Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A full agenda, inside

April 11, 2014


Starting our training session with the relaxation protocol is a great way to set a calm and attentive atmosphere. Tammy reads instructions to the group and has them vary positions. First the dogs sit, then stand, then relax into a down.

Two men stand with black labs sitting at their left sides. Both men are looking down at the puppies. The first man, on the left, is wearing blue pants and a white t-shirt. The puppy is wearing a baby-blue working jacket and is facing him slightly. The other man on the right is african american and is wearing the blue pants and shirt prison uniform. His puppy is looking up at him. There are lunch tables in the background.
FLDs Baker and Sammy sit next to Cody and Ro.
A man dressed in the prison blue uniform is leaning over a yellow lab, placing a treat in her mouth. The lab is lying on the tile floor, her leash is draped across her front legs. She is wearing panties because she is in heat. A second man is leaning against a lunch table with his hands crossed  at his waist. He is bald with tatoos on his foreamrs, he is wearing green prison pants and a white t-shirt.
Abe gives FLD Zella a treat while Doug looks on. (Zella is wearing panties because she is in heat. Every puppy is a potential breeder for Leader Dogs for the Blind, so they are not spayed or neutered until after they return for training.)


With settled puppies, Tammy has the handlers practice "name recognition." She and I step to each team and lightly distract the puppies with a quiet "Well, hello puppy!" or a soft clap. The goal is that the puppy will look back at the handler when its name is called. One time. All the teams do well. Then Tammy and I approach with a bit more enthusiasm. This is more of a challenge!

A floor-level photo of a young black lab trying to approach the camera. Her right front paw is mid-air. A man, sitting down on a stool attached to a lunch table, is holding the pup's collar in his right hand and her leash in his left. He is wearing a white t-shirt and blue pants with an orange strip. His head and shoulders are out of view. There is another table to the right of the puppy.
FLD Ashley has a difficult time resisting me. Good catch Robert!


One way to "proof" a puppy (checking to see if it knows its commands) is to ask for a behavior from a not-so-typical, not-in-heel position. Think your puppy knows "sit?" Try asking it to sit with your back turned, or from five feet away, or while sitting in a chair or kneeling on the floor. Tammy says this exercise demonstrates where work is needed.

A man is standing on the left side with his back to a black lab. The man is bald and is wearing blue prison pants and a white t-shirt. He has his hands clasped in front of him and is looking over his left shoulder. The puppy is sitting on the tile floor a foot or so behind the man and is looking up at him. The pup's leash is lying on the floor. The puppy is wearing a blue Future Leader Dog bandana. There are several men with their puppies in the background to the right.
Justin peaks over his shoulder at FLD Nell, who sits on cue.


We practice meet and greets and everyone without a puppy gets in on the action. The room is filled with mayhem, but the puppies (for the most part) take everything in stride.

Next up - handler's exams. Tammy and I get the honors of putting our hands on each puppy. We check eyes, ears, teeth, lift each paw and run a slicker brush down their backs. FLD Ashely is very wiggly. "You can support her by her collar," I tell her raiser, Robert. "And try holding some treats in your hand right in front of her nose."

A man is kneeling on his right knee with a german shepherd puppy sitting between his knees. The man is holding something in his right hand above the puppy's snout. The man is looking at the camera, he has a goatee and is bald. He has tatoos on his forearm. He is wearing green pants and a white t-shirt. The puppy's leash is handing down in front of him. There are a few men in the background.
FLD Chewy looks like he is eager for more food!

We also check the puppies' weight using the Purina ® Body Condition Tool. We have the men rate their puppies on a scale from one (severely underweight) to nine (clinically obese). Numbers four and five (ribs can be felt, a waist is visible from above, and there is a "tummy tuck" visible from the side) are "ideal."

Tammy suggests that FLD Chewy's team raise his daily food allotment, as she thinks he feels a bit underweight.


With the idea that training should be fun, Tammy comes up with all sorts of games which challenge the puppies' self-control. Stay tuned...

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