Sunday, May 24, 2009

Evaluation Day

Yesterday Honeydew had an evaluation by the Guide Dogs staff.  We have a new lead trainer at Guide Dogs and she hasn't meet our puppy club dogs yet, so this was a chance for her to get to know us and the club pups.  Of course, Honeydew didn't study for the big test (she was too busy talking on the phone to her friends), but she did a great job anyhow!  

We met with the new lead trainer, she asked us a lot of questions about Honeydew - how she reacts to noises, does she vocalize in her kennel, etc.  We then went out for a walk through a farmers market up the street.  She gave us a lot of pointers and some new training techniques to help Honeydew with the two things that she struggles the most with....pulling on the leash when walking, and being VERY distracted by other puppies along the way.  

Now, we are supposed to give her food rewards for doing what we want (walking on a loose leash and/or being indifferent to other dogs).  We do what is called "marking" - which means that when she is doing the behavior we want, we say the word "nice" - and then give her a kibble.  She likes that!  It is very similar to using a clicker to mark the good behavior.  We used this technique before to train her to "go to bed", so this is an extension of that.  The impact was noticeable almost immediately.  So - now we get to be "one of those people" that walk around with a treat bag hanging off their hip.  Ugh!

The exciting news though, is that Honeydew doesn't have to go back for formal training in June!!  So, it looks like it will probably be July now.  We are very excited about that!  Not only do we have more time with her - but we also have more time to try to get her over these two issues (leash pulling and dog distraction) so that she has a better chance of being successful when she enters the training program at Guide Dogs.

The pictures are of our day at the evaluation.  First one is of Honeydew and I meeting with the lead trainer (called a "Community Field Representative").  Second is of Honeydew...she REALLY likes this new training approach of getting kibble for being good.  She has never paid so much attention to me!  Third is of Honeydew working with the lead trainer (she got high marks!).  Lastly, Honeydew totally tanked out sleeping on her Aunt Deb's leg in the car.  It was a very exhausting day.

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