We were the first ones at 4 Paws today and, when we got there, Bomber and one of the Chocolates were working with a trainer in the middle of the room. Bomber started obviously looking at Rosalie and wagging his tail. He was in a "down" and did end up breaking command, BUT it was to come directly to Rosalie! Later in the morning, Jeremy was talking about how eventually we don't want them to break command even for "their" kid, but while the bond is forming, we are not going to correct them if they do. Bomber was ahead of the game on this!
Maybe you've guessed that bonding seems to be going well. We are doing everything we can to encourage Rosalie and Bomber to bond.
Some of the things we are doing...
- When we greeted him this morning, we helped Rosalie give him tons of treats. (We did this a lot yesterday too.)
- Rosalie has special treats that ONLY she gives him.
- Rosalie gives him each new toy that we bring him.
- Rosalie and he have a special toy that ONLY they play with together.
- We help Rosalie to throw the ball for him.
- We pet him tons when Rosalie is around and somewhat ignore him otherwise. (This isn't mean, we are trying to help him know she is "his girl." He will bond with the rest of us later.)
We started training today with a review of yesterday. Then Jeremy talked a bit about some theory of what our long term goals are with the dogs. We will eventually be able to only use hand signals to ask the dogs to do what we want. He explained this will be helpful in places like a movie theater or church where we will want to be quiet. I'm sure it will be helpful other times as well! Jeremy also talked about how we will eventually be able to use just our voice to praise or correct the dogs. We currently are using tons of treats along with verbal praise. For correction, it's a firm pull on the gentle leader coupled with a verbal "No." Then we restate the command they were supposed to be doing. No treat is given along with correction.
So it's going to sound like all we know how to do is tell the dog to sit or lay down, but I promise it's much more than that. :-)
Yesterday, we did sit and down with a little bit of walking around the dog while they stayed in position. Today, we added a significant degree of difficulty. Now, we direct the dogs from sit to down and back again. We also can direct them from any point around their body not just right in front of them. The extra fun part was working with distractions. We threw treats around them, bounced tennis balls by them, and used "happy talk" to try and distract them away from what they were supposed to be doing.
After a nice lunch with time for Bomber to run around, we learned "heel". Yesterday, we just did a free walk where we corrected when they got too far away. "Heel" means walking close to us on our left side with somewhere between their ear and shoulder in line with our hip. This is the first thing I did not find comfortable to do! Bomber was lagging behind me in class. Tonight he was out too far in front. This is the first thing I think we really will need a lot of work on.
Something interesting about these dogs is we don't really say their name before each command. We might get their attention with a smooching sound but we don't say "Bomber sit," "Bomber down," "Bomber heel." They are supposed to be paying attention so we don't need to incessantly say their name.
Another tidbit. We don't use "stay." When we ask them to "sit," they are expected to sit until we tell them either something else or that they are "free." Stay is an implied command with every command we give. I REALLY like this. It seems to work very well.
During a potty break for the dogs, Corey and I discussed teaching Bomber to "Go Potty" on command. I know this would be a great tool for everyone, but we live in a townhouse right now, so it would be immeasurably valuable to us. We went over our idea with one of the trainers and she agreed with our plan.
The last part of the day was spent learning tricks. I didn't think this would be very important to Rosalie but all the dogs know the tricks so we practiced them. After seeing them, I realized this could be a very good addition to Bomber and Rosalie's relationship. I can see her thinking he's funny when he does them. Every little kid loves a dog who does tricks. This can really open up Rosalie's world with other kids and make them more comfortable with her if they are a little put off by her. I haven't seen this happen much with her yet, but she's only going to get older and the possibility of other people not being so nice is just going to get greater. So... Bomber knows how to "Shake", "Gimme Five", and "High Five" so far. Can't wait to show you all! Kaylin, Holden, and Malachi LOVED it!!!!!
I know this is getting long. I have three more really cool things to share with you.
The last trick we learned today was "Bark." This is actually the first step in seizure training in class. All the seizure dogs are trained to alert before a seizure, but we are not sure how long before a seizure that will be. The dogs are also trained to bark when they SEE a seizure. However, barking is not really allowed in regular obedience. So the goal with getting them to bark on command, is to show them that they can play this game with us. It will get them comfortable barking for us so they will do it when they're supposed to.
The trainers have been mimicking some of the kids' behaviors with the dogs. They mimic seizure movements, sounds, other odd movements, etc. One trainer demonstrated this with one of the seizure dogs. Ally's dog, Perry, barked when the trainer fell on the floor and wiggled around like one of Ally's seizures. I think I saw tears in Ally's mom's eyes. There were definitely tears in mine. This is AMAZING! I have no words to relay all the huge emotion around this.
Also, Bomber and Rosalie were kinda stars in class today. During distraction training, there was tons going on in the room and Bomber was sleeping. All of a sudden, he got up, came over to me, and then went to Rosalie and started intensely sniffing her ear and mouth and licking her too. He wouldn't stop. Jeremy came over and talked to us about it and definitely thought Bomber was alerting to a future seizure!!!!! Bomber continued doing it and Jeremy pointed it out to the rest of the class. He used it as an example later in the day too.
Then, the very last part of the day was spent talking us through TAKING THE DOGS HOME TO THE HOTEL FOR THE FIRST TIME!!!!!!!!!! We are very excited to announce that Bomber came home with us tonight! He is doing great so far.
All in all, today was quite emotional. This is the BEST thing we have ever done for Rosalie!!!!! Teary eyes happened a couple of times today. After Bomber greeted Rosalie this morning, after I saw and truly understood the value of seizure alerting, watching the trainer mimic a seizure and seeing the dog's response, and even writing this blog post.
I'll sign off for tonight. Our kennel for Bomber was empty in our hotel room last night. Much like an empty baby crib waiting for a new baby. Tonight, it and our hearts are more than full.