Handler Training: Day 7

Training was back at the Little Angels ranch facility. It was the last I’ll be there except for service dog graduation day. I worked with the head of Little Angels, Katie. 

    

Katie taught me about Dyson’s feeding process. She suggests that I only feed him once a day in the evening. This is so he is excited to work all day because he gets food rewards. He gets a lot of treats during the day so he won’t go hungry. Katie said I can use his kibble as treats by measuring his dinner out in the morning and then taking from that a handful of pieces to use. I can use other dog treats too and approximate how much of his dinner that equals, and then adjust the food amounts accordingly. In public I’m supposed to used soft treats so that Dyson doesn’t make the crumbly messes that come with eating dog bones. 

I also let Dyson play in a structured way. I played fetch with him on a long lead. Once he brought the toy back, I’d have have him lay down in the grass and wait. I’d throw it. When I was ready, I’d tell him to get it. This is a good way for me to help Dyson get his exercise because I don’t have to work too hard, but he has to run a lot. 

Katie cleared up some misunderstandings I had. Savannah had told me to not say a command more than once, so I’d just do the hand signal repeatedly if he didn’t listen to my command the first time. Katie explained that I can’t say the command again until I correct him. I now tell him no and clink the leash downwards at an angle, and then say the command again. 

For the second half of the day’s training, I walked Dyson on a couple laps around the house on the property (Savannah lives there because she is head trainer and needs to be near the dogs to care for them). Even a small tug could make me trip because I’m often lightheaded. That’s why his shoulders and front legs should never be in front of my feet. If they are, I must immediately correct him by bringing the leash closer to him and then snapping it back a couple times. As long as I don’t pull the leash upward into his trachea, it won’t hurt him. The trainers say that labs are pretty physically insensitive too, so gentle pulls won’t usually even affect them. I am still working on being firmer with my leash corrections. He needs to be by my left side, stopping when I stop and speeding up or slowing down with me automatically. He has to pay attention. If he keeps making mistakes, I can use turns or stand still every few steps to get him to pay attention to the changes. I can also use “watch me” to bring his focus back on me. Practicing heeling for that period of time really improved our synchronized walking.

  

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