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Friday, March 30, 2012

Take Down

FLD Scout claps her castanet teeth like a wild Spanish dancer.  SNAP, SNAP, SNAP!

She latches on to Gus's new collar and yanks. He's relaxing on the floor, minding his own business at the end of the day.

Scout yanks harder and budges him a few inches off of his spot. He sinks his head back to flatten himself, an un-moveable rock, but Scout heaves a little harder. She manages to scoot him a little further.

Gus gets up and shakes off Scout's grip.

The Lab-wrestling match is on.

Gus goes for her throat. Scout flips onto her shoulder and somersaults her body to break his grip.

Gus stands over the prone Scout and drops his weight across her for the count. There are no snapping castanets now--he clutches Scout's muzzle completely in his mouth, holding it closed.

There's more than one way to prevail over an almost-9-month-old pain-in-the-kiester puppy!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Puppy Police 4

Officer’s notes at the scene of the crime.

At a little after noon on March 28, 2012, two black Labs were seen in close proximity to the homeowner’s garden gloves, which were on the living room floor—not where they were left, or where they belonged.

Witness Statements
Witness #1, wife of witness #2, was working on her computer in her office. She said she noticed the noise level from the dogs roughhousing in the living room get suddenly lower. Suspicious, she got up from her chair to take a peek. She reported that at the moment of getting out of her chair, she distinctly heard two soft “plops” from said room. Upon entering the room, she spotted her dog, Gus, and her Future Leader Dog Scout, next to each other, standing with lowered heads conspicuously over each of her garden gloves.
Witness said she ran back into her room for her camera to record the scene, but both dogs retreated to the vicinity of Witness #2. She called them back and had them “sit” in approximately the same positions in which she found them, and took two pictures.
The witness admitted that she had left her gloves within the dogs’ reach on the seat of a nearby Lazy-boy chair, after working in the Habitat for Humanity ReStore warehouse with her husband that morning. “I know I should have put them where they belonged,” she said, “but I was planning to go out into the woods after lunch to cut some trees down for next year’s wood pile.”

Witness #2, Andy, was working at his desk at the north end of the living room. He did not notice anything as he had his back to the scene of the crime, but he did turn to look when Witness #1 exclaimed, “look at these dogs!” and saw them standing over the gloves.

Pictures taken by Witness #1:

FLD Scout and cc'd Gus, sitting sheepishly by the stolen gloves.

FLD Scout looks at Gus as if she's saying, "We're in trouble, aren't we?" Gus looks back as if he replies, "That's another fine mess you've got me into!"

Puppy Police Theft Report
Town of:  Lupton                  Date: 3/28/12
Witness #1:  patti
Witness #2:  Andy

Suspect Descriptions: 
1)   A female black shaggy Lab, about 8 months old, weight pushing 50 pounds, with bedroom eyes, wearing a red collar with a Leader Dog tag, # P-9412, and a red Ogemaw County dog tag.
2)   A larger black male Lab with a shiny coat, weighing over 60 pounds, wearing a neon-orange collar with a red Ogemaw County dog tag.

At approximately noon on Wednesday, March 28, 2012, witness #1 heard a change in the volume of play noises coming from her living room. Upon investigation, she found the two suspects standing with their heads hanging down in front of her garden gloves, which were lying on the floor. Witness #1 took two pictures of the suspects, after the fact. Witness #2 did not observe the theft, nor the subsequent illegal playing of said gloves. There was no damage to the gloves and Witness #1 removed them from the scene. Charges were not filed at this time. The officer was gratified to see that the suspects did, in fact, have the proper tags on their collars, and did suggest that the homeowner be more diligent in putting her things away.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday's Training TIP: STAY

The STAY command is part of a normal range of obedience commands that I, as a puppy-raiser for Leader Dogs for the Blind, must teach my Future Leader Dog puppy.

Per Leader Dogs' "Puppy Manual," the goal for the STAY command is that my puppy will stay in position until released with an "okay." As part of our new "In-For-Training" (IFT) Standards, the STAY is assessed by me putting my puppy in a sit, down, or stand in the heel position; I then give a hand signal and the STAY command and step out in front of my puppy to the end of her leash. My puppy must hold her position for 30-60 seconds and afterwards while I return to her side.

Prior to raising Future Leader Dog puppies, I trained the STAY command a bit differently. Whenever I placed my dog into a specific position (like SIT), I considered the command to include an "implied" stay. Meaning, my dog was expected to hold that position until released, or until another command was given.

STAY meant something more.

When I told my dog to STAY, it meant that I was most likely going "out of sight," and that I might be gone for a while. My dog was expected to "settle" in for the long haul until I returned.

In a way, the Leader Dogs for the Blind requirement for STAY is easier to teach, because my puppy is not off-leash for the assessment.

Here is a long-ish video of me working with FLD Scout in a typical training "session." I spent almost 11 minutes overall with Scout in this session, in which I demonstrate how to begin teaching the Leader Dogs' STAY. Scout has learned this command prior to the video, so she makes the start of it look easy. In fact, as the video opens I ask Scout to STAY so I can put on her working jacket, not unlike what a blind handler would do when putting a harness on her Leader dog. (No, it is not necessary for my puppy to wear her jacket during training, but sometimes it helps to get her focused!)

Andy comes into view to take Gus and Gypsy outside just as I begin working with Scout--she is distracted, but it doesn't take long to get her focused.

Viewing a session like this is helpful in learning to be a better trainer. I can see instances when I transitioned from one command to another a bit quickly, for example; I'll need to slow my pace next time so as not to confuse Scout.

See if you can spot other things I did (properly, and maybe not so) in handling Scout!


HINTS FOR TRAINING STAY (or any other command)

  • Plan a clear objective for your training session, introducing only one new command; in this case, I concentrated on "pushing" Scout with STAY since she already knew it a little.
  • Warm up your puppy. Start with things your puppy knows to help get your puppy to focus on task. Use techniques such as NAME RECOGNITION and finger pokes to get your puppy's attention.
  • Take your time. Give your puppy time to think and decide--count to "three-one-thousand" after giving a command.
  • Say the command ONCE. If, after waiting a few seconds, your puppy isn't sure what to do, place your puppy into position. Do NOT repeat the command, that just teaches your puppy to wait for the third or fourth or fifth reiteration!
  • If your puppy moves out of position, don't say anything, just physically put your puppy back.
  • Don't overwhelm your puppy. Mix "old" commands your puppy knows with the new command you are teaching. Give your puppy a break by releasing her and praising her, then go back to work (Notice in the video I did not drop the leash with the "release.") If your puppy "got it" but starts to backtrack, you've probably worked your puppy too long. Go back to something your puppy knows and end the session on a positive.
  • Make it fun for your puppy and she will be excited about learning--that means praising her for doing what you want! In the video you can see that I vary the intensity of my praise, and reward (and sometimes reassure) with physical contact.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


to the
7th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival (ADBC)

This quarterly carnival started in October of 2010 by blogger Sharon Wachsler on her blog, After Gadget. For more information about just what a blog carnival and the ADBC are, and for links to the six prior issues, check out this link to a post on Sharon's blog:

I am honored to host the 7th issue of the ADBC. Part of my responsibilities is to choose a theme. This is harder than it seems. In struggling to come up with a topic, I first considered the theme of LOSS. Retiring a working dog, making the difficult decision to put down an ill and suffering dog, or returning a puppy to the organization that will teach the puppy its job.

But, April evokes feelings of spring, and new beginnings. I wasn't sure I wanted to tackle such a dark topic in a month that begins with April Fool's day.

It just so happened that on March 1, I received the following comment on my blog page, "Why I Raise Puppies for Leader Dogs for the Blind," from the wife of a Leader Dog handler.

As the wife of a LD partner I can tell you that our lives have indeed been enriched. We are blessed beyond measure and greatly reap the benefits of the work of fabulous volunteers and trainers. As hesitant as I was to have an animal in the house, thanks to all the work it has been smooth sailing. Who knew there was such a thing as doggie etiquette? But thanks to the teaching that our LD come to us with, there hasn't been much to adjust too. But there have however been a lot of things to love about having a LD around. You all really make it easy for us non-partners to get accustomed to having a LD around.

The concept of the effect of a working dog on family members of the handler had never occurred to me before. It got me to thinking about some of the things the family must adjust to by having a dog in the house, where perhaps there had never been. Feeding, "parking," dog hair, vet bills--even the new independence of the the handler might prove challenging for some. Luckily for my commenter, the effect of her husband's new partner proved to be an easy adjustment, and a positive one at that!

As for myself, accepting my career-changed puppy, Gus, back into our home had an unexpected effect. The addition of Gus increased our four-legged family members to three (my old mutt Gypsy, and my 4th Future Leader Dog puppy, Scout).

Three big dogs is something to manage when it's time for taking a walk, or traveling. Our recent trip to Green Bay, WI via the U.P. brought home the effect of having three, instead of two, dogs--a "lifestyle" change we didn't anticipate!

Couple all this with being the "writer" that I am, I decided to play around with those pesky words, "affect/effect."

How's that for an April Fool's topic?


Which word do you use?  Here are some definitions that might help you decide.

Affect: (noun) used in psychology, emotion or desire as influencing behavior or action, a psychological term referring to an observed emotional state, After surgery, still under the influence of the anesthetic, my puppy wagged her tail without affect. (transitive verb) have an effect on, make a difference to; touch the feelings of someone, move emotionally, a more general term that suggests moving one to tears or some other display of feeling, The affecting blog post about the loss of a working partner.

Effect: (more common as a noun than "affect") a change as a result of something, Helping raise a Future Leader Dog puppy has had a positive effect on my nieces., (verb) cause something to happen, Leader Dogs for the Blind effected a list of "In-for-Training" standards to give puppy raisers a training goal.

Affect and effect are both nouns and verbs, but the word effect is used more often as a noun than is the word affect. Affect as a noun is most often related to the field of psychology. And, the two words are used differently as verbs--affect means "produce and effect on" or "influence," whereas effect means "bring about." (Seems like a small difference to me.)

I don't know about you, but even with all these examples, I still get confused with AFFECT/EFFECT.

So, in spite of that, how has working with, training, or being exposed to a working dog affected your life, or those of your loved ones? Has the introduction of a service dog or puppy-in-training had a positive or negative effect on your family members?

Use AFFECT/EFFECT any which way you please. Just have fun and let us now the effect of your experience in the assistance dog world!

Who can submit posts?
From Sharon's initial post about the ADBC:
Anyone who meets these criteria can submit a post:
  • You have a blog (or someone who will let you post on their blog);
  • Your post relates to the topic of guide, hearing, or service dogs (including psychiatric service dogs, autism service dogs, medical alert dogs, and any other task-trained assistance dog), even if your blog is not typically about assistance dogs;
  • Your submitted post relates to the theme for that particular issue.
  • Note: You do NOT need to be an AD partner (or puppy raiser or trainer, etc.), to contribute. Any blogger, regardless of whether you are affiliated with the assistance dog community or not, can submit.
  • Note: Although it is not required, you are strongly encouraged, if you do submit a post, to make the post and your comments section as accessible as possible to people with diverse disabilities.[1]
In other words, posts can be about puppy raising, service-dogs-in-training (SDiTs), assistance dog programs/schools, retired SDs, perspectives on ADs from people with disabilities not partnered with ADs, or anything else relating to the topic of assistance dogs. Posts from personal blogs as well as from AD organization blogs are welcome.

To participate in the 7th ADBC, make a comment on this post with the following information:
  1. The name of your blog (example, "plays with puppies")
  2. The title of your ADBC post (example, "The startling effect of puppy-breath")
  3. The link (URL) to your ADBC post (example, "http://yourblogname/postname")

"Captcha" is disabled on my blog, but I do monitor comments. Please be patient for the publication of your comment. If you'd rather email your post, send it to pattibrehler (at) gmail (dot) com.

The deadline for the 7th ADBC is April 25th, so you have six weeks to submit a previous post that fits the theme at hand, or (preferably), write a new one!

I will compile and publish all submissions on April 30. (If you can't make the deadline, let me know and I'll add it as soon as you get your post "live.")

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Winter Break - Take 4 Rosie gets run over

Rosie lies on the living room rug working away on a previously-chewed Nylabone. FLD Scout wanders over, eases into a down, and faces Rosie.

Rosie immediately lets loose the Nylabone; it hits the floor with a muffled thud. Rosie gazes at Scout, who glares intently back at her.

Two black Labs lie sphinx-like in a nose-to-nose, mirror image stare down.

Hey, look at Scout and Rosie, I say to the girls and Andy, all of us lounging around on our comfortable couches. (I think the girls like that we ordered DishNet TV.) My mention of their two names does not cause either to look away. It's a wonder our five pairs of watching eyes doesn't break the spell.

Do I hear our clock strike the quarter hour and then the half? It seems that long, before...

We startle when Scout strikes like a snake to snatch the Nylabone from between Rosie's paws, but Rosie barely flinches.

Scout and Rosie's clacking teeth might be intimidating to those not familiar with dog behavior. But they really are playing!

Gus gets into the act the next morning.

"Rosie, come on, let's go!"

"No, not THAT way--over here!"

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Winter Break - Take 3 Harmony

When Natalie started to practice, baritone notes careened off knotty-pine walls and our house echoed like a sound box on steroids. Sofia ran downstairs to snatch her trumpet and join in.

Quite the concert ensued, missing only the round sounds of Elaina's French horn.

I don't know why she didn't join in.

Nat and Sofia belt it out.
As if losing interest, Natalie slid to the floor from her perch on Andy's desk chair. Sofia  continued alone, tooting to class-lesson music spread precariously on the metal stand.

Suddenly, Sofia's tune turned peppy. Nat started bouncing along on her b*tt, the baritone nearly engulfing her.

It was like her fingers had a mind of their own. They danced on the valves. She licked her lips and kissed the mouthpiece with a smack. A jazzy slew of notes erupted, weaving in and out of Sofia's structured song.

Sofia and Natalie share a magical moment. Gypsy rolls her eyes.

Always the critic, Gypsy wasn't impressed.

But I was.

FLD Scout wasn't sure. Here she checks out that shiny thing that makes noise.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Winter Break - Take 2 Haiku

winter break in the "patch"

girls sleep in too long
black Lab alarm clock trio
brings the dead to life

Sofia and Elaina are up before Natalie. They decide she's had enough sleep and send the pups downstairs.

Natalie doesn't know what hit her. Scout howls "Get up!"

Gus and Elaina report, "Mission accomplished!"

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Winter Break - Take 1

On a crispy winter-break morning, Elaina said, "I'm going for a run. It's conditioning for soccer." Natalie wanted to run with her. I said, Why don't you take Rosie?
Sofia said, "I'll walk," and agreed to take Gus. He's a very good walker, I told her.
I came along with FLD Scout, who, on this particular morning, wasn't a very good walker.
I don't think she liked seeing Rosie leave us in the dust.
Sporting a white and black panda hat, Sofia and Gus wait for me and FLD Scout.
It is exactly one mile from our house on the top of the hill south to Wiltse Road. Elaina, Nat, and Rosie were a half-mile gone before I caught up to Sofia and Gus, who waited patiently for me to walk Scout backwards every time she put tension on the leash.
FLD Scout and I never made it all the way to Wiltse Road.

Elaina smiles, in spite of her hill effort coming back from Wiltse Road.
Elaina came charging up the first hill on her return mile. Natalie trudged behind with Rosie. There are no hills like these in their downstate suburban neighborhood.
My nieces lead the's uphill home, from every direction!
FLD Scout and I turned homeward--I figured with all my backwards-walking I got the distance in.

Go on ahead, I said to Sofia and Natalie. We'll get there.
My three nieces (and Rosie) came north with Andy when he came home from downstate business one Sunday night in February. Their mom, my sister Anne, would be up later in the week to spend a couple of relaxing days and then drive them back in time for weekend soccer games. Get ready for some picture-tales of our fun-filled week!