Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hardy and I Spent Sunday Afternoon at A Dog's Life in Chesterland, OH

Hardy and I had the wonderful opportunity to "meet and greet" customers on behalf of Canine Affair Center at  A Dog's Life, in Chesterland, OH, Sunday. Unlike many service dog handlers, I don't normally take my SD or SDiT to pet stores (like PetSmart or Pet Supplies Plus) because I've seen too many ill-behaved dogs in those stores. In fact, I have come down an aisle and found a small dog whose person was at the end of a flexi while standing in a different aisle. However, A Dog's Life has a nice large space in the middle of the store as well as a big office at the back I knew we could retreat into if things got too crazy while we were there. 
All in all, we had a wonderful time! When we first arrived, the store was very quiet so I did some clicker training - among other things, reminding Hardy that "go to your mat" means the same thing even when we're in the middle of a retail store filled with all sorts of wonderful dog-related items! Once the store got busy, Hardy did lovely down stays while waiting to see if someone wanted to say hello to him. If they did, I released him and told him to "go say hi". He especially enjoyed having some friends stop by and turned himself inside out when he saw his Border Collie friend, Xen! When I told him "that's enough", he settled right back down and went back to his down stay. Our friend, Mary (from Canine Affair) came and spent some time with us. And when a Papillon came into the store and barked at Hardy, he looked at Mary as if to ask her why he was doing that! 
Being in the store provided some wonderful opportunities - walking through the aisles filled with dog food, toys and treats without checking any of them out and doing a "paws up" at the counter with "Uncle Ted" and Michelle providing treats as a reward! At one point a number of loud, less-controlled dogs came in and Hardy and I retreated to the office. We came home with a couple toys and new treats (chicken jerky)! Hardy would love to go back and hang out again real soon!
Hardy practicing "paws up" at the counter 

Hardy's really sure he could learn to use the cash register!

Do you need some help, "Uncle Ted"? Or do you have any more treats?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hardy's 16 months old now, what does that mean?

Hardy just turned 16 months old and is headed towards sexual maturity. He's gone through a couple brief fear periods before but apparently has now hit another one that is late onset and more severe. This has manifested itself with him reacting to things that have never bothered him before - unusual noises and changes in his environment. His most annoying manifestation has to do with the doorway to our bedroom. We put a gate up to keep the Labs in or out and I'm sure that at one time awhile ago when it was leaning in the doorway, it fell when Hardy was going past it. But that has never bothered him until now ... suddenly, he won't go through or past the doorway by himself! Sometimes you have to go through or past it with him and sometimes you can call him. Other doorways don't bother him; just the one, but it is still a nuisance. We will work through it but we are also working hard to keep him out of situations which might frighten him. And of course, since we don't know what he will react to, that can be challenging. In all other ways he continues to be a calm, bomb-proof young man with a lovely, kind temperament. 
We've been working on naming objects, retrieving specific items and carrying things. Hardy has no qualms about carrying items made of any type of material. He picks up his metal bowl for me which is nice! We've been using the book, The Clicked Retriever by Lana Mitchell, which has been very helpful! 
On a lighter note, we spent the weekend at our first AKC Agility trials. Laurel and I were entered in Novice A Jumpers with Weaves & Standard. Hardy came along for the ride. Hardy was wonderful! We had him in a soft side crate for the first time at a trial. He just calmly handled everything - all the other (and in some cases, crazed) dogs, the people, being in a crate for 90% of the time and being all by himself some. He got lots of compliments for his looks and excellent behavior!
Although I was really nervous about our first venture into AKC agility, Laurel and I had a blast! I thought the courses were fun, fair and reasonable! In our favor, each of the JWW courses began with a tunnel (which meant no start line stay and allowed me to catch up with Laurel by the 2nd obstacle). From her point of view, this was a class created just for her - jumps, lots of jumps, weaves and tunnels (all of her favorite things!) We Q'd with a first place in JWW each of the 3 days which meant that Laurel went home with the title of NAJ (and no, I don't know what that stands for - maybe Novice Agility Jumpers?) 
We also tried Standard, which features jumps, weaves, tunnels, the pause table, & 3 contacts (dog walk, A-Frame & teeter totter). The first day, I made mistakes outside the ring prior to even beginning the course. I brought Laurel out of her crate and over to the other side of the building (where the Standard ring was) too early; thought I knew what dog we were after, got Laurel all ready and finished up her treats only to discover there was another dog before us. It didn't help that the dog was a very frantic, excited Border Collie who barked the entire time. We were right up at the gate (like we were supposed to be) and poor Laurel started bouncing and whining. I knew I had lost her before we got in the ring. I've seen the video and it doesn't look nearly as bad as it felt but I hated to know that she was feeling stressed and anxious when we were doing something that is just for fun. We didn't Q because Laurel jumped off the A-Frame without touching the yellow contact area on the bottom part. The next 2 days' Standard runs were much better and more fun for both of us but Laurel continued to avoid the yellow portion of the A-Frame so no Qs there. However, seeing the photos and videos of her going around each course with a big smile on her face and a very waggy tail makes it all worth while! I hope Hardy develops that same love for our favorite fun activity!
Although these were definitely "dog activities" and not "working ones" for either Labrador, Laurel continued to do any task I asked of her and alerted for muscles spasms while we were there. Hardy is beginning to catch on to tasks when we are out and about but this was a very crowded, distracting place for him to practice and I was pleased with his progress. Also, Sunday night, Hardy woke me with an alert & was persistent in not letting me go back to sleep. I went out to the family room and he can and lay on the floor next to me. I believe that was the first time he has awakened me to alert (I don't need them that often and Laurel has always covered it), so I'm very proud of my young man! Great job, Labradors!