After teaching class last night, I loaded three dogs in the Element and headed for Virginia. Today, Talos and I spent all day in Charlottesville working with the good folks at Service Dogs of Virginia. We worked on typical balance dog skills:
- loose leash walking
- settling quietly on a mat in public
- eye contact
- pivoting left and right
- backing up
- attention/eye contact
We started out in the training center, where distractions are minimal and can be easily controlled.Talos showed off his skills (and the areas that still need more work!) and learned some new ones, too. Then it was off the the Charlottesville mall, filled with holiday shoppers, twinkling lights, larger-than-life window displays, and lots (and lots) of kids.
There were three Great Danes – two in training (Talos and his brother, Gryphon), and a two-year old working Great Dane named Arrow with his person, Valerie.We got the chance to take the dogs into Santa's Circle and the big man himself actually took time to talk to the dogs. Talos was not fazed by the jolly man in red (he was a real Santa – beard and all!).
Three giant dogs make quite a spectacle no matter where they are, but put them in the center of a food court and it gets a little chaotic very quickly!Everyone has a question, everyone wants to pet the dogs. It was a great socialization experience for the dogs. With repeated experiences like this, the dogs quickly learn to settle down and ignore all the hullabaloo. It's really something to see a Dane sleeping soundly in the middle of the mall while a small crowd gathers with cameras, children, and questions.
In the end, though, that's exactly what the dogs need to do. They need to become so accustomed to that scenario that it almost becomes boring to them. Their partner, the person who needs the dog, relies on the Dane for balance and support. The Danes need to focus on their person, the pace, and the requests of their person. The dogs can't do their jobs if they are distracted by squealing children, gasps of passersby, twinkling lights, loud music, or roaming groups of teens.
Tomorrow, Talos has the day off and it's Nemo's turn to work.Despite the forecasted drenching rain/snow and temperatures in the 30's, Nemo and I are headed to a tracking workshop in Richmond, VA. This could get tricky – Nemo's not a fan of the cold. To be fair, he's single-coated. Unlike the Labs, who are triple-coated, Nemo gets cold very quickly. It's like us going out into the weather without a coat – we can't take it very long.
In a pinch, I'll take Tango with me.I'll assess the weather tomorrow morning and make a "game time decision." Tango would very happily trudge through the rain and wouldn't even notice the temperatures. But Nemo's got a nose on him that just won't quit. I think he'd be great at tracking and I really want to give it a go with Nemo.
In any event, the day will be spent learning alongside a dog. It's the coolest way to spend the day.