Friday, June 28, 2013

Irwin’s Daily Routine

As Donna and Jim spend more time in the orchard, Irwin’s daily activities have settled into a routine of accompanying them to the orchard, with lots of breaks when it’s hot. Irwin has been working on sticking close to Donna in a heel or side position (“heel” is on the left, “side” on the right). He has also been doing well with “leave it.” Since they’re thinning peaches right now, there are peaches on the ground that he has to ignore, as well as weeds, twigs, and turkey manure. (The orchard is organic.) Donna keeps Irwin’s leash attached to her waist. When she was training SSD Judge, he managed to get into the manure, so rather than give Irwin the opportunity to get into mischief, she helps set him up for success by keeping him leashed.

Before they move on to the next tree, Irwin practices heeling, and he’s quickly getting the hang of it. When there isn’t much rain, they also water the trees. There’s a water tank and hose on the ATV, and Irwin either rides with Donna in the utility, or walks with Jim as he waters the trees. Irwin’s balance while riding in the ATV is great, and he is developing muscle strength.

In the heat of the day, they take lots of breaks. Irwin gets plenty of play time, when he plays ball early or late in the day and goes swimming. During breaks, they also practice “visit,” “up,” “all the way up,” “car” (cue to get in the car), “fix-it” (cue to untangle his paws from the leash), “stay,” “come,” “paw,” “under,” and “back.” They also practice greetings with the other workers.

All of our service dogs learn how to get dressed in their service dog harness. It’s a useful skill, especially if their partner is unable to put the harness on themselves. On the cue “get dressed,” the dog walks into their harness so their handler just has to buckle it. Irwin has started walking into his harness, and when it’s time to take it off, he walks backwards out of it.

In the house, Irwin practices being in a restaurant. Donna walks with him around the table as if they were at a buffet, and then Irwin lies under her chair or the table while she’s eating. They’ve also been working on his self control at doorways. Donna has been having him wait at all thresholds before going into rooms, and he sits at the outside door waiting for the “go on through” cue. This practice has helped him stay focused despite the many distractions that are outside, such as rabbits and chipmunks. He doesn’t bolt through the door to chase them, even though he has had many opportunities to do so. Instead, he chooses to look intently at them and ultimately ignore them.

Donna has also been working to keep Irwin tucked in closer to her when he’s in a sit or down. It has helped keep him from sprawling out when they’re in public. And when she’s working in the kitchen, Irwin relaxes on his blanket in the kitchen, keeping him out of the way.

Check back on Monday to read more about Irwin’s experiences in puppy class and at a restaurant.

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