Since service dogs go almost everywhere with their partners, they need to learn how to relax and chill out for long periods. Service dogs may find themselves in a two-hour meeting at work, or at a relaxing dinner with friends at a restaurant. Regardless, they need to be able to lie down and chill out, even sleep.
During Irwin’s last evaluation, he had trouble chilling out. There were so many good smells and interesting dogs around. While he did well considering his age and where he was, his puppy raisers knew he could do better. They’ve been working on “chill time” at home, and he has been getting really good, even when other people are around.
Donna and Jim invited Carol and Mark (SSD Outback’s puppy raisers) over for a Sunday afternoon of wine tasting and snacks. Since it was raining, Carol and Mark left Outback at home, letting him practice crate time. Irwin worked on chill time in the mudroom off the kitchen where the four adults were sitting. They spent several enjoyable hours at the table, and Irwin stayed in the mudroom, not crossing into the kitchen the entire time.
At one point, Irwin gave Donna the “puppy please” stare, so she gave him permission to come. He trotted right over to her under the table. He was allowed to greet everyone, and he did very well. He wiggled in excitement but kept all four paws on the floor.
Donna and Jim’s two grandsons stayed with them for a week. Sam, who’s eight, likes to be Irwin’s raiser when he visits, so they pretended to have summer camp like the SSD Summer Dog Camp. They even made tie-dyed shirts! Sam cleans Irwin’s ears, brushes his teeth, and combs his fur. Jack, who’s five, does the same thing with Hunter, their Jack Russell. They play the “Dress ‘Em Up” relay, where they dressed Irwin in t-shirts, socks, and more.
In the morning, the boys play reveille on a Civil War trumpet. Irwin stays right next to them as they take turns waking everyone up. One morning, the boys were still sleeping when Donna and Jim gave Irwin permission to go into their room. Irwin laid down on the floor next to Sam until he woke up.
The boys also take over feeding both dogs. (Sometimes it takes a while for Hunter to sit for his food, and poor Irwin has to keep waiting, drooling until he hears the “okay” to eat.) Irwin continued to practice chill time while the boys played at the table or in the family room. When they’re outside eating, they put Irwin under the table, and they ask him for a down-stay when they’re playing in the sand box. The boys love to watch him swim and Irwin LOVES the extra belly rubs they give him.
They all went to the South Mountain Fair, which was perfect timing since Irwin’s puppy class homework for next semester is to visit a fair. They visited all of the animal barns. Donna and Irwin went through the animal barns rather quickly in order to keep his attention. Irwin did well, but Donna could tell by his body language that he was a little excited, and she wanted to make sure he had a successful visit. The animals, especially the sheep, knew that he was there. All the sheep were bleating.
Next they rode a hay wagon. Irwin had to climb metal steps in order to get into the wagon. He then rolled in the hay! However, he was able to sit and greet all of the kids in the wagon. “Actually, the boys shared about raising and training SD dogs for people who need them,” said Donna. “They even answered the #1 question we always get—‘I could never do that. I would not be able to give them up.’” Almost in unison, the boys said, “But you know it’s not a pet dog you’re giving up. It’s someone’s bestest Christmas present ever!”
The rest of the day, they rode the rides, won teddy bears, ate funnel cake, and watched the fireworks. They didn’t know they were being watched, but as they were leaving, one of the police attendants came up and remarked on how well behaved Irwin was and thanked them for cleaning up after him. Sam and Jack smiled and said “Thanks! We train him to have good manners or it’s ‘puppy time-out.’”
Overall, it was an excellent week!