Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Team Training: Round Two Day Three

Shilo and I are giving team training all we both have. The trainers at Summit are challenging us both with the expectation that we, as a team, will rise to every task put before us. Over the last two days we have succeed, stumbled, celebrated, learned, and been somewhat overwhelmed. Sue has been systematically introducing me to each of Shilo's cues followed by numerous opportunities for me to have her perform each one. While it's obvious Shilo and I have a connection, the process of acquiring the shared language and routines that will allow us to become a service dog team is complicated and slow. This eight day team training is just jump start of a process that we will be engaged in for the life of our partnership. Service dogs are sentient beings that give back what we as partners are willing and able to put in. I have to work hard to be realistic with my expectations of Shilo in check. These expectations cannot be low or high. I must meet her where she is and together we have to move forward. A couple of good examples have occurred over the last three days:

  • Shilo is a shepherd mix (probably shepherd cattle dog, but being a stray and rescue, it's anyone's guess). She is also not a natural retriever. Retrieving (or the ability of a dog to take things in their mouth and not shred it) is at the base of many of the tasks service dogs do. She has gone from having no idea why she should pick things up for me to seeking opportunities to retrieve items for me.
  • When I came the beginning of the week I came armed with two toys to help me bond with her through play. Again being a rescue, Shilo has always demonstrated little interest in toys. I introduced her to the stuffed terry cloth piggy by Boda and she immediately began playing with it and loves it. She loves to run around the training center playing with it and me.
  • I mentioned before that Shilo is a soft dog. Today we were out training in a store and it was nearing the end of the day and the trainer and I both noticed Shilo was beginning to shut down. I quickly rewarded her for doing something simple correctly sand was able to get her to happily complete the task of pulling open the freezer door.

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