Yara Goes to the Mall

I woke up this morning thinking I’d beat my alarm and since Yara wasn’t being all crazy excited I figured I would just roll over and wait for it to go off. Except I ended up falling asleep and it turns out I’d forgotten to set my alarm last night so I ended up sleeping until 7:30 a.m. Oops! Yara was very happy when I finally crawled out of bed. She’s always so enthusiastic when I wake up and I have to get her to calm herself before I can take her off tie-down and put her leash on. She has to rub all over me and flip around on her back and jump around with her bone a bit.

For her breakfast, I mixed more of the canned food with her kibble and she ate nearly all of it. One thing is certain, she’s not turned off by the smell of Abady because that canned stuff smells pretty raunchy, too. At least she’s eating more regularly. It really helps getting a schedule down. Since she was good and did all her business and ate so well, I gave her a bit of free time before Megan got here while I tried to wake myself up enough to get dressed and all that. I hate waking up late, I just feel all discombobulated for the rest of the day.

Anyway, Megan and I went downtown and took a decently long walk for some outdoor work. It’s warmed up a bit and even though it snowed some last night most of the ice and snow had melted or been cleared away. There weren’t many people out being so early on a Saturday, so it was pretty basic and straight forward curb to curb stuff. Yara did extremely well. She got distracted by a few people, but never anything really bad. Even when Megan ran off ahead to try and distract her, she still responded to just my verbal correction to keep her pace. In fact, she’s so super cautious and attentive that she slows way down if I just misstep or falter. She’s such a sweet girl. It’s cute.

Afterwards, as the title suggests, we went to Rotterdam Square Mall! First we did some obedience stuff with Megan trying to tempt Yara to break her stays. Since we were right by the food court we had quite a few people milling past and I think some people walking must have thought: “What the heck are these women doing to that dog?” It must have looked very bizarre.

After that we walked the length of the mall just to see how Yara would do. She slammed my shoulder into one of those display window walls that kind of jut out, but other than that she did terrific. She was a little distracted by all the people, especially the kids, but she got back on task fairly quick and relatively easy. I love that she tries to walk me on the right, rather than Dolly who always curved to the left and made me walk against everyone. Of course, with Dolly’s left side thing, I always got to part people like the Red Sea and that’s always fun and amusing!

On our way back, Megan ran ahead and tried to set up some distractions and pedestrian obstacles and the like. Yara was great and extra cautious and I’d have to prod her along. I have to remember to not be all “GEB-minded” and use the leash so much to encourage her since she’s so sensitive it seems to make her get stuck more than move her along, but some training habits are a bit harder to learn anew.

Having finished our mall tour, we had some lunch in the food court and talked about some plans for next week. I couldn’t help but comment on everyone’s reactions to the dog while we ate. Especially this one mom who walked by with her kids and said plain-as-day to her children as she pointed at Yara lying down at my feet, “Look! That doggy is working!” I’m sure her little kids had no understanding of what she meant. I know when I was a child I never would have understood how much “work” it is for a dog to be so well behaved in such a crowded place, especially with food involved. And really, lying on the floor hardly seems like work anyway. The thing about kids, I’ve learned, is they have one of two reactions to seeing a guide dog: total shock and awe at seeing a dog or complete and absolute fright, usually resulting in abruptly bursting into tears. I always feel bad about scaring little kids with my guide dog and we gave a few children a bit of a fright while we walked through the mall and later at Hannaford’s. It’s pretty jarring to just see a dog out in a store in the first place, and I imagine that is much more so the case when the dog is so very big in comparison to you!

Before heading back home, we went to Hannaford’s so I could pick up a few things. Yara got to practice some more heeling behind a cart and she was actually exceptionally well behaved today. She only whined once and that was at the checkout and I think it was partially at the injustice of not being able to sniff at the display of potato chips or something at the foot of the conveyor belt. Again, she was a bit solicitous with people around the store, but for the most part nothing too bad. She’s still not half as bad as Dolly with the people distractions and Megan said exactly my thoughts later that she believes Yara will just get used to it as time goes on. She suggested that over the weekend when I take Yara back to the mall to just take some time to sit on a bench and let her just be in a sit or a down and watch people without letting her get all friendly and stuff. We’re hoping that by doing so, she’ll be able to get her focus and not be so easily excitable by everyone around her.

Once we were back home, Megan and I worked on some more obedience things. She showed me some practical applications for targeting, like how to use it to get Yara into harness or how to recall her. We also worked some more with go lay down and stays, increasing the distance I walk away from her and having Megan try and distract her out of the command. In short, Yara and I have lots of homework to do on our two days “off!”

Can’t believe our first week is already over. It really flew right by! I’ve got to say, I’ll be a bit sad when next week is over. Training can be very fun, if not entirely exhausting.

Good Dog. Bad Dog.

In the continuing saga of Yara and her food, I mixed in the canned wet food with the untouched kibble from this morning. She seemed very interested in what I was doing with her food, and kept trying to sneak her nose under my arms while I was at the counter. I took that as a good sign and even though she was still hesitant to eat, much to my surprise she cleaned out her entire bowl! Yay!

Later, after we worked on some obedience exercises, I gave her some free time. While I was in my office checking my email I heard some unidentifiable noise. I called for Yara and headed off to discover the origin of the noise, only to be greeted with the sounds of said dog drinking out of my toilet. The little sneak managed to knock open the bathroom door!

Just goes to show, no matter how well trained guide dogs are. At the end of the day, they are still dogs through and through.

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?

EDIT: Oh, for those of you reading this via syndication, let me remind you to please comment here on the website. Syndicated entries are automatically deleted after an indefinite amount of time and I don’t get any notification of comments left elsewhere like LiveJournal, so I likely will not see them.

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.