Sunday, June 28, 2009

Get It - Bring - Give

While the rest of the family was off on a canoe/camping trip on the St. Croix River, Izzo took a break and went home to visit her mom for a long weekend. She got to be on vacation, just like the rest of us. She had a great time playing with Cheers and her family.

Meanwhile, we are working on some new skills. This week it is “kiss” and “push”. Kiss is easy for Izzo as she is a “licker”. She loves to give a kiss on the cheek. She has also managed to push every cupboard drawer and door in the kitchen closed.

We also had a minor breakthrough… ever since I brought Izzo home we have been working on the retrieve. This is one of the major ways a service dog can assist their master, by bringing dropped objects from the floor.

The first step was “object exchange” where the puppy just gets used to letting go of an object that she has picked up… we exchange it for a treat. We do this LOTS… every time she picks up a stick or stone or piece of grass, anything I don’t want her to have in her mouth… gets exchanged for a treat.

The next step has been “give” where the puppy picks up an object and releases it into our hand at the command and gets a treat. Again this has been lots of repetitions, just having my hand right by her mouth when she picks something up and before she starts to chew it.

Finally we have progressed to “get it” to encourage the dog to pick up an object on floor. Then we added “bring” where the puppy (in theory) brings the object to us.

We teach each step in the process as a separate command because the dogs may be asked to do something with an object other than bring it to their master. They may be asked to get it, carry it, then rise up and put it on a counter, for example. We haven’t gotten that far with our puppies yet, but will eventually.

For now, our string of commands has been simply to “get it”, “bring” and “give”. A couple of nights ago, Izzo successfully put all three of them together and brought me an object. I was ecstatic! It has been three months of working on the retrieve and to have her put them all together was amazingly satisfying. WOOHOO…. !!! She did it! I was very proud of her. She has done it again today and we’ll keep working on it. But it was just very, very gratifying to see the results of our work start to pay off.

Izzo had a play date at one of her littermate’s houses the other day. I think there were 8 of the 10 siblings there, plus one puppy from another litter. They had a great time romping around together in Boston’s big fenced in yard. Thanks Boston for having us over!

Izzo continues to grow. She was over 30 pounds when we went to class two weeks ago… I’ll be curious to see how much she weighs tomorrow night at class.

Izzo loves to play with Miles - in the yard and in the house and just about anywhere she has a chance! She still can't run as fast as Miles, but she is getting close to being able to match him for speed (for a short time anyway.... ) When he gets tired of her bothering him all the time, he just sits on her!


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