Monday, June 23, 2014

Shaping Up

One of the most important things when training a puppy is consistency.  This applies to every aspect of everything you ever do with your pup: consistently doing body handling, consistently giving them their required 6+ hours of kennel time per day, consistently having the same expectations for good behavior.  

I have had a busy, busy couple weeks, and Moray has not been getting public outings as consistently as he is used to.  I took him out for the first time in a little while the other day, and realized he was rather sloppy in his public behavior.  That is no fault of his own; it's just the way life is sometimes.  So today we headed out for some "get your act together" work.  ;)  

Target is usually our go-to for a low distraction outing where we can practice various skills.
 We started out just walking around and making sure Moray could keep a nice "heel" position no matter how fast or slow I walked.  He prefers to trot wherever he goes, so this has been one area that we have had to work hard on through his whole life.  Because I do have to keep on him for heeling, loose leash walking has never been a skill that seems effortless with him.  But he does well as long as I keep 100% focused on him, so I'll take it!
We did some distraction work by walking back and forth down the dog food isle without sniffing anything!
Moray got to practice commands including "up" on different surfaces!
 We also practiced distractions with balls.  Poor Moray was such a good sport while I bounced them around and over him, and rolled them past and into him (gently!).
I pulled out a hula hoop, and Moray was a little unsure of it, but with the help of some treats, he performed some commands in it, walked through it, and walked next to me while I carried it.  It is important for a future service dog to be comfortable while their human carries anything from grocery bags, to bulkier items too!
"Down" in the hula hoop!
 We had a little fun with a skate board too!  
While this smiling boy is super cute, as many fellow shopper pointed out, its not all fun and games as all of these seemingly common exposures are super important for his training to make him a confident and well-rounded pup who isn't afraid of anything!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Birthday, what?

On April 14, 2014 Moray turned one year old.  I guess I could say how I can't believe he's a year already, but the truth is, he's now fourteen months.  Yes, FOURTEEN MONTHS OLD.  Where has the time gone?   I seriously want it all back.  My time in months left to raise Moray can now be counted on a single hand.  Where did this 20-week-old-swimming-in-his-big-boy-vest go?
Just shy of 5 months
Moray can be a little slow to catch on to things in some areas, so while it seems progress goes at a snail's pace sometimes, days like today come where his behavior is impeccable on an outing that is several hours long in a crowed mall, and I never had to use a single piece of kibble to regain his attention.  Wowza! It hits me that he could have NEVER done that even a few months ago.
13 months old
Moray Man, as he is affectionally called in our house, has been such a joyful puppy to raise.  We have had our ups and downs and drama, but he is so happy and willing to please.  He has now mastered 29 of his 30 commands (still perfecting that last one), and many of his outings are old hat: i.e., it take some work to find new and challenging places for him to work.  

We have a couple things that we are still working through, and sometimes I get overwhelmed by "how much he can't do," and pressure to check "x," "y," and "z" off my list of Things to Do Before Turn In.  Sometimes *I* just need to step back and look at the long road already behind us and, for once, take my cue from Moray to just live here and now, enjoying every moment on this puppy raising journey, because before we know it, he will be of to his next greatest adventure.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Discovery Park of America

Back in April (yes, we're working our way backwards) Moray came on a field trip to Discovery Park of America.  This is a pretty new museum that is about two hours from where we live and has pretty much anything you can imagine a museum can have.  It is a really cool place, and an awesome training outing for Moray!
Entrance to the park
During the latter half of March and all of April, Moray had a skin infection on his face that started as a result of an abrasion from his gentle leader.  This meant we were not allowed to use a head collar at all for over six weeks.  We got permission to use a martingale collar with him during this time, but if you have any experience with training collars, you know that a martingale doesn't offer nearly the control that a head collar does; which in turn means that the dog has to work harder and show a lot more self control than with a head collar.  It was kind of frustrating at times to have that option taken away, but it was a great time for Moray to really develop his self control all on his own.

Our field trip landed right in the middle of this, and with it being a popular spot for school tours, and lots of people and kids there that day, Moray was pushed to his limit and really stretched in his ability to stay focused on me.  But he proved himself well and did fantastic all day. The museum only opened last November, and one of the docents told me that Moray was the first service dog he has seen come through and that we set a very good example for all the rest.  Yay!  I don't think there's a higher compliment for a raiser and puppy in training than that. 
The first thing that Moray saw was a mini aquarium.  This was the first time he has seen fish tanks, and he was so interested, but still collected himself well.

In the bubble!
We took a few minutes to just sit and watch all the busyness going on.  In new places, its often most productive to let them take it all in before you ask them to participate and work throughout the crazy.  
There were TONS of school field trips there and lots of kids running around.  I'm not a fan of doing these types of things because kids often try to get all over Moray without permission, but I was pleasantly surprised by their behavior and we only had a handful of drive-by pettings that we had to deal with.  

One of the coolest things they have there is an earthquake simulator.  Moray got to go in with us and it was really good for him!  He was slightly startled at the movement at first but, did well, as I praised him throughout.
In the earthquake simulator with my mom
Moray also got to learn about glass elevators, stopping frequently to look at exhibits while weaving through lots of people, playing dress-up, waiting (with my mom!) for me at the bottom of a huge slide, and even aquatinted himself with several dinosaurs! 

Can anyone name the object in the picture?!

"Up" on a meteorite! 

Heat sensor, anyone?

There was also a huge section of the museum that was outside that we got to explore.  Moray was a little distracted by some geese and ducks he saw, but did very well, and was so exhausted by the time we headed home!

Uh oh...

A "challenge" started by our friend Monica!