Tuesday, January 31, 2012

#SAGApupVolt's First School Visit

Today at puppy class there were a lot more dogs than usual, 'coz we were going on an adventure!
Volt's sisters Vegas (pinkish collar) and Vossie (red collar) were with us at puppy class today, as well as his two brothers Vinny (he's wearing a purple collar in the photos and he's much bigger than his litter mates) and Viking (his fluffy brother)! Their other sister, Vera, has gone to Cape Town and Vinny was supposed to go too, but they suspected a problem with his feet and kept him in Gauteng to be checked out. He's coming along really well now and there doesn't seem to be a problem at all any more so he'll be joining Vera soon. 
The pups were also joined by brother and sister Toby (black pup) and Tamsin (light pink collar)- who are a few weeks older than Volt- and they got to hang out with 6 month old Rankin ('double' blue collar from the QR litter), and Volt's grandfather Chaka (the adult retriever in the photos)!
Once everyone was there we allowed the dogs to play off lead for a good 20 minutes before loading them in crates and heading for a nearby nursery school.
the pups and Chaka
the pups and Chaka
Volt and Viking
Volt and Rankin
Volt, Toby and Vossie at the trough
Volt, Toby and Vossie at the trough
Volt and one of his sisters
Volt and Vinny in the SAGA car
The point of the school visits is to get the pups accustomed to children of all ages, especially since the puppies get so excited when they see a child that they tend to lick and jump! It is also a way for the SAGA people to see how the dogs behave around children and pick up any potential problems with the pup's temperament.
The excited puppies were mobbed by the excited children when we arrived at the school and got lots of treats from the children, who were instructed to offer the treats on a flat open hand to avoid getting their fingers nipped. After a few minutes the children got a wee bit bored with the pups who aren't allowed to play, but just letting the pups walk around the playground- on leash- is such good training for them! The swings, the push-bikes, the shouting kids, the balls flying around, everything is so distracting and its great for the pups to learn to ignore it all. As always there are one or two children who stay with the dogs and cuddle them and talk to them non-stop, and there are a couple of children who ask endless questions, and a few children who are very nervous and hang back completely. None of the children are forced to talk or interact with the dogs, and if they are nervous we try to avoid heading in their direction, and of course the questions are answered as simply as can be done.
Volt watching Vossie and the kids play
the kids getting treats from their teacher (provided by SAGA) to give to the dogs
Volt and Vinny chilling in the shade
After puppy class, we headed to a few shops for some baking supplies and Volt got to meet a few more people, and then we went home where Volt drank LOTS of water, ate his lunch, and fell faaaast asleep!
Volt, worn out after his trip to puppy class, the nursery school and the shops
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Don't forget to check out the Twitter hash-tag #SAGApupVolt to see regular updates on my puppy raising adventure!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

#SAGApupVolt Is 13 Weeks Old Today

This afternoon he weighed in at 11.4kg which is a whopping 1.7kg gain in the last week!! That is almost double what he's been gaining in the last few weeks! Granted it was after breakfast and lunch, so it may be slightly over-stated...

Last night (Saturday) we headed out to some friends of ours to celebrate a birthday, and Volt went along with us. My friends have a 14 year old Dapple Daschund named Fred, a 5 year old Doberman bitch named Shayla, a Fox Terrier bitch named Tossie and a 6 month old Boerboel pup named Rufus. When I initially said Volt would be coming with us my friends were afraid Rufus may be a little rough on him, but after we introduced the dogs and they established whose territory it was, Volt was unleashed! There was only one occasion shortly after I released him that he came running back to me with Rufus and Shayla chasing him, but after I reassured him for a minute and walked away they were inseperable. Rufus and Volt, who is smaller, played all night long! They wrestled and chased and pounced and rolled! It was fabulous to watch and I am so pleased with Volt's socialisation ability. I am really sorry I didn't take my camera with me.
Naturally there were lots of questions from the party guests about how one raises a guide-dog and how are we going to give him up and it was really cool to be able to tell more people about it. And we got to show off his puppy-in-training vest!
Volt also impressed the guests with how well behaved he is and how well he listens, and they were so impressed with how he drops something or spits something out when told to "leave it".
The party was also an awesome opportunity for Volt to interact with more children and I think he did really well. There was a little boy of 2 who was nervous when Volt came towards him 'coz they were just about eye to eye, but Volt didn't snap or pounce so I was well pleased.

We left there well after 11pm and considering Volt is usually lights out by 10pm I figured he may sleep late this morning, which he did! In fact he only came out of his crate at 8am, had his breakfast and went back to sleep shortly afterwards!
The last few days have in fact seen him sleeping later and later in the morning, which I am hoping will be a continuing trend.

His scratching seems to have eased so I think the salmon oil capsules in his food are working. He's had one with breakfast and one with supper for the last week and today it was increased to 2 capsules with breakfast. The one capsule at supper will stay the same. I have had to increase the dose slowly because he is still physically small, but also because giving him a full dose immediately could upset his tummy badly.

He is happier about getting into the car now, and we've taken to eating one meal a day on the back seat where he sits. I also don't feed him if I know we're going to be driving to avoid nausea and his associating the car with that bit of unpleasantness.

What he has started doing is gulping his food down so fast that he throws up a few minutes later! I now pour his food out on the floor of his crate and his having to look for it as he eats slows him down tremendously, so we have't had any throwing up in a few days.

The last week was a very busy work week for me too, and I am very pleased that I was able to fit in his daily training sessions AND get all my work done!

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Don't forget to check out the Twitter hash-tag #SAGApupVolt to see regular updates on my puppy raising adventure!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

#SAGApupVolt At Puppy Class

It was puppy class again this morning, and Volt had his two sisters, Vegas and Vossie, to keep him company.
Volt's sister Vera and his brother Vincent (he was in a litter of 7) have gone down to Cape Town for a fledgling puppy-raising scheme there, and his other sister Umeka and brother Viking go to different puppy classes.

Volt and his sisters have a whale of a time with all three of them wrestling and rolling to get on top of each other. His sisters often gang up on him and pin him to the ground. They're quite worn out when they get home.

Today Volt had his 12 week inoculations and a deworming tablet, which tastes vile and was a mission to get him and his sister's to swallow! Vegas was particularly adept at spitting it out again.
Volt also got his puppy-in-training jacket today! Now as we advance in his training he can go out more and more with me! Doesn't he look smart!?

In class today we worked on walking on a lead in a row, and as we walked we did "stop", "sit", "stay", "down", and "forward". Volt is usually pretty good on the lead but having his sisters in front and behind him today was a bit of a challenge to his attention span! ;) We also practised walking through doors and having the pups sit calmly next to us as we discussed their progress with our PDS.
We'll be practising what we did in class today at home this week. :)

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Don't forget to check out the Twitter hash-tag #SAGApupVolt to see regular updates on my puppy raising adventure!

Monday, January 23, 2012

How You Can Help Dogs Like #SAGApupVolt

The SA Guide-dog Association (SAGA) is a charity, and as such they rely on donations, sponsorships and other forms of fund raising including sponsored car competitions, a spring ball, a collar & tie club, debit orders, a Christmas campaign, direct mail appeals, the SAGA golf day, a SAGA family fun day, and more. You can even link your My School card to SAGA! They do not receive any government grants and the blind people who are partnered with these dogs are only charged a nominal fee in order to make the guide-dog service available to as many people as possible. The people who work for SAGA are also mostly volunteers so you can do that too!

There are different kinds of sponsorships available, and different kinds of donation options if you would like to look into them- like R500 to pay for a guide-dog's harness, collar, lead and medallion, or R3500 to cover the costs of rearing a puppy. Still stuck for ideas on how you could contribute? How about this - last year, a company in the Cape called Gulf, donated the money they were going to spend on a year end function to SAGA! Isn't that awesome! And in 2010 over 150 schools raised money for SAGA! 

Ten thousand rand is the full cost of sponsorship for a dog, from the pup's breeding to his or her retirement. As you can imagine this is only a fraction of the actual cost involved, but it is invaluable in keeping this service viable!

I am raising Volt, who is one quarter Golden Retriever and three quarters Labrador. Volt is super smart and totally lovable, and lucky enough to have his own sponsors! How cool is that!
Chris and Olga are Volt's benefactors (sponsors may remain anonymous of course). I don't know them, but they have kindly allowed me to use their first names so that I can thank them for making it possible for me and my family to raise Volt! As sponsors they are kept informed about Volt's progress by SAGA, and they will be invited to the graduation ceremony and to other SAGA events.
Its because of Chris and Olga's financial aid - for which they get mine and Volt's sincere thanks - that Volt will one day be an invaluable partner to someone who can't see.

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Don't forget to check out the Twitter hash-tag #SAGApupVolt to see regular updates on my puppy raising adventure!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Look How Much #SAGApupVolt Has Changed

#SAGApupVolt Is 12 Weeks Old

Isn't he just gawjiss!?!

He's 12 weeks old today, and he weighs in at 9.7kg! That means he's gained another 900g in the last week!
He's now eating 120g of his puppy food 3 times a day and he has one or two of his meals in the car every day as he's battling a wee bit with carsickness (eating his meal in the car means he associates it with good things, rather than unpleasant nausea). We also spend a little time in the car every day, just sitting in it, having a treat or two, and then going for a walk or going to play. If I know we're going to go in the car then I don't feed him until we get back, this is also to prevent nausea and the possible "I hate the car" mentality.
And he now sits on the back seat as he was getting too big to fit in the front seat's footwell along with a passenger! He seems happier there too as he can see out the window if he sits up.
chilling on the grass, he does so love to be outside
He is learning beautifully to sit and wait until I say he may eat. He doesn't wait long, but he's not diving straight into his bowl!
Walking on the leash is going really well too! He walks mostly on my left without pulling too much, even when Thelma and Louise are along with us.
What he has discovered is that he can climb up onto the couches and ottomans now! He's not allowed on the furniture at all, so keeping him off is quite a challenge as he gets a kick out of his new exploring ability!
just look how he's grown
Puppy class was fun. He got to meet and play with his little sister Vegas! We worked a little on "sit", "down" and "stand", as well as "down" from a standing position. And we worked on going through doors correctly. Guide-dogs have to "sit" and "stay" on the handler's left hand side until they are told they may go through the door, and then they have to do the same on the other side of the door as one usually has to open and close a door (we have to do this at home as well). You can imagine that a guide-dog rushing through a door just 'coz its open would make life very difficult for his partner. They also have to be taught this so that when they go to kennels they don't just run out the door when its opened. We also have to work on the pups sitting quietly next to us when we're just relaxing on a couch, as the handlers who train the grown-up dogs have up to 6 dogs at a time and having a meeting is impossible if the dogs are not calm and quiet!
Volt and I have two or three 5 minute training sessions a day where we focus on "sit", "stay", "down", "stand" and "come", as well as the handling necessary to make sure he's calm when being held and examined by anyone- especially a vet. These sessions are over and above the constant instruction like "sit", "stay" when going in or out of a door, "jump in" and "jump out" when we go in the car, "off" when he climbs on the furniture, "no" if he chases a cat or does something he shouldn't, "steady" if he pulls on his leash, and "leave it" if he plays with something other than his toys. And the positive reinforcement means he gets praise every time he does something correctly, even if it is in response to a "no" or a "leave it"!
Volt's sister Vegas! She was the smallest in the litter.
Can you see the resemblance?
We haven't had a potty accident in the house in almost a week so I think the house-training is done and dusted!
He loves to play with his toys, and even though he's not allowed to play tug-o-war games, he will actually put his toy in your hand to try and entice you to hold it so he can yank on it!
Volt fast asleep in his crate
Allergy season has affected him a little unfortunately, and he now has salmon oil capsules to supplement his daily meals with to ease the itching. It has to build up in his system so it doesn't help immediately, but he has no rash or blisters thank goodness, and he isn't battling nearly as much as some dogs do at this time of the year! We're trying to keep him off wet grass as much as we can so it doesn't get worse.

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Don't forget to check out the Twitter hash-tag #SAGApupVolt to see regular updates on my puppy raising adventure!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Look How #SAGApupVolt Has Grown!

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Don't forget to check out the Twitter hash-tag #SAGApupVolt to see regular updates on my puppy raising adventure!

Monday, January 16, 2012

This Week's #SAGApupVolt News

Volt is now 11 weeks old and weighs in at 8.8kg!

He is eating 110g of Purina Olympic Puppy three times a day. He LOVES his food, but he has very quickly learnt that if he's bouncing all over the place he's not going to get any. Once he's calm and sitting nicely I put his food down, and he doesn't jump into his bowl immediately anymore. He's learning to wait until I say he may have it! Lunch and supper are eaten inside his crate, and breakfast is eaten outside with the girls, after Thelma and Louise have been fed and whilst they are eating. I am so proud of him!

He has now slept downstairs in his crate for two nights in a row. After his 7pm supper and a late night "busy", he starts falling asleep at around 10pm. Then we "kennel in" and he sleeps till 5am, or a little after. I set my alarm so that I wake up at 5am as well as I don't want him having to call me when he's awake. Thelma and Louise are allowed onto their beds at 11pm, or a tad earlier if its cold, and in the morning they all head out the back door for breakfast and busies. Thelma and Louise are protective of their food, but that's getting better with time, and unlike before Volt arrived they now eat ALL the food in their bowls before taking up their morning patrol of the garden.

Leash walking is getting better every day, but he gets so excited if Thelma and Louise are walking with us! And let me tell you, the three of them together is a mission - Thelma and Louise are trying to stay out of his way and he's trying to walk and play at the same time!

The cats are settling down nicely, as with Thelma and Louise its Turk who is the bravest when it comes to Volt. They don't play, but Turk is far more tolerable of Volt sniffing him and following him around. Greebo and Magic's hissed warnings and the occasional swat from them has definitely made him wary of felines, but he still needs to be reminded every now and then with a "no" that they are not to be chased.

Last week we did a "drown proofing" as my swimming pool is not fenced, and Volt gets very excited if there are people in the pool - sticking his whole face under the water if you give him half a chance. So what I did was to walk him past the pool with my son walking behind me, and when we were heading for the steps I gave a signal and Volt was pushed into the pool. My son then jumped in and using his leash and my son's guidance we showed him where the steps were. He was drenched, but not particularly shaken, so here's hoping we've put him off - not given him an excuse to jump in when he wants to!

Tomorrow we go back to puppy class for our second session with his siblings and other puppy raisers! I am less nervous than last week, but I am still very aware that I am being "observed" when it comes to Volt's training and behaviour.

Volt just LOVES water! And he loves the rub-down that he gets if he does get drenched! 
This picture was taken after he discovered a tiny fountain coming from a hole in my hosepipe!

 Thelma and Louise are warming up to him slowly, and Thelma will even play a little bit, but they're still happier on their own bed if he's in his crate!

RUNNING! Check his ears!

Just look how he's grown! He's already lost that super-soft puppy face!

This is his favourite toy! He has a rope as well but he much prefers this rubber chew toy.

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Don't forget to check out the Twitter hash-tag #SAGApupVolt to see regular updates on my puppy raising adventure!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Happy Birthday Turk and Diva!

I feel so bad! I completely missed their birthday and it was a week ago already!

Turk and Diva, brother and sister, are two years old already!

Beautiful, dainty Diva is not at all impressed with having Volt the guide-dog puppy in her house and remains aloof and mostly upstairs! Poor darling. Diva and Minx are the two acrobats in our house, and they are the ones who spend the most time either chasing each other up and down the staircase or climbing the security gate to play with the bell I hung at the top.

Turk, still our biggest cat, is completely the opposite to Diva in terms of the puppy, and is the one who gets closest to Volt! They're very nearly playing with each other! I have started to tell Volt "no" on more than one occasion when I saw Turk jumping on the furniture out the corner of my eye! Turk is also a total bathroom cat and will appear- almost out of thin air- if he hears the door open!

Happy purrday my darling fuzzies! My house and my heart would be empty without you!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

#SAGApupVolt and the Animals' Food

From the day Volt arrived in our house, he has been taught that the food in the cats and dogs' bowls is off limits.
We use positive reinforcement, and each time he went near the food I'd say "no" and reward him with praise when he walked away.
An important part of guide-dog training is teaching the dog that just because its on the floor doesn't mean its his. Human food that falls off the kitchen counter for example, and the rubbish bin is also off limits and we're using the same training principals to teach him this.

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Don't forget to check out the Twitter hash-tag #SAGApupVolt to see regular updates on my puppy raising adventure!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Our First Puppy Class #SAGApupVolt

On Tuesday mornings (starting yesterday), Volt and I will be going back to SAGA for a weekly socialisation and training class.

I was really nervous about the first class, but my PDS said that was perfectly normal for a first time puppy raiser. I was nervous because I was afraid they were going to think I'd done something wrong in the few weeks he'd been with me! If I don't raise and train him properly they will take him away from me, so I am working hard to stick to the rules that are essential for a well mannered guide-dog.

Puppy class is partly a socialisation class for the pups and partly for training. Since they're not allowed to socialise with strange dogs until after they're 4 months old, this gives us the opportunity to teach them how to interact with dogs other than the ones they live with. Volt got to play with one of his sisters (I can't remember her name, she's wearing a red collar) and his brother who is a big, chilled out, fluffy, teddybear of a pup! They had a ball! They can play and wrestle, but as soon as there is any growling or aggression we have to seperate them, and absolutely no humping is allowed as this is an act of dominance. They are also not allowed to play whilst on their leashes 'coz a leash must equal work for these dogs.
We also discuss the puppies' behaviour and progress with the SAGA people who run the class so they can guage their progress and temperaments. I was really chuffed to be able to report on the awesome progress Volt is making! I am very proud of him! I told them how he sniffs all around the outside of the dogs' and cats' food dishes but has learned that he may not eat out of them, apart from the occasional "boundary testing" and they were impressed, though I don't know if they entirely believed me... LOL!
In yesterday's class, we were showed how to work on sit-down-sit-stand and sit-stay-come-sit, which we will be working on this week!

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Don't forget to check out the Twitter hash-tag #SAGApupVolt to see regular updates on my puppy raising adventure!

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Volt Update #SAGApupVolt

Volt was 10 weeks old yesterday (Sunday) and we weighed him in at 7.9kg!
He and Louise are getting on quite well, she's even playing with him a little some days. She will allow him to lie next to her if he behaves himself, but Thelma still keeps him away from her.

He is now eating 100g of puppy food three times a day and boy does he love his food! I have actually taken to putting a smaller bowl inside his big bowl which moves around while he eats, forcing him to eat a wee bit slower coz he has to chase his pellets around the bowl. :P We started this because we have had a two instances where he has thrown up all his lunch, but they were a few days apart and my SAGA PDS is not worried about it at this point.
We've only had a couple of accidents in the house in the last week or so, so yay for potty training!
Its also going better and better with the cats! He is learning not to get too close and he has to learn not to chase them under any circumstances.

I am battling a wee bit with the "tuning-in" exercise, where I teach Volt to respond and come to me immediately no matter what he's doing, so I am going to get some help for that.
Just like a human baby, he likes to throw me for a loop just when I think we've worked out some kind of routine! Where he is usually asleep from 10pm to 5am, on Friday night he was still awake at midnight! He still woke up at 5, but he is much more relaxed in his crate now and doesn't start barking to go out as soon as he wakes up. I think he now knows I will wake up and put some clothes on before I let him out to go outside for busies.

We have also started working on climbing the stairs in the house and he's doing quite well. Believe it or not, even climbing stairs requires training for guide-dog pups because they have to be taught to climb them slowly, not go running up or down at breakneck speed!
I was also given a gawjiss "nappy" bag for Volt by someone on Twitter! I mentioned last week that I have so much to carry with me for Volt- leash, treats, toys, fdood, bowls, poop bags, etc- that I will have to get a bag for him, and @Krimpvarkiez replied and said she had a red one with dogs on it that she had made herself, and I could have it for puppy! Isn't it cute!

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Don't forget to check out the Twitter hash-tag #SAGApupVolt to see regular updates on my puppy raising adventure!

What's The Crate Really For...? #SAGApupVolt

Well, Volt sleeps in it every night, and its "his place", a lot like a kennel... But our cats love it too!

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Don't forget to check out the Twitter hash-tag #SAGApupVolt to see regular updates on my puppy raising adventure!