'Emmit' continues to turn heads
Emmit is 6 months old now and is as tall and almost as long as our old Labrador. The hefty size of his paws, considerably larger than our Labs, tells us that theres still some growing yet to happen. The combination of the sweetest Golden face on the planet (nah, were not partial), gorgeous fur with flourishing waves and twirls, and his beautiful white coat, with hints of beige and yes, a splash of red! under his chin, causes feet to stop in their tracks, heads to turn, and hands to reach out in desperation to pat.
Emmit always accompanies us as we make our usual weekly round of errands to the bank, the supermarket, the pharmacy and our favorite coffee shops and restaurants. The employees know Emmit, address him by name and leave their jobs for a minute or two to shake his paw and ask about him. I guess you would say that Emmit is becoming somewhat of a celebrity in our district.
'Emmit' shops for his 'five + a day' at New World
We visited Arrowtown Primary School for the second time a few weeks ago. The children could hardly believe that this long and lanky adolescent dog was the same wee furball who visited their school a few months ago. Back then, Emmit knew only 3 commands and was easily distracted by the noise and activity. At this second school meeting, he demonstrated 20 commands and then walked calmly in a heel position through the rows of children sitting on the floor right at his nose level. The children had written stories about Emmit and on this second visit, a few of the students read their stories out. The childrens words reflected so well their understanding that Emmits special mission in life is to help someone with physical disabilities.
Other socialisations this past month included the movie theatre, the musical Grease and our weekly dance class.
When his working vest comes off, Emmit revels in his off-duty outings. These include walks on the Lake Hayes Circuit Trail with the occasional splash in the water, Tobins Track, the Gibbston Kawarau River Trail and the Arrow River Loop.
Progress on Commands and Behaviour
In the last journal entry we wrote that two new commands being introduced were back and fix it. He now does these commands very well but will need continued review to keep them fresh. We have recently introduced the commands side, roll, snuggle, tug (as play), and go to (someone). Judy has been teaching snuggle, and shes in pure bliss having the opportunity to give gentle bear hugs to this sweet boy several times a day, all in the name of training.
Emmit is having trouble learning tug (as play). Grant has rigged up a rope with a knot on the end. As the rope hangs vertically, Emmit takes it in his mouth but is very reluctant to pull back. With patience, it will happen. Tug is an important command for fully-trained mobility dogs as they are often asked to open doors, cupboards and drawers by tugging on a rope.
Emmit responds reliably to 36 commands now, and we review these frequently to maintain his abilities.
A current training challenge is when Emmit is out on a leash walk with Judy. He knows that shes a soft touch; and therefore, often pulls or wanders losing his disciplined walk position. Judy will need to work on this by taking him out alone on focused walks with good doses of praise and reward when he demonstrates the correct position. Efforts have been made to work on recall away from visiting with another dog. When approaching a dog on a trail walk or on the town footpaths, we sometimes ask the owner if we can take a few minutes for training purposes and use the persons dog as a distraction. People are happy to oblige.
House Manners Challenges
We are pleased to report that rubbish bin diving and laundry sorting described in the last journal entry are no longer issues. However, a new challenge: just in the past week, Emmit has started jumping up on us when hes hungry or hasnt seen us for a while. So, now we are re-emphasizing the commands settle and off.
Emmit has lost all of his baby teeth now, and his big, white permanent teeth are pushing through. Since he is still cutting teeth, we continue to encourage mouthing and chewing on his approved chew toys rather than the corners of his blanket.
Emmit does not like being left alone in the crate. This is probably because we have been too eager to have him with us all of the time. So we are starting to add a few two-hour sessions in the crate every few days. When he whines and barks, we ignore him. He is getting the idea that this noisy behavior will not spring him from the crate. When he becomes calm and quiet, he gets his freedom and lots of praise. This behaviour problem is improving but still needs attention.
A Call for Puppy-Sitters
An important aspect of raising a mobility dog involves the puppy being in another home now and then. This process contributes to the overall development of a well-rounded puppy who can easily adjust to new surroundings and new people. It is also a preparatory exercise for the future transfer from the puppy-raisers home to the trainers home and finally to the recipients home. Since Emmit is the only mobility dog being raised on the South Island, we needed to find or develop a few reliable puppy-sitters. Our approach was to ask the local newspaper to run another news update on Emmits progress with an emphasis on asking for volunteer puppy-sitters.
The article began: Must Love Dogs. This mandate was the only prerequisite we were seeking in our quest to find puppy-sitters. The article went on to say that we could teach interested people everything else they need to know. As a result of the newspaper announcement and a subsequent well-attended informational meeting, we have had three Application for Volunteer Engagement forms turned back to us and have arranged house visits/teaching sessions with the three families. It will take several sessions with the volunteers to teach them the basics about puppy-sitting a mobility dog, but we feel confident that we have found some conscientious, enthusiastic people who yes love dogs!
This brings to a close Emmits Journal entry for June. Our next posting will be in August, and well have news of Emmits experiences and adventures with his puppy-sitters.
Judy and Grant
Posted: Sat 21 Jun 2008
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