Monday, January 9, 2012

SSD Hale's Leaps and Bounds

SSD Hale is growing in leaps and bounds! Well, maybe she's just leaping and bounding. It's hard to tell if she's getting bigger. Donna, Hale's puppy raiser, has even had people ask her if Hale is a miniature Lab! They're always surprised to find out that she's only about seven months old, which is quite a compliment. It means Hale is very well behaved in public!

This month, this little dog had her first real bath. She had been hosed off in the summer and wiped down with a damp cloth lots of times, but this time, she got a full bath in a grooming tub. Hale's first real bath is the perfect example of how we train our dogs to do almost everything. The grooming tub had a ramp, and Donna used shaping to get Hale to walk up the ramp. The hose was louder and had more water pressure than the garden hose, so Donna used treats to reward Hale for good behavior. At the end, Hale was very interested in the dryer, and she didn't mind having the air on her fur at all. Hale emerged happy and smelling great, all because Donna set her up for success.

Since Hale was all primped and pretty, Donna and Lindsey brought her to the SSD holiday party. The other dogs and puppy raisers from the Northeast Puppy Raising Program also joined us. We had a lot of dogs at the party, but Hale did great! Donna and Lindsey took her through the line at the buffet table, but while she sniffed at the table a little bit, she didn't try to steal anything. Lindsey was even able to walk with her while holding two drinks in her hands!

The same week as the holiday party, Hale took a scaled down version of the public access test as an evaluation. "She did pretty well," said Donna. "I was please with almost everything." Evaluations like the public access test often help puppy raisers discover strengths and weaknesses, and Donna realized that she needed to work on "under" with Hale. Since the evaluation, they have taken every opportunity to practice "under." Hale will go under with a hand signal, although Donna has to guide her sometimes. Once Hale has a solid "under," Donna will introduce the verbal cue.

In the Northeast puppy classes, Donna has been working on helping Hale differentiate between the cues "up" and "all the way up." "Up" means the dog puts two feet up on an object, while "all the way up" is exactly what it sounds like - the dog puts all four feet on an object. Depending on her mood, Hale might give an "up" or an "all the way up" for either cue. Susan, one of our other puppy raisers in the Northeast, suggested that Donna try working on "up" and "all the way up" at the same time. That would make it necessary for Hale to listen closely to the cues and not just do what she things she should do. Donna has been practicing both cues at home.

Hale has also been making good progress with the cue "back." She walks backwards nicely as long as she has something like a wall or table to align herself with. She doesn't yet back up in a straight line if she's in an open area, but Donna believes that with a little more work, she'll have it.

The Northeast group also likes to incorporate games into puppy class. At one class, they played "Duck, Duck, Goose" with all of the dogs. Hale and all of the dogs did very well! It was an excellent way to practice their focus. The dogs enjoy the mental stimulation of the games.

Hale and the other Northeast dogs in training also practiced "leave it." Look at their amazing self control!

If you've been following Hale's progress here on the blog, you know that she gets very wiggly when she greets people. Donna has been working with other puppy raisers to teach her to stay calm when people are petting her. It's much easier to practice in a controlled setting with people who understand what you're trying to accomplish. Donna has decided that when strangers want to pet Hale, she needs to be in a "down." Once Hale is down, Donna lets people pet her, although she asks them to stop petting her if she stands up. This has been helping Hale learn to be calmer during greetings.

Lindsey went to the DMV to renew her driving permit, and Hale got to go along. It was crowded, and really tested Hale's self control, but she did great! She also did a very nice "under" while Lindsey was filling out paperwork.

Over the holidays, Hale went with her puppy raisers to pick out a tree. It was the perfect opportunity to practice "stay" and recalls!

In December, Donna and Hale went to one of Lindsey's indoor soccer games. It could have been very stressful for a dog because the bleachers were very close to the field, and there was nothing separating them but a four-foot-high glass wall and a net above that. Hale did very well, though. She stayed under Donna's bench for the entire game. She didn't even flinch when a ball hit the wall right in front of them! There was also a toddler with food and toys about 20 feet away from her, but Hale only watched her without trying to pop up out of her spot.

Hale was able to be so successful at the soccer game because Donna planned ahead and set her up for success. "One thing I do before events that could be stressful is make sure Hale gets plenty of exercise," said Donna. "I really think that dogs (and humans) can handle things much better when they have the proper amounts of exercise. The day of the game, I got there early and walked Hale around the outside of the building for about 20 minutes. The exercise gave us both a chance to clear our heads."

"December was a good month for Hale," said Donna. "I'm hoping that January will be even better."

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