Dear Service Dog Diary,
Today was a monumental day. After a month of taking it easy due to being ill (and letting myself be ill — check out my latest post about my CF: Recharge & Refresh), we took life back with a storm. We have gotten back to more rigorous training, but not too rigorous of course. 😉
During the month of taking things easy, we did a lot of work on Finn’s medical alert task. He is definitely progressing in that department. He is now performing his enzyme alert without needing a command. The consistency is something that will come with time and practice. We have also started to add in training in various environments and positions. The training for his alert started with me sitting in the same place and position as I always eat at home. He is now learning that sometimes I might be standing when I eat; sometimes he might be under a table; and sometimes we might not be at home.
The part that I have struggled training with this past month are his more basic obedience commands. We are still in the midst of perfecting his “heel” and “focus” commands. These are two commands that I find to be vital in his public training. He does extremely well in our house (which is to be expected), but is still working on the rest of the world. Our biggest achievement in this department is that I have been able to transition him back to his Easy Walk Harness on casual walks. This is a huge step for us.
Here are the landmark achievements we had today, though…
Finn & I went to the zoo! I was pretty hesitant about bringing him there. Just because it is a place he’s never been before with a lot of factors and distractions. Another concern I had was my health. Was it going to wear me out having to constantly ask for focus and correct his heeling/pulling while walking a lot? We still use the gentle leader when he is working, but it can still be exhausting if he’s having a bad day.
He was fantastic, though! He gave me a “focus” when I asked for it. His heeling was pretty good. I just need to learn to trust him more. I tend to worry about the issues instead of building on the positive steps we make. Thank you to every single person that encourages me! I really needed Finn with me today, and all the constant encouragement gives me strength.
*Just a note: I would NOT have brought him to the zoo if I thought he was going to react to the animals or cause them any stress.
The other achievement, perhaps the bigger one, was that Finn came to clinic for the first time with me today! This was very exciting for me because he will need to be accustom to the inner-workings, strange machines, and general craziness that comes along with hospital life.
I sent Finn home with my sister halfway through the visit because his attention was starting to fade. In all fairness, we had a very long day. I also knew I had much more hustle and bustle left to my day. It wouldn’t fair to push Finn through that when I knew it would just be stressful. He hasn’t worked for a full day yet, and that is something that we need to work up to. Five hours was long enough!
We once had a trainer that taught that we need to set our dogs up for success. This is something that has really stuck with me and shaped my training style. It just makes sense to me. The more successes he has, the more willing he will be to perform those task correctly and consistently.