Saturday, August 17, 2013

Patricia McConnell; Update on Dorian at Guide Dog U

Speakers Steve White and Patricia McConnell (rather blurry).
Last weekend I got to meet one of Dog-dom's greatest - Patricia McConnell - PhD and author of numerous books on canine behavior and training, including "The Other End of the Leash." She spoke for most of Saturday and I was totally riveted by her charm, wit and scientific knowledge based on dog and animal behavior research. The seminar was attended by a broad mix of dog trainers, shelter and rescue workers, pet owners and surprisingly, a few zookeepers!

The second day Steve White, a K-9 police officer of 25+ years and founder of Proactive K9 Dog Training, spoke on problem-solving. He was amazing as well. Patricia McConnell introduced him as the police officer "you want to have show up at your door." As he looked across the room of several 100 people, he remarked that the majority were women. Twenty years ago, he said, the room would have been full of men instead. His reasoning for the gender-shift is that there has been a fundamental shift in dog training from the use of power to control a dog, to the use of positive reinforcement instead. Interesting!

The seminar was a huge hit. I got three cherished books signed by Trisha, came home and immediately applied some of the principles I learned. In the midst of all the travels and the seminar, I also received Dorian's third training report. In mid-April he had gone back to the school at Southeastern Guide Dogs, Florida to start his final round of training. He has now been there four months and below is shown some of his recent progress.

First, a month ago I received his June training report (#2).
Dorian with SEGD trainer Joe Menendez.
Here are the school's comments:
COMMENTS- Dori is an exceptional dog; he is a quick learner and easy to handle. I hope he was as easy on leash for you as he is being for the trainer! He is still enjoying life with his buddies in the kennel, although he can get loud at times when he wants to get out training!  

I had to laugh at the trainer's remark about their hoping Dorian was easy on leash for me. Actually, my New Year's resolution when Dorian was almost one year old, was to get him to walk nice on a leash and quit repeatedly stopping and sniffing. The school trainers gave me suggestions on this, but it still took about six weeks of walking him every morning to work him through it. Still I am pleased to see the hard work has paid off!

Next, in mid-July, a group of puppies was called back to start their training, known at the school as In For Training Day. Touching pictures of the puppies saying good-bye to their raisers were posted on the school's Facebook page. In amongst the photos are two pictures of Dorian, and I was surprised to discover he was one of the dogs chosen from the training kennel to do blindfold walks with visitors and raisers.

The photo to the left shows Dorian doing a blindfold walk on July IFT Day. Dorian's trainer Joe is on the right. Dorian is guiding Paul Wilson of Wilson Van Band, who has done benefit concerts for Southeastern Guide Dogs. This photo and the one above were posted on the school's Facebook page.

 Finally, his recent training report (#3) for July included this comment from the school:
COMMENTS- Dori is now onto the freelance stage of training. He is still progressing well as we have hoped. As I said before he is a quick learner, and VERY easy to handle on leash! I look forward to pushing him to be the best guide he can be and try to keep him on his toes during training. 

I was not exactly sure what freelance training was, so I asked and got this answer back from the school:
 "Freelance" means they are not doing specified, protocol routes; Dori is learning to generalize his training to different areas. It's "trainer's choice" basically and it means that Dori understands the concepts well enough to take his training to different venues. :)   
So in other words Dorian has completed his basic guide dog training and is now working on refining and gaining more experience. It's up to the trainer where that training takes place and what he wants to work the dog on - a more individualized program, so to speak. 

Meanwhile, life goes on with Piper. This week we are working on good sits, where he tucks his butt in when he sits, keeping his front paws stationary, rather than rocking backwards. This is so he can stay in very close range to his future partner. He is a busy boy, so...I am busy too!

Summer hay fields in Virginia. From left:  Piper, Hazel and Wrangell. I love that I captured Wrangell's yawn!

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