Hawk's Schedule

8/4 Lake Mills
8/12 CCSDA Training

February 28, 2012

I Aint Afraid of No Dog

Cooper's Autism Assistance training has been progressing without a hitch. The focus the last couple weeks has been visiting Chloe's house in an attempt to work through her fear of dogs. If the last three visits are any indication, she is well on her way to overcoming her fear of dogs or at least she is very comfortable with Cooper. She and Cooper have traversed the entire house together: dancing upstairs in her bedroom and playing downstairs.

Everyday our visit begins with Chloe providing Cooper with food and water - the other day she was feeding him by hand. This afternoon we were greeted with a brand new food/water bowl and a toy that she had purchased at Animart. The presents were great, but were overshadowed by the trip that our little girl made to the pet store WITH OTHER DOGS. Her mom reported that their visit went extremely well, considering where she was just ten days ago.

Cooper loved his new toy and held onto it as he was led around the house. We took a walk outside and eventually ended up back in Chloe's bedroom with a big yellow dog on her bed. While snuggling on the floor, he proceeded to give her their first "kiss" (without incident).

February 26, 2012

Day Off

After a rather busy week, Cooper needed some rest and relaxation. He is beginning to think that the sofa is his bed.

February 25, 2012

A Dog's Purpose?

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle. I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker 's family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker's Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ''I know why.'' Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live. He said,''People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?''

The Six-year-old continued, ''Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long.''

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:
  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
  • Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
  • Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure Ecstasy.
  • Take naps.
  • Stretch before rising.
  • Run, romp, and play daily.
  • Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
  • On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
  • On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
  • When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
  • Be loyal.
  • Never pretend to be something you're not.
  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

February 24, 2012

Chloe Meets Cooper

A picture is worth a thousand words ...


Morning: Cooper accompanied Mac on his visit to the pedorthist. They needed to make casts of his feet and ankles. The casts required five minutes of drying time before they were sawed off. No problem for boy or dog, even the noise of the saw didn't bother them.

Afternoon: We had planned a repeat visit with Chloe for Cooper to sit at the front door while she played across the house in the dining room. Today, she barely looked at Cooper for the first 20 minutes as she was playing around the corner, out of sight. We tried a few tricks to get Chloe to watch Cooper and get her closer. We played ball for a bit.

Then magic occurred. On her own, Chloe brought Cooper a bowl of water. As usual he enthusiastically drank the "new" water. She tentatively patted his back. He finished the water and she refilled his bowl. More petting. I asked for some cereal and Chloe brought a bowl of Kix. With Cooper distracted, she seemed to know this was a good time to touch him. (Note: he has never shown any signs of food aggression.) She followed my lead and offered some from her hand -licking was funny. She remained in close proximity with frequent touching for the duration of our visit. At one time she was lying in the floor in front of Cooper drawing his picture.

We pushed the envelope a bit as her mother walked Cooper around the house. A moving dog was scarier. Eventually, Chloe walked him around the house, with a little help. After our last session, never in my wildest dreams did I think we would reach this point today. It was difficult to leave this magical place ...

February 23, 2012


The biggest news the last couple days was that we made it into Chloe's house. She wasn't very happy about having her personal space invaded by a canine. After some initial fear she settled into her routine while keeping at one eye on Cooper at all times. We sat just inside the front door and Chloe sat at the other end of the house, as far away as possible while still in visual contact. Our plan is to repeat this with the hope that she will return to her normal routine quicker with each "invasion" and eventually accept his presence. It may take months.

On the training front, we had an Autism Assistance Dog training session at the mall this evening. Cooper was joined by the youngsters Porter and Juno. Everything seems to be going well; nothing extraordinary to report. Cooper did remember and performed his HEEL command in the real world. The five month old puppies are acting their age and progressing well with SIT, DOWN, and walking nicely. It is difficult to fathom that Cooper was just like them only a few months ago.

Bowl Goal: In a hurry to get to class, I had a lapse of brain function and feed Monte using his bowl :-(
Since Cooper proved that he knows the HEEL command, we can start to wean him off treats for this command. To keep mealtime interesting, we mixed things up a bit by doing pivots - we rotate 90 or 180 degrees and Cooper moves to maintain his position.

February 21, 2012

Return Visit

Our second visit to Chloe's house went well. We did not make it in the house, but we did remove the glass barrier (door). It was a tad colder, so we worked from the garage. We were at one end of the garage, opposite the entry door where Chloe sat and observed everyone interacting with Cooper. Her brother and a neighbor were making bubbles, Chloe joined in, and eventually walked past him at a distance of six feet - steady progress. We made a few more videos that included both Chloe and Cooper.

When I returned home, it was time to test Monte's recent training. I rang the doorbell and he immediately went to his PLACE - success. We used his dinner to practice some more and then Cooper worked on HEEL, to earn his dinner. He is doing great, hopefully we can show off his new behavior on Wednesday.

BTW, Cooper has been sleeping in a different room. Discussing crate placement with Liz this weekend, I was reminded that our trainee's sleeping location has been stagnant. It was time for a change, which he has adapted to without issue.

February 20, 2012

Problem Resolution

Yesterday was the usual Saturday for the most part. Puppy playgroup in the morning followed by a restaurant visit for lunch, and a hockey game in the evening. We have added one new item to our daily schedules with a new long-term goal.

Unfortunately when we stopped to visit Mac and his classmates a week ago (2/10), we were exiting his therapy room as another student was entering through another door. That doesn't sound like a problem, however the little girl is terrified of dogs, and many other animals. She was so frightened that she didn't even want to go to school the following Monday.

Hearing this, we offered to assist with some desensitization training, if the family was willing. After a few other contacts, we provided the best opportunity to help resolve the situation that we exacerbated. To achieve our long term goal of reducing her fear of dogs and visiting her at school, we had our initial "meeting". She had been viewing pictures of Cooper prior to our arrival and was expecting him.

We began by having Cooper on the sidewalk and move progressively closer as Chloe watched from behind the safety of her front door. Her parents let her decide when we moved closer. They took videos of Cooper interacting with the family that we used during our visit and will be used to prepare for our next encounter on Monday.

Cooper's temperament and training makes him perfect for this new assignment.

Sunday presented another training opportunity for our service dog in training - a children's birthday party. The fast moving kids making high pitched noises combined with a minefield of misplaced party treats created the perfect storm. Cooper passed the test with some guidance. I doubt he would have resisted the offer of popcorn/crackers from the three year old that was practicing his sharing technique.

February 17, 2012

Work for Food

Monte is approaching the two year mark where his breeder advised that he would mature and be ready for advanced service training. He appears to be settling down, a little. We have begun a reintroduction of his basic obedience work in anticipation of a potential job with Custom Canines.

Bowl Goal Update: Our pair of canines is enjoying the evening hand feedings. Monte gets even more excited with the introduction of food. He is routinely going to PLACE when I ring the doorbell, now we need to see if he repeats the behavior in the real world. Cooper continued working on FINISH/HEEL and GET DRESSED. We completed three day, only 25 more before hand feeding becomes a habit.

Tag Along

Cooper had another doctor's appointment today or more accurately he accompanied his boy Mac to his appointment. Sometimes Mac like to hold the leash and guide Cooper and other times we use Cooper to lead. In the process of changing physicians, the visit included a medical history which took two hours, seemingly endless for boy and dog.

It was good practice for Cooper to essentially be in a STAY for that long. It wasn't just laying around though because Cooper's job will involve being a calming influence and providing a means to distract repetitive behavior. So Mac spent a portion of the visit lying on the floor with Cooper rubbing his ears - calming for both.

Bowl Goal Update: We completed hand feeding both dogs today. Cooper received a refresher on yesterday's commands GET DRESSED and HEEL/FINISH with moderate success. He was completely food focused and would often run through his repertoire searching for the desired behavior. Monte's basics are pretty good so we did some remedial training on the PLACE command with a bit of work on UP/OFF the sofa. About halfway through, I combined the PLACE with the doorbell; he's starting to use that as an alternate prompt.

February 16, 2012

Bowl Goal

We completed half of our "Bowl Goal" today. I forgot and gave Monte his bowl full of food before we left for West Towne. However, we did remember to hand feed Cooper when we returned. We made great progress on GET DRESSED and HEEL, only two cups of food :-)

West Towne was the location for our first Madison Area Autism Assistance Dog training. Max, Porter, and Juno joined us for our first attempt to lead a group of puppies and puppy raisers. As Ernie warned, "It's not as easy as it looks." It was difficult to hear, the puppies were at different levels of training, we had not spent much time with the puppies prior, and I tried to fit five years of experience into one session. Hopefully we will get a second chance.

Learning #1: With a group of four dogs and spending time with each puppy/raiser, next week we can better focus on the individual needs of each team.
Learning #2: Cooper was the only dog with a pronged collar. An order has been placed and we should have three sparkling collars and three happier puppy raisers next week.

February 15, 2012

Food Bowls are for Perfect Dogs

Cooper completed his Teenager Training class and received a diploma to prove it. He is ready for the next class whether it be Intermediate or Canine Good Citizen. We are trying to figure out which one fits into our many schedules.

A couple weeks ago our trainer at the Dog Den mentioned something that she picked up at one of her educational programs, "Food Bowls are for Perfect Dogs." The meaning of this is that we as dog trainers are missing out on a perfect training opportunity with our canines - meal time. Instead of plopping a full bowl of food in front of your puppy, use each piece of kibble as a lure to teach a task or reward for a task well done.

Caring for Labradors, basically walking stomachs, for the past five years, this advice hit home. However, I have yet to follow the advice. It's not that I have a perfect dog, it's that I am too lazy to spend thirty minutes working with and feeding my dog.

One tip to change a bad habit, start a good habit, or achieve a goal is to inform ten people of your intention.
My goal is to feed both Monte and Cooper one of their meals each day by hand, working on obedience.

February 12, 2012

Be Prepared

The prime directive for puppy raisers is to keep the puppy safe.

After that there are two important responsibilities of a puppy raiser: teach the puppy respect through fair and consistent discipline; and prepare the puppy to be confident in social situations. It is important to start working on these at a young age, however the raiser needs to monitor the charge so as not to push too hard.

It is impossible to expose the puppy to every situation that he might encounter. We try to offer a wide variety of situations to build confidence because you never know what may be around the corner ... We did end up walking (with) a turtle yesterday.

Note: Keeping the prime directive in mind, never let your puppy go nose to nose with a tortoise.

February 11, 2012


Two schooling experiences in the last twenty-four hours. Friday afternoon we visited Mac's second grade class and it just happened to be his birthday, so he was all smiles. Having never been in school before it was a good learning experience for Cooper. I explained that Cooper rarely gets an opportunity to see 25 kids at one time, I was immediately corrected that there were only 24 students.

The distractions of the new environment caused our puppy's ears to stop working. With my supply of treats in my coat pocket,out of reach, my only motivation was the "air biscuit" which only worked once. After our less than impressive, but highly informative demonstration, the children got what they had been patiently waiting for all day. They formed an orderly queue to greet Cooper. Most followed our advice to approach him from under, not over his head.

The kids started math and Lexy took us on a tour of the school. The post lunch cafeteria floor provided the ultimate test. Cooper did good, only grabbing one gummy worm which Lisa rescued. As we were leaving the building Griff stopped by on his way to P.E. He shot right past his mom to say "Hello" to Cooper.

Saturday morning was puppy playgroup which offers another learning opportunity. Cooper was having so much fun during the Teenager session that we stayed for the Puppy session also. Actually, we did the dual sessions to check in with Juno and Porter, two of our newer Autism Assist dogs in training. Both appear to be doing well, but the three trainees kept us too busy puppy wrangling to get any photos.

Prior to play group, Monte and I had walked to the park and through the prairie. Having taken yesterday off, he was full of energy and was bounding through the tall grass and searching for prey. On the way home a rabbit crossed our path and the chase was on.

The result of our morning romp and Cooper's double playgroup resulted in two tired dogs. "A tired dog is a good dog," however, Cooper has two more outings this afternoon. He will be well behaved, but will he be mobile. We don't want to be walking a turtle this afternoon.

February 9, 2012

Instability Training

As we alluded to last week during our crash course in elevator training, we identified the issue to be unsteady footing and not the moving part of the experience. In addition to elevators Cooper has acted similarly on shaky metal flooring at the Badger basketball game. So for this week's focus we went back to school, literally.

On Monday, I took both dogs for a walk. The plan was to use Monte as mentor and have Cooper follow and gain confidence. Our training took place on the metal bleachers at the high school football field. Since Monte was only a few months old we walked up and down the steps a few times every week, so he has no fear. When they are together Cooper is Monte shadow, so he too raced up and down the stairs. There were only a few occasions when he showed any uneasiness.

We have repeated this for a couple days before Cooper and I went solo. In addition to the football stadium, we frequented the playground. The target of our training there was the wobbly bridge. Now we need to take our training and apply it to other situations which can be an issue because dogs are not good at generalizing.

February 6, 2012

Bad Weather

We began the weekend with puppy playgroup which we followed with an AA (Autism Assistance) meeting. We officially ended elevator week Saturday night by riding the elevator at the Kohl Center. Cooper's prospective family picked him up Sunday morning so he could spend the day with them. I am sure they practiced their obedience homework between walks, playing ball, and puppy naps.

After a busy weekend, Cooper needed a relax day. The three of us (Monte, Cooper, me), went to the park. It was a gorgeous February day, sunny and 40+ degrees. The dogs chased each other and romped with a friendly pack (Buddy, Kane, and Sable). Because of the "bad" weather, a bath was required before entering the house. I ended up bringing the swimming pool into the basement to serve as a bathtub.

February 3, 2012

Training or Torture?

Our Friday included another trip to the village hall to ride the elevator. This was followed by what many would deem to be torture. We rode an elevator to the sixth floor, UW Clinic, to meet Lexy and her coworkers - this was not the torture. Cooper was intrigued by the exam table and the sounds it made while it moved. Lisa and Cooper actually sat in for a patient exam, at his request.

We then spent two hours in the waiting room reading old magazines and watching daytime television - this was the torture part. Most people try to avoid or limit the time spent in this forsaken place. It provided a real world opportunity to work on DOWN STAY and ignore the plethora of distractions and fight boredom. With the exception of a few "bored sighs", Cooper was good. He did exhibit some uneasiness in the clinic elevator the first time.

After that we tortured Cooper some more with a trip to the grocery store. He thought we spent an inordinate amount of time in the meat section. Having eaten raw chicken before, that smell captured his attention and he was glad we bought some more. Unbeknownst to him this was not for him.

February 2, 2012


Yesterday's doctor visit and training class revealed two opportunities for improvement (OFI).  First, we we need to increase our training time with Cooper.   Now that he is over six months old we can start requiring better obedience and begin learning the new commands required for his job.  Second, we need to do a better job of brushing him.  Mac's black pants were covered in Cooper hair.  So today before heading out for surgery assistance he received a full body brushing.  Ths should be repeated every day along with at least thirty minutes of command training: REST, UP, LAP, TOUCH.

Our day would not be complete without a few elevator rides.  I prefer to work elevators into our normal activities.  Unfortunately we found ourselves at one of my least favorite locations, the Children's Hospital.  The first "moving room" was full which may have helped provide stability. Cooper utilized their elevators without incident, but was not a fan of Mac's jumping :-)

There was plenty of free time as Mac prepared for surgery. Cooper helped him pass the time with walks around the halls and snuggle time. Once Mac entered the operating room we were relieved of duties. Last report was that the operation was successful, Mac is resting comfortably at home, and Cooper just finished his dinner.

February 1, 2012

Ups and Downs ... 2

Wednesday   Before we started our planned training today, we received a call.  Mac was going to see the eye doctor concerning a recent infection. Should be thirty minutes in and out, no problem.  There was just enough time before the appointment to squeeze in our daily trip to the village hall to ride the elevator, which went well.  Now how would he do on a different elevator.

We met Mac and Russ in the lobby.  Cooper was excited to see them - recognition. Our group approached the elevator at the eye clinic without hesitation.  Mac helps me with the leash to lead Cooper from place to place. No major issues ascending nor descending, but I did notice some brief worry in Cooper's face. He is improving and generalizing.

The thirty minute short visit turned into a three hour training session.  The eye infection turned out to be the remnants of a piece of metal, what the doctor called a Rust Ring.  In between the four different examiners and dilation, Cooper and Mac had lots of time to interact.  In addition to being near for petting and redirection, Cooper jumped UP in Mac's chair a couple times to help.  And Cooper's wiggle always gets a positive response.  From my perspective, boy and dog performed admirably given the stressful situation.

The good news is that we will see Mac tomorrow. 
The bad news is that it will be at the Children's Hospital to surgically remove the Rust Ring.