Thursday, March 26, 2009

Preferences

Warning: May be a controversial post/topic (surprising? Not really)

Many people in public ask what "kind" of puppy-in-training Eclipse is, or "what" he's in training for.

Many times my response is simply, service dog. If they appear as if they understand and don't have a quizzical look on their face I leave it at that. If they look confused I'll go on to say "he'll help someone with a physical disability other than blindness". Many people simply nod and have a somewhat awkward smile and then generally continue on their way.

Why?

Because the most prevalent service dogs in the area are guide dogs. There's anywhere from 5-10+ GDB puppies in training, 1 GDA pup, at least 3 working guide dogs and 1 well known retired guide. There is only one working service dog (was, not sure if he's still working. He was kind of a nuisance). [Oops, forgot to mention there is a little boy getting an autism service dog soon, a great dane service dog (? never met, just heard of) and her housemate an SDIT (another dane) and a chihuahua "SD" who "helps" a woman in a wheelchair. (Not an alert dog, seems more like an ESA)]

Another contributing factor? The ADA didn't come into affect until 1990, although there were "white cane" laws allowing people access with their guide dogs. The most obvious helpmate? The one that's approximately a foot and a half (give or take, depends on length of the dog) in front of the person.

Guide dogs are captivating, they're asked to save their handler's life every time they venture out the door in that beautiful harness. It's amazing to see how fluid they work together.

That being said, I find the partnership of a child with autism, a man with Parkinson's, a person restricted to a wheelchair, a person with balance issues, and a dog is just as amazing, just as captivating and just as awesome!

Do I personally prefer one kind of service dog over the other? Definitely not. That being said, most service dogs I've seen personally (discounting ones in training, generally self-trained dogs) are more unruly/distracted than guide dogs. I suspect because it's much easier in comparison to train your own service dog, not so much training your own guide. I have no preference when it comes to program trained service or guide dogs. They all live up to high standards and pass many tests, who am I to judge?

When it comes to raising, though, I'd like to point out some differences.

Reminder: The things noted about GDB were when I was raising for them, coming up on two years ago. I mean to offend no one by statements I make.

With Guide Dogs it was all very straight forward, cut and dry if you will. Four on the floor at all times, no riding on the seat of the car unless the pup got too big to sit on the back floorboard, no holding pup on your lap, no food out of the hand unless for FIR (and now GTB) or on a specific protocol, head was to be by your leg when walking, we taught around 10/12 commands, had the pup for 12-16 months, meetings were at least twice and a month and 80% attendance was required. No play in jacket, training collar removed unless working. Only toys specifically listed on toy protocol (no double action nylabones, no normal jolly balls, no filled bones, nothing but natural sterilized bones, nylabones, no edibles, kongs, no kong bone, etc.)

With JLAD we have a bit more freedom. Four on the floor unless working on/executing a command such as "up", "lap", "jump" (haven't learned yet), have to learn it's OK to sit on the seat, train with treats, always have treats on hand (had hot dogs in a bag at the doctor's today), head still to be by leg in a "heel" position and when walking, learn more than 50 commands, switch pups every 5-6 months, class twice a month (understanding director, misses meetings are understood), martingales collars only unless GL is needed specifically, pups must be comfortable enough in jacket to relieve, play, work in. Any toy but animal parts, normal rawhide. Stuffies unless pup destroys.

There's a LOT more that goes into training all the things service pups need to learn. When exiting the vehicle they MUST turn and face you every time (something I've slacked on but am working on), must learn to "tug" on command, not just a game, must learn to love their crate, not just tolerate it, must learn to retrieve from all positions/heights, must learn to carefully remove socks, etc.

There's a lot more mental stimulation that these pups receive in training than guide dogs. Iverson got bored so quickly simply because there was nothing more for us to teach him, the rest he simply had to mature. With JLAD they are constantly learning, whether it's adding another aspect to a retrieve, tightening up a heel (very mentally tiring for them), stacking commands (up-push, up-nudge, lap-thank you, up-get it (bring it) lap-thank you, etc) there's constant stimulation.

Which do I prefer? The constant stimulation. When the pups get bored, I get bored... it's a simple equation.

Sorry if this post was offensive to anyone (or confusing).

Just my take on things.

Ally & Eclipse (the deceitful puppy, at less than 30 lbs still he feels so young but our time together is coming to an end quickly)

4 comments:

  1. I appreciated your perspective on the differences. From what I gather, there are definite reasons for the differences in training methods, based on the work the dog will be doing--and I don't think you are saying one is better than the other necessarily. It's great that you were able to try raising for the two organizations and find the one you enjoy more in the day-to-day. Not a thing wrong with that!

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  2. Cabana's raiser, I'd still be raising for GDB if I could (some inter-club politics prevent that) but do love raising service dogs and also wanted to give a try anyways! :-D And there are definitely different reasons for training differences.

    Erin, I guess I'm just overly sensitive to others, don't want to offend them by pointing out rules, seems somewhat, um... condescending in my mind :-D But I guess you're right, wasn't offensive :-D Thanks for commenting!

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  3. I was hoping you would write something like this. I found it educational, not controversial.

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