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We had a surprise visit from Sonya O'Sullivan this week.  She dropped in with her daughter to see how Hector was getting on with his training.  She was very impressed at how mature he looked.  

At this stage I have now started attachments. I  ask one of my colleagues to play the role of a  child.  Tara kindly agreed to be my child in the photo below and she is  attached to Hector using a belt around her waist and an attachment lead attached  to Hector’s jacket.  We start nice  and gently asking Hector to do his work with two people on either side of him.  Gradually I ask Tara to  overstep the kerb or drop the handle and run and as she does so I give Hector  instructions.  Tara will also do typical child behaviours such as skipping, tapping, picking up sticks and waving them.  Gradually I will ask her to do more intense behaviours such as turning and shouting.  I will see how Hector copes with these. 
After a few weeks I will attach a child to Hector.  I use my young niece and nephew for this along with some of my colleague’s relations.  The children will do more natural child behaviours and can be more  unpredictable. The dogs also will have no respect for the child so I need to be sure that they behave themselves and will not try to take advantage.  After another few sessions I will attach Hector to a child with Autism to get the most realistic experience.

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Over the 11 weeks I will take each of my 5 dogs home individually for a
couple of nights.  I took Hector
home for a couple of nights to see how he settled in and to see if he had developed any bad habits like chewing, crying, barking or landscaping.  It was also a good way to see how he behaved while travelling in the car.  He was very well behaved and we had a few fun play sessions.  He is still fond of chasing his tail!
I have also started looking at the matching process where by I match Hector to a suitable family. I will update you on this process soon.

 
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I started pushing Hector a little more this week to test his work.  Examples of this are when I overstep the kerb to see if he will stop.  I also work in a number of different environments to test for different reactions and consistency in this work.  
Country – to see how he copes with country walks, livestock, lack of footpaths.
Suburban – to see how he copes with his straight line work, kerb work, dog and cat distraction
Urban - to get him used to busy environments, traffic, public transport, increased noise levels.  Things that can upset a dog in training vary but they include statues, balloons, shadows, masks, strange noises, steps or platforms with a glass drop off or where you can see through the stairs.

Many of our families have young children.  I work with buggies and shopping trolleys so that the dogs can learn to work close to these without becoming over aware or scared.  And to learn how to avoid getting clipped by the wheels.

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Outdoor obedience can be a bit more  challenging than indoor obedience as the surroundings are often much more exciting.  Areas like the river walk are good to see how he copes with cyclists, runners, roller bladders and  children of all ages.

At this stage in Hector’s training I do not use food rewards as he does not need them, with the exception on free run.  I use it intermittently on free run to reward a good recall response.  However it is important to know that he will refuse food until given permission to take it and that when he does take it, he does so very gently.  I will be working on other food refusal work to see if he tries to take any food from food stalls or off the ground.  The dogs are just at buggy level so I have to watch that he does not try to take a lick of a child’s dripping ice cream as they go by or swipe a biscuit from their hand. Dogs are opportunists so they will chance it if they think they will get  away with it.

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I work a lot in shopping centers getting the dogs used to the noise levels and getting them used to
children’s rides. These can be a little bit scary for dogs especially if they go off intermittently when we are walking by.  The dogs have to be very well behaved indoors and need to learn how to behave when approached by the public.  I have a sign on the dog’s jacket stating, please ask to pet me. 
Some of the families will encourage social interaction for their child so
the dog needs to be well behaved. 
Some of the children with Autism particularly those with hearing  sensitivity will not want to stop and talk about the dog (or allow their parent  to talk about the dog) so it is important to know how to get the dog to ignore public attention.  Other areas I work on in the shopping centre are: trolley work, lifts, stairs, food refusal, fitting into a changing cubicle or toilet and hand dryers.  

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Keela and Hector in the playground.
I do a lot of work in Café’s and restaurants to be sure that Hector is well behaved. There should be absolutely no begging from the table, no attention seeking and no hovering of the floor or licking the table legs clean.  He should lie down quietly until such time as he is asked to get up.
I do a lot of work getting the dogs used to people stepping over them so that they do not pop up every time somebody moves.  They also need to be good around toddlers who will often unintentionally prod or poke them or pull their hair/tail.

 

Playgrounds
. I do a lot of work in playgrounds getting the dogs used to being obedient in highly intense areas. There can be a lot of high pitch laughing, crying, screeching which can be exciting for the dogs.  I teach  the dogs how to behave when approached by children and I use benching as a tool to help manage the dog and the child at the same time.  This is a form of tethering where the dog is tied to a secure area such as a park railing or bench.  I control the dog then using my voice and body language.  This can be used in other areas such as by the Lough when feeding the birds.  The Lough is particularly good area to train for bird and dog distraction.  The birds are very protective of their young and can get quite nasty if you go too close so the dogs have to know how to cope with this and will do so by getting security from the  handler.

Until next time....

    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