Monday, February 22, 2010

Kisses make everything better!

I was walking around my room today and accidently stubbed my toe REALLY REALLY hard on my bed.  I fell on the floor screaming in pain and Serena comes running in and sniffs me all over and then starts licking my face tentatively.  When the pain subsided a couple seconds later I was able to hug her and then the real licking began.  I got tons of puppy kisses and it made me laugh.  Cure for pain: puppy kisses!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Training update

For a little bit Serena was in the "teenager stage" which consisted of her going "why should I do that. Make me."  So we just worked on fine tuning the stuff she already knew and waited it out.  Now it looks like she is back to wanting to learn!  This morning I had her pull my socks off for me then started training her to pull the blankets over me in bed.  She loved them both so I think training to do them is going to be easy.  She is also more body aware which helps because if she was stepping on the blanket while pulling she would stop and reposition herself off of the blanket.  When she is a little better at it I will post videos!

We also had a breakthrough with pulling while walking!  I had tried all the normal stuff to get her to stop pulling:

Yanking her back hard: This worked when she was 30lbs but now that she is almost 50lbs I can't pull her as hard and she would heel for a little bit and then go right back to pulling

Halti: Basically a horse halter for dogs that puts pressure on her nose when she pulls which is harder to lean into than her collar.  It would keep her from pulling but she would revert right back to pulling when I took it off.  It was great for when we were in public and it is harder to correct her so is put a 'band-aide' on the problem.  I also didn't like it because a lot of people thought she had a muzzle on and that she was dangerous.  Trying to explain to people that no it was just a halter and didn't close on her mouth when she wasn't pulling was annoying because some people just wouldn't listen.

Pinch Collar: I was walking a dog who owned a pinch collar that he really didn't need to use while walking since he is older now and doesn't feel the need to pull as much.  So I adjusted it to Serena and figured I would use it for one walk to see if it was worth going out and buying one.  It kept her from pulling while walking but it didn't make her pay attention to me.  She would just try to pull until is pinched her.  Then when we were walking back from the dog's house without the collar she tried to pull even harder almost like "mwhahaha it isn't pinching me anymore."  So I decided to not go buy one.

The Solution: I couldn't figure out any other way to stop the pulling and was getting frustrated because as a service dog Serena CANNOT pull at all.  So the next day we were at the barn and I was playing around with a dressage whip (a really long skinny whip that can be used for slight tapping and corrections while riding).  I by accident still had it in my hand when Serena and I accompanied a friend putting their horse back across the property.  She started pulling and I decided to start tapping her on the bottom until it annoyed her enough to pay attention to me.  The minute she came back into heel I stopped tapping her and praised her.  And what do you know; she was not pulling within 2 minutes!  It was kind of like "I can still reach you when you are all the way up there Serena."  There was no yanking, beating or yelling.  Just simple it is more annoying to pull than it is to just stay in heel.  I wanted Serena to think "Heeling is awesome and comfortable, pulling is annoying and she won't stop tapping me."  It worked so well on the barn property I took the whip home and started walking her with it.  It is great!  When she stops paying attention "tap tap tap tap" until she goes into heel.

I also used the whip to tap certain body parts.  Like if she comes back into heel but is way too far to the side, I tap her on her left side so she moves away from it towards me.  The only problem with this is that it is a whip and I don't want people thinking that I am beating my dog into submission so I use it when we are going for walks around town (she used to pull the most on walks) and then when in public I leave the whip at home (less likely to pull because she checks to see where I am more in public).

We have been doing this tapping training for a week now and there already is a HUGE improvement.  She used to completely forget herself if other dogs were around but now she will sit next to me and try to control her excitement.  If she forgets and leaps forward "tap tap tap" and she goes "oh yeah I am attached to you!"  I think we might now be ready to get our Canine Good Citizen Award with the other older Service Dogs in Training!

Better late than never!!

I am totally like a week late with these pictures but Serena's first Valentine's Day was last week :-)

"Will you be my Valentine?"

"Pretty please?"

"Look how cute and pathetic I can be"

"Okay Mom, enough pictures I think they get the point"

Sunday, February 14, 2010


After getting over a foot of snow a couple days ago, Serena has been playing in it like crazy!! She runs with her face in the snow, jumps into HUGE snow piles and even likes it when we shovel snow onto her (weird).

A little black spot on the ice/snow on the beach:

She just loves the beach:

Ooooo look!  She turned white!

Serena's new friend Drummer:

He was ever so patient playing with her:

Monday, February 8, 2010

New Command!

Wow I am posting a lot today! Finally found time!! It is cold out all the time and the prospect of huge amounts of snow don't exactly make me motivated to take Serena out on a whole lot of walks. This makes for a puppy who can't sit still. When this happens we do a training session! I decided to teach her how to get a tissue from the box. I thought it would take awhile but I think all the "get it" training is finally clicking. She picked up the command in no time! So of course I video taped the end of the training session. Sorry for the bad angle, I was training in the hallway randomly and didn't want to move the training session and confuse her! Tomorrow we will move it around the house and see if she really knows what I am saying.

Oh and because you haven't seen Reggie and Serena pictures in awhile; below are some more recent ones! Serena now knows what stall is Reggie's and will run to it and wait by it if I release her from heel. Her highlight of going to the barn is leading Reggie out of his stall and down the aisle to the cross-ties. I have to tell her to wait when I am getting his halter on otherwise she tries to grab his lead rope and pull! Thank God Reggie has the patience of a saint with her and doesn't care when she gets excited and tugs really hard!

We were practicing "jump on" here. Serena didn't like being on the box at all and it took me awhile to get her up there but she eventually did it with some help from me. Reggie liked that she was more at his level and he could smell her all over!

This is Luke the Mustang. He LOVES Serena and Serena loves him too because he lets her lick him all over and they do this awkward horse/dog language thing.

Chicago Trip!

It was a gorgeous sunny (but cold) day on Sunday so randomly we decided to hop a train and go to the city to see the Sears/Willis Tower. Naturally we brought Serena. Our journey started at the Lake Bluff train station. We waited at the handicap area for the train.

 I thought Serena would freak out when the train pulled in but instead she just turned her head and stayed in a sit stay. The conductor checked her vest and looked at my ID and was very nice about letting her on the train. I wasn't sure how she would feel about getting on the train and walked over there to have Serena just jump on and go "now what?" She spent the trip at our feet watching people and looking outside the window. She got a little restless at the end but after an hour of being cramped at my feet I don't blame her.

 We got to the train station and realized they had handicapped doors with buttons so I worked her on the "up" command and got her to open all the doors for me!

 Off we went to find some food and ended up running into a random McDonalds since it was way too cold to keep walking to find something better. We ate our food and just as we were about to leave the manager came up to tell us that pets were not allowed in the store. I explained the law and showed her my ID but she was still a little hesitant. Part of me just wanted to get up and go since we were leaving anyway and probably would never be back at that exact McDonalds again but we stayed and explained some more. She ended up taking my ID to make a photo copy of the law. She came back and was very nice and said "I didn't know about that law, thank you for explaining it." It was annoying at first but it worked out and we educated one more person/establishment!

Afterward we headed over to the Sears/Willis Tower. Their handicapped entrance buttons were not working so we had to use the very heavy side doors that no person in a wheelchair could have opened (it took two of us pulling to open it). That was frustrating but after that it was smooth sailing! We took the elevator to the security level. We had to wait for the main guy to check my ID for Serena. The security people were very nice and let us right through once my ID was checked and they said hi to Serena. We went up another elevator, then another, then another. All were packed tight like Sardines but Serena just sat there. We finally made it to floor 103! They have the glass boxes up there now so we walked out on them. I thought Serena would freak out since the bottom is glass too but she just walked out there calmer than most of the people. We practiced the stay command to get some pictures of her hanging out over the city. Tons of other people were taking pictures of her too!

 Eventually we left and rode the multiple elevators down again. Some of the staff knew her name by then and all said "bye Serena!!" We practiced some more button touching at the train station and boarded our train home! She was exhausted at this point and passed out for most of the ride. About 15min until our stop she woke up and popped her up. Everyone in the train car had no clue she was there and were like "OMG there is a dog here! We didn't even know she was even with you guys" Mission accomplished! Overall it was a great experience and I am finding the city is a great place to take her since a lot of the places down there see service dogs a lot more than up where I live!

Puppy Class at the Mall

A week ago Serena and I drove down to Orland Park Mall to join the other service dogs in training for puppy class in the mall! We had a great time seeing everyone and it was a really good way to see what Serena needs to work on. When she gets excited she likes to pull and run ahead of me. We worked a lot on stopping then walking then stopping again to get her to pay attention to me more. She got better the more we worked on it and the more she realized the mall isn't all that exciting.

Venus (left) and Serena (right):

Hanging out...

What really impressed me was how she handled the SWARMS of people who came over to see why there were 6 dogs in the mall. We did a lot of down stays so that people could approach and say hi. She was so very patient and handled it all with flying colors!

The first massive crowd at the carousel (Serena is in front with Snickers (far left), Brecca (right behind Serena), Shay (behind Brecca) and Venus (far right):

Could this be any cuter? And also a big deal because Serena used to bolt (no joke) when children would approach her...

Second major group swarming at the fountain.  Serena is on the right with Brecca on the left:

So many people wanted to pet the dogs:

 A lot of people didn't believe that she was only 7 months old. I had one guy try to buy her off of me. No matter how many times I explained that she was NOT for sale he kept asking because "she was so much better behaved than his dogs." Um hello maybe because she is being trained... novel concept dude. Eventually his girlfriend just grabbed his arm and dragged him away. One of my favorite moments was when we stopped for lunch and put all 6 dogs under the table we were at. The looks on people's faces when we got ready to go and all of a sudden 6 dogs popped out (for perspective Serena is the smallest at almost 50 pounds). We spent 3 hours at the mall and barely made it halfway around because we were stopped by so many people! Overall it was a great experience and we had a ton of fun with everyone at My Angel with Paws!

All the puppy raisers for My Angel with Paws Midwest and their dogs: 
 (From Left to right ) Stathia & Venus, Cindy & Shay, Richard & Brecca, Linda & Hemingway, Me & Serena, Gary & Snickers.

Very tired puppy in the car on the way home!