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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Assistance dog

Yip, yip, yipeeeeeeeeee! Wooooo! As K and I strolled out toward the meadow this morning, a lone coyote serenaded us. It was a perfect morning for a song - frost made the ground crunch under my feet but the sun warmed K's chocolate fur quickly. K and I found a rock and soaked up our concert. So many people hate and fear coyotes. Not me. As long as my dogs don't chase them, I enjoy having them around.
A little later, R and I mountain biked together. But first, R requested that I straighten out a point that has upset him. Some readers assumed that it was R who launched himself at me and sent me into a back flip. In fact, it was not. It was a neighbor dog, a young golden retriever. R has requested that you all notice how mature and poised he looks in the photo below.
In fact, R and I have spent many hours training together since he was diagnosed as having obsessive-compulsive disorder. His training is a mechanism to engage and tire out his brain, and thereby reduce some of his obsessive behaviors. One of the training exercises that we've focused on is off-leash heeling, with a goal of having a solid off-leash heel next to my bike. He has learned it so fast. Below, he was in an off-leash heel at the end of our ride today. I teach a right-side heel because it's most convenient on trails and sidewalks. I am so happy I am that he is learning this key skill for mountain biking!
We also practice the FUN stuff in our training. R thinks that recalls rock! Below, he hurtled toward me through a grove of naked aspen trees.
And, a little later, he abandoned a rabbit search to wend a tortuous route to me through scattered aspen trees, ending with a leap over a fallen limb.
Even at the end of one of these fiendishly fast recalls, R skids to a halt before running into me!

I do some of our training in the evenings, instead of the longish evening hike that we usually take when K is healthy. I train the Duo together. One dog holds a down-stay while I work with the other. I switch between them frequently. Below, the Duo was in training position, except that R appears to have dozed off.
One of the games that we've played recently is "pick up and deliver" any object that I point to. K is VERY experienced at this game because she served as my assistance dog when I had three joints in my lower back fused about five years ago. I couldn't reach anything on the ground for months. K picked up anything that I dropped, including easy things like socks and very tough metal things like spoons or keys.
Or even a stapler...
Really, no object is too tough for K to pick up. R is learning fast, partly because he's jealous that his sister can do things that he can't. I'm focusing on hard plastic objects with R right now and saving the metal ones for a little later. No worries - he's a genius so I'm sure that he'll be picking up hammers and wrenches before I know it!

Training my dogs is so much fun. It is a surprise gift of K's convalescence that I resumed playing training games with the dogs almost every evening.


  1. I can't believe that just a week or two ago, there were beautiful pictures of R running through a golden aspen grove and now they're completely naked!

    R, we never thought that you could possibly have done such a thing! We are a little surprised that you fell asleep during traning games, though!

  2. Your work with R gives me new enthusiasm to work more with Kona (being that they both seem to be trail crazies). Kona made me think of R yesterday on our run. I clipped her off leash to practice recalls and made a wrong move that made Kona think it was time to run up the trail and away from me. She was moving at lightning speed but when I called her, she did a full hockey stop to halt her momentum and run back to me! Yay for training the crazies!

    PS-Kona seems to do fine when I'm away. She stays with my parents (who she loves). I'm so glad that they can help out because I honestly don't think I could go anywhere otherwise.

    I'm looking for a bright base layer to wear for the marathon. It seems like I should wear a tutu or something. I have a couple friends coming to cheer me on, but with so many runners I have no idea how they'll spot me!

    Doesn't K get her cast off soon?

  3. I love the first pic of K!

    We are with you on the coyotes - we admire their energies -

    Merdie and Harley said those Western Goldens are something else!

  4. means ya'll do what ya'll is told? Hmmmmmm...dats all new to me. I takes your word fur da training stuff, it just ain't furs me...though I has trained my hooman quite well.
    Luverly fotos as always!


  5. That header photo really touches me every time I come here:)

    I need to make time to spend working on training the pups, seems like there are just never enough hours in the day or night.

    Great pup photos.

  6. WOW your off leash heeling is great!

    The pick up and deliver training is cool and useful. How do you train that?

    Chasing my tale...
    Addie, Lucie and Hailey

    P.S. Sorry to have scared you a bit with our post. Glad you enjoyed it in the end :)

  7. You must be so pleased with R's progress. He just might be a biking buddy after all.

    We have coyotes around which is not a problem. In fact, for the past two years we have occasionally seen one with only three legs. Don't know what happened, but the it doesn't seem to bother the coyote at all and he looks just as healthy as the four-legged ones. Amazing how adaptable animals can be.

  8. Hi KB
    Thank you for your sweet words on our post.
    We are a little behind right now. Computer is slow, and we only have dial up. So making a nee story takes a long time. I just had a feeling that you would like it.
    The training that you do with the dual is so impressive. I wish I had knowledge and skill of how you do the recall and leave it, and all that "crisis? stuff.
    This little Tweedles in one puggy that is out of hand, compulsiveness too,,( yet, she looks so innocent.)
    K and R are so perfect in our eyes.
    I know you have put a lot of dedicated time into their training.
    We admire that so much.
    Again , we love looking at the beauty of K and R and your awsome world. (coyote songs and all)

  9. We have coyotes in this part of Virginia but I've not heard them--I do enjoy hearing the foxes and seeing them too.

    Interesting that R has OCD--One of our Goldens was thought to have that, and while she shows many of the symptoms, they say she doesn't. But Rudi is very bright active and sensitive, which is why she had 4 homes before she was 2 years old. We've had her for about 7 years now and she's an amazing dog, but was a challenge in the early days.

    ~Stay warm!!~ :-)

  10. sure sounds like a beautiful morning. Nice weather, wildlife, the fresh air!
    Benny & Lily

  11. Our humble apologies to R for assuming he was the jumper; we missed the reference to another dog being on the scene. Sorry, buddy! Should have known you are too well behaved.

    K is truly a wonderdog! Jed loves to eat metal, wood, almost everything, but he's never tried picking up metal items, like keys, and actually returning them. What a novel concept!

    Jed & Abby

  12. Look at that profile! like the head on a greek coin!


  13. The maturity and nobility of R's pose has been well and truly noted.

  14. You have inspired me to work more with my Wally. He's almost 3, but still a puppy at heart and he can't get enough play time/learning time. He's really a much happier pup now!

    I love the close-ups of your pups ... beautiful dogs!

  15. Hi ther,
    Love that you train your dogs!! I have always trained mine too. In the 70's I belonged to a obedience club. Enjoyed your post today!!
    XXOO, Bambi & Fern (her Mom)

  16. K and R
    Ummm I hate to tell you both but it looks more like your in skool with your floor mats... and all kinds of lessons aka "games". hee hee KB is quite the trickery teacher. Nonetheless you are on your way to a great report card- killah recalls, solid stays, and shaped behaviors.. wow. Now mom wants to send me away to your skool. thanks.

    PS- thanks to K & R i have OCD about standing on rocks.

  17. R is looking very handsome and mature. :) Now, if only I could train my hounds to pick things up and bring them to me. That will be the day!

  18. Awesome Pictures of the dogs! Wrinkles will pick up things and bring them to people. She once picked up her dad's work cell phone and put it in the backyard, which sometimes is a good place for the thing.(lol)

  19. Good game! Mom says we should start new things. This may be a good one to do :) Thanks for mentioning it :)

    Mom had to jump in and say she spent 5 minutes ogling R coming through the naked aspens. Absolutely stunning :)

    Waggin at ya,

  20. Raising Addie,

    I train my dogs to pick things up using "shaping". I start with an object that they like to pick up, like a soft toy. I hold it out to them in my hand, and if they move toward it with their mouths, I "click" my clicker or say "yes" (if I forgot my clicker). Then, I give them a treat. Next, they need to actually mouth it to get a click and treat. When they consistently do that, I add the words "take it" as their cue to take an object in their mouths.

    Then, we move up to mouthing it and holding it in their mouths until I tell them to drop it. Finally, I put the object on the ground and have them pick it up and bring it to me. All of this is done with the object that they love to pick up.

    Only when they are super good with easy objects do I move onto objects that they don't like to pick up. I repeat all the steps above, if needed, for a tough object like a ring of keys.

    Eventually, they generalize the behavior so that they will pick up anything without thinking about it.

    I'd be glad to try to answer questions about how to do this. With a retriever, it's not very hard. I don't know about other types of dogs.

  21. What a positive post - but that's how I feel after a great day with my dogs, too! I heard the coyotes today when some sirens drove past. They respond to the sirens in such a definitive way that I wonder if they feel one of theirs has flown past and is lost. To risk howling in midday? Seemed urgent to me. I love coyotes, despite how much others hate them. They are amazingly adaptable and creative.


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