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.