Dog Food and Pine Hills

As I mentioned yesterday, Megan suggested adding some cookie treats to Yara’s dinner last night. We both figured there was a good possibility Yara would just eat around the kibble; however, she did one better than that, she ate all the cookies and spit all the kibble into her water. This morning I tried feeding it to her dry, just to see how she’d react and again she wouldn’t touch it. She chugged down water, though, and then vomited it up all over my kitchen floor.

I hate to say it, but I’m beginning to think Yara’s not a big fan of Abady.

Anyway, I talked with Megan about it and she suggested adding some canned food tonight. We picked some up during our route today at Price Chopper, so we’ll see what happens.

For today’s training we went to the Pine Hills area of Albany where I used to live. I really love this area because it’s still very residential and yet a very accessible part of the city. As we had hoped, the sidewalks were very clear and I got to really work Yara on her curb stops since she’s kind of hesitant to get right up there. Apparently she thinks I have about another foot of length in my legs. We got to work lots of obstacles, too, as it appears to have been trash day. Yara is very cautious with obstacles which is good in the sense that she’s not barreling by and walking me into things, but it’s a bit of a chore prodding her along sometimes. I have to keep remembering I’m not in a rush to get anywhere so it’s okay to stop and take my time with her.

We did some indoor work at Price Chopper. We worked on follow with Megan walking ahead of us and weaving around. Yara was a little distracted at times, but she was very good. We also did some work with heeling behind the cart. Like Dolly, or any guide dog really, she had a bit of trouble not treating it like an obstacle to go around, but she got the idea pretty quick and I think eventually got bored just walking around and started up that whining thing of hers. I will say she is a ton better about the whining than she was on our first day, but it’s still super annoying.

After that we had some lunch at the Subway food court on Madison and I was quite pleased with how well she was. She’s just a tiny bit solicitous, but she’s got nothing on a Labrador retriever. At the table she was just perfect and didn’t make a peep while Megan and I ate our food.

Once we were back home, Megan showed me our new obedience stuff for the day: come to heel and come around. The come around is a new one for me to wrap my head around. At GEB they were always against the “cheating” come where you switch hands with the leash and after awhile you get so used to your dog being on the left anyway you don’t even question it. We also worked a bit with Yara about grooming. Oh, she’s such a brat about it! I admit, I was spoiled with Dolly, she may have hated all of that stuff like grooming and having her teeth brushed but she just stood there and tolerated it. Granted she wore an expression that plainly said it was torture, but she never put up a fight about it. Yara, on the other hand, just gets really mouthy and starts being very silly when I start brushing her in more sensitive areas like her tail. It’s funny, but also kind of annoying at the same time.

Speaking of the furry one, she’s groaning in her sleep beside me!

For part of tomorrow’s training, we’re going to the mall and then grocery shopping. Who says guide dog training has to be all work?

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Free at Last

What a fun and tiring day!

We walked a slightly different route downtown today and got to practice some more turns and halts. We also incorporated a bit of steady to both avoid slipping all over on the ice and also to ease her force when pulling in harness. Yara’s very responsive to verbal commands so I found it totally unnecessary to use the harness cues to get her to slow it down. I really like that, Dolly was always very hard to get to slow down and it used to drive me insane when I was walking on less than perfect ground. Megan told me later that she is very happy with our progress and while there’s still a lot to do she can see the foundation there to build on. She’s noticed both Yara and I seem more settled and relaxed with one another and I fully agree.

Yara’s being very finicky with eating. I’ve been saving what she hasn’t finished and mixing in new food and last night she dug through her food and mostly ate the fresher kibble. This morning she didn’t touch her food. So I decided that tonight I’ll try all new food and I tossed the leftovers. I talked with Megan about it and she seemed to think it’s a sound idea, she even suggested mixing in some of the “cookies,” or meat treats, Fidelco provided me to further entice Yara to eat.

Today’s obedience included working on leave it and both sit-stay and down-stay. With the leave it exercise Megan would distract Yara with a treat and I would tell her to leave it and then get her to target me. We increased the complexity a bit and I think Yara had some fun working her way through our logic. She’s so funny sometimes, she gets so excited and starts anticipating what we want and she’ll just plop her butt down into a sit right on top of my foot! Megan seems pleased with us, she said that Yara’s very attentive to me and looks right at me when I give commands. Very good indeed.

Yara lying on the floor with her back against my dresserOh, and we tried using a prong collar today. Yara’s much easier to control with it both in and out of harness. And unlike the gentle leader she isn’t so incredibly distracted by it. Megan mentioned that as time goes on I probably won’t need anything more than the flat martingale-style collar that Yara always has on and judging from how responsive and eager she is, I tend to agree.

The pièce de résistance for all of us, I think, came afterwards when we let Yara have some free time! We both expected her to tear around the house like crazy and she did do a bit of jumping around and running about as we all walked through the house from my bedroom to the living room. But as soon as Megan and I were sitting on the sofa, she came over and settled herself down by the coffee table near us. Both Megan and I were quite impressed. She’s calmed down so much in such a short time. Megan said I should feel free to give her more free time tonight and tomorrow morning with a few stipulations such as making sure she’s fully relieved and keeping a good watch over her. So, after Megan left and Yara had been given a drink of water and been taken out to “park,”1 I gave her another bit of free time.

Free time for Yara seems to equal nap time. The photo above is horribly dark, I know. It’s very hard for me to take pictures with my cell phone so I’m extra poor with the photographic skills, but I wanted to share it regardless because (a) it cracked me up and (b) you can see her belly! The pictures make her look more darker and black than she really is, but that’s because my cell phone isn’t really a great camera.

Tomorrow we’ll be doing some work in Albany, most likely in the Pine Hills area where I used to live. I think we’re also going to go out to lunch and see how Yara does in a restaurant.

  1. Spell it backwards.

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I Saw It! My Girl Has a Belly!

“I think Yara’s in love.” Megan said to me as I rubbed an exposed white-and-gray GSD belly after we had completed our training regimen for the day. Yara really is very adorable when she’s not bouncing off the walls or trying to drag me around. I was rather surprised when she rolled over while I was stroking her and showed that soft belly to me. She’s just been so anxious and excited, I hadn’t expected her to submit.1 Definitely a good sign.

Today was the first day we worked in harness and it was quite fun. It was also terribly cold. It got up to 28° but it felt far colder, especially when the breeze was blowing. Our first walk was okay, but definitely not amazing. Yara was very excited about everything going on and got distracted and hesitant a fair number of times. And, of course, I’m still trying to get all this stuff down and unlearn what I was taught before. I’m sure I’m hardly helping make things easier on her! She doesn’t pull out in harness with the great force Dolly used to exert, but she walks really fast! Our second walk was much, much better. She was a lot calmer and much more responsive. And after we were through and back home, Megan informed me that she hadn’t bothered to clip her leash on along with me.2

Meaning, we had our first independent route! I’m very proud of us both. Megan said we did “very well” and was quick to point out that we did our first halts all on our own. Go us!

Back inside my far warmer house, Megan and I went over things I can improve on. Fidelco’s positioning and even some command executions are very different than what I learned from Guiding Eyes for the Blind, so I need to work on that a bit. Then we went over some more obedience. We worked a bit more with targeting as well as sits and downs. And then we did some “go lay down” exercises, which seemed to make Yara quite happy as it involved her bed.

A very productive day, I must say! I think Yara would agree, but as she fell asleep while I typed this she’s unable to say so specifically.

  1. Being a Labrador retriever, Dolly all but throws her belly at you. She’s always been very passive and incredibly submissive.
  2. Guide dog training usually starts with the instructor slowly handing over control of the dog to the handler and one specific technique is to keep their leash on the collar along with the handler’s.

The Terrible Twos

Yara a dark sable German shepherd dog, is pictured lying on the floor looking off to the left.Pictured on the left is my new furry companion, Yara. She’s just over 28 months and, as to be expected, very much a two-year-old dog.

Yesterday was a pretty laid back day. We didn’t do too much beyond letting her explore the house and some basic obedience. Not surprisingly, I learned that I’m not so great about “dog-proofing.”1 Yara discovered all kinds of stuffed animals to try and chew, fish food to sniff, and all manner of things to knock off shelves and tables. Her tail is very long so this isn’t much of a surprise, but it’s clearly going to be an adjustment to have such a young dog again. She’s also quite the whiner, which I found out is rather a common German shepherd thing. Thankfully, she gave me a bit of a reprieve towards the end of the day because I never would have gotten to sleep!

Megan gave me a bit of information overload, I think, but we went over everything from basic care to putting the harness together. One thing I learned was how to “target” with Yara, which is something of a game that Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation uses. I need a bit of practice. We also worked a bit with using a gentle leader on Yara. I found it gave me more control over her when she was being especially exuberant or “mouthy.” I’m not sure Yara enjoys having it on all that much, though.

Today, we do harness work for the first time. Currently it is 23°F and it’s not going to get much warmer! There’s a chance it may even snow!

  1. Dolly has spoiled me.