaters, restaurants, etc. - all places where you cannot typically take pets. Although therapy dogs can go into schools, libraries, hospitals, and other similar places, they can only go when they are invited for a therapy visit. Therapy dogs do not have public access and should not accompany their owners to places like the grocery store.

A service dog is trained in specific tasks to assist their partner in their daily life. Legally, service dogs and their partners are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A therapy dog, on the other hand, is trained to provide comfort and affection, and they are not mentioned in the ADA.

If you and your dog are interested in becoming a certified therapy dog team, register to take the CGC and TDI tests at PawsAbilities!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How to Teach Your Dog to Greet People Nicely

Many dogs love love people. When visitors come to the house, dogs may run to the door, prance in place, and even jump up on the guests.

While this may seem cute when it's a puppy jumping up and placing his paws on your shins, it's not so cute when it's a ninety pound dog jumping to put his paws on your shoulders. When a ninety pound dog jumps on you, there's a good chance you'll get knocked over.

For service dogs, it's very important that they keep all four feet on the floor when guests come to their partner's house. Not only is it good manners for the service dog to keep all four feet on the floor, but calm greetings also allow the dog to stay more focused on their partner.

How to Train It
  1. Start with your dog on leash. Have someone the dog is familiar with go outside, close the door, then come back inside. Click and treat if your dog keeps all four feet on the floor.
  2. Have a familiar person go outside, knock on the door, and come inside. Click and treat if your dog keeps all four feet on the floor.
  3. Have a familiar person go outside, ring the doorbell, and come inside. Again, click and treat if your dog keeps all four feet on the floor.
In addition to clicking and treating, the person who comes in the door can pet the dog and give him attention if and only if all four paws are on the floor. After all, what the dog really wants is attention from the new person.

Be careful not to move on to the next step too quickly. Make sure your dog is at least 80% successful before moving on to the next step.

Practicing this behavior will teach the dog that he only gets attention when he keeps all four paws on the floor. When real guests arrive, you may still want to have your dog on leash, and make sure your guests understand that they can only give the dog attention if he has all four feet on the floor. "Attention" includes petting, talking to the dog, and sometimes even looking at the dog. In order to be successful in training your dog to keep all four paws on the floor when he greets guests, you'll need to have the cooperation of all your guests. They will need to be prepared to completely ignore the dog if he jumps. You may want to talk to your guests before they arrive so they know to ignore the dog unless all his paws are on the floor.

What if Your Dog Does Jump?

If your dog does jump up on people, that person needs to completely ignore the dog. No petting, talking or looking at the dog. The dog gets absolutely no attention for jumping. If a dog is jumping on you, you have few options.
  1. You can turn your back to the dog. When you turn your back, chances are the dog will get down. You will also be completely ignoring the dog.
  2. You can walk through the dog. This technique is exactly what it sounds like. When the dog puts his feet on you, you simply walk forward as if the dog wasn't there. The dog will then be off balance and it will have two choices: put his feet down or tumble backwards.
Note: Never knee the dog, which can hurt him.

Whenever your dog has all four feet on the floor, you and your guests can give him lots of attention. Just remember that as soon as his feet leave the floor, the attention stops.

If you're consistent, you'll soon have a dog that keeps his feet politely on the floor when he greets guests.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It's the moment you've been waiting for!

It's the moment you've been waiting for. You helped us make a list of names. And now, it's time to introduce you to the Civil War puppies!

Meet George Meade, Joshua Chamberlain, Clara Barton, Julia Ward Howe and Harriet Beecher Stowe!