There’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Today, we had an assessment walk. This is where another trainer accompanies us on a route to ensure we are working our dogs to a decent standard, we are able to resolve situations on our own and most importantly, we remain safe while walking with the dog. There have been a few of these walks on class but this is the last one before we officially qualify on Thursday. These are usually a good opportunity to get a fresh perspective on how we’re doing and even our trainer gets a few tips as well if needed. In one way this walk was exactly what I needed, I learned that my pet needs that absolute assertiveness or else they rebel.

After just ten minutes into the walk Ike needed to relieve himself badly. This has happened before but over the past week the trainer thought that his spending routine was a little more reliable so these kinds of problems were behind us. As you have probably gathered from my previous post I have not been as certain of this. I have been very concerned that the dog was not stimulated enough to go on the concrete run. This stimulus is either a lack of scents or a lack of exercise but either way, I’m convinced that this is partially or completely the cause of it. It was good in one way that it happened today as more attention was given to it and more suggestions were provided that could potentially begin to make a difference.

On the other side, it was a terrible walk because we were going so well then the walk went to hell because he needed to relieve himself. Now, granted, after he did it he was fine but still it was a little frustrating. I think it annoyed me more because we were doing so well. It overshadowed the entire morning. For me anyway.

Anyway, we’ll hopefully start to improve this with the suggestions I was given today.

We unfortunately only had one walk today. This afternoon we attended presentations for topics such as things to be aware of when visiting the vet, health care for the dog, insurance, vaxinations, weight management, fund raising, equality or awareness / accessibility and finally the pet passport. I was actually dreading them as an afternoon sitting in a room listening to people talk sounded less than appealing however I found it very interesting. Although I was aware of many of the topics they covered, it was really nice to get reminded of a few things that I had forgotten over the past few years. There are also a few new things as well that were great to hear about in more detail such as the pet passport so guide dogs can now travel in the cabin of an air plane. I would of course have loved to go for another walk and I think I would have as well but overall, the day wasn’t as bad as I had expected it to be.

Something is kind of on my mind at the moment. Ten minutes after finishing lunch the trainer came up to my room to discuss the issues with this morning’s walk. He commented that Ike seemed particularly distressed. I had thought this but I assumed I was just over analysing. The thing that is getting to me is I have really no clue what made him get this way. From when we left the dining room until the trainer arrived the only thing Ike did was play for a moment. You might think that I’m dwelling on his sensitivity and confidence far too much but it would be impossible to stress how significant this is to Ike’s personality and effective work. I feel that this increased sensitivity was caused by something that was very minor but I’d love to know what! If for any other reason than just to make sure that it wasn’t something that I did.

I knew I would finish this training with a few extra valuable life lessons. The one that comes to mind at the moment is: Instead of fixing a problem, fix the underlying cause. For example: fix the reason why the dog has lost confidence at a particular area instead of just fixing the problem that it causes. In other words, why is the dog not finding that crossing? Why is it stopping to sniff? Once it is determined that the dog isn’t finding the crossing because it is not confident enough to break left and it is sniffing that distraction because it is looking for a way of taking its mind off the stress it is experiencing it becomes easier to fix things that could impact the dogs work long term. I think that’s why I have been concerned at the dog’s excessive licking, salivating and issues with spending. Ok I appreciate that there are a number of possible underlying causes but instead of just saying no when the dog is licking a wall for no reason or simply cleaning up after it drools a puddle on the ground or even working on the spending routine I’m more inclined to look for commonality with the aim of determining a cause and its associated solution. . Spending, from the limited experience that I have had with one other dog is not likely related to confidence or stress however I am aware of stress related signs that involve excessive licking and salivating. Of course, if the dog feels stressed in its spending area then it would obviously have problems relieving it’s self but I don’t recognise any signs of stress in the dog when he’s out there and I don’t think there is anything I am doing that would cause this. I have acknowledged time and time again that I am far from an expert on this kind of thing. I have a lot to learn about this dog and even the generic handling and understanding of working animals. I am very certain that these issues can be overcome and my trust and confidence in Ike has not wavered. Nore am I at all frustrated with him. What I am frustrated by however is the lack of progress. This is not due to any fault of the organization I am training with. That’s very important to point out. The frustration is due to something I wrote about the week before last. When I am confronted by a problem my first instinct is to work on it until it is resolved. This is something that is required in my line of work and even to a large extent in my hobbies as well. It is a major readjustment to wait for problems to sort themselves out. This kind of attitude is probably driving my trainer crazy but because I have benefited from this attitude and way of doing things for so long it is in my nature. It’s hard to change!