Ike, the newest service pup in training has been here almost two weeks. When a new dog comes in, I spend the first several days getting to know him or her, figure out their personality, their preferences, their challenges.
Ike's an energetic Labrador puppy – into everything. And everything into his mouth! He's going to be a wheelchair assistance dog, so we actually encourage Ike to pick things up. Wooden things, metal things, plastic things, noisy things, big things, little things, knobby things, soft things. The more fun Ike has picking things up now, the easier it will be for us to get him to pick up unwieldy things like a set of car keys (which Ike has already mastered), or tempting things like a sandwich in a baggie (don't be silly, we haven't even attempted that yet!).
He plays hard and then he sleeps hard. I'm trying to merge training with play as much as possible. For simplicity sake, really. there's only so much playing Ike can do before he's sleeping again. He alternates between sleep- and play-mode, there's not a whole lot of in-between with Ike yet.
A challenge for Ike is remaining quiet in the crate. To promote crate love, I feed the pups in their crate (out of a food-stuffed toy, not a bowl) and put special snacks in their crate, too. Ike loves going into his crate, he's just not super fond of it once all the goodies are gone. The first day or two, he barked for 15 minutes. In our house, barking earns ignoring, so Ike got no attention until he managed to take a breath and remain quiet for at least ten seconds. I've got another article planned on how I'm helping Ike relax and enjoy the crate – stay tuned.
Ike reminds me very much of the first service dog I raised – a big, chunk-headed fellow named Rocky. Labradors are happy dogs, but Rocky was the happiest of Labradors. His tail would wag in his sleep, I swear. Ike, too, is a happy guy. Yesterday, he knocked into a step ladder and it slid down on top of him. It made a lot of noise and sort of pinned him to one spot. As I came to extricate him, the first thing I heard was his thump, thump, thumping tail. Like Rocky, nothing seems to bother Ike. Rocky is also a big wiggler – he wags his tail so hard and fast that his entire rear end wiggles back and forth. Same with Ike. They are two peas in a pod.
We just got the good news that Rocky will spend Christmas with us this year. Rocky will have a Mini-Me in Ike. It'll be fun to compare the two when they're side-by-side.