My name is Aileen Foy, I'm an Assistance Dog instructor with IGDB. I've taken over Hector’s training now he is in Advanced Training. He will be with me for 11 weeks during which time I will match him to a family with a child with Autism.
I've spent a lot of time with Hector getting to know him and to allow him time to develop a bond with me and to learn to trust me. I did some nice easy walks in different environments so that I could see how he coped with a change of handler. He is a very sweet dog with a sensitive nature, he's still young and a little immature at this stage. He can be a little bit vocal in the morning wanting to be picked first to be brought to the van.
Laika, Hector, Lily, Keela & Creen.
Hector has mixed well with his new pack. He is sharing a kennel with Creen. He gets very excited when he sees me in the morning but he also gets very excited when he sees Susan in the training center. Tara is the
Kennel Assistant who looks after him the most and she keeps him healthy and well groomed.
After a few weeks I have developed a bond with Hector, I also took him on his first free run which was fun. He loves the water and his recall is pretty good. He has quite a typical German Shepherd behaviour, as he can be a bit over the top on free run trying to jump onto the other dogs running with him. This is not an aggressive behaviour just a bit of over enthusiastic play and can be a little bit annoying for the other dogs.
I am using a gentle leader on Hector as he can sometimes have high tension. The gentle leader is similar to a halti, it is often mistaken for a muzzle, however, it is very different, it works like a head collar on a horse in that it steers the head rather than the neck. Hector has full movement of his mouth and can eat or drink with this on. It is very beneficial for strong dogs or not so strong handlers. It is a very handy tool when introduced correctly.
Time to take the train.
I make sure that my dogs are very comfortable with public transport, this includes regular training on buses, trains and cars and I have even done airport
training with some of my dogs in the past. If a dog is not a good traveler or does not like public transport then I will not match the dog to a client who uses public transport daily or who has long commutes.
I use areas like Blackrock castle for a number of reasons, for example it is a typical place that families bring children so it is a realistic training area. I work on dog distraction, scent distraction and bird distraction in particular. This is a very high incentive area for a dog and it can be challenging for them to ignore their natural chase instinct. We meet a lot of dogs on the lead, off the lead and with flexi leads so they have a lot to contend with. Hector loves the water so it takes a bit of extra effort to get him to ignore the water and walk nicely.
I'll have more updates on our progress in the next blog.
Hector loves the water, but he is learning to ignore it.
Time seems to be going so fast at the moment! Hector has been
progressing nicely in his training over the last few weeks. We have been
continuing to develop his training up to Assistance dog pick up standards such as making sure Hector is relaxed, confident and responsive in all areas of his work.
Part of this is exposing him to different environments for training
such as a walk called the Mahon River walk; this is a busy walk along by the
River Lee as there are plenty of people walking and cycling, children walking
and in strollers, birds and dogs both on and off the lead! Loads of distractions
and he was well behaved and responsive to his handler. He has made lovely progress and is continuing to mature to be a nice dog.
Hector and Lyra on the train.
We also went on a train and bus journey, we do this to make sure that he is happy to get on/off train/bus and that he is relaxed on the journey. This is all part of preparing Hector to make he meets the high standards needed for advance training and when he eventually qualifies as a working assistance dog.
Hector has done so well in his training that our big news now for all his followers...
Hector has met all these high standards and has moved onto Advanced Training.
Pick Up Walk with Hectors new Instructor
I completed a pick walk with Hector for Aileen (his new Assistance Dog
Instructor). A pick up walk shows Aileen exactly what the dog is capable of and the high standard of his work. This involves a walk to include obedience
through a shopping centre, estate and busy pedestrian areas to show his low
distractions levels, his good concentration levels and that he is relaxed and
confident in various environments. Part of his pick up walk also involves his
acceptance of the assistance dog equipment, kerbwork, straight line and
demonstrating appropriate response to directional commands.
It's always hard when a dog moves on to its new trainer and I will miss Hector alot, but I'm very happy and proud that he has moved on the next step of his working life!
So what does this next step mean for Hector?
Hector's training will still take place in our training centre here, but he will now train with Assistant Dog Instructor Aileen and she will work with him with the aim of matching to his new family in the coming months.
I have really enjoyed my time training Hector, seeing him mature and continue to be a lovely dog. His new Instructor Aileen will keep you updated on his training.
Hector and Me enjoying the sun in the garden