Thursday, August 30, 2012

Minx Is Two!

October 10th will be her second adoptiversary, but we gave her August 30th as a birthday.
She's my little tiny girl and if I giver her half a chance she'll try and climb up onto my decolletage for a snooze while I work on my laptop!
She loves sleeping on top of my hubby's chest at night.
She loves to be picked up and cuddled but she doesn't like to be squished.
She is very vocal when there's chicken around but she has the cutest, squeakiest little voice!
She's very brave and tolerant where the dogs are concerned but doesn't like to snuggle or play with them.

#SAGApupVolt Is Ten Months Old

He weighs 33kg and today we started the gradual switch to Olympic Adult food! This means his 190g twice daily meal has 180g puppy pellets and 10g adult pellets for a couple of days, then its 170g puppy and 20g adult food for a couple of days and so on until I am sure the adult food isn't upsetting his tummy and the switch is complete.
Volt is so eager to learn! He astounds me with his ability to pick up new commands! We are teaching him "take it" and "give it" which are service dog commands. When he is told to "take it" he has to pick up whatever is indicated and bring it to me without crushing it and then releasing it when I say "give it". Every day when my husband comes home from work Volt is told to "take it" and he then gets to bring my husbands little cooler bag lunch tin into the house. He gets so excited when he sees my husband's lunch tin his tail goes bananas! Sometimes he doesn't want to give the little cooler bag back to me so we're working on the fact that if he is told to "take it" the object is not a toy. This evening he picked up a pen I had dropped on the staircase whilst going upstairs (he and Riddick were following me up). My hands were full so I told Volt to "take it" and whilst it was a bit of a stop-start exercise with Riddick trying to "help" Volt out, he brought the pen to my bedroom where I asked him to "give it" and he dropped it on the floor once I put down everything I was carrying! I was so proud of him!
Here he is carrying my mom's handbag and bringing it to me...

And here he is performing the "speak" command!
Here are some photos of Volt and I indulging in a little one-on-one time with a handling session.

This is Lyla, Volt's mommy who is a Golden Retriever!
And this is Volt's brother Vincent! He's lighter and bigger than Volt and I can so see a similarity in their faces!

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Puppy Class With #SAGApupVolt

We are still having "puppy classes" even though Volt will be ten months old in less than two weeks. As I have mentioned before, SAGA keeps a very close eye on the pups throughout their first year to make sure they are on track with their training.

And Volt was the only thorn amongst the roses today with yellow lab Yoko and black Lab Whistler in attendance!

First we took a stroll around the kennels. There were LOTS of dogs in kennels today, and puppy Riddick was put into a kennel enclosure with some toys and a big bowl of water to wait for me until after our lesson. The walk around kennels is to start the pups off ignoring the dogs behind the gates. And the dogs behind the gates have to ignore the puppies too.

We also did the obstacle course that has been constructed in an enclosure at SAGA. It consists of various objects lying flat on the ground that the pups have to walk over or through- metal drums, ladders, tyres, different kinds if metal and plastic grills, corrugated iron and kiddie pools (which have water and grass and leaves in them in the summer), a series of poles the pups have to weave through and a painted fibreglass calf! The point of the obstacle course is not to force the pups to walk over the obstacles, but to get them accustomed to coming across things they don't see every day and not freaking out. Their formal training will teach them to navigate around such objects but a big part of the puppy raising is helping the pups walk past or up to things in every day life without baulking. They can't flip out if they have to walk across a metal drainage grid or some such. If SAGA notices that a particular object or surface stresses the pup, we will then work on helping the pup get used to it without making it a negative experience.

We also did some obedience work- "forward", "sit", "stop", "about turn", "down" and return to heel, and the pups have to ignore each other while we do these exercises. Another part of obedience training is the SAGA PDS offering the pups a cookie and us telling the pup to "leave it" and not allowing them to reach for it or snatch it. And then we walked a circle around cookies that had been dropped on the ground and telling the pups to "leave it".
Guide-dogs are taught not to be distracted by anything when they are on-lead, not even cookie treats!

After the obedience session we went for a walk in the street outside SAGA. A couple of houses from SAGA's gate is a big yard with several dogs in it and its an excellent chance to see how the pups react to dogs behind fences. Volt and I have been doing a lo of work on this because of Volt's "positive dog distraction" (he loves other dogs) but to my dismay, all his training disappeared when these dogs ran to the fence!
This kind of lapse in training is perfectly normal with the pups as they are in a different place and its interesting and they want to run around and sniff and see everything, and the reason we do these exercises is to teach them that the rules apply no matter where we are. We did a couple more passes in front of the dogs and Volt settled down nicely, giving the dogs little more than a passing glance by the time he realised I was serious. We went further up the road and crossed at two traffic lights on a very busy street which is a great way to see if the pups are afraid of passing vehicles, and the pups have to wait patiently at our side without wanting to run into the street.

We then headed back to SAGA for a glass of cold water and a bit of a chat about how the pups are doing- and even this is part of the training session because the pups are close together whilst we sit and they have to sit or lie quietly without trying to play. The pups got water too (and an ice cube in Volt's case) and then we set off home after collecting a damp and dirty Riddick from kennels.

All in all, Volt did really well. Our PDS can see a HUGE difference in his pulling, obedience and dog distraction which I am glad about because we've worked really hard on it.

Stupidly (because I knew I should have) I didn't wear a hat or sunblock and I am now a bright shade of pink on my neck and shoulders!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

#SAGApupVolt And #RiddickPup - Week Thirteen Together

I love how my puppies are together! They play together and sleep together. They indulge in rsough and tumble that Volt never could do with Thelma and Louise. They wear each other out and occasionally get so carried away that I have to seperate them- just like human children who need to be told when to stop before there's tears.
Here they are, waiting at the door until I say "okay" for them to go outside. It is very important that a guide-dog not storm in or out of a door simply because it is open, and it is a good thing for Riddick to learn too.
Here they are waiting for their supper... As patiently as they can.
And I love how Volt and Riddick snuggle with each other. Its getting warmer so they're not sleeping together as much anymore but they still like to squish together on the dog bed in my room.

#SAGApupVolt Is Forty Two Weeks Old

Volt was still on 32.2kg on the vet's scale today. I have increased his food to 200g Purina One All Breed Puppy Formula twice a day, and when its warm again I'll decrease it to 190g again.
The histiocytoma on Volt's head is healing nicely, and I continue to doctor it with Bactroban twice a day. I didn't go back to the vet after two weeks as the bump was healing very nicely and I am sure it will be gone in another week. Another vet visit is an unnecessary expense, especially since they are positive it is a histiocytoma and not something malignant.
If you want to read about it, I blogged this week about the obedience class we had at SAGA and you can read about it here.
His "recall" re-training is coming along nicely, and he is so good on lead! He still loves to put his nose to the ground which is a bad thing, but its as if a switch has been thrown in his head with being on lead- he is so responsive and slows down to match my speed if I slow down too. Its fantastic.
playing in the garden 
asleep on the back seat of the car while waiting for daddy at the Gautrain station 
my Volt is so super patient with me... LOL!

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#RiddickPup Is Twenty Weeks Old

He weighed 19kg on the vet's scale this afternoon! Thats a 1.6kg gain on last week!
He is now on 210g of food three times a day. Thats actually 10g of food more (per meal) than he would have been on, but some pups need more and animals do eat more in winter than in summer.
We have made great progress on lead and whilst he's still pulling ahead he's responding to correction much quicker than he used to. We need to work more on "sit" and "down"... He does "wait" and "off" very well and his recall is pretty good, but I have not focussed on his training as intensely as I did Volt's, and it shows. I'll be doing something about that now.
Unfortunately we are still battling the coprophagia, I added pumpkin and a sprinkle of meat tenderiser to all four dogs' food for a week but it had little to no effect. Its not as bad as it was but thats because I am pooper scooping several times a day and not leaving the puppies outside unsupervised at all (which means I can say "no" and "leave it" if they so much as glance in the direction of a poop I haven't scooped yet).
I was getting a little excited during the week because puppy was waking up when my 6am alarm went off! I hoped this meant well for sleeping in on the weekend a little bit... but on Saturday and Sunday morning he was awake before 6am!
sleeping on the couch with his leg hanging off

lying in the sun at the lounge window

I am now leaving him home and outside for short periods

almost too big for the front seat!

if the armrest is up he can't lie down!

asleep on the couch

he snuck upstairs and lay looking out the big window facing the street

a staircase railing "pillow"...

isn't he cute...

I woke up early and he went back to sleep after his breakfast!

he was very puzzled by us taking a bath... we usually shower and this was very odd for him!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Obedience Training With #SAGApupVolt

Today SAGA tried something new with the puppy walkers.
We used to meet at various shopping malls and do a "group walk" which was great for the pups, but it made it very hard to focus on obedience issues and assist the puppy walkers with issues like dog or people distraction.
So today, we had a session at SAGA with our Puppy Development Supervisors instead, and we had 18 pups of all ages in the group!
When I arrived with Riddick and Volt, Lerato helped me get Volt settled as he gets so very excited when we go to SAGA! He knows the people and he knows a lot of the dogs, and many of the puppies remember their puppy classes and associate the SAGA training field with fun and play.
Once they thought everyone was there we lined up along one side of the field in a long line and settled the dogs in a "sit" whilst SAGA's Gail briefed us on what they had planned for the session.
Then we walked across the field and back again several times, still in a line, taking a few steps and doing a "sit", a "down", a "return to heel" or an "about turn". The dogs were still very excitable with so many pups around but they were definitely settling down as we progressed.
One challenge was someone from SAGA walking down the line of dogs offering each one a cookie treat which we had to instruct them to ignore. This is understandably difficult, but it is an important part of the dog's training because they are not allowed to be distracted by anything at all when they're working!
Then we seperated into two lines on either side of the field with the pups facing each other. We did several exercises like walking towards and past each other, instructing the dogs all the time to ignore the other dogs in passing.
In one part of the session they had a SAGA staff member- specifically a black, male staff member- walk the two lines of dogs and greet each one to see how they reacted to him. Sometimes the pups do not get enough exposure to people of all races and ages as they grow and it is important that anyone they meet is treated the same way- with as little reaction as possible.
Then they threw a ball back and forth down the middle of the row of dogs and we had to instruct them to ignore the ball! Being puppies this was tricky because they all want to play!
After the session, we had a chance to have coffee and a cookie and chat to the other puppy walkers and to our PDS. Even this tea drinking is part of their training because there will be times when our pups' blind partners are at church or work or some such and the dogs have to learn to be calm and quite even when closely surrounded by people and dogs.
When we got home, Volt was absolutely exhausted!
I thought the training session was fantastic! I hope SAGA will make it a regular thing because I will definitely be attending.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

#SAGApupVolt And #RiddickPup - Week Twelve Together

#RiddickPup Is Nineteen Weeks Old

He weighed 17.4kg at the vet this morning which is a 750g gain on last week.
I have increased his food to 200g Nutriphase Puppy three times a day. He would have been on 190g as we usually increase it by 10g per meal per week, but the silly narna took up the disgusting habit of eating poop, AKA coprophagia (sorry about the TMI)!
Our SAGA PDS suggested giving him a little more food in case he's not getting enough, and also discouraging him whenever he so much as sniffs a poop in the garden. I am now also scooping the garden as soon as they poop rather than every couple of days like I was before. If he doesn't stop doing it I will be adding a little bitters or broccoli to all their meals so that their poop will really taste gross. Coprophagia can be because of a nutrient imbalance, worms or hunger, but a dog or puppy that is regularly dewormed and eats well, coprophagia can be a behavioural problem and the last thing I need is for Volt to start doing it too!
Riddick seemed determined to keep me on my toes this week!
On Friday- my busiest work day of the week- I called him downstairs for lunch from where he'd been sleeping on my bed, and as usual he went out for busies after his lunch and then went to sleep. He had a big round tummy and he drank a lot of water, but I figured the water I add to his food just had to digest a bit. An hour or so later I heard him gagging and went to see what was up, and he threw up a handful of paintballs!
Thats right...
He'd found them in my son's bedroom and swallowed a whole lot! He threw up two more times and I figured I could count 50 or so paintballs by then, some whole and some broken. I spoke to several vets to find out what was up (I was without a car right them) and the one vet wanted to send an animal ambulance to fetch him and pump his stomach! There was no way I could afford a R5.5K vet bill so I then called SAGA and they said to contact BVH where I take Volt. Their vet assured me that paintballs are non-toxic and that if he'd thrown them all up he'd have an upset stomach but should be fine. I told them I was a little worried about his ever expanding stomach and how much water he was drinking and that I didn't know how many paintballs he swallowed! They suggested I take him in and I as soon as my car came home with my hubby we set off for the vet. Riddick was very uncomfortable and whiny but I was REALLY glad he didn't throw up in the car!
Once we were there the vet agreed that he looked like he'd swallowed a basket ball and they'd best help him out. They attempted to xray him but couldn't see anything, and then gave him a shot to make him throw up. About half an hour later they figured he was "empty", gave him another shot to stop him puking, and then brought him back to me- and he was his normal size again! Seems he swallowed 100 to 150 paintballs!
He was absolutely exhausted!
The vet was confident he'd be fine and said I must keep his food and water intake to a minimum to avoid more puking, and that he would have a very runny tummy for a day or so.
By Saturday morning he was a hundred percent back to normal thank goodness!
Here are some photos of him playing in the garden on Sunday.