Lately, I’ve been thinking about dogs and dog training. I love my ancient little Scooter, but I miss interacting with an active dog. About 2 months ago I saw a piece in the local paper about how Guiding Eyes for the Blind (GEB) was looking for volunteer puppy raisers here in Maine. Before these dogs begin their formal service dog training, they live in the homes of volunteers. These good people get training so that they can raise the dogs in such a way that at just under two years of age, their puppies will be able to progress right into the guide dog training. It’s a huge commitment. The puppies are not left to themselves for more than a few hours at a time. I can’t take a puppy myself, (it’d be too much for Scooter) but I could be a pet sitter. I could help the puppy raisers when they got into a time pinch. GEB uses training techniques that I’m already fluent in. There’s been a transformation in the way that service dogs are trained. GEB, and another group, Guide Dogs for the Blind, are now using positive reinforcement protocols. It turns out that being kind to dogs leads to a much higher success rate! Six years ago I became a certified dog trainer through KPA. I’ve helped some friends with their dogs, but mostly I’ve used my skills with horses. Volunteering for GEB seemed like a good way to have dog time.
Although I’m a skilled trainer, there are specific techniques, cues and behaviors taught to guide dogs that I’m not familiar with, so I’ve started attending GEB puppy raiser classes so that I can learn them. This week I got to help train this dog.
And cuddle this brand new puppy.
I’ve decided, though, that the puppy sitting isn’t all that I want to be doing with dogs. Lately I’ve had numerous conversations with friends about how the pandemic has affected their lives. These are people who work in veterinary clinics, are dog trainers, and in dog rescue. They all talk about the same things. They’re stressed out because the dogs that they’re seeing are stressed. Behavior issues abound (dogs and owners both!) There are rescue dogs who were never socialized as puppies, and then found homes with people who love them, but don’t have the training knowledge to know how to improve the lives of their reactive dogs. There are people who weren’t able to go to dog training classes because of the shutdown, so they are now living with out-of-control dogs. There are dogs who have never been out of their owner’s sight, who are now dealing with separation anxiety because their owners are going back to work. These are all challenges that can help with, so I’m now taking dog training clients. I do in-home visits. I’m based in southern Maine. If you have a dog that you’d like help with, let’s talk! More information is at my website here.
How exciting! Kind of a neat way to bring things full circle, training-wise. I look forward to reading about your dog work, as well as your continuing riding, and baking, adventures! Dog treats may be a little different from horse treats, though — looking forward to those recipes too.
I’ve been cooking a lot, but not doing anything by recipes. Lots of riffing with local ingredients. Maine has a surprisingly robust farmers market scene. Last night I made a pasta with kale and roasted garlic dinner. I’ve no idea of exactly how I made it and I couldn’t repeat it exactly if I tried! After years of writing precise recipes for others, I’m having a blast being so loose in the kitchen.
So happy to see this new direction for you! There is so much need out there. Having one of those difficult dogs myself (with a pretty good handle on the situation), I know how lonely it can be for the owner till s/he taps into good resources. Looking forward to hearing more.
Once upon a time (decades ago), I thought about being a guide dog puppy raiser, but when I watched a friend jerk and haul on her guide dog puppy, and confirm that she was following her program’s training protocols, I was frankly appalled. God bless Michele Pouliot and all the others who brought guide dog training into the 21st century.
A few scritches to dear Scooter.
The change started with Karen Pryor, and then people like Michele Pouliot took it to their worlds. I’ve been fortunate to attend a couple of classes at ClickerExpo given by Michele. Genius. It wasn’t easy for her to change an entire culture of guide dog training. She’s set others on that route. It’s amazing what they’ve accomplished.