Monday, April 4, 2011

Onyx learns to be all business in public

SSD Onyx has her own business cards. She carries them with her whenever she goes out in public, and her puppy raisers hand them out to anyone who stops to ask questions about Onyx.

When people see her purple SSD harness, they usually assume that she's being trained as a guide dog for someone who is blind. Very few people realize that dogs can be trained to assist people who use wheelchairs, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, children and adults with autism, and people who may have a psychiatric disability, such as veterans with PTSD. Carol and Mark, Onyx's puppy raisers, have been educating people about service dogs and raising awareness in the community.

Onyx recently went to Hollywood Casino for our puppy outing. With all of the people, loud noises and other dogs, it was the perfect place for Onyx to practice her loose leash walking and attention to her puppy raiser. In our last post about Onyx, we mentioned that she gets very worried when there are other dogs or other dog smells, and she has trouble focusing. Carol and Mark have been working with her to get her comfortable with other dogs and dog smells. For example, at the pet store, they will walk in the parking lot toward the pet store to the point just before Onyx starts to get worried. Then they'll turn around and go back to the car. When Onyx is refocused, they'll try again. In theory, each time they move toward the pet store, Onyx will be able to get a little closer because she will realize that there's nothing to be worried about. She also learns to trust that her puppy raisers will take her away from whatever is worrying her.

Onyx practiced this training method at the casino, with the help of SSD Rossi. Onyx and Carol started several yards away from Rossi and slowly moved toward her. As soon as Onyx started to lunge forward to see Rossi, Carol turned and they walked back to their starting point. They slowly proceeded, moving forward and going back until Onyx was able to greet Rossi.

This method is working very well for Onyx. Her puppy raisers have noticed that as soon as she starts moving away from the other dog or dog smells, she calms down and refocuses, and each time she moves forward again, she is able to get a little bit closer.

Onyx had more success at our Chocolate World outing in February. Last year, she was too stressed to get on the Chocolate World ride, so this year, Carol planned to just take Onyx through the store. However, Onyx was doing so well that Carol decided to try the ride - and Onyx did it! They started out by just walking in a circle near the cars, and when Onyx seemed fine with that, they tried getting on the cars. Onyx did it! While she was on the ride, her puppy raisers used one of Onyx's favorite power treats - spray cheese!

When they left Chocolate World, Onyx had to walk over a large grate. She is not fond of walking on grates, but this time, she walked right over it, although she did pause at first. Carol and Mark plan to practice grates more often with her.

Carol and Mark are also working on Onyx's attention and focus in their own backyard. Now that it's spring, the ducks are back in the yard, and Onyx loves to chase them. Carol has been taking her out on leash and clicking and treating her for attention. It's challenging for Onyx because she would rather play with the ducks, but she has been doing well.

Since she was a puppy, Onyx has stalked things. She will slowly sneak up on something, hold her position for a long time, and then suddenly pounce! Watch a video of Onyx trying to sneak up on Carol. Look at how long Onyx holds her position before the big pounce!

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