Saturday, April 5, 2008

Surfaces

A service dog never knows where it might be asked to go. Whether as a partner to an adult who uses a wheelchair or as a companion to a child with Downs, the pup must be at ease in any atmosphere in any location at any time. To this end, we puppy raisers try to expose our sweet little darlings to a variety of situations and experiences throughout the time we work with them. Generally speaking, we try to take them at the least anywhere a person in a wheelchair can go. Better to work through issues with us, than have an unpredictable reaction in a time of need.

It is not uncommon to hear about dogs being released from the program because of their fear of crossing over various surfaces. A friend's dog got bounced out of Advanced Training when she continually balked at a checkered tile floor, though she had never previously demonstrated that issue with her puppy raiser (and hasn't since). The first dog I raised was released when he absolutely, positively, categorically refused to walk on metal surfaces. He would go to the end of his leash to avoid manhole covers. He would not climb metal stairs. He was terrified of getting on the grooming table. Most unfortunately, he would not jump up into a handicap-equipped van because of the metal flooring. Bye-bye service career, hello petdom!

Sergi, on the other hand, has shown no reservations whatsoever about walking on any surface. Since he was just a couple of months old, I have been taking him out to toilet on the grate in the sidewalk in front of my office and he has walked on it without a concern. Indeed, he seems to have no fear of much of anything so far, which is encouraging for his future success.

We went for a long hike this week around Lake Calaveras and Sergi was his usual good-boy self. We walked mostly on dirt trails and saw lots of little critters: lizards, a couple of quail, several squirrels, a few jackrabbits, and accidentally flushed out some morning doves from their nest. Sergi's ears perked up at the movements and noises, but he never pulled on his leash or tried to go after anything. Considering how much he loves to chase and retrieve his toy ball at home, I'm always pleased and a little surprised at how relaxed he is on leash on the trail.

At one point we came to a stream with a fun little home-made bridge across it, kind of resembling a lengthwise ladder. I didn't know how Sergi would do with this brand new idea. I had no intention of forcing him to cross it, but was eager to see if he would do it willingly. It took less than a minute for him to decide that this would be something he could do! Once across, he went back and forth several times and nailed it each time easily and with tail wagging.

Although I removed his leash to work through this exercise, it didn't stay off for long. The first picture shows what was all around us in this shady area — poison oak. We leashed up quickly before getting any of it on dog fur and continued our hike with images of agility competitions dancing in our heads.

1 comment:

Kelsey and Spike said...

Just found your blog. I'm a puppy raise for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Sergei is very handsome! And he seems to really love hiking. ;)

Hope you don't mind if I link to your blog, let me know if you do! :)