Thursday, November 2, 2017

SSD Jitterbug's Adventures


Guest post by Sue Knode, puppy raiser

SSD Jitterbug is the seventh puppy I’ve raised for Susquehanna Service Dogs, and I think she’s the happiest puppy I’ve ever seen! Her name is SO appropriate. When her tail wags, her whole body wags! She turned 8 months in October and is a bundle of energy, cuteness, and love!

She did well at her recent evaluation. This semester in puppy class, we worked on solidifying and proofing the basics: sit, down, stay, recalls, loose leash walking, and retrieves. We also worked with the target stick and introduced the heel box. The target stick is a piece of blue tape stuck to the end of a stick. The dog is trained to touch their nose to (or target) the tape. The heel box is how SSD trains “heel.” The dog anchors their front paws on the box and move their hind legs around it.

Jitterbug’s biggest challenges have been “stay” and retrieves. She’s very good at sticking by my side, following me from room and walking close, even when we’re outside. Staying in one place while I walk away is a hard concept for this puppy. We’re working on building distance and performing with distractions. (In our house, that’s her furry buddies!)

Her favorite item to retrieve is a big old duck decoy. We’ve been working on retrieving other objects and making sure she consistently returns them to me.



Jitterbug accompanied us to Chincoteague, VA this summer on a trip in our motor home. This trip presented many new opportunities. We live in a rural area with very little traffic. The campground was busy and we had close neighbors, some with dogs. Jitterbug was shocked to learn that not every family has Labrador Retrievers!

The campground was a great place to practice loose leash walking and recalls. We found a wonderful dog-friendly beach where Jitterbug and our dog Barracks ran and swam until they were both played out. We visited restaurants, an outdoor café, and something that Jitterbug won’t experience in Pennsylvania—a crab processing shack! She remained calm and did some nice long down-stays.



She was surprised to encounter a horse-drawn carriage in Berlin, MD, and I was surprised at how quickly she recovered and gave me her full attention. And of course, when you’re traveling with a cute puppy, there are tons of opportunities to practice greetings!

During this past semester of puppy class, Jitterbug attended two outings. The first was to the Army Heritage Center in Carlisle, PA. We gathered outside with many other SSD puppies and raisers and worked on good attention with power treats and frequent clicks. We spent about 45 minutes exploring the grounds and the various buildings. This outing presented lots of opportunities to walk on new surfaces and practice self-control around other dogs.



The second outing was the Ghosts of Gettysburg Tour. Again, we gathered outside with many other SSD puppies and raisers and working on good attention. Then we walked as a group on the tour. The biggest challenges were the other dogs, the smells, and the traffic.


The common thread for both outings was my music for the drive home—the rhythmic snoring of a very tired puppy!

Jitterbug has just started her journey to become a service dog. She’ll spend the next year with Sue, and then she’ll come to advanced training where she’ll be matched with a person and then trained specifically to assist them. You can help us fund these perfect matches on November 28 for #GivingTuesday. Our goal is to raise $7,500 in one day to fund the perfect match.



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