Thursday, April 24, 2014

Training for a 5K

Doppler is training for a 5K. We’re doing the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community to support Susquehanna Service Dogs on May 17. Now, Doppler weighs 37.4 pounds, and there is no way I’m carrying his furry butt more than 400 meters. So we’ve been going for long walks to get him used to walking long distances without pulling. On Saturday, we walked close to three miles, and on Sunday, we did about two and a half. Doppler’s a pretty good little walker.

The Highmark Walk is one of SSD’s biggest fundraisers, and Doppler and I are trying to raise $500. I don’t usually like asking people for money. But Susquehanna Service Dogs is something I really care about. They’re making a huge difference in people’s lives. And because I really care about SSD, I’m going to ask you for money. Here it goes:

Thank you so much!

Doppler and I are off to take another walk. I’ll catch you up on all the things he’s been doing in a later post.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Doppler and the Wonderful, Amazing, So Good, Excellent Outing

Relaxing after his wonderful, amazing, so good, excellent outing

Remember Friday’s outing to Giant? That horrible, terrible,no good, very bad outing?

Doppler just wiped it completely off the slate. We went back to Giant this morning, and it was awesome. A wonderful, amazing, so good, excellent outing. And what makes it even more amazing is it wasn’t a grab-pay-and-go outing. I actually bought my groceries for the week with Doppler by my side.

With Friday’s disaster still fresh in my mind, I did everything in my power to set Doppler up for success. I had a plan.

First, I packed power treats. Doppler loves Easy Cheese, that disgusting, fake, yellow cheese you squirt out of a can. I think it’s gross, but it holds Doppler’s attention like you wouldn’t believe. I knew that if I had the Easy Cheese, I would have a pretty good chance of getting through Giant with a nice, focused puppy.

Second, we went to Giant at 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday. (Yeah, I'm a morning person. I wake up before the dogs on weekends.) There was hardly anyone in the store, and since Doppler gets very distracted by people, that helped him stay focused on me instead of pulling toward everyone. Even more importantly, mornings are Doppler’s calm time. He’s extremely calm in the morning and much more focused. Late afternoon and early evening is his crazy time. By taking him in the morning, when he’s still half asleep, he was much less inclined to be a wild thing.

Lastly, Doppler only got a psychological breakfast before we left my apartment. What’s a psychological breakfast? It’s just a small handful of kibble in his food dish. Because it’s in his food dish, he thinks he’s getting breakfast, but he’s still going to be hungry. If he’s hungry, he’s going to be more inclined to try to figure out how he can get treats from me while we’re out in public, which means he’s going to behave.

My plan worked like a charm. I had a puppy who walked on a loose leash next to the cart. He sat next to me while I put broccoli, onions, and sweet potatoes into produce bags. He even sat nicely in the meat department and again while I checked eggs. While we were checking out, he sat and paid attention to me.

Best of all, he was quiet. Not a single peep! It was awesome.

Sure, he still pulled toward a few people, and he was extremely interested in the person using the power cart. But I was able to get his attention back on me fairly easily. It was nothing like the paws-scrabbling-on-the-floor pulling that he did on Friday.

I was so proud of him. And yeah, I’m a little proud of myself, too, for setting him up for success.

Other Doppler-is-awesome moments:

We went to my parents’ house, and Doppler didn’t have any accidents inside! He even went to their front door when he needed to go out. Even more awesome, he went up and down their wooden stairs several times on his own, just because he wanted to. Woo hoo!

I’m also starting to proof his self control with his food dish. All Susquehanna Service Dog puppies must sit (uncued) and wait for the “okay” before they’re allowed to eat their meals. Doppler has gotten really good at sitting and waiting for me to say “okay.” But then I decided to see if he was just waiting for me to say anything, or if he was actually listening to the word I was saying. I waited for him to sit and put his food down like normal. After he had been making eye contact with me for a few seconds, I said “rhino” instead of “okay.” (Don’t ask me why I chose “rhino.” I was a little surprised myself.). Doppler started moving toward his food as if I had said “okay.” I quickly bent and picked up the food dish. He sat again. This time, when I said “rhino” again, he didn’t budge. Then I said “okay” and he pounced to chow down.

Now I can say almost anything and he won’t budge until he hears the “okay.” Sometimes when I tell him “okay” right away, he just sits and looks at me, as if to say “You’re trying to trick me. It sounded like you said ‘okay,’ but I’m not falling for it.” 

Fire and Doppler snuggling. I knew Doppler would eventually wiggle his way into Fire's affections.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Doppler and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Outing

Doppler and his new toy

Today, Doppler and I had the worst outing. A horrible, terrible, no good, very bad outing.

We went to Giant because it’s my dad’s birthday today, and I wanted to make him a little something special. Before I go any further, I just want to wish him a happy birthday. He’s pretty awesome. Happy Birthday, Dad!

I took Doppler in to Giant just to quickly grab a few ingredients. I planned on keeping it really short—just a quick grab, pay, and go. And in reality, we really weren’t inside for very long. But it felt like forever. Doppler walked inside nicely enough. He even walked into the first aisle like a pro.

And that’s when it started going wrong. Doppler started pulling toward every single person and nothing I did made a difference. It still wouldn’t have been a horrible outing, but then the barking began. Doppler got frustrated while I looked for my almond milk and barked several times. He barked multiple times while we were waiting in line, and then he barked and grumbled repeatedly while I checked out. To make it worse, everyone in the store ignored him when he was quiet and kept saying “Oh, what a cute puppy!” while he was barking.

It was terrible and I’ve never been happier to leave a store.

However, I know that I’m at least half to blame for this horrible, terrible, no good, very bad outing. First off, I should never have taken him in with me. He had a difficult day at work. He wouldn’t settle under my desk, and barked and put up a fuss every time one of my coworkers stopped by to talk with me. I should have known that an outing would be too much for him.

Second, I didn’t have any power treats with me. Just boring old kibble. I should know better than to venture out in public without power treats, especially after the puppy has had a tough day.

Third, I should have spent more time helping him refocus every time he got distracted.

Well, I learned my lesson. Next time I’ll be prepared. Even though it was a terrible outing, I was still able to find at least one positive thing. Doppler sat on cue almost every time I asked him to, and although it was the only positive thing he did, it was still something.

Doppler has made lots of other progress. He’s finally understanding “stay.” He learned the cue “kennel,” and will now go into his crate on cue. He met a cat and didn’t terrorize it. He had his first bath and didn’t get me soaking wet.

Chilling with the tin man in Harrisburg

Relaxing at Spring Gate Winery

Why are dogs so cute when they look like drowned rats?

Oh, and the biggest accomplishment of all—drum roll, please. No, break out the trumpet fanfare—Doppler now happily goes up and down stairs! 

Halfway up the steps to the Capitol! Woo hoo!