Monday, March 26, 2012

Yesterday #SAGApupVolt Was Twenty One Weeks Old!

That means that as of Sunday morning he is getting 210g of Purina One All Breed Puppy Formula three times a day. It also means that I need almost four 6kg bags of puppy food for a month! Just one of the reasons SAGA so badly needs sponsorships for the puppies!!
Unfortunately I don't have his weight this week :-( Volt is just too heavy for me to lift onto my scale now so I will be popping in at my vet's office to weight him from now on.

Ooh! And I have another "Look How He's Grown" photo comparison! Guide-dogs have to travel in the front passenger foot well of the car (or on the back seat), so when my hubby is driving I have Volt at my feet. Look at the difference three months on! And yes, those are my blindingly white legs! :-P

Last week I noticed that Volt's adult canines are starting to peep through his top gums! I'm going to be keeping a close eye on him to try and keep one of his puppy canines when it comes out. :-) All his front teeth- top and bottom- are his adult teeth, but his back teeth are still growing so he has very itchy sore gums right now.
I put circles in the picture where you can see the white tips peeping through. 
And then last night I noticed him "chewing" and when I went to see what he had in his mouth- it was one of his baby teeth! One of the cutting teeth from just behind his canines. And when we put the dogs to bed on Sunday night my hubby asked if I had put his tooth under his mattress! :-D

He is doing very well with not biting or chewing on people, but he still uses his mouth in greeting. Even though he is gentle I still try to discourage it as much as possible so we continue to work on that.

He's also doing very well with greeting guests at home, where he has to sit and wait- calmly- until the visitors greet him. This is an immense challenge because he thinks all visitors are just for him!

Our walks are going well, but having other dogs ahead of him is still a challenge. We went on a group walk at Brightwater Commons this morning with other pups and our SAGA PDS. This monthly get together is what has replaced our weekly puppy class and its very important for Volt's training to get used to malls and trolleys and people and other dogs. When we arrived at the mall Volt was instantly excited! Bouncing and jumping and puling on his leash to try and get to the other pups! The other pups on today's walk lesson were Oreo, Viking, Vossie, Umeka, Rankin and one other dog who's name I've forgotten. It took a good 10 minutes to get Volt settled and paying attention- with our PDS, Lerato's help- and then it was onto the lesson. We split into two groups and the pups had to walk ahead, behind, around and between each other without getting excited, they had to go forward and stop on command, rode in the lift and climbed lots of stairs- open and closed with the pups encouraged to look through the railings on the landings to get used to being above the ground. We also walk with the pups close to the metal railings of the upstairs corridors for the pups to see they're not at ground level but they don't have to be afraid.
the pups need to "down" and "stay" whilst another pup (Umeka in this case) is walked up and down the line of pups
here's Lerato trying to settle Volt for me with Vossie trying to play with him!
Vossie and Volt were so excitable!
And Volt has "graduated" to a shorter, thicker leash as the one I've been using since he was a puppy is too thin and long to be effective on a bigger, more powerful Volt. I may even consider getting a thicker one later. The thin one has been very hard on my left hand and I've even started developing calluses at the base of my fingers!
Volt is so big and beautiful that our SAGA PDS thought he was a month older than he is! I was all but bursting with pride!

Last week we had a massive thunderstorm here at home, and the seal at the foot of my back door doesn't work very well. That means there's always an assortment of towels soaking up the water else my whole kitchen gets flooded! Water loving pup that Volt is, he LOVES lying on the wet towels!

And last but not least- tonight for the first time- Volt came and lay down at my feet whilst we ate dinner without me calling or benching him! I was very pleased! A part of the pup's training is that they have to lie quietly at their partner's feet at meal times and not beg, and usually I call him to me and put on his working collar and leash, making him lie on the floor until I release him after our meal. This was a great step forward and I hope it continues.

And this week's Twitter "Did You Know" tweet was as follows:
#DidYouKnow: puppies like #SAGApupVolt hit "teenager" phase between 5 & 7 months old & their behaviour goes backwards for a while!

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Don't forget to check out the Twitter hash-tag #SAGApupVolt to see regular updates on my puppy raising adventure!
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Greebo Is Home!

We fetched him last night!
He had the dental surgery yesterday, and the vet removed his top two canines! My Greebo has always had the tips of his top two canines peeking out from under his top lip and now they're gone!
The other teeth got cleaned but were not loose so the vet left them in. What he did find though, is that his gums are receding quite badly, which makes his teeth very sensitive.
This can partially explain his grumpiness, but old age can also be a contributor to that. We'll see how he manages with food as his teeth may be too sensitive to manage dry food and he'll have to be fed soft food from now on.
So far so good, he ate some soft food when he got home and this morning he was eating dry food, we just need to watch him to make sure he's getting enough food.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

An Off-Lead Park With #SAGApupVolt

Yesterday was a public holiday, and as I had a lot of baking to do I had to pop out to one of the baking supply shops I frequent to stock up on some supplies.
Across the road from this shop there's an off-lead dog park to which I have taken Volt on occasion - but its usually FAR quieter than it was yesterday 'coz we go on weekdays!
Unfortunately... or maybe it was fortunate... I discovered that as good as Volt is at doing "recall" when its just him and me, his ears turn into decorative ornaments when there are other dogs around!
I know he battles to focus on a group walk if there are dogs ahead of him, and we're working on it, but he's always on-lead in that situation.
I am SO not the fittest person on this planet, and literally running after a puppy that is galloping ahead of me at full tilt is all but impossible... And a puppy that doesn't listen is frustrating too. At one point I actually asked the people ahead of me to stand still and stop calling their dogs for a minute so that I could get to Volt!
After I got him back on-leash we headed away from the other dogs as much as we could and I let him off again. He listens to recall like a pro- until there's a tree to sniff! :( And then another dog came barrelling past us and Volt was gone in a flash again!
Once I got him back - and I was aided by the return of the dog he was chasing :) - I kept him on lead and headed for the bench where my Glugster was waiting for us.
We were sitting a short distance from the trough the park has installed for the dogs so, whilst I wouldn't normally allow it, I let Volt get into the trough after all the other dogs had had a go.
First he tried to "dig" the water out, and then he sat and watched the other dogs who were watching him intently and waiting their turn. He's not supposed to "play" on-lead like this, but it was noon and hot as blazes and there was no way I was going to chase after him again! :D
He got out for a Retriever to get in, and when the Retriever got out he got back in and lay down in the water!
When he was finished chilling and cooling off, we turned on the tap to refill the trough and he chewed on the water as it ran in!
The we sat in the shade a bit before heading for a bit of a stroll so he could dry off, and then we headed home.
a wet Volt watching the other dogs
waiting for a treat
chilling in the shade
So, we will be focusing on "recall" again using the manual given me by SAGA, and some tips from this blog post.

All the photos in this post were taken by my Glugster, by the way, so big thank you to him!

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Don't forget to check out the Twitter hash-tag #SAGApupVolt to see regular updates on my puppy raising adventure!
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A T-Shirt I Need When I'm Out With #SAGApupVolt...

I have found a couple of other blogs about raising guide-dog puppies, and they're informative as well as being good reading since they've been through the same things I am going through! 

My favourite one is Using their experience as guide-dog puppy raisers they blog about all sorts of doggy issues from naming them to house training! A while ago they did a post called Top 10 Dog Questions For Puppy Raisers about how us puppy raisers are quizzed when we're out with our pups, and he found another blog post showing T-shirts, one of which had a list of The Top 10 Puppy Raiser Answers!
Based on that list, here is my top 10 answers!

  1. Yes, it IS hard to give them up
  2. His name is “Volt”
  3. Please ask before you call to or touch him
  4. I’m a volunteer
  5. A guide-dog for the blind
  6. Yes, it is REALLY hard to give them up
  7. 12 – 18 months
  8. Proper socialization teaches them to be calm while they work
  9. Labradors and Golden Retrievers
  10. Yes, it is EXTREMELY hard to give them up
Any suggestions as to what else I could put on a shirt like 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!
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012


My Greebo turned 8 last November, so in cat years he's getting old. I know he's considered "mature" or "senior" so I've been keeping a an extra close eye on him for a couple of years.

he loves lying in front of the TV... I dunno if its warm there or what
Up until about a week ago we had no problems!
His coat has been shiny, he plays with the other cats, he takes a swat at Volt every now and then, and he still loves to pick on Thelma and Louise through the glass door.
But I know that cats don't let you know something is wrong until they're practically at death's door!
Then my son told me one morning- when we were feeding our menagerie of dogs, cats, koi and beardie- that Greebo's breath stank something awful!
Alarm bells immediately started going off! When my Taxi was still a youngster, his unbelievably bad breath was what alerted us to his severe gum disease and eventually his FeLV.
My son and I then had a look at Greebo's teeth and they are quite badly eroded in some places. I didn't take him to the vet immediately 'coz I didn't have the cash, but I've been watching him. Then last week he took a turn for the worse. He's been supremely grumpy with the other furbabies- which is very unlike him- and he has lost a little bit of weight which tells me he's battling to eat. I also noticed him behaving oddly when he was eating, and sniffing his bowl more than usual... like he was hesitant. Not eating and the grumpy spells told me he was in pain, even though he was still running and playing with the other furbabies.
I took him to the vet yesterday and he agreed that Greebo's teeth are in a bad way and that he will most likely lose several of them. I'm dropping him off at the vet tonight so they can make sure he doesn't eat anything, and he will be operated on tomorrow.
This morning I gave him a bowl of soft meat- which my cats only get a little of as a rare treat- and he ate the whole tin! He was so hungry!
Ooh, and I found this cat age calculator on the web! I quite like it 'coz it shows how cats age according to whether they're indoor or outdoor cats!
Greebo is 48 years old!
So hold thumbs for me and for Greebo tomorrow... anaesthetic is always risky, but I am determined not to worry.

Mini-Me Moments...

I found Minx copying Greebo again!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I Had To Toss The Dog...

Does anyone remember the stuffed dog toy I bought for #SAGApupVolt when they phoned us to say we could finally fetch our guide-dog puppy!?
Not to worry if you don't- this is what it looked like then...

And this was what it looked like when I threw it out this afternoon!

It had no more tail and very little nose left, and Volt took great pleasure in ripping the stuffing out of it! He was not terribly impressed with his favourite toy being in the rubbish bin, but he likes the new toy...
We replaced the stuffed dog with an Orka Stick from Petstages, a toy that combines rope and a rubber tube, which is nice for his gums and for throwing.

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Don't forget to check out the Twitter hash-tag #SAGApupVolt to see regular updates on my puppy raising adventure!
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Monday, March 19, 2012

Guide-dogs Are Not Guard-dogs

You would think that having a guide-dog who is also a guard-dog would be beneficial to someone who is visually impaired, right?

Unfortunately, you can't have it both ways.

I've had a few people ask me why Volt is not allowed to bark or growl, so I put some thought into it. As puppy raisers, we train our guide-dog pups from day one that barking (and growling) is unacceptable and it is always discouraged. When our pups are small, we simply say "no" and hold their mouths closed gently to stop them barking or growling, as they get older and stronger, the "no" still applies and we add "quiet", praising them when they stop. We also use "leave it" when their attention is drawn to something other dogs are barking at. And a big part of our pups training is praising them when they react appropriately to a situation, like when someone rings the doorbell and Volt sits quietly next to me at the door- even though his tail is wagging furiously on the floor behind him!

There are several reasons for guide-dogs not being guard-dogs, but the three biggest ones are as follows.

>> Point number one, and probably the most important issue, is that guide-dogs receive intense training to focus on guiding their blind partner around every day life. They have to focus and concentrate on obstacles and pathways and safety when they are working, and they won't be able to decide whether its safe for their blind partner to cross the street (for example) if they're watching oncoming people and barking at possible threats as well!
>> Secondly, visually impaired people are assisted by many people in their every day life. A barking guide-dog may well scare away someone who wants (or needs) to help the dog's partner.
>> A third point is that nowadays, many residential complexes and apartment blocks do not allow pets at all, but exceptions are made for guide-dogs. Lets be honest, a barking dog can be an irritation, so a dog that barks at visitors, or neighbours walking past the doors or windows, is not going to go down well with a blind person's neighbours.

One exception to this rule is for service dogs- the dogs that are partnered with people who have a disability other than blindness, like cerebral palsy or epilepsy- a part of their training is to "speak" to draw outside attention should their partner need assistance and they are unable to call out.

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Don't forget to check out the Twitter hash-tag #SAGApupVolt to see regular updates on my puppy raising adventure!
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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Twenty Week Old #SAGApupVolt

Today Volt is 20 weeks old, but there are still about two weeks to go before he is fully five months old on 30 March 2012.
This morning he weighed in at a whopping 21.1kg, so he's gained 2.2kg since last Sunday!! And it is definitely the last time I will be able to pick him up and get on the scale with him! He's just getting too heavy!


Unfortunately there are not a lot of photos this week... I have been very busy working so we did our walks and training without extras... And now our puppy classes are finished too, so there are no photies of Volt and his siblings either.

Our manual from SAGA tells us that at 5 months old, Volt's protective tendencies will start to manifest and he will start barking at people he sees as intruders. Guide-dogs are not guard-dogs, so all barking and growling is discouraged at all times, even during play. And now we have the extra challenge of Volt wanting to defend his space (I have scheduled a blog post for tomorrow explaining why guide-dogs are not guard-dogs). I couldn't help but giggle when, on Thursday evening, Volt was in the back yard for some solo-time and my son walked into the back yard from the side of the house, catching Volt by surprise! Volt's hackles were up all the way to his tail and he was growling and nervous about the surprise intruder! I did laugh, but I immediately soothed him and told him to be quiet.
And then one morning I put a hubbard squash on the kitchen counter and Volt went bananas! You'd swear it was barking at him! It took several minutes to get him to approach the pumpkin and sniff it and assure him it wasn't an intruder!


So what else has been up?

We've had a gloriously cool, rainy week and it makes being outside a pleasure, but it does make it messy when you have a Labrador-Golden Retriever cross puppy who loves being wet!
Our walks are going pretty well. We have quite a lot of work to do for when Volt walks past a gate where a dog is barking- he has to be taught to completely ignore distractions like that- and a lot of our street consists of high-walled complexes where there are no gates with dogs behind them, so we're working on it by walking in different places and looking for gates. And next week we have a group walk with our PDS at a shopping centre again. As I've mentioned before, Volt gets very distracted when there's another dog walking ahead of him, so the group walks are very important to train him to ignore them. He no longer gets nervous about dustbins on the side walk, and oncoming cars very seldom spook him unless they have really loud engines or something.
At home, our obedience training for "come", "sit", "down", "stand", "forward", "stay", "wait", "up sit", "no", "leave it" and "off" continues to go well. We've made a lot of progress with "down" in the last week by sometimes using "down" instead of "sit".
We continue to work on how to correctly greet guests and people who come to the house, and working from home means having people come and collect goods from me on a regular basis. Volt still gets very excited, but he is doing far better at how he behaves when people walk in the front door!

This weekend we replaced Volt's stuffed dog toy with a new toy...

Last week Volt got his first big, juicy bone (I wrote about it here)...

Last Sunday my dad took a photo of Volt and I, and I used it to compare to to the first photo taken of us when he was tiny, and you won't believe how much he's grown! It got me all nostalgic and I spent a good couple of hours browsing through his puppy photos.
Wasn't he just the cutest little thing...

Ooh and we got the fabulous news from SAGA this last week that the fundraising done at Hobby-X a couple of weeks ago was the best its ever been! Thank you to all of you who came along and bought a raffle ticket or made a donation!

And here are the last week's "Did You Know" tweets:
>> guide-dogs learn about 35 commands in formal training, thats in addition to basic obedience like sit, stay, down, come & wait!
>> some guide-dogs learn the commands and can follow detailed instructions, but are afraid of being responsible for an actual person!

click on the puppy to make a donation to SAGA

Don't forget to check out the Twitter hash-tag #SAGApupVolt to see regular updates on my puppy raising adventure!
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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Bone For #SAGApupVolt

Last Friday, I gave Volt his first big bone to chew on! He was so excited when I unwrapped the bones I bought for him and for Thelma and Louise! They smell very meaty when they come out of their vacuum sealed bags so Volt knew something was up. I took the bones outside and Volt had to wait whilst I gave Thelma her bone, and then gave Louise hers (they have to be quite far apart because Thelma gets very protective of her bone). As with his food I made him "sit" and "wait" until I said "okay", and then I giggled because he didn't seem quite sure what to do with it! At first he wanted to run back towards Thelma and Louise but immediately came back when I stopped him, and then I sat on the grass and kept him near me so that I could make him understand that- like with his food- he's not allowed to complain if I touch it or try to take it. He growled once, but stopped when I said "no", and then we made a bit of a game of it. I would take the bone and tell him "leave it", and then he had to "wait" until I said "okay" again. I was very impressed that even with something as yummy as this meaty bone, he was still so obedient!
Guide-dog pups are allowed to have bones, provided:
  • they aren't small enough to splinter because that can do damage to their stomach and/ or intestines
  • it stays a treat, they aren't allowed to chew on them endlessly (I took Volt's bone after about an hour, I'll give it back another day)


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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, March 12, 2012

Look How #SAGApupVolt Has Grown!

Here is an updated picture of me and Volt! Next to it is the first one of the two of us, taken two days after I fetched him!


click on the puppy to make a donation to SAGA

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

Sunday, March 11, 2012

#SAGApupVolt Is Nineteen Weeks Old Today

Wow! He's nearly five months old! Time has flown by so fast!
I just love how he sleeps on his back when he gets hot
He's getting harder to weigh on my scale at home 'coz I can't pick him up very easily anymore, so I'm going to try and pop in at my nearest vet's office every Monday morning to weigh him on their animal scale.
This morning he weighed 18.9kg, which is a gain of only 300g in the last week. Thats his smallest weight gain in ages! Our SAGA PDS guestimated he will weigh 30kg as an adult, so he's rapidly approaching that weight!
Our weekly puppy classes are over, but our home visits will be starting soon, around the beginning of April or so. SAGA's guide-dog pups are very closely monitored to make sure their training, temperament and health stays right on track. Our SAGA PDS will come and see us to see how Volt greets guests who come to the house, see that he stays off the furniture, and how he behaves in general in his "home" setting. The home visits will take place every couple of months.
And in between home visits Volt will do his kennel stays of 7 days at a time.
The kennel stays serve several purposes. The pup gets used to staying at kennels (for when he grows up and does his formal training), and it serves to let SAGA observe the pup's behaviour and temperament in a setting other than their home. Occasionally they pick up an issue with a pup that their puppy-raiser family is unaware of, or a behavioural quirk shows up in kennels that can then be addressed before it becomes a problem.
lying on the floor for some "handling" makes his lip hang down like he's snarling
Yesterday we went to a Tweetup at Manna Cafe in Fourways. It was a Tweetup slash blogger meet for moms and kidlets, so it was a great opportunity for Volt to practise interacting with children again. And Manna Cafe said they didn't mind Volt visiting their premises so that was very cool indeed. Volt still gets very excited when he sees children and really wants to play and bounce, so learning to sit nice and still and not chew on little fingers is very important for him. All the kidlets at Manna was great practice for us.

The following three pictures were taken by the always fantastic Jeanette Verster who was also at the Manna Cafe Tweetup with her kidlets (I like to think of her as my family's official photographer since she photographed our wedding, our couple shoot before our wedding, a couple of TTD shoots, and several family shoots). Aren't they the most beautiful photos of my gawjiss Volt!

And today we were at my parents' house with the rest of the family to celebrate my brother's birthday. I got horribly sunburnt, but Volt had fun. He and my mom's fox terrier cross were having a wonderful time after Toppy settled down. My mom's dogs are not socialised as much as Volt is but Topolino is slowly but surely relaxing when Volt is around. He doesn't like to wrestle, which Volt loves, but he does love to play a strange game of tag where he has a toy and then tries to get Volt to chase him and take it from him. Volt can't manoeuvre like Toppy does, so he gets left in Toppy's dust a lot, but they do have fun.

click on the puppy to make a donation to SAGA

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