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Friday, November 6, 2015

A Dog Like Eddie

 It has been approximately 8 weeks since I have taken that cute, bubbly, puppy known as Eddie, into my fold and he has been a true blessing.  Eddie belongs to the Helping Paws Organization and is from the E litter also known as the Edge litter, of potential assistance dogs.  If you missed my last posting, Helping Paws enlists volunteer puppy raisers to take a pup for two and a half years and bring it to its full potential. In the end, it will hopefully be trained well enough to become someone’s service dog.

In the short weeks that I have had Eddie, he has learned a kit and caboodle of behaviors and cues which are very diverse, and not what one would learn in a six week obedience class.  There was the 'shaping' of different ways to interact with a plastic tub, to his now known repertoire of cues going in the order below:

“Better Go Now” (to go potty on command)
“Release” (being released from a cue)
“Kennel” ( just as it describes)
“Uh Uh” (stop that behavior)
“Off”  (from jumping up on someone or something)   
“Car”  (getting in the car)
“Wait” ( a brief pause)
“Name” ( Eddie)
“Come” ( as it implies)
“Easy” ( taking something from the hand in an easy manner.)   

When training for general obedience, my normal course would go like this. Teach the dog its name, eye contact (watch me), sit, down, heel, wait, stay, leave it, and come.  Generally one to two commands would be taught a week. We would normally say the dog’s name, lure the dog into a position if needed, give the command, and then click and treat. We also would not start training a dog in public until all puppy shots were done, thus making the dog near or over the 3 month mark. In many instances, people do not take their dogs for training until they are older and more problematic.  

Having gotten Eddie at the age of 7 weeks old, and starting training with him that very week, he has already learned more than what many older dogs would learn in a six to eight week obedience course.

 Through my training with Eddie you will notice that his name was not actually put to a formal cue until pretty far down the list.  We have not, up to this point, done any luring with special treats, rather we wait patiently for the puppy to figure out a behavior we want to see, then click and treat that behavior using his normal daily dose of dog food.  We don’t actually introduce the cue until about a week later, or longer, with the exception of ‘Better go now’, which we use right away, both on leash and off. 

I hate to brag, but Eddie is one very smart little puppy, more than likely due to excellent breeding stock. As I went through his list of 75 cues that he would eventually have to do, I noticed that he is already doing things on that list that I have not asked of him.  For instance, there will come a time when I have to put to cue “go to your bed.”  Since day one, Eddie has been coming into the house and going directly to one of the dog beds in the kitchen, regardless if there is already a dog lying on that bed! He will go to the bed, sit down, sometimes sitting on Brody’s head, and look at me and wait.  I have never asked him to do this, but though I cannot yet put a cue to it, I want to build on that behavior and reward him for it each time.  Sitting was another cue Eddie had been performing from the day I brought him home. He will follow me from room to room and sit in front of me, then look up at me as if to say, “Here I am!”   This is a desired behavior; however that cue has not yet been introduced either.

I am finding it fascinating that though this way of training, to me, seems backwards,  it works just as well, if not better. If the dog is doing the desired behavior on its own and being rewarded for it, we know the dog will repeat that desired behavior for the reward,  and then, we add the cue to it later. In the end, the dog has learned or taught itself a desired behavior for life.  On the other hand in normal obedience training, we put the command to the dog, then lure him into place, and then we are finding at times that we need to repeat our commands more or give more prompts/treats to get the desired behavior. 

At this point, I have to say that I am thrilled to be learning a new way of doing things, and I can see why it takes so long to ready a dog for life long skills to aid a human.  I can also see why normal obedience classes would not work this way for a trainer. The cost would be phenomenal due to the time it takes  and there would be no clientele who could afford it! 

Of course shaping and cues are not the only things going on for Eddie during the week. There is socialization to a variety of people, places, other dogs, sounds, textures, and more. We go through stores with Eddie sitting on his bed in a shopping cart so he can see and hear all that go on. One of his favorite places is Home Depot, where he get lots of loving, and his second would be Target, where on a nice day, he can sit outside the store and greet people, as well as practice his skill of walking nicely beside a cart.
  One day while sitting outside of Target, I  asked an elderly lady  if we could follow her to her car so Eddie could practice walking beside a cart. She was very happy to help us in our mission and we chatted as we walked. It turned out to be a bit longer than we expected as she forgot where she parked her car! Ah, the little smiles in life!

We also go to the lakes so he can experience the texture of the sand, the docks, and the water, as well as see the geese and sea gulls up close and personal.  

 At this point in his life, Eddie seems to like all people he has come in contact with and has only been frightened by a couple of items. One being a bunch of small flags on the church lawn, that seemingly touched him like a bunch of fingers coming up from the ground in a bad Halloween movie, and the other frightening thing was the hollow sounding water drains that run through the sidewalks of town.

How you can help from afar!

This Thursday, November 17, in MN is Give to the Max Day. It is a day for all to come out and support organizations that make the communities stronger.  Eddie and the E litter will be on display to the community showing what they have learned so far.  I am sure there are many wonderful organizations out there but I am partial to this one!

If you have an extra ten bucks to spare, it will go a long way in helping another human to gain a piece of their life that was taken from them through special circumstances or illness. Actually you will be helping more than just one person; a dog such as Eddie can help the whole family in many ways. A dog like Eddie can give a war veteran with PTSD   the strength to take his kids to a park, or to school.  A dog like Eddie can help a person dependent upon a wheelchair and family, to become independent in other ways thereby freeing up some family duties.

10 bucks people!  Compare it. If you drink two cups of Starbucks coffee a day, you will spend 126.00 a month, or 1,533.00 in a year, and 45, 99.00 over 30 years!  

Now, doesn’t ten dollars seem like a real bargain?   Help me to help them!

Click this link to take you to the donation page.  LINK  Type in Helping Paws and the amount you wish to donate.

Click here to see Eddie learning the retrieval of every day household products 

UPDATE: Eddie has come a long way since the above clip when he was just a pup, He can now  retrieve items and place them in my hand, close doors and drawers, turn on lights and remove clothes from the dryer. click here is a short clip of this .