Java Boot Camp

So far Java's little boot camp is having mixed results.  On the negative side she isn't eating all of her food and she's already underweight (and I like dogs thin!).  She doesn't seem to care at all if I grab some of her kibble and give it to my boys although Lance and Vito are loving this failed plan!  

But on the positive side she is getting more excited about working for her dinner and I'm able to stretch our little sessions longer and longer.  Instead of completely training one dog and then moving on, I am doing about 1min with dog 1, then 5-30 seconds of Java, repeat until dog 1 is done, and then move to dog 2 and Java.  At first she could care less if the other dogs were eating but now she is hanging around and barging in.  My poor dogs think it sucks to have my attention divided and a dog in their face, but I'm letting her be rude and pushy for now.  Java is actually starting to eat most of the kibble I'm giving her during a training session now, as long as I keep each little section with her extremely short.  Currently I'm working on her retrieve, tugging a drawer, nosing a target, and  pivoting on a stool.

During the day I'm trying to play a lot of tug with Java.  I am a firm believer in tug of war really strengthening the play retrieve.  I think there are a ton of benefits, but the most important one to me is that it's a very easy way to teach the dog to put the object directly into your hand instead of just chucking it on the ground or running off with an item.  Of course there are many dogs who retrieve brilliantly when they are playing but have no clue how to retrieve anything other than a toy.  Java currently has only a half play retrieve and zero formal retrieve.  She is enjoying the tug sessions though as long as I keep them short :)

And on the ferret front things are starting to calm down.  We still have barriers up surrounding their cage so she can't just sit and stare.  When one happens to make a sound she is up in a heartbeat to pace and do a bit of whining.  But Java has actually been great when the ferrets are out playing!  She was extremely excited at first, and well still is obsessed, but mainly she just runs around our little basement going from ferret to ferret.  It's as if she's constantly keeping track of where they are and since we have 5 of them she is very busy!  Java has done a little bit of playing with them, but mainly it's the counting thing.

Amy / Layla the Malamute  – ( October 5, 2010 at 11:36 PM )  

Sounds like a good boot camp strategy! The alternating training time sounds like a good plan.

Layla's not super into tugging. She will, but not all the time. To make sure she'll have a good retrieve, I reward her bringing me random items from around the house. Hopefully, if she can bring books/cups/whatever, a dumbbell won't be a big deal. Yesterday she brought me a feather duster. We gave her a mini-test, we had one of those plastic cups filled halfway with water on the ground. She picked it up and brought it to me - without spilling the water!

Thanks for your comment on advancing to a higher level class - I had a few doubts, but I feel better knowing that you think it's a good idea!

Dawn  – ( October 6, 2010 at 8:01 AM )  

On the not eating thing, 2 of my 3 girls dogs went through a period where food just wasnt important. They ate enough to be comfortable I guess. They both got skinny, but after a few months (4 for Peace and 7 for Grace) eating again became normal. With Grace I tried everything - we gave her a food taste test. Laid out 21 food samples on plates. She ate a total of 6 kibbles of one kind and 3 of another. She just wasnt interested in food, so we made sure that when she was eating it was the best quality we could give her and supplemented with satin balls when we could. Good luck with your girl!

Ninso  – ( October 6, 2010 at 10:09 AM )  

I have a question--if Java is so low-drive, why is she still in the service dog program? I would think you need dogs that are both calm and gentle as well as motivated to work and to please. Is this not the case, or is it because a lot has already been invested in her and the program isn't ready to give up on her?

Laura, Lance, and Vito  – ( October 6, 2010 at 10:50 AM )  

I wouldn't say she is a low drive dog, she just isn't easy to motivate. Usually I would say those two go hand in hand, but in this case I think Java just isn't used to having to work for things and has had very little attention training so is very easily distracted. She is actually much higher energy then a lot of the dogs in the program. I would say that I could get her to work more for a toy then for food but you know how difficult that can be for training behaviors and I also want to keep her in that lower drive state to be a better service dog.

Overall our program wants the low drive dogs. The autism dogs need to be incredibly calm dogs and even the mobility dogs who do the retrieving and tugging still need to be laid back. Most of the dogs day is about calmly lying down under a desk at work, table at a restaraunt, pew at church, etc or just walking calmly in public. Our clients don't have the physical skills to exercise them a ton or the training abilities to know how to deal with an active dog. I really enjoy the field labs and goldens a lot more then the show, but the calmer show dogs do a lot better with the clients. Our more active dogs are usually placed as diabetic dogs because the clients can at least physically handle them better, and because these dogs enjoy the scent work game a lot more (it's all about a toy). My hope is to get Java to be a diabetic dog but she still needs a formal retrieve (get the juice box, meds).

We don't give up on dogs easily unless it's obvious they hate it (or behavioral issues). Most dogs it's a simple lack of good training and teaching them that training CAN be fun!

Ninso  – ( October 6, 2010 at 11:07 AM )  

Interesting. I'd love to get involved with training service dogs, but I doubt I have the time now. Are there any volunteer training opportunities other than puppy raising?

Mango  – ( October 6, 2010 at 7:19 PM )  

You have made super progress with her! Wow! you are so patient.

Mango Momma

Honey the Great Dane  – ( October 8, 2010 at 1:11 AM )  

So interesting reading about Java's progress - and your response also about what you look for in service dogs.

I agree with you on the tugging - Honey isn't a natural retriever and she is very fussy about the texture/type of things she'll put in her mouth/pick up - so I found that playing tug with anything is the best way to get her to keep the thing in her mouth and bring it back to me - because she wants to continue the tug game. I'm actually now working on her learning to pick up different types/textures of things. I've realised that we've pandered to her a bit all her life and indulged her tendency to only hold soft, light things in her mouth. I've never actively tried to teach her to hold different objects (and partly coz we always discouraged her picking things up as a puppy coz we didn't want slobber on it!) - but now, I think it would be good if she could overcome her texture bias. Obviously, she doesn't need to be a service dog and many would argue that she has learnt more than enough and should be in retirement but I think it's good to keep challenging them. So I'm not trying to get her to pick up plastic, paper (books) and metal (!) in addition to her preferred textures of wood and fabric (stuffies).


Laura, Lance, and Vito  – ( October 14, 2010 at 8:55 PM )  

sorry I just noticed your question! Most of the volunteer opportunities with dogs are the puppy raisers. But we also need short term fosters who will take a dog for anywhere from a weekend to a month while puppy raisers go on vacation, to evaluate a dog being puppy raised, or to evaluate a new shelter dog (after the quarantine period).

There are 2 other opportunities for volunteering with the dogs. 1 is helping out in the puppy raiser classes. 2 is helping take the "in for training dogs" out in public as I don't have time to take all of them out every week. I need someone to simply get them out and see any issues in public as well as to test the on their skills with a person other than me. Oh and I guess #3 is playing/training with the baby puppies whenever we have a new litter.

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