The last two weeks have been great for both Hector and I. It's been busy and productive but we also enjoyed a few lovely surprises. Hector's Puppy Walker Michele Munnelly and her two daughters paid us a visit here at HQ, as did long standing supporter Sonia O'Sullivan. My goodness - the excitement!

Hector was so delighted to see his foster family, he didn't know who to go to first - Michele, her daughters, or me! Hector got lots of cuddles from the all the girls and even remembered a few tricks that Michele had taught him.

As showed in the photographs below, Hector demonstrated his obedience skills by ignoring the treat that Michele had placed on his paw. He waited patiently until she gave the command and then proceeded to 'munch away'  as everyone cheered in delight.
Hector also got to meet Sonia O'Sullivan again when she came to our HQ for a photoshoot for the upcoming Carrigaline to Crosshaven Charity Walk on May 27th. Sonia had met Hector as a pup and couldn't get over how he had matured and grown. Hector was the designated 'dog model' on the photoshoot and did a sterling job. 

Hector also joined another special photoshoot with some of our other dogs in training. On Thursday last week, we launched our 2012 Car Draw at a Ford dealership on Forge Hill in Cork. Hector got to pose with the brand new candy-red Ford Focus up for grabs in the draw and once again did us proud! Tickets for the draw are on sale country wide or on our website for €5 a ticket.
In last week's blog, I said I'd give you some more details about what Hector's been learning during his Early Training. Here are just a few highlights to give you some idea what goes into training a working dog. More will follow in our next blog...

At the start of training, I spent time getting to know him, practiced his obedience and developed a bond of trust. During this stage, I assessed his speed of walking; his distractions levels; his mental, hearing and body sensitivities. Once settled, I had better understanding of his unique qualities and we were both ready to start straight line work.

Straight line work
This is teaching him to walk in a straight line until I dictate which direction to go. I taught him his left and right turns, stopping and standing at all kerbs, including edged, flat or tactile types and road crossings.  A key part of crossing the road is to teach a dog to firstly find the zebra crossing. The dog then needs to cross over in a straight line in minimum time. Once safely across, the dog needs to wait for the handler’s command (i.e. left, right or straight on) and continue on.

Right shoulder work 
Right Shoulder work is teaching the dog to avoid obstacles and to consider the handler as it does so. Obstacles can be stationary objects like a lamp post, wheelie bin or parked car to moving obstacles such as people, child buggies or bicycles. We also teach them how to handle a narrowing path, for example, a restricted space due to car being parked on a pavement. They are taught that if they can't fit through safely with their handler, they need to leave the path and go around the car and return safely to the pavement.

Much time is also spent on similar commands applied indoors. Indoor work includes things like finding doors, walking stairs, using escalators and elevators and avoiding obstacles like tables and chairs. During all this training, the dog learns to concentrate on the handler and follow their commands. 
Hector has progressed very well, moving from quieter environments in the suburbs right to the busy city centre. I'm really pleased!

In the next few weeks, Hector will be “working his charm” for our SHADES annual fundraising week taking place May 7th-13th. He’ll once again meet with our campaign patron, Roy Keane and be out and about supporting our collections.

SHADES 2012 - Volunteers needed for MAY 12TH!
We’re urgently looking for volunteers to sell SHADES pins for a few hours at Tesco Stores nationwide on May 12th. Can you help out? Please let us know on e-mail fundraising@guidedogs.ie or call 1850 506 300 if you can volunteer!

In our next update, we have a very special surprise. Hector will soon be moving on to Advanced Training and we'll be able to confirm whether he'll be a guide or assistance dog!  More shall be revealed...

 
Hi, I'm Susan Turtle and I'm puppy Hector's Trainer here that the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. You could hardly call Hector a puppy anymore - he's already 15 months old and well into his Early Training at our National Headquarters and Training Centre in Cork. I'll be keeping you posted on Hector's progress during the next stage of his training. 

Special thanks to Michele Munnelly, Hector's Volunteer Puppy Walker, who not only did a sterling job of socialising and training Hector, but also  maintained our blog for the first 12 months of his life. Now that he's well and settled into his routine, we're ready to give you regular updates on his progress towards becoming a guide or assistance dog!  
A new year, a new home!
Around mid January, Hector left his home with the Munnelly's in Dublin and returned to our HQ in Cork. It's always great to welcome our pups back after their 12 months away with their Volunteer Puppy Walkers. So much has changed as they have grown tremendously during this important stage of their  development. Having to say goodbye is tough for our volunteers, but each year, they bravely tackle the task of returning them to us motivated by the fact that their fostered pup will one day become someone's life changing partner.
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Charlotte giving Hector his first groom!
On arrival, Hector got to meet Charlotte Spencer, the Kennels Assistant
responsible for his care during his stay with us. She ensures he's well fed and
groomed, gets his regular veterinary inspections and is settled in his new
Kennel. After some play time and dinner, Hector cuddled in for his first night and got some well deserved rest.

Over the next few days, I started training Hector, working on simple commands
initially as we started to get to know each other. I introduced him to the other dogs in my group and got him settled with his Kennel buddy Tilly. We worked on commands such as sits and downs which was met with treats and lots of praise. He was eager to please and I wanted to ensure that he settled in well.   
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"Watch me, I can do it! Piece of cake!"
The next step was to introduce him to the van that he would be travelling in on a daily basis. Hector mastered getting in and out of the van with no problem and soon after, we were ready to go on our first walk together. We headed for a quiet estate nearby and so officially began our daily routine of training.

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Before & after a free run in the woods! There's nothing quite like a swim in the river before heading back to HQ! Back, left to right: Joey, McGuire, Jake and Hector's sister, Orry. Alongside is Hector, Lulu and Nikita in the background.
Since then, Hector has worked many different routes in and around Cork and has made steady progress. He is joined by the rest of my pack of dogs: Lyra, Snoopy, Rolo and Tilly. One of his favourite things is to go free-running with them on Fridays. All our dogs in training get time off on Friday's to enjoy a free run in a park or woods nearby. They are like "kids in a playground" and normally need a bath when they come back from an adventurous time out together. Charlotte certainly has her hands full when we get back on Fridays...

He's a 'good boy'
Hector's got a lovely temperament. He is very willing and responsive to my  commands. He's still young and so can get distracted at times. He's very curious so people and activity can sometimes draw his attention away. I'm not too  concerned as he's still maturing and this will become less of an issue as he progresses through his training. He especially loves attention and so many people stop us when we're out to talk about how handsome he is (which he of course loves). He enjoys cuddles and praise and shows his delight with a vigarous bout of tail wagging. In the beginning, other dogs were a big distraction, which is understandable considering that he's surrounded by so many here at HQ. A firm tone of voice with the command to go "straight on" gets him back on track. We have developed a good bond and he shows his respect for me as his trainer by trying very hard to listen.

In my next blog, I'll tell you a bit more about what Hector's been learning and includes some photographs of him in action while training!

    About this Blog

    Welcome to Puppy Hector's Blog:
    Follow RTE 2fm's "Breakfast with Hector" adopted pup's progress as he trains to become a guide dog for a person living with sight loss or an assistance dog for families of children with autism.

    RTE 2fm & Hector Ó hEochagáin:
      RTE 2fm's Breakfast Show Crew and host Hector ÓhEochagáin have been supporting pup Hector since adopting him at 8 weeks of age. During the last year, they have been helping us create awareness about our work and just what goes into into training a guide dog. Their support has been invaluable and has helped to raise much needed funds towards Hector's training. 


    About the Blog Authors, Susan Turtle and Michele Munnelly:
    Susan Turtle has been with Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind as a trainer for over
    13 years. Puppy Hector joined her in January this year to commence Early
    Training. She'll be keeping you posted on his progress over the next few months. Prior to January, Hector was with Volunteer Puppy Walker, Michele Munnelly who helped him get started
    on his journey to becoming a guide or assistance dog.  
      

    About Puppy Hector:
    Hector was born on 17 October 2010 and is German Shepherd x Golden Retriever. He is an intelligent, lively dog destined to become a life changing partner to a person living with sight loss or a family of a child with autism.   

    The role of a Puppy Walker:
    A Volunteer PW fosters a pup
    from 8 weeks of age to 12 months. During this time, the
    pup becomes part of their lives
    at home. A PW cares for and trains the pup to become a well rounded, confident, calm, willing, mannerly and socially acceptable dog.  The main focus
    is on obedience and socialisation, ensuring the pup is comfortable in many different environments like shops, restaurants, buses, trains, busy streets and malls etc.  Also the dog must get on with and not be distracted by people and other animals.  All of this provides the pup with a solid foundation for their future training and role as a guide or assistance dog. All training is done through positive reinforcement, learning should
    be fun, "a happy pup is a willing pup".

    Supported by PW Supervisors:
    Volunteer PWs are supported by our PW Supervisors who provide training and ongoing guidance. This is done through practical Puppy Training Classes, home visits and one‐on‐one training in supermarkets, shops, train
    stations etc.  The PW Supervisors provide valuable guidance and support to help equip our Volunteers for the task at hand and to monitor each pup's progress. All veterinary fees and feeding costs are covered by The Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind along with placing pups in homes when Volunteer PW's go on holidays.

    Come on and become a Puppy Walker for Irish Guide Dogs!
    It is a commitment but one that is rewarding and great fun!
    Go to www.guidedogs.ie to apply!

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guidehector@gmail.com www.puppyhector.weebly.com Hector having a snooze in his cozy dog crate after our walk and bus ride this morning