Friday, April 16, 2010

Summer Struck

Well we've had a few warm days lately. Hermione spends her time soaking up the sun and eating doggy ice-cream. She's also learned a new trick, discovered a new calling, and had a few adventures.

For a very long time I've been hoping to teach Hermione to "bow". The problem was that I couldn't figure out how to coax it out of her and she didn't do it enough on her own to catch her at it. It finally dawned on me that I can get her revved up enough to assume the play position which is very much like a bow. So, long story short, I got her really excited and then treated her every time she assumed the correct position. Now, I can't get her to stop bowing at me because she knows it means treats are coming. I've created a groveling monster! Here's a short video.

Last summer I bought Hermione a spring-action/blow-up kids pool. Well, she just stared at me like I was crazy. She wanted to know where the new pet elephant we were obviously planning on adopting would sleep. She used the pool only as a water bowl and when she was put in, she immediately jumped out.

Well, the pool has reappeared, and this year she's decided it's a lot of fun playing in an elephants water bowl. Initially she was not anxious to enter, but I pointed at it and told her "in". She walked around it a couple of times and dipped a paw in to test the water before choosing and entrance point and slowly stepping in. Once in, she started drinking. Big surprise. So I threw in a tennis ball. It took her a while to get the tennis ball out since her usual strategy when there is something in her water bowl is to drink all the water. :-) Once she got the ball she ran out of the pool. Then she went crazy and had a good time leaping in and out of the pool with her ball and splashing a great deal of water everywhere. She even, happily enough, learned that she could blow bubbles while hunting waterlogged tennis balls! I'm so excited for her. I was beginning to worry that my water dog was afraid of the water. I can't wait to get her to a river or something. It would be fun seeing her in water she actually has to swim in.

Hermione's had a couple of adventures lately. For Easter she got to go to a mall and meet someone in a bunny suit. She took it very well. A lot of the service dogs in training we went with were terrified. She would slowly lean away when ever it tried to pet her, but otherwise she held her stay command very well. Here's a picture.

We also took a puppy class trip to a fire-house just so they could experience the fire men and equipment. Hermione found the truck with just it's engine on terrifying. I don't blame her, I'd try and run from all the loud noise too. She seemed to be one of the few dogs though that didn't mind the fireman in the suit. In fact, except for the truck, she seemed rather bored. There were a couple of times however when one particular young male lab turned and licked her on the mouth. Both times that happened she would turn to me and basically trot in place excitedly with her eyes all big and round as though to say "Hey! I just got kissed by a boy!". It was really quite cute.

Anyway, I'll write again once we've had some more summer adventures.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

The New Vest, and a New Trick

Well Hermione's new vest finally arrived! Here are pictures!

I've also managed to get video of Hermione ringing her bathroom bell. She knows that ringing the bell will cause someone to jump up and open the back door for her. I taught her how to do this ages ago by pushing her nose against the chimes, praising her, and opening the door. Here's the video.

Hermione has also been working on a new trick. She is learning that oh so complicated art of walking on a treadmill.
I started by having her sit and lie down on the treadmill while it was stationary. She got treats every time she got on. Then I turned the machine on to it's slowest setting and had her sit and lie next to it. She got lots of treats for that too. Then I took it to the next level. I picked her up and lowered her down onto the treadmill. I kept her leash tight near the front so she wouldn't go running. The first time I did this she naturally panicked and jumped off the side. By the 4th time she was walking a pretty steady pace but still wouldn't take a treat from me. The 5th time she was comfortable enough to take a treat. It's a work in progress, but here is some video from the first day's training.

I also wanted to post some pictures of Hermione in our most recent series of blizzards that have hit Maryland. And yes, the snow is up to her topknot.

I am beginning to suspect that Hermione needs to attend TBFA (Tennis Ball Fanatics Annonomous) meetings. A month ago she had little interest in tennis balls and she certainly couldn't catch one to save her life. Now she's a fanatic. After I filmed this video I had a tough time editing it because Miss Green Mouth kept putting a tennis ball on my keyboard. Enjoy!

One more thing I'm working on with Hermione revolves around the word "good". To a service dog the words "good girl", "good boy", and "good dog" are very important. They are a way of targeting an action you really appreciated. Your telling the dog "Yess, I liked that, do that again!". When these terms are over used, or used at the wrong times, the dog starts to forget the more important meaning of them. When your a service dog out in the public, people come up to you all the time and say "good dog" for no reason at all. Thus it begins to loose it's meaning. This has happened for Hermione. She no longer really responds to "good girl". To her it's just something people always say to her like "your so pretty" or in the case of little kids "A DOG!". So now I'm working on reconditioning myself to use a different word. I tried to find a word that Hermione could be taught means "good" and that people generally wouldn't say to a dog. It also has to be something that can be said happily and has a unique sound so it won't be confused with other words. So I finally picked platypus. Yep. You read right. Platypus. It can be said cheerfully, and there aren't many people who would walk up to a dog and say "Platypus!".

Platypus Bye!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ready to Work

Well, Hermione officially has a guide dog harness. She got it several months ago. Being a lover of animals, I opted to avoid the leather harness route and ordered one made of nylon and plastic. I was hoping to post pictures when her new vest arrived, but we've had problems with the distributor so the pretty new vest will show up in the next post. Now that she is dressed more like a service dog, she gets to come with me on errands most of the time. It's quite obvious too that she enjoys being in different places even if the whole car thing is still unpleasant. She likes "people watching" which is fine as long it doesn't make her misbehave.

Christmas was really surprising with Hermione. With her love of consuming pine tree branches outside, I thought that our live Christmas tree would be doomed. I was surprised then when she showed no interest in the tree whatsoever. The cat was more interested than the dog. I thought that was a little odd. The presents were also of no interest to her, except for after hers were unwrapped. The cat on the other hand liked drinking out of the tree stand, rubbing against the tree, playing with her own artificial cat toy tree, and playing in the miniature Christmas town.

What Hermione did love however was the snow. She goes absolutely crazy in it. I was afraid I'd have to shovel a special bathroom area for her but nope. She walked into snow that was up to the middle of her back and squatted like there was nothing unusual. YAY no extra shoveling! Here are a few stills of her in the snow, plus a Christmas themed video I put together of movies and stills of Hermione and Sabrina (the cat) having holiday fun.

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I'm Still baffled at Hermione's color. Here are a few pictures of her starting with when I first got her at 4 month old and ending with today, the difference is pretty neat, but I'm not sure what color to call her now. She is not quite silver enough to be called silver beige but she isn't brown enough to be called cafe au lait either.

As far as service dog training goes we're not really having any problems right now, accept that Hermione likes puddles so much that she leads me through every one she can find .
A new issue that has arisen is the way Hermione plays with dogs that are smaller than she is. She now has a relative that is a tweeny sized dachshund. Hermione is scared of playing with bigger dogs, but she plays too ruff for the smaller dogs. She likes to jump on her playmates and slap them with her paws. That's not a problem when the dog is her own size, but when it's head is smaller than her foot, she could really do some harm. I really don't know how to calm her down when she plays with small dogs and I don't think she's around them enough for any training to make a difference. But it is something for her to work on.

For the fun of it, I compiled a list of Hermione's commands, fun and work related, and their definitions.

Forward- pull forward
Right-turn right
Left- turn left
Heel- stick to my left side (loose leash)
Stay- self explanatory
Sit- self explanatory
Down-self explanatory
Up- stand up
Ok- "ok" is a release from any command I've recently given her
Jump- put your paws on my lap
Paw- shake
Touch- touch a specific object with your nose
Bell- ring the bell that means you want to go outside
Go Away- go to your bed
Shoo- move at least 3 feet away from me, or the cat, whichever she's closest to
Go Pee- need I explain?
Go Poop- ditto
Nose Out- take your nose/mouth away from whatever it is near
Find the curb- find and stop at the nearest curb/large bump that's in front of us
Find the Sunglasses- locate my sunglasses and put your nose on them
Find the Coconut- find the thing with coconut extract on it.
In- get in your crate.

Find the coconut is my attempt to scent train a dog, just to see if I can get her to recognize one specific scent on command.

Anyway, I'll update the blog again when I finally get her customized vest, or when my life gets more exciting and I actually have something to talk about. Bye!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Play time on Camera Continued!

Ok, I'm posting two more videos. The first one is a bit on the long side and I think the shorter second one is cuter. So I'm introducing Project Platypus and Rainy Day Pumpkin Play. Enjoy!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Play Time!

At the same time everyday Hermione gets very playful, so I've taken to video taping her. I then tweak them on my computer. Enjoy! All music by Bond.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Happy Haloween!

Hi! Happy Halloween! Hermione has been preparing for the big day by playing with her stuffed jack-o-lantern toy, and by learning to wear her witches hat. Sorry for the quality of picture, I blame a wobbly cell phone.
Hermione had a fun summer complete with a trip to the beach. We stayed in a friends near the beach house whilst there so we had a nice quiet spot for her to play in. She thought the waves on the ocean were terrifying and even slipped her collar. A friendly beach lounger caught her though. On that same trip I learned that Hermione's fear of anything with wheels could actually be a good thing at times. We went in a convenience store very early in the morning and the small confines of the store ment we had to squeeze in about a 5 foot space between an open doughnut display case on my right, and a large rolling cart stuffed with fresh doughnuts on Hermione's left. The guy who was stocking the doughnuts looked wary of Hermione. In stead of lunging for the hot doughnuts like any other living creature would have, she pressed into me to get away from the cart! She was so busy staring at the wheels that the existence of the doughnuts was completely lost on her. The doughnut stocker's eyes almost popped out of his head he was so startled by her disinterest. I should have scolded her for leaning on me since letting a scared dog lean on you is just confirming and praising their fear, but I was too busy laughing.
In addition to working on the fear of wheels, we've also been working on curving her urge to be extremely rude to the cat. She had the unkind habit of charging at Sabrina whenever she entered the same room. After much scolding, and a few angry hisses, she seems to be over that compulsion.
Hermione's weight and disinterest in eating is starting to alarm me a little. She always eats something, but never finishes her bowl. I ordered her first guide dog harness a few days ago and while I was resuming her I looked at the breed standards. She's well over the minimum height, she's about 22 inches at the shoulder. But at the same time she is under the minimum weight. She is only 32 pounds. I'm wondering whether slipping her a bit of cat food during the day wouldn't fatten her up a bit. She never took to the 2 meals a day plan and preferred to fast than to eat for the 15 minutes that her bowl was given to her for. So I let her eat when she naturally wants to, at night. She always liked nibbling at night so I gave in and she gets her bowl in her cage all night long so at least she eats something now.
I ran into a problem the other day when I went to get her the guide dog version of the dog license. I was told that they couldn't register her as a guide dog unless I had documentation stating she was from a school who trained her. I'm working on getting opinions as to whether this requirment violates the ADA or not. According to the ADA, and I produced a copy of the law that I showed them there, no one is allowed to ask for proof. They may only ask " Is this a service dog? " and "What does it do to assist you?". So I'm working on building a case to confront them.

I'm also really excited, and confused, as to what her color is doing. She's started her coat change and there are silvery colored hairs cropping up on her back, but there are also almost solid white ones on her tail! She has a few cream colored ear hairs on the underside of her ears too. I haven't a clue what she'll turn out to be, but it's really exciting to guess.

Anyway, we hope you have a happy Halloween everyone! Bye!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Curse of Freedom

Well, I'm now a college grad and endeavoring on the, oh so difficult, job search. Now that I've got nothing to do, Hermione gets a lot more attention. Since being home she has really relaxed a lot. She is all out puppy here and has a new portable electric fence to help contain her romps.
Hermione's leash walking improved almost immediately after getting back to college for the last few weeks. She had to figure it out because it was her only means of using the bathroom. She does an excellent heel now which she very rarely breaks. I had noticed that when she did break a heel it was because she was too busy looking at something interesting off in the distance. I didn't want to scold her every time she got curious, so we came up with a new command. "Check" is what I say when I want Hermione to check her heel position and adjust. It was easy to teach since she automatically fixed her position anyway if I said anything. So I just put a word to her action.
In addition to an excellent heel, Hermione is starting to learn to stop at curbs an other large bumps in sidewalks. I figure, once it is a habit, I'll start putting a name to it. With that comes directions at curbs. I'm just starting to say "forward", "left", or "right" as I turn in those directions after a curb so she starts making the connection now.

Stairs were a big step for Hermione, but when we got to my dorm and she realized there was no way around it, so she caught on pretty quickly.

When we first got to school, the vast numbers of people terrified her. Actually, any unknown people terrified her. She would literally hide behind me, or press up against me to get away. Once she realized that everyone she met was really quite nice to her, she calmed down around people a lot. She isn't openly inviting like the Labrador was, but she doesn't try and run from people anymore. I think the one thing that really helped her was when she, unofficially, joined Wig and Buckle Theatre Company. Hermione was present for the last show of the semester, Spring Awakening. I had volunteered to work front of house for every night of the show. Hermione came along with me. It gave her a chance to meet people of all different sorts. Whenever we handed out playbills she would sit next to me just inside the theatre doors. In this possession she could see all the people as they came in, many of whom interacted with her. Here is a picture of her in the ticket booth at the theatre. Sorry about the cell phone picture quality.

Feeding Hermione has always been a difficult job since she never seems to want to eat. We've been shuffling around from food to food trying to find something she really enjoys. For a little while we even went the wet food route. She was interested for a few days in the wet food, but then stopped eating it. She really seemed to like a bag of human grade dog food we had never opened left over from the lab. The only problem was, not only was it expensive but no one in our area caries it. We tried another human grade food that she had no interest in whatsoever. Now she is on Wellness, though she isn't particularly enthusiastic about this food either. My cat had some stomach problems for about a week, and in that time we learned that both the cat and dog are in love with rotisserie chicken, and with Meow Mix Chicken with Beef and Gravy wet food. In fact recently, to get Hermione to take some medicine, we've been mixing powdered medicine into a little cat wet food. She loves it and can't seem to get enough. If only Meow Mix made a dog food.

When we got back home from school, Hermione was about 5-6 months old. She started to have some regression on house breaking. She had been sleeping in a roomy portable fence thing in my room. That was until she started waking me up with the smell of poop at 4 AM. She then got to go back to sleeping in a crate. She pooped in that at 4 AM too. It was strange, because even though we've gotten over that problem, I determined that she could have held if she had wanted. I started putting doggie diapers on her at night when she began this habit and every time she became a "paper-butt", as my mom calls it, she would not go to the bathroom. She would only go if she wasn't wearing a diaper. Now that she is seemingly over that problem, She has her larger fence area back, but she has her own bedroom now so I don't have to hear her rattling around in the middle of the night. However, during this phase we did have one very embarrassing incident. Hermione has been accompanying me to stores for some time now so she can get used to the different situations. When she was on the wet food, she was prone to a soft poop. Well, one day, while she was on the wet food, we went to the grocery store. And very shortly after entering the store, she started sending out diarrhea all down the bread isle. I was absolutely mortified. The small amount of bags I had were useless. And I had grabbed her hindquarters and was holding them over her head to stop anything else from coming out while tried to decide what to do. My mother was in the store at the Starbucks so I scooped Hermione up ad carried her over. My mother got the necessary cleaning supplies from the deli worker while I carried Hermione outside. She hasn't been back in a store for several weeks now. I'm waiting for her to go at least 2 months without an accident.

Now that we're home, I've been thinking about the possibility of doing dog training as a career. The difficulty is breaking into the career. There is a local non-profit organization called Fidos for Freedom who train assistance dogs. They focus on wheelchair patients and on hearing dogs. On Wednesdays they have a few classes open to the public so I've been taking Hermione to get her some dog on dog interaction time. When the dogs are let loose at the end of the session to play, Hermione never seems interested in joining in. In fact, she is quite terrified of the other dogs. She cowers when they come near her. Originally she would just hunch up in a corner and watch them, or hide behind me. She is starting to get a little interested though. She tries to sniff others now at least. It's weird because she will sniff other dogs, but will sit down if anyone else tries sniffing her hindquarters. As part of the Fidos classes, I also taught her to shake in only one 10-minute session.

I'm amazed at how quickly Hermione learns. When I called a pet supply store to hold the portable, wireless electronic fence, the guy on the end of the phone warned me that there was no way a dog could learn how to use the device within a 7 day span. It occurred to me that Hermione might be the exception. Sure enough, She was happily staying within the borders of the fence on the day we got it. She hasn't tested the boundaries since. Going along with this, since I’ve been home I've been trying to correct her problem of never letting anyone know when she has to go to the bathroom. I've trained her to ring a set of wind chimes that lives on the back door handle when she wants to go out She figured out how to ring it quickly, but the connection between the need to pee and the magic door opening bell is taking a while to sink in.

Hermione had a fun Forth of July. We took her with us to see some fireworks though we sat really really far away so the vibrations wouldn't scare her. I expected her to get all panicky, but she proved me wrong. She watched with confusion, but she was not scared. If anything it was the kids in front of us lighting sparklers that bothered her the most.