Hawk's Schedule

8/4 Lake Mills
8/12 CCSDA Training

March 27, 2011

Real World

As obedience takes a backseat, social experiences are our focus. Moving Day on Saturday offered another opportunity to practice STAY with a group of people milling about and moving boxes in/out. After the heavy lifting was over, Monte was tempted by food and toys, left on the floor, usually by the younger humans.

Monte's STAYs were generally good, until he sensed the slightest indication that a human needed him to say "Hello", keep their feet warm, or lick their face. It was a difficult situation to handle because I had placed him in a DOWN STAY, but other people were encouraging his disobedience. Who should I correct?

This may be my greatest weakness as a puppy raiser. Based on feedback, others in OccuPaws may point out that it is one of many weaknesses. I am always torn when encountering "difficult" people that test our trainees because our guide dogs need to be able to handle the general populace. A sterile well-behaved public will not prepare him for the real world. For this reason, my focus is generally on Monte, unless a human correction is truly warranted.

One of our takeaways from the final moving day was a walker. The plan was to store it until needed either by Lisa's mother in the near future or ourselves in the hopefully distant future. However, it turned out that we could use it now. Monte showed an unnatural curiosity for the walker while in use, so I have begun using it around the house to create familiarity and desensitize him.

March 24, 2011

Time Off

Hoping that he would instantly mature, I have been working Monte pretty hard the last few weeks, ever since he turned one year old. Well that did not happen. His anxiety has seemingly increased which makes him even more susceptible to distractions. Corrections and stress simply exacerbate the situations.

Taking a step back to assess the situation, I have decided that we both need to take some time off and relax. His obedience is very good and a week off shouldn't hurt. For the next week or so, we will continue his socialization and exercise. On our run this evening, he was very focused on moving forward and barely noticed the birds, squirrels, and dogs that we passed.

My hope is that a couple of stress free weeks of running past his distractions will help condition him to ignore them in the future. Monte is smart dog, and quickly picks up on the energy of others. So it is equally important that I take this opportunity to refocus and bond with my canine trainee.

March 19, 2011

Growing List

Our walk this afternoon took us by the fire station. They had just finished cleaning the trucks and preparing to put them away. As we passed, the large engine made quite a noise backing into the garage. Monte found this unsettling and wanted to get as far away as possible as quick as possible. Reassuring him, we practiced SIT, DOWN, BACK and paced the sidewalk while the remaining truck loudly idled.

Observing our impromptu session, one of the fireman asked if we wanted to come inside as they backed the final truck into place. We readily accepted the invitation. Monte was a bit calmer as the engine roared again and settled down immediately after it was shut down. We approached the "monster" and let him sniff the tires and chrome. Definitely more exposure is required - just add this to our ever expanding list.

Since the weather was nice and it has been a couple weeks since Monte was let loose, we stopped at the fields to allow him to run free and physically burn some energy. It always makes me smile to watch a dog bounding through the tall grass, ears flapping, tail swaying for balance, and grinning uncontrollably. He runs for no other purpose than to run - a reminder of how simple life should be.

Back to reality: Monte found a mud puddle, so an unplanned trip to the stream was required to clean up before returning home. Not perfectly clean, but clean enough that Lisa allowed us back in the house. Poor Monte, he had to get a bath.

Legacies of a puppy.

Although I am not currently raising a puppy, we are frequently reminded of the two creatures that graced us with their puppyhoods.

Today I took my bike out for my first ride of the season and was reminded that I no longer have a bike computer: good ol' Promise got a hold of my last one, enough to kill the screen, and I have yet to replace it. Thanks kiddo. We still love despite all the mischief you got yourself into.

March 18, 2011


My initial reaction our first exercise at OccuPaws training class was "Oh Oh". We were told to drop the leash and maintain focus and control of our dog. Monte behaves well on leash when I am able to control his impulses. To my surprise he performed like a champ, until he was sidetracked by a crated puppy.

He pranced away and I remained calm because any excitement results in him fleeing and regressing to a game of chase. I waited for his brain to re-engage and asked him to HEEL and he trotted back into place. That's my interpretation, others may have thought that I wasn't in control of my dog. And I wasn't. However, chasing is counter-productive and actually takes more time.

The one caveat to this approach is that is effective when dealing with one dog.

After introducing a walking down, it was time back to basics, SIT STAY practice. Picture all eight puppies sitting in a line with puppy raisers lined up ten yards away. Monte was at the end and I called him to COME first. Two of the other dogs broke their STAY, not sure who to credit with the false start, but the race was on. Since Monte was already in motion he figured it was play time. Now picture the three oldest dogs (highest energy) at class running around the warehouse. As mentioned, waiting for three dogs to locate their brains is not a good option. Eventually, the pack was corralled, order was restored, and class continued without further incident.

During the rest of class, we were introduced to some CVC commands to spice up our training: FRONT, SIDE, SWITCH (standing and sitting). Based our our experience, we may need to stick to the basics. Monte was very uncomfortable being on my right side - we never work with him on the right. In my opinion the odds of our trainee being a guide dog are greater than him being a CVC dog.

March 15, 2011


We didn't need to have a foreign trainer work Monte at class. He proved to be quite the handful for Lisa this evening. He wasn't distracted by the other dogs, but was mesmerized by tennis balls. Surprising, since we never use them. He also struggled with LEAVE IT, usually one of his strengths. The Pupperoni overstimulated his olfactory senses that seemingly causes his brain to malfunction.

He seemed to be possessed by demons and we were fortunate to capture the picture to prove it.

Our evening walks have been taking a lot longer with the multitude of training opportunities. Rabbits, squirrels, birds, and cats are proving to be quite the challenge for Monte. Thankfully we have six more months to acclimate him to all the critters in the village.

March 12, 2011


Those of you that know Monte personally rarely see him in this state and those of you that only read about him rarely read about our calm, sedate dog. As he matures, more and more of his day is spent relaxing.

We repositioned his PLACE from near our feet to a spot across the room. He appears to prefer the cushy comfort versus the proximity to us.

In addition to maturing, he has had a busy day. Grocery shopping in the morning which offered a multitude of distractions. The most challenging on this trip was the smell from the meat case - Monte's nose was in overdrive. We took a long walk, about 45 minutes, in the afternoon and we worked on pivots every chance we got. He seems to be progressing very well.

Monte appreciated the opportunity to have dinner with our goddaughter, Avery. She inadvertently shared some of her corn dog with him. He is still trying to figure out how food magically appears on the floor like manna from heaven. Food has been a theme of late - stealing food, licking plates, surveying the garbage can, and cleaning the floor of crumbs. We had cut back on his food for a week to deal with some GI issues, but that doesn't justify acting like a normal dog.

This week, I hope to get another experienced raiser or a Dog Den trainer to spend some quality time working with Monte. He could probably benefit from a change of environment and exposure to different stimulants.

March 9, 2011

Food Test

Since Monte failed the real world test on Saturday, we have been practicing the Puppy's Choice game with human food. He has either learned a lesson or is smart enough to figure out when we are testing him. This evening he backed away from the "sandwich". Since dog's have difficulty generalizing, we only have to test him with two thousand other possible food items and he will be ready.

We started intermediate class at The Dog Den on Tuesday. My plan was to bring a sandwich to practice LEAVE IT, but forgot it at home so we used a stuffed toy. He did better than the last class, but this was a more controlled setting. He seems to be able to smell a set up.

The intermediate class focuses on proofing your commands and provides individual attention; there was one instructor for every dog. We think our dog knows a command, but will he SIT when you are seated, standing behind him, or across the room. I like to really test Monte by asking him to SIT when already seated. The dogs get into a routine of SIT, DOWN, SIT, DOWN, SIT. I test his focus with a SIT, DOWN, SIT, SIT. He will usually flinch a bit before repositioning in a proper SIT.

We also took the opportunity to teach a new trick. Guide dogs do not generally use hand signals, but the others were practicing so I decided to have some fun and teach something new. Monte picked up the hand signals for DOWN and SIT almost immediately - a good reader of body language.

March 6, 2011

Moving Success

In the interest of full disclosure, other than his momentary lapse in judgment Monte behaved exceptionally well on his birthday weekend.

We spent the weekend preparing to move Lisa's mother from an apartment to assisted living. Monte spent the majority of the first day in a DOWN STAY while people were in motion around and over him. The doors were opening and closing as empty boxes were continuously being exchanged for full ones. When offered the chance to greet some of the younger movers, he was calm and gentle, only taking a few liberties to determine what they had for lunch and clean their faces.

Saturday night we took a break to drive from Cuba City to Madison for the Badger hockey game. Always an exciting time for Monte, we tried to slow down in order to reduce his level of excitement. With limited success from our planned slow routine, the event that worked the best was meeting our teammate Apple at the game - her first.

It's always nice to see other puppy raisers and it provides a unique challenge of another canine where there usually aren't any. This seemed to have a calming effect. Monte performed his DOWN STAY while Apple looked cute and sat patiently working the crowd. She was kind enough to share some overflow attention with her over the hill teammate.

Sunday found us back in Cuba City with Monte monitoring our progress. He faced a few new challenges as there were more visitors. We practiced STAYing when the doorbell rang and visitors entered. With less movers he was "free" more often which allowed us to practice WAITing at the top/bottom of stairs as I transported my cargo.

Not a physically demanding weekend for our puppy, however, he has been resting at my feet for the last three hours. He received many compliments on his behavior. There may still be hope.

March 5, 2011


First, Monte would like to thank everyone for wishing him well on his birthday. Now that he is one year old, we are expecting an immediate transformation tomorrow morning as he begins his second year of life. If it were only that easy.

We often practice the Puppy's Choice game and LEAVE IT commands using kibble, treats, and once even a hamburger. Monte excels and will never touch the kibble and often backs up as if encountering poison. Today he was presented with an unexpected challenge; and he failed miserably.

Eating lunch with a group in a foreign home. One of our group placed her half eaten sandwich on the floor. Lisa and I did not observe this (otherwise it would have been a good learning experience), but Monte did and engulfed the sandwich before I was alerted. Only able to rescue to a slice of turkey and roast beef after prying his jaws open, we were left to wait for a gastro-reaction. Ten hours later, I think we dodged a bullet and are safe.

We had no festivities planned for Monte. However, that didn't stop him from enjoying a birthday treat. This week we begin playing Puppy's Choice with human food and place food on the floor as we dine.

March 3, 2011

Walk n Work

As the weather warms, I and our neighbors find it much more enjoyable to be outside - not a real surprise. This increased activity results in more and varied distractions: animals scurrying, kids on bikes, joggers, puddles. Should we train our puppies to avoid puddles?

The distance of our daily walks has essentially stayed the same, but the duration has increased significantly as there are more challenges and I am more willing to take the time to mentor Monte appropriately. The last few days we have been working traffic, not guide dog traffic, just exposing him to cars, trucks, horns, motors, etc.

In addition our walk used to be more linear and consistent. It was geared towards running; expediency and safety were crucial. Our present routes are more circuitous with a focus on teaching HEEL and focus. We make a turn at almost every corner we come to and every day is different. This discourages Monte's autopilot and encourages him to focus on me to make decisions. We also practice a minimum of two pivots every time we change direction and cross the street - more focus and patience.

Monte's physical exercise has remained the same, but his mental exercise has increased tenfold.