Hector and Lilly at the Regional Park
Obedience sessions teach the dogs a lot and when done in a fun way, they do not even know they are learning. On a free run, it is important to make it unpredictable.   Keep your dog on their toes.  Keep them looking for you, not you looking for them.  
If they run too far away, turn the other way and walk away without calling them, let them look for you and when they see you walking away they will come back to you.

(Although you are walking away, don’t completely take your eye off them and be sure when they are running back to you that you have a good stance and make them slow down when they are coming back to you.  

A good way to do this is to stand near a tree or fence.  They will naturally try to protect themselves if they are running towards an obstacle. 

If you are in the middle of a field it is easier for them to get over excited and run into you.  If you are in the middle of a field and they are running very quickly towards you, take a good stance position, put your hands out and very loudly say steady elongating the word steaaaaaaaady. 

Quite often the dogs will come back to you and run close but not right up to you.  If they do, don’t walk towards them as this is like a game, they think they are playing chasing.  Walk away and make yourself very inviting.  And
when they do come in give them huge praise while grabbing hold of the

If your dog comes back to you of their own accord always praise them. The praise can be physical, vocal or food reward. Alternate these to so they never know when they are going to get the treat. Before you even let them
off the lead, let them know you have the treats in your pocket.

If your dog runs off and won’t come back for ages, no matter how frustrated you are, when they eventually do come back, do not give out to them.  It can be very difficult, but if you give out to them when they do come back they will be less inclined to come back to you again.

We are generally creatures of habit ourselves.  We tend to walk the same route for exercise, in one direction or to a point and back. If you let your dog off at the start of a walk by the car, walk your route and then go back to the car and take the lead out again, they will know that it is the end of fun time. 
During a walk, clip on an off the lead randomly so they never know when
the fun will finish.  Part way through a walk, call your dog in, clip on the lead, walk for a minute and then let him/her off again.

Our dogs are fed to a whistle. The whistle is a really handy tool on a free run.  If your dog is running towards danger and you try to call your dog, they
will hear the anxiety in your voice and will be less inclined to come back to
you.  Also if you are calling your dog and he/she is ignoring you and you start getting frustrated, again, he/she will be less likely to come back to you.  By using the whistle, it transmits no emotion and it is such a high pitch it can break the concentration of whatever your dog is focused on.  Also, because your dog has a food association with the whistle, when you blow the whistle they will instantly think of food.

 If you are trying to call your dog and they are playing with another dog for example. You have to exaggerate your behaviour to make yourself more interesting than the other dog. This can include exaggerating body language, using high pitch tones, make yourself very welcoming.
Hector meeting the horses
We try to expose the dogs to as much as possible.  We have access (through our staff to horses, cows, sheep, cats, birds,
guinea pigs, rabbits, reptiles, fish.)  As we match families on the waiting list if they have any of these animals or frequent contact with any of these animals it is important that their
dog will be comfortable around these animals so we let them meet to check how they cope.  It can be very tough on a dog learning how to cope with animals they are not familiar


Our dogs are allowed some access to petting farms. Anywhere there is a breeding programme access is restricted due to the high risk of infection for both the breeding animals and our own dogs.  Our dogs are not allowed in the Zoo or Fota Wildlife Park. I understand that this is upsetting for some however, personally I don’t have a problem with this as it would be very stressful on our dogs to try to cope in such an environment.  They have never seen elephants, giraffe’s, monkey’s etc so to expect them to work in those situations would only increase their stress levels.  You would find that by bringing your dog to those areas it would make your life more difficult rather than easier which defeats the purpose of having an Assistance Dog.

Until next time,

Hector’s work is coming along nicely. I also started one of the most important parts of my job, matching:

I have just started looking
for suitable families for each of my dogs. In this process I will match each dog under a number of criteria to ensure the highest chance of a successful outcome.  The factors taken into  consideration are as follows;

1 The Dog: 
-The type of dog.
-The size of the dog.
-The walking pace of the dog.
-The dogs distraction levels in regards to scent distraction, bird/dog/cat distraction, livestock distraction.
-The dogs sensitivities: does the dog like physical contact, does the dog get very excited or stressed by loud noises, how mentally strong is the dog.
-Is the dog more suited to country, suburban or urban living.

2 The Child:
- What are his/her particular sensitivities?
- If the child has hearing sensitivity I will not match them with a vocal dog.
- If the child has touch  sensitivity, for example if he or she likes the feel of the coat and the thud of  the wagging tail but does not like the feel of the wetness of the tongue then I will match them with a dog who likes physical contact but who is not a particularly licky dog.
- If the child has body sensitivity and does not like physical contact I will match them with a dog who does not seek too much physical contact.
- If the child loves physical contact I will make sure I do not match them with a dog with body sensitivity or a dog who gets too excited by body contact.
- If the child is a toe walker (walks on his/her toes rather than on the flat of the foot to reduce the feedback that he/she gets from the surface of the ground) then there is a higher chance that the child will stumble a lot more so I will match them with a dog that will not mind the child leaning a little bit on the dogs back for balance.

3 The Handler: (This will be the person who will work the dog usually either a parent or guardian of the child)
- Will the primary handler be male or female?
- What pace do they walk?
- How physically strong are they?
- How physically fit are they? 
- Do they use different tones in their voice?
- Does the handler like dogs? 
- Does the handler have any fear of dogs?
- Who will the second handler be?

4 The Family:
- How many in the family?
- Any toddlers/babies? 
- Are any of the family afraid of dogs?
- Any other disabilities in the house?
- Any pets in the house? 
- Any other relevant adult in the home, eg au pair, relations etc?
- If both parents work, who will look after the dog during the day?

5 The Environment:
- Do the family live in the country/suburbs/town/city.
- Do they live in a house, apartment etc .
- Is the spending (toileting area) grass or concrete.
- Do they use public transport.
- If they commute for school/work, how long is the commute.
- If they live in the country, is there livestock around the home.
- Are there safe routes to work a dog from home or will every walk have to be from the car.
- Do they travel abroad a lot.

These are just some of the things I take into consideration when matching my dogs. We have a waiting list at present.  When matching I start at the top of the waiting list in order to give priority to those who are waiting the longest.  However, if the dog that I have does not suit the family I will move onto the next family on the list. It is a tough thing to do, knowing that that family have to wait longer for a dog, but if the match is not right then choosing them will be futile. An incorrect match will only make life more difficult for a family in the long run which is not what we aim to achieve.  

Hector having a nose
Susan (who you will remember from writing this blog before me) and her daughter Chloe along with her son Philip.
While considering all of the matches I am still working Hector and my other dogs in a variety of areas.  Practicing routes and getting them used to challenging environments.  I do as many attachments as I can with children both with Autism and without.   

When doing attachments we try to keep the child on the inside away from the traffic. The handler will change position depending on the environment. If the area is nice and safe such as a park, then the handler may drop back behind the child and dog.  If the area is more dangerous such as near a main road, the handler will be right up by the dogs shoulder in line with the dog and child.

I'll have more for you soon

    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