Hawk's Schedule

8/4 Lake Mills
8/12 CCSDA Training

May 29, 2011

Ice from Heaven

Saturday was a great day to work in the yard before the heat of summer sets in on Monday. Monte gnawed on bones and sticks while supervising our landscaping. He remained quiet while most of the neighborhood canines were barking - even when sequestered indoors for a bit. Although he wanted to be outside, no whining. It was also perfect weather for exercise, so he went for a run, walked downtown for lunch, and had a free run in the park. He was completely exhausted before the sun went down.

Stayed inside most of the day today, waiting for the rain to pass. This left us free to have a puppy spa day: nails, ears, brushing. The rain finally ended, but released one burst of hail before the skies cleared. This was a perfect time to introduce Monte to hail. Being pelted by the "ice from heaven" didn't bother him. I feed him a few pieces of hail before he figured out where they were coming from. He then hurriedly consumed as much ice as he could before it melted. Through our system of rewards, we have inadvertently encouraged a passion for ice cubes and carrots.

Monte and I went for a quick run before dinner to burn off some energy. Having been cooped up all day, we extended our walk. Feeling brave and trusting my canine companion, I opted to walk around the block sans leash. He noticed birds, a cat, and dogs, but remained within a six foot radius - the length of his leash. We have been practicing for this by dropping the leash while on walks. As soon as he realizes that he has moved outside the perimeter, he bounds back to my side. There is still hope.

May 25, 2011

Where's the Food

In an attempt to make dinner time even more fun for Monte, we have started playing a new game, hide-and-seek. It was mentioned in Cesar Millan's newsletter this week as a way to encourage the dog to problem solve and as a result, build confidence.

We practice the SIT STAY while preparing his breakfast and dinner. Then I find an out of the way location to place his food bowl. Returning to Monte, I release him and ask him to find his food. The first few times were relatively easy, but have been getting progressively more difficult. He seems to be using his eyes more than his nose.

We have been doing this with toys for quite some time now. Depending on Monte's reaction and level of excitement, we may have to limit it to toys. Dinner time has always been high excitement and this may increase his energy, which is the opposite of what we planned to do.

May 23, 2011

Play Ball

Now that our camera has been fixed there will be plenty of photos to accompany my ramblings. All it needed was a new battery. Unfortunately, this also means longer posts as I struggle to fill the space next to each photo.

We made our annual trek to Miller Park this weekend. This was old hat for Monte; he also attended last year's event. He wasn't the least bit distracted by the eight foot sausage and only mildly distracted by the scavenging gulls. We used to be partial to chorizo, now our favorite is the hot dog.

Try as we might to get Monte to appreciate America's pastime, he still prefers the fast pace of hockey. Our experience reinforced the old adage, "A tired dog is a good dog." After spending a long day at the beer garden on Saturday, he was calm and relaxed all day today.

Try as she might to get Monte's attention throughout the entire game, the young girl seated in front of us failed to win his favor. She was excited if he would glance her way. She had to show everyone that walked by where the puppy was. Only the fireworks to celebrate the Brewer's win were able to get his attention.

May 22, 2011

Old Friends

Being one of OccuPaws' signature fund-raising events, Puppies on Parmenter is vital to raising money to pay bills and develop community awareness. Puppy Raisers share stories, discuss training, and have a good time. It provides an opportunity to see old friends and make new ones.

The highlight of our day was reconnecting with our second puppy, Echo, and his family. Even though I haven't seen him in two years (he does send a Christmas card), he may have remembered me. As a puppy raiser it is important to know that the dog which you helped raise is happy, healthy and enjoying life. Many thanks to Echo and his family for sponsoring this event and wishing them all the best as they add a human pack member.

In addition to the puppies that we have raised, it is always nice to see our graduate teams. Allison and Gilbert, our first external team, were in attendance. Allison made a point of visiting us. She reads about Monte, but had not seen him until Saturday. It was amazing to me that this team has been together for almost three years now - time flies.

Another old friend that we see occasionally is Abbey. We spent time with her when she started her training last winter. She was always a smart little girl, but defiant, which doesn't appear to have changed. Don't let the photo fool you.

Bristol and Biscuit are two of most recent litter. Bristol, a tiny little thing, was very scrappy. Biscuit, although appearing clean in the photo, failed to avoid any of the puddles as she walked around the terrace. Remember, yellow labs are not dirtier than their black siblings, they just let you know.

On our walk we interacted with so many wonderful business owners, dog walkers, and volunteers. I want to thank them all, but one in particular stood out(not just because we won a raffle bag). The staff of Middleton Veterinary Hospital welcomed all the dogs and walkers with fresh water, coffee, treats, and a well-stocked gift bag. As difficult as it might be, I bet that they take even better care of their patients.

May 18, 2011

I ♥ Long Lead

Your first thought might be to question my photography skills. It is generally not a good idea to photograph your subject from the rear. Although apparently random shots of a puppy out for a walk, each picture provides visual proof that we are making progress on our homework assignment.

The first shows Monte in a SIT STAY - no big deal. However, in the past he would rotate his body 180 degrees when I walked behind him. Although he periodically checks back over his shoulder, he remained stationary.

Part of homework was to have Monte obey commands from a distance and using words only, no visual cues. At the end of the long lead, fifty feet, Monte is responding to the commands SIT, DOWN, and STAND without prompting. We finished up with a STAND STAY and then I pushed the envelope and walked behind him.

Feeling good with our efforts, we decided to spice things up. We have enhanced the standard COME with a DOWN command at the midpoint. Initially this was difficult because he was moving so fast and ended up DOWN at my feet. We had to work on slowing him down and then the midway DOWN was easier.

I love the long lead as it allows us to work at a distance with natural distractions, yet maintain physical control and safety. The downside is that Monte knows that the lead is still attached.

Our final exercise was SIT STAY and then a STAND STAY as I gently applied pressure with the lead. Monte remained still as I walked around him keeping the lead taut.

Not very exciting, but like Marlene says, "Training is Boring", "Repetition, Repetition, Repetition".

May 15, 2011

Take Back the Night

As we have mentioned in the past, it is a good idea to modify a puppy's sleeping arrangements so that he gets used to adapting to different situations.

In the spirit of this guideline, we have reclaimed our bedroom. No more sharing it with our canine companion. His extra large crate has been moved to the basement, where he will be sleeping now. At least when it is warm. He may be given special privileges to stay upstairs in the back-up crate (located in the office) if the temperature dips too low, like last night.

Monte didn't seem to mind his new sleeping quarters. He was fast asleep and snoring before I made it to bed. This should reduce the amount of blond hair attached to the floor and my pillow. The only disadvantage is that I don't have any place to stack my clothes.

Not So Gentle Leader

It didn't take Monte long to determine where the coolest place in the house was last week - tile floor in the basement. This left him with a difficult decision. Spend his time downstairs, comfortable and away from his pack, or accompany his pack members upstairs and make due with the bathtub. As you can see, people are more important than his comfort.

No such decision the last few days as he has been found huddled in a pile of pillows, sunning himself in the bow window, or curled up at our feet. We will see if his decision changes when it gets really hot.

Working to get Monte comfortable with the Gentle Leader, we have had a few incidents this last week. Generally accepting the new device, it still bothers him at times.

The first incident occurred as we were staring to cross the street. Attempting to readjust or remove the lead with his paw, he stumbled on the curb and must have strained a muscle. He spent the next four days limping around. It was more noticeable after resting, but once he loosened up he was fine. No one even noticed it at OccuPaws training class last week.

At class, we tightened the nose strap a bit and have restarted the acclimation process. Monte's second injury also occurred while walking on the sidewalk. In addition to using his paw to dislodge the lead, he tries to rub it off on my leg or the ground, which is not a big deal on the grass. However, the sidewalk is less forgiving and resulted in a bloody scrape on the top of his nose.

May 8, 2011

Gentle Reminder

We attended the third annual Bark for Life event to raise money for canine and human cancer research. It was held in our backyard, figuratively; only a short five block walk. The event was not well attended, participation has declined every year. Without being involved with the event, we would not have heard about it.

It was a good opportunity to work on dog distractions and incorporate our new training tool. We were provided with a Gentle Leader. It includes a strap that goes over the dog's nose, so it requires some getting used to on the dog's part. We worked on it with Monte a little yesterday and again this morning.

Not sure about the reason for the shift to this collar. However, it worked amazingly well and Monte walked at my side or was lagging behind the entire time. He was not interested in any of the birds or squirrels that crossed our path. All he wanted to do was remove the pesky strap from his nose: shaking his head, pawing at his nose, rolling in the grass.

May 6, 2011

Missing You

On a personal note, I am sitting in the DC airport looking out over the Potomac River with the Washington Monument and Capitol dome in the background. My annual trip for Baldrige Quality Award training wasn't as much fun as last year. It was all business this year, Lisa and Monte did not make the trip. I missed them both very much.

Fortunately the airport has free WiFi, so I can keep busy while I wait for my flight, in five and a half hours. So I may have time for a few posts.

As I spoke with Lisa last night, there wasn't much of anything new going on in our lives. Our discussion focused on Monte's adventures and (mis)behavior. This got me to thinking about the relationships we enjoy with our canine pets and trainees. I may be in big trouble when I get home, but I think we miss our pets more. To clarify, we love and care for our family much more than the dogs that share our lives.

Maybe you all don't experience this, it's just that I seem to spend more time interacting with Monte than I do with my wife. Monte gets breakfast and a walk in the morning, while Lisa gets a quick "Good-Bye". He greets me at the door in anticipation of our afternoon walk/run, which usually takes an hour, while I hurriedly greet Lisa on my way to change clothes.

We have a ritual for feeding Monte that requires him to wait before he gobbles his food and then he retires to "bed for a half hour and we prepare our own dinner(s). Then every night we may have an event scheduled for him or he receives some special attention (brushing, nail trimming, training). Lisa and I prepare our separate meals that we eat in front of the television, usually together.

These observation have caused me to rethink and modify how I spend my time going forward. Dogs do not teach us, but rather provide an opportunity to learn about ourselves.

May 5, 2011

Dog Therapy

Aahhhhh! What a way for a hardworking guide dog in training to spend a warm, sunny spring day but sprawled out on the grass with adoring hands all over you.

This is how Monte spent yesterday afternoon on the UW campus. It was all part of the University Health Service's annual Pet Therapy Day as a way to ease the stress of the students entering into the angst of final exams. Along with about a dozen other mostly friendly canines, including Chancellor Biddy Martin's miniature pooch, Monte was joined by OGDA "babies" Ajax and Angus and Monte's "kindred spirit" Louie. It is quite amazing how just petting a dog has been proven to lower blood pressure and pulse rates and overall ease stress.

It obviously had the intended therapeutic effect; the UW students enthusiastically interacted with the dogs, many of them making return visits and relating stories about how homesick they were for their own pets at home. We actually took the OGDA training jackets off the dogs because the students loved to be right on the ground with them and didn't mind at all that they came away covered in dog hair and grass stains and drool! Monte has no idea what a final exam is, but he will willingly offer himself up for pet therapy any time.

May 1, 2011

Puppy, Puppy, Puppy

Based on some feedback received at our last training class, we have been working on HEEL, again. Monte is enjoying his retraining. Going back to square one involves luring him to remain at our side and continuously rewarding him with praise and treats. He ends up eating half his nightly ration on our evening walk before dinner begins.

When not HEELing, the rest of the week has been filled with new experiences that thoroughly tested Monte's patience. After his day at the hair salon, he spent ninety minutes waiting at the car dealer, an hour discussing assisted living, and a two hour "fancy" dinner.

His behavior was exemplary with the exception of when it started raining chips and guacamole at the restaurant. He had an intense focus on the food that was being provided by our one year old dinner companion. Following a little advice and gentle corrections, he resigned himself to the fact that he would have to wait for his dinner, at home.

Saturday brought warmer temperatures and more practice HEEling. The first relatively nice weekend of the spring yard work which is a great opportunity to see how Monte would react to being left indoors, alone and uncrated. He quietly watched us work, until it was time for a little Rest & Relaxation. More HEELing to the park and then thirty minutes running around to let of some steam

Today's final challenge was our puppy's first visit to church and a first communion celebration to boot. Once seated in the pew we prayed for good behavior and no outbursts, while Monte focused on the plethora of distractions. Our prayers were answered; the children proved no match as Monte remained quiet, but one young neighbor was continuously saying "puppy", "puppy", "puppy".