Day 12 – Training with Ike my new guide dog

Lazy bones.

It really speaks volumes that the main issue I have with Ike at the moment is his spending routine. I’m very luck in this regard even though the issue is particularly frustrating as it impacts almost everything else for the day. That said, it seems to be working it’s self out slowly. It is a common saying by kennel staff and trainers that with retrievers, you need to count to three every time you give a command. It is said with humour and it is meant to explain their stubborn tendencies and their relaxed and even sluggish attitude to life. Their actually not far wrong either. I say this because a moment ago I was moving to a different room so I could write this update. I spoke to Ike for a moment to ensure he was awake etc. Seriously, it’s needed! He tends to fall asleep at the drop of a hat. I said before on the blog, he’s an old man trapped in a pup’s body. Anyway, I eventually told him to get up. He didn’t budge! I tried again. Still no movement. This time I said it louder and put his name in front of it. “IKE UP!” This time, he stretched, groaned a bit but returned to his comfortable lying position. It was only when I bent down and gave him a light nudge that he decided to take me seriously. I know it’s not disobedience. It’s just that he’s comfortable and he doesn’t really care what I say. He’s happy to stay lying there. That’s all well and good but I have no intention of returning to that room tonight so he really couldn’t stay there. I find that this is a common thing with Ike and if I am to be completely honest, it’s something that I am finding very hard to get used to. I hate to make comparisons but with Freddie, all I had to do is move an inch and he was up beside me. He was just so incredibly alert! I’m not sure if this is something Ike will develop in Time. I don’t think it is. His personality is just so different. I don’t get as much feedback from him when he’s not working. It’s very disconcerting, even frustrating and a little sad at times. I can’t work him out for most of the day. Is he board, depressed, chilled out, comfortable, and not interested or just simply a sleep. I am finding it very hard to no when he’s actually happy as well as unlike Freddie who gave a lot of body language; Ike seems to give very little. I wish I could work him out! Don’t’ get me wrong. I think the bond between us is building and getting stronger every day. It would just really help if his body language was a small bit easier to read. There is one thing I know for sure. If he’s that comfortable after a half an hour, I’m going to need a supply of rockets to move his behind off the floor in the mornings!

The first walk this morning was to a train station. This was perfect as I will be using this form of public transport very regularly. We were lucky as well as a train pulled in just as we were at the platform. The trainer gave me some advice to ensure the loud noises don’t startle Ike and it was kind of interesting to see what I have probably doing wrong for so many years. For example. When the train is coming in, I should have been dropping the handle so that the dog had space to move away if it was feeling threatened. I don’t think this made any difference to Freddie as that kind of thing never fazed him but it’s still good to be aware of. I’m delighted to say that it doesn’t seem to faze Ike either. Obviously, he hasn’t been around all that many trains so the noise caught his attention but it wasn’t a negative experience for him. I was also delighted that he had no problem finding the door for me. This is something I had to teach Freddie to do so it’s nice that Ike has had this experience already. It would actually seem that over all, Ike has been introduced to more of the environments that I will need to work in. This is really nice because they will all be new places, he will have some frame of reference to work from. I also got some interesting reminders as well while trying to get the dog to find the ticket counter. When walking through a station and you begin to try to get the dog to find something like this, it is best to stop the dog first then give the command and the estimated direction. This gives them a well-defined goal that they can recognise as resulting in praise afterword when they’ve found it. It also helps to refocus the dog’s attention on the new objective. I’m not sure if this is something I originally learned when training with Freddie but it was really helpful for today.

The afternoon walk was completely uneventful. That’s really all I can say about it. It was on a straight road with three or maybe four crossings. There were a lot of obstacles for the dog to work around and as always his right shoulder work was absolutely fantastic. See one of my earlier posts for explanations of right shoulder work if this concept makes no sense.

Now, it’s the weekend. Tomorrow we have no walks and the excellent trainer takes a well-deserved break for the day. My aim is to go into Cork city tomorrow to play some music and more importantly get out of here for a few hours. I mean absolutely no disrespect to this centre or no negativity however I am sick of sitting inside. I am not use to it so it is driving me completely crazy. The staff have made it bearable and I’d just like to take this opportunity to say how brilliant they all are. They consistently go well above what’s expected of them.

I know the posts are getting shorter and shorter at the moment. This is because each walk is becoming a little more uneventful and the activities in each day are unchanging therefore it would be repetitive to explain everything. On the up side, if a post is short it means that issues that I experienced last week are not experienced this week so things are getting better!

On that note, I was much happier with Ikes straight line work. He stopped with great definition and confidence at crossings and his ability to take directions is really improving a lot. I also introduced some corrections into the work today. They weren’t given at every distraction but they were very effective. I found that when a small correction was given he acknowledged it right away and didn’t attempt to do it again. In relation to corrections I find that I need to relax my control over Ike. With Freddie, if I didn’t keep him in line he’d start pushing his luck. It really was a case of give an inch take a mile. With Ike, I need to remember not to be so strict. When he looks around he’s being aware of his environment. This is a good thing from the perspective of the trainer and now that I am relaxing with him more I am beginning to agree. It is taking some time to get use to this approach though and sometimes I need to second guess my self. Is he distracted or is he just having a look. Will this escalate to him doing something he’s not supposed to or is he just curious? As the trainer puts it, once he doesn’t interact with the distraction it’s not too bad. It will take a lot more time to assess the degree as to what I can permit but so far his curiosity is only shown when he’s waiting at crossings and he’s not guiding me so it’s not a problem. I write this kind of thing to show you that although the dog has a lot of work to do during these three weeks of training, I as the handler have a lot of work as well.

I wonder. Is it easier to train with your third dog than training with your second? I don’t think I could do this kind of thing again.


3 Responses to Day 12 – Training with Ike my new guide dog

  1. His body language could change as time goes on, and you’ll get more feedback from him. I had a pet lab who would nearly knock you over with his tail, so I found it strange that O.J didn’t wag his too furiously at first. He always liked being petted but wouldn’t really lie on me if I was sitting on the floor and didn’t really like being cuddled. That has changed now as well.
    I wouldn’t worry as long as he’s relaxed, but I know its a strange thing to get used to.
    Do you notice much difference with his coat yet? Is it smellier, harder to groom or harder to keep? Suppose maybe you haven’t been out in enough rain to test this 🙂

  2. Hang in there…you are doing a great job. I feel the same way…after training with Vince, could I ever do all of this again? The answer is yes. You totally can, you just don’t realize it yet. But when you want that guide dog badly enough, you’ll do it. It sounds like you and Ike are progressing well. There are lots of ups and downs and bumps in the road, but hang in there. Ike is probably wondering how to read you, too. It’s a learning experience on all parts. Thank you for sharing

  3. god i love those little fantastic pointers! “once the dog doesnt’ interact with the distraction” .. nice one! :))