Saturday, July 16, 2011

5 Months Old

Eli went to a busy restaurant with me for the first time without being in his carrier. I was hesitant to leave the carrier behind, but I wanted Eli to feel the confidence I had in him. He amazed me! He laid down on the bench next to me, on top of my bag. He looked up when the waitress came over to take our drink order, which startled her. I imagine it would when you don't expect a tiny dog to be over in the corner. The waitress must have said something to the manager because he came over and politely told us that "pets" are not allowed in the restaurant. I picked him up so the manager could see his vest and also displayed Eli's badge and all was fine. Eli laid back down as if I never disturbed him. Even when a bunch of waitresses were going to the table next to ours with a birthday dessert, clapping and chanting the restaurant's birthday message, Eli did not make a sound. I was expecting him to bark a little. That is my fault for a momentary lapse of faith in him because he was perfectly behaved. I was able to have a delicious steak dinner without any disturbance whatsoever from Eli.
Yesterday afternoon was Eli's first time at the disc golf course. He got to run around with Mei-li, who gets to be off-leash at the course. I did allow Eli to be loose, just dragging his leash behind him a few times. I was pretty concerned that a hawk might swoop down and drag Eli off, though. That would have been devastating and I would never forgive myself. Eli never went too far away and repeatedly looked at me to make sure I was still there. Funny enough, a couple of times I became pretty overheated and tired and that is when Eli would stop completely and want me to pick him up. After I rested and cooled down a bit, Eli was free to romp freely through the grass again. He loved it.
Now that Eli's five months old, it is time to really get down to brass tacks. He will be getting neutered at the beginning of August and should be nicely healed by the time he is six months old on August 14th.
At six months old, and after being house-broken, well socialized and demonstrating a solid obedience skill set, the intense, specific service dog training begins. Eli's first professionally-based training will be the AKC Canine Good Citizen Course.
A service animal should be accepting of and friendly to strangers. The CGC Test, which follows the Course, shows that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler in a natural, everyday situation, ignoring the dog. I think that is the important part to highlight ~ IGNORING THE DOG. Eli has been doing very, very well with friendly strangers when I have given him the cue that I want him to. It is only when someone reaches for him that he will let that person know he is not receptive. This is important to public awareness of service dogs. They are NOT pets. They are working and have been trained to do a specific job. That job includes obeying the commands of their handler. Service dogs are not out in public for everyone to love.
Another portion has the dog demonstrate a welcome to being groomed and examined. Eli really surprised me when he went calmly with the groomer the other day and did not so much as flinch while she trimmed his claws. I do not think Eli will have any problem with this at all. Eli will also be looked at for how well I take care of him. He has to be clean and groomed and must appear healthy.
Some other areas of the CGC Test is the ability to walk together with a loose leash, and to be able to walk through a crowd without jumping on people or pulling the leash. I generally carry Eli because he is so small. I really do not think he would jump on other people and when I do walk with him he does pretty well on a loose leash. However, that is why we go through the Course before taking the Test.
Sitting and staying in place is something Eli does well with. Reacting to other dogs is another area that he seems to be fine with. In fact, Eli was approached by two dogs on the disc golf course. One was a Boston Terrier, the other a Labrador. In both cases, Eli reacted pretty well. He was polite, unlike Mei-li, and just waited to see if the other dogs were there to play with him. Of course, the Test looks for the dog to not want to go toward another dog. That will be an area to work on, though Eli has been recognizing that wearing his vest means that it is not playtime.
Passing the Canine Good Citizen Test will be a huge leap forward in Eli's service dog training. He certainly proves he is loyal to me, which is one of the first criteria in being a service dog. Typically, service dogs perform such tasks as pushing a lifealert button, retrieving a phone or pressing an assigned 911 button, retrieving dropped items (which Eli already does ~ my inhaler, my cell phone, pens, etc.), fetching items, retrieve the cable remote or other household items, pulling a wheelchair (which I can not imagine Eli being able to do ~ haha!), offering stability while standing or walking, grabbing clothing (another thing Eli already does), helping remove shoes, or even running for help.
The real fun is about to begin!
`*.¸.*´ CrystalLynn ~~~

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