Saturday, April 18, 2009

Meet the Sponsors

The service dogs-in-training have sponsors, who provide funding for the care and training of the dogs while with their foster homes. Sometimes you know and meet them, sometimes you don't. Sometimes it is one individual, sometimes it is a group of individuals who pool together to provide financial support. Helping Paws' mission could not be fulfilled without the generosity of these people.

We are very fortunate that Boston is sponsored by my nephew's family, the Wojciechowski's: Kevin, Colleen, Alex (14) and Tyler (11). My family has always been supportive of the dogs we have trained and I'm looking forward to this one truely being a family event. (Note: Wojciechowski is my maiden name. I won the 'name game' with my sisters as we each got married in that I acquired the shortest last name of Post. Can you imagine hyphenating that one??)

On to Boston. She is growing like a weed and we can see changes every day. She's especially getting taller - the better to reach those items on low tables! We are staying busy puppy-proofing our home.

Here's what we have learned about Boston:

  • Type A personality continues to be prominant
  • Loves shoelaces, expecially when the shoes are on your feet
  • Likes her 'brother' Sage and will terrorize him at any chance. (She bites his feet. Sage now lays with his feet curled in at the ankle)
  • Enjoys a good belly rub
  • Takes fewer naps which requires more supervision on our part
  • Very smart and learns easily
Boston still continues to bite at pant legs when she wants to play. It's hard to ignore that behavior when she has also latched onto my leg. With her getting taller the rubber boots don't always work anymore - think I might have to upgrade to hip waders.

Training is going well. Helping Paws uses the clicker method of training, in which we will mark the behavior we want with a 'click' and give a treat. Knowing that click=treat is one of the first thing we teach the dogs, and they pick up on it very quickly.

Each week new skills are added to the class homework. In the beginning we do a lot of behavior shaping that will become a command when the dogs are older. Behavior shaping is breaking a skill into smaller steps, and eventually chaining these skills together to create the command. For example, a new behavior we are shaping this week is the Gentle Leader. Right now I present the leader and click-treat for any interest Boston shows in it. When she has shown consistent behavior I will raise the bar and have her put her nose into the leader. The goal is to have the dog willingly walk into the leader as part of the "get dressed" command.

In addition to training for skills and commands we also train for environmental factors such as walking on different surfaces and various noises. As the dogs will go everywhere and anywhere with the person they are placed with, we want to make sure they are comfortable in any setting.

This week we worked on different noises, and the weekend was full of them with all the yard work we did. Chain saw, garden tiller, rake, hammers pounding. She also had a lot more visual changes. I've always trained our pets in obedience, but training service dogs gives a whole different perspective and a heightened awareness on my part. I am amazed at what little changes in something the pups are used to can become so different to them. Boston has seen the gas grill covered and the outside shed and has paid no mind to them. This weekend the cover came off the grill and the shed door opened and that presented a whole new view for her, and we had to reintroduce those items to her.

I welcome questions or feedback that you may have on Boston. Please let me know!

1 comment:

  1. I love that you are able to have a picture of Boston with her sponsors. What a wonderful piece to include in her story. Our sponsors are so critical to our foster homes success. Thank you for posting this.