Category Archives: training

Bonding that saves lives!

These stories are so lovely and magical. Reading this post is re-empowering me to get back to work with Callie, training for her therapy dog license so she can work with kids.

Original post:

Shelter Dogs and Special Needs Kids: A Match Made in Heaven

By: Vera Lawlor June 9, 2017

About Vera Follow Vera at @vtlawlor

Brook, a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, was sitting in a high-kill shelter in Arizona with just two days to live when she was rescued by Janice Wolfe, founder and CEO of Merlin’s KIDS. The nonprofit organization rescues, rehabilitates and trains shelter dogs to work as service dogs for children with autism and special needs, as well as to assist disabled veterans. After extensive training Brook returned Wolfe’s kindness by transforming the life of Julie, 21, who is developmentally delayed due to a premature birth.

Wolfe describes Brook as a “rock star,” a calm sweet dog with the perfect temperament for working as an emotional support service dog. Julie’s mom, Ellen, couldn’t agree more.

“Brook has given Julie a greater sense of confidence,” Ellen said. “They are always together and Brook definitely knows that it’s her responsibility to take care of Julie.”

Before being paired with Brook, Julie was afraid to go outside the house on her own. Now she and Brook take walks down the block or sit together in the yard. Julie has become more outgoing and enjoys speaking or singing in front of people.

“Brook has become an emotional support for all of us,” Ellen said. “I can’t believe that they almost put her to sleep. She is the love of our lives!”

Julie takes a selfie with Brook as he smothers her with kisses.

Another Merlin’s KIDS graduate, Willow, was rescued from a beach in Aruba where she ran with a feral pack. She was so scared that nobody could touch her. With patience and love her foster family won her love and trust. Now after completing the training program, the 40-pound sweet-natured cunucu dog is ready to join three other Merlin’s Kids service dogs in the Animal Adaptive Therapy program at the Calais School for special needs children in New Jersey. Willow is a cortisol detection dog trained to detect stress signals in students and to alert the counseling team so that they can intervene before a problem escalates. She will also work with students to learn the social, emotional and behavioral skills they need to succeed in life.

Willow and Brook are just two of the 1,300 dogs that have been rescued, rehabilitated and trained as service dogs by Wolfe, a canine behavior rehabilitation specialist and author of “SHH HAPPENS! Dog Behavior 101.” In addition to Rhodesian Ridgebacks, the nonprofit organization has rescued and rehabilitated Labrador mixes, pointer mixes and coonhound mixes to work as service dogs. The goal of the organization is to ensure that service dogs are available to families in need regardless of financial circumstances. To fulfill this mission it depends on financial donations and sponsorships.

Wolfe said that Merlin’s KIDS service dogs are highly trained and highly specialized. They can do anything from keeping a special needs child from wandering away to opening doors or picking up pencils for children with disabilities to alerting before the onset of a seizure. It’s important, the trainer said, to make sure that the dogs are physically capable of doing the jobs being asked of them and that they have the right temperament.

“I’m very careful when placing dogs with autistic children because these kids can have such erratic behavior and the dogs have to be able to handle that,” Wolfe said. “Service dogs who will be tethered to a child have to be really chill and calm”

When it comes to autistic children Wolfe’s dogs are trained to serve the individual child. For example, dogs are trained to help children who are overstimulated by interrupting behavior patterns, and they can prevent children from opening a door and running out into the street. Some children need deep pressure to fall asleep so Wolfe and her team train service dogs to lay across their laps at night.

“We have a lot of autistic kids who had never slept in their own beds until they got a service dog,” Wolfe said. In addition to donations and sponsors, Merlin’s Kids is always in need of volunteers and foster families.

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This beautiful article was first seen on the Care2 site and, please, do drop across to that Merlin Kids website.

Learning from Dogs

Again and again the power of our relationship with dogs is breathtakingly beautiful.

If I carried on writing about dogs and sharing articles with you for a thousand years, I still don’t think I would become immune to the joy and wonder of what dogs mean to us. (Luckily for your sake you won’t have to follow this blog for quite those many years!)

Turning to us, the measure of a compassionate and caring society is how it looks after those who, through circumstance and bad luck, are disadvantaged. While there are many in such a situation who are the wrong side of twenty-one there’s something especially important, critically so, in reaching out to help our youngsters.

So why this switch from dogs to disadvantaged young people?

Read on:

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Shelter Dogs and Special Needs Kids: A Match Made in Heaven

By: Vera Lawlor June 9, 2017

About Vera Follow…

View original post 698 more words

Healing and Heeling

I’m so proud of Callie. She taught me a valuable lesson last week, and together we informed our obedience instructor of a new piece of information to add to her large knowledge base.

After the dragging required by our instructor last week (when Callie would stop walking… read more here) Callie was totally afraid of the word heel and would pull back immediately if she hit the end of the leash, as if in preparation for being dragged. She was also a little more fearful of me.

So, I started over. First, I rid the word heel from my vocabulary. Then I refused to drag her along as I walked. For the first couple of days, I would stop when she did, give her leash a quick tug, saying, “come on,” or “let’s walk” show her a treat and call her along. Then I moved to pulling her along for two steps, stopping, calling to her and usually she would start walking so she would get a treat.

I did go get a martingale collar and a much lighter leash to which she responded very well.

Finally, on the day before class, I began reintroducing the word “heel” on occasion, interspersed with the other commands I had been giving. She would stop at first but grew more comfortable as we went along.

Tuesday came, and it was time for class. I spoke to the instructor ahead of time. I tried to explain about puppy mill dogs and how they are only ever grabbed by their scruffs, why that might make Callie react the way she does when pulled on the leash. The instructor listened to me, although I am not sure she fully paid attention to what I was trying to tell her until class began.

Beforehand, I had been smart and stopped for some smoked cheese. I broke it up into little bits in my treat bag and mixed it with her regular Zukes treats so those would be coated with cheese too.

We began class with heeling around the room, Callie started with a pause, a little nervous and reactionary after the week before. Who could blame her? But I got out a little cheese. Suddenly, I had a dog who was heeling perfectly around the room. A few pieces of cheese kept her going, but she was passing other dogs who weren’t behaving quite as well. The instructor’s jaw was nearly on the floor.

We worked on heeling turns next. Callie seems to get really frustrated when she doesn’t know what I want from her, so I had to help her a lot with this, keeping her in place while trying to turn, LOL.

We heeled around the room again, stopping to do heeling turns. Callie did great, especially with the cheese as an incentive, but finally, she hit her limit and sat, refusing to move. I recognized that she needed a break, so I just sat in the middle of the floor with her while all the other dogs went around us.

The last thing we did in class was begin work on recall with the instructor holding the leash and us across the room. Not only did Callie do a beautiful sit-stay while I walked across the room from her, but she ran to me with excellent speed and intent.

Callie was the star student last week. Now let’s see if we can keep it up tomorrow. All I know is that learning with Callie is often following along blindly and stumbling our way through each moment.

Jess and I took Callie to the park this weekend. She made a new best friend, the flying turtle! Plus she practiced her obedience work outside with kids around. My brilliant dog 😊.

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Flying turtle!
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Happy Dog!

Guess what else! This morning I got my first semblance of a doggie smile while giving Callie some scratchies 💖 fullsizeoutput_d7f

Callie, Cavitude, and Obedience Class

Oh, Callie. There were a couple of stressful events in her life last week.

Last Monday an excellent traveling groomer came to our house to give Callie her first groom since the one she got when she left the puppy mill – aside from a few terrible hack jobs by me on her feet and ears.

I chose to have a groomer come here rather than take her to one because I could only imagine the stress she would experience. The groomer, Dirk, was fantastic. He spent about 15 minutes on the floor with her first, just talking to her and letting her sniff him, his equipment, etc.

When I put her on the table, she didn’t freak out or try to get away, that’s not Callie’s m.o. anyway. She sat, stoically, or stood, depending on what he needed, for a long time. I never left the room, he and I chatted the whole time – either to each other or to her – and she took it in stride for a while. Then she decided she was done.

When Callie is done, she is DONE. She sits and won’t move. You can pick her up, but she won’t move her body out of the sitting position. You can offer her all the treats in the world, she’ll eat them, but she sure won’t change her mind.

Dirk, having worked with animals for years in different settings, recognized this immediately. He tried a couple of his own tricks and when they didn’t work either, “we” decided the grooming was over.

He did a fantastic first job on Callie. I was impressed with his ability to recognize what was too hard for her and stay away from it. Did she end up with the full cut she needed? Not quite, but he listened to her instead which was far more important to me. And she looks great!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The attitude she gives when she is done with something – that’s Cavitude. Cavaliers are sweet, loving, easy-going dogs who are relatively well-behaved and usually easy to train, except every now and then a little ‘tude sneaks in, and you get Cavitude.

Previously, Callie has decided that she is DONE when I am in the middle of a store, like the pet store, and will sit down and refuse to move. Public Displays of Cavitude. The easiest solution for me is to pick her up and move her to wherever I need her to be, but now that has gotten me into a lot of trouble.

Tuesday, Callie and I had our first obedience class. Given that I am relatively dog experienced and that she is a rescue, I wanted to give her time to let down and bond before we moved into classes. We’ve done home training up until this point.

Callie knows to sit and wait to be released for her food. She’s working on stay, come, down, and still, her biggest fear – going down flights of stairs.

I tried to remind myself of how good she is, how she follows me, etc., as I went into class, and I started to feel pretty confident. Shoulda just smeared dog poop on my face right then. #Cavitude.

After being given some time to investigate, we started with heeling around the room. Apparently, Callie thought the floor was so much more exciting than walking with me that she continued to stop every few feet.

I got in trouble for letting my dog teach me to stop whenever she wanted. So the trainer made me keep walking when Callie stopped, as in drag her. Nobody could believe just how stubborn Callie was being about walking, refusing to get up. My treats weren’t tasty enough, though thankfully we located some cheese which helped the situation immensely.

The whole time I was there I felt embarrassed about my skills as a dog trainer but, afterward, I wondered whether she was really right. Whether it was just stubbornness. While she’s correct to an extent and I can’t just let Callie stop me whenever she wants, I also think it’s detrimental to continue to drag her if she continues to refuse. And it goes against all my positive training methods.

I don’t think this woman understands the mindset of puppy mill rescues – if it gets scary, most dogs will run away or bite or do something whereas for many puppy mill rescues, specifically, if something gets scary, their first instinct is to hunker down and not move. I forgot that too, knowing Callie as I do.

How much of Callie’s refusal to walk part of the time – we did get her walking – was caused by her stubborn personality I have come to know, and how much was caused by her natural fear reaction? I don’t know. But I think the instructor and I are going to have a talk about how I am going to get Callie prepared for the “heeling” part of the obedience class. Without being stopped every 3 feet or dragging her.

By the way, Vermont played an April Fool’s joke this year. It was super funny:

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