Sunday, September 30, 2012

#SAGApupVolt And #RiddickPup - Week Nineteen Together

#SAGApupVolt Is Forty Seven Weeks Old

Today our Volt is 11 months old exactly! He was born on a Sunday, on 30th October 2011!
I can hardly believe there's only a month to go before he is a full one year old. We have not yet got our intake date for Volt from SAGA yet, but I'm expecting it soon...
This afternoon at the vet Volt weighed 33.5kg, so his weight is nice and stable.
His training is going well and we continue to work on his recall and his "positive dog distraction".
Volt spent Tuesday to Thursday at SAGA's kennels for his last short stay before he goes back for his formal training, and to be assessed for his potential as a service dog. He had a whale of a time doing his service dog assessment, but he's a little too lively to be managed by someone in a wheelchair. Guide-dog training it is for Volt.
On Saturday we had a house full of friends and family to celebrate my dad's 60th and my son's 21st birthdays so it was really good exposure for both Volt and Riddick. Not taking food out of people's plates or hands even if they're little kids or sitting on the ground, not jumping up on the visitors, not begging- it takes a lot of concentration on a dog's part to remember his training and Volt was quite worn out afterwards.
As a guide-dog, Volt has to be calm and well behaved no matter the occasion or circumstance and a houseful of people is a good training exercise. And he listens so well too. This picture is of Volt watching the children play with a box full of toys. He has to be reminded, whilst he's in a situation like this, to "leave it" no matter how tempting it is, but he listens and even though he'll try and sniff the box or the toys, he stays "down".
I am very proud of how well Volt does in situations like these and he got lots of compliments from our guests, some of whom had not met him before.
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!
Follow @SAGuide_Dogs on Twitter and on Facebook!

#RiddickPup Is Twenty Six Weeks Old

And tomorrow he is 6 months old exactly!
As of tomorrow he will only be getting breakfast and dinner (I feed the animals at 6am and 6pm) as the pups are almost finished growing by the time they're 6 months old so they no longer need quite as much food as they do initially (he's still on the Nutriphase Puppy).
He weighed in at 26kg today which is a 400g gain on last week, and 2kg smaller than Volt was at the same age. Its so interesting to be able to compare their growth and I plan to continue doing so with any pups we raise in future.
he loves his "crate" but he's outgrown it completely!
His training is going well. When he gets his food now he hardly looks at his bowl at all, he sits and looks at me until I say "okay" before he starts eating. And he's eating slower now too, though I am still filling his food dish with water.
This week past Volt was at SAGA's kennels for three days so Riddick was very bored without him. We played lots of ball and took walks but he wasn't getting the same amount of exercise as he does when he and Volt have their running-chasing-wrestling games.
asleep on his back on the cool floor
I had a good giggle this week, Riddick has started barking back at the dogs on TV shows!
he always takes over my seat!
This morning Riddick had his first "drown proofing" session. Because our swimming pool is not covered or fenced it is dangerous for puppies, and for puppies who are mostly blind it is doubly dangerous. I know he knows where the pool is as he and Volt play around the pool when they're outside and as potent as his nose is I know he can smell it- but I need to be sure that, like Volt, he will be able to get out should he fall in accidentally. What "drown proofing" entails is pushing the pup into the pool- on lead- and then letting them swim whilst you use the lead to guide them to the steps. He swam beautifully and got out on the steps with no problem. He got out and was quite excited about being completely drenched, shaking himself and wagging his tail furiously when Volt came to investigate. And then the rub down with a towel afterwards is always nice for the puppy.
doing his "pound puppy" impression
And then today we were doing a handling session and when I checked his teeth and gums I found a small wart under his top lip on the right hand side. In dogs, a viral papilloma can be contagious between dogs if there is broken skin and I don't want Volt to now get warts from Riddick again, especially with how rough they like to play. Puppies are especially prone to the viral warts as they are still building their immune systems. I'm going to give the vet a call tomorrow and ask them what they think we should do.
And last but not least, here is a little video I made so you can see how Riddick and I play "fetch" (its a cellphone video)!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Training Aid, Not A Muzzle...

SAGA gets the occasional query about guide-dogs-in-training and pups-in-training being muzzled, but like a choke chain, a muzzle is not something SAGA uses at all.
Let me try to clarify.
What you may have seen on a guide-dog-in-training or a puppy-in-training is something called a "gentle leader".
a gentle leader doesn't restrict eating or playing (picture source)
The gentle leader is used on a few of SAGA's dogs-in-training to teach them not to pull on their lead, and it is only used by trainers who know how to use it and very occasionally by a puppy-walker, but only after very careful instruction on its correct use and only when absolutely necessary. It is only used in cases where SAGA's usual training methods have failed to teach the dog not to pull.
If you're a horsey person, perhaps I can clarify by explaining that the gentle leader performs very much the same function that a martingale does on a horse. A martingale prevents a horse from lifting its head too much and ignoring its riders instructions. Depending the horse and what performance is needed, a different martingale is used- but also not on all horses. It doesn't restrict the horse's natural movement and it doesn't hurt.
a running martingale (picture source)
In the same way, the gentle leader prevents the dog from pulling on the lead and not paying attention to his or her handler. It doesn't hurt the dog and it doesn't prevent the dog from eating or even playing. The gentle leader device is used exclusively for training, and when the dog is not "working" the gentle leader is removed.
Once the dog or pup-in-training stops pulling on the lead, the gentle leader is no longer used and it is never used on a working guide-dog or service dog.

No guide-dog or service dog from SAGA will ever require a muzzle. Any dog-in-training or puppy-in-training that shows signs of aggression will not be graduated to work as a guide-dog or a service-dog.
Guide-dogs and service dogs are not guard dogs so you will always be able to approach one without fear - after asking permission from the dogs' handler of course.
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!
Follow @SAGuide_Dogs on Twitter and on Facebook!

Monday, September 24, 2012

#RiddickPup Is Twenty Five Weeks Old

Riddick will be 6 months old in just over a week's time and I can hardly believe how he's grown! He weighs 25.6kg which is a 1.2kg gain on last week's weigh in, and he is 51cm tall at the shoulder (give or take a few millimetres).
He's now getting 240g of the Nutriphase Puppy three times a day. He has learnt in the last couple of weeks that if he looks at me while he waits for me to say "okay" he'll get to start eating a little faster than if he looks at his bowl! And he now gets a couple of his meals outside with Thelma, Louise and Volt as he has to learn that he may only eat from his own bowl and he still has to wait till I say "okay" even when the girls are already eating.
He still sleeps on our bed at night, to begin with, but he moves onto the floor as there's not enough space for the three of us anymore! He joins us again in the morning when he wakes me up to go outside. He's getting gentler about that too, often staying on the floor and licking my hand to wake me. He waits quietly for me to get dressed so we can head downstairs for busies and breakfast, following me into the bathroom and out again. He then excitedly- but quietly- "helps" me wake the girls and Volt before we all head outside.
He's a real cuddler, loving to be close to us, and when we're downstairs in the living room he'll sit or lie on the couch next to me or he'll lie on the floor at (or on) my feet.
This past week I found a Tumblr blog that had me in stitches! Its called "dogshaming" and consists of pictures of people's dogs photographed with descriptions- and occasionally evidence- of their misdeeds! I sent them a picture of Riddick with a little blurb about his paintball adventure and they added it to their collection! He looks so guilty in this picture!
Here he is trying to pretend he's not looking at Minx, who is lying next to me on the bed.
In other news, Riddick will be scheduled for neutering (castration) soon as he will be done at 6 months old, and his brother Apollo is being "watched" as a potential stud dog!
And this last Wednesday I went to a social media event at Ford and I left Riddick with my dad for the day! I would have left him home but they're re-finishing the outside of our house and the puppies pester the guys and mess in the paint when they're outside unsupervised, so Volt stayed home- inside- alone and Riddick got to play with my dad's Toppy and Cleo.

#SAGApupVolt Is Forty Six Weeks Old

Our Volt weighs 34kg and he is now 60cm tall at the shoulder (give or take half a centimetre) so he's grown even more.
He's is eating 190g of the Purina One All Breed Adult dog food twice a day and he LOVES his food. He sits and waits patiently, looking at me and drooling, until I say "okay" and then he eats his food. 
Our refocusing on Volt's "recall" training has helped tremendously! He's not quite responding instantly every time I call him, especially if he's sniffing something interesting in the garden or if he and Riddick are playing a game, but the difference is HUGE in how quickly he turns and comes back to me if I call his name!
This week coming he will spend Tuesday to Thursday at SAGA's kennels for a last short stay before he goes back for his formal training, and he will also be assessed for his potential as a service dog.
He loves to help carry things and he gets so excited when my husband gets home with the little 6-pack cooler bag he uses for his lunch, or my son gets home with his shoulder bag! He carries my son's bag up the stairs to his bedroom and he carries my husband's lunch bag to the kitchen with his tail wagging furiously the whole time!
I am unfortunately camera-less! I dropped it at the Getaway Show we went to and the clips that keep the battery compartment shut broke off! That means I only have my phone to use for pictures... which is better than nothing I s'pose... 

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!
Follow @SAGuide_Dogs on Twitter and on Facebook!

Monday, September 17, 2012

#RiddickPup Is Twenty Four Weeks Old

On the vet's scale this morning Riddick clocked in at 24.2kg!
He weighs 200g more than Volt did at the same age but I like that they are on par in their age-to-weight ratio. He is now getting 230g of Nutriphase Puppy three times a day and I am happy with his weight gain and what he looks like. He was definitely starting to get a wee bit rotund.
And he is growing and changing so fast!
On Wednesday night, he was barking at something he thought he saw in the adjacent room and I thought the big, loud bark was coming from Volt!! Because we want Riddick to use his keen hearing in a guard-dog capacity (unlike Volt) I only discourage his barking and growling when he is playing. If he barks at something he hears I get up and go to him and ask "What is it?" and when I have had a look I say "Enough, good boy." Whilst he is still growling a little when he and Volt really get to wrestling with each other, he isn't barking for fun or yapping needlessly.
The fact that I have spent less time on Riddick's training that Volt's shows clearly- he is not as quick to respond when I give him an instruction. He's not naughty, and he does listen, just not as quickly as Volt does. And he's heading into adolescence now too so the extra focus I am putting in will definitely come in handy.
Have I mentioned his "crazy run"!? Its like something bites him on the bum and he starts running- full tilt- around the house! First he goes barreling into Volt's crate, then onto the girls' cushions, then he body-slams the TV stand to stop himself and turn around, then body-slams the corner in the kitchen where the dishwasher stands, then the oven on the other side of the kitchen and then back into Volt's crate! I stop him and tell him "no" when he starts because I certainly can't have that when he gets to full size!
Our walks are going so much better! He is far happier now to go out for a walk than he was just a month ago. He doesn't whine constantly anymore and he is very well behaved on-lead. We are still only walking around inside our complex as he still gets very spooked when a car goes by even though its going slowly.
He is a real snuggly bug too. When he's not on the couch or the bed with me he's lying on the floor- but on my foot! I just love it! 
And he still does this funny slide (off the couch or off the bed)- when he starts getting hot while he's sleeping he slides, front feet first, off the couch or bed and flops onto the floor! Without even waking up! I have tried so many times to get it on video but I can't get my phone camera started in time... I'll keep trying.

#SAGApupVolt Is Forty Five Weeks Old

He weighed in at a steady 33.2kg this morning, and he is eating 190g of the Purina One All Breed Adult food.
We had a couple of adventures last week. On Monday I headed to a tyre place near home to put two new ones on our car, and Volt accompanied me. It was stiflingly hot so I didn't put his jacket on, but he was so well behaved in the very noisy place that one person actually thought he was elderly! We walked around sniffing the tyres, batteries and wheels they had on display and took a short stroll in the very busy street outside.
I don't know if you can tell from this picture, but twice in the last week I have come home from dropping the men in my life off at work to find Volt dripping wet after a stint in the pool! I don't know if he went in by accident whilst he and Riddick were playing or if he went in on purpose... But it doesn't happen every day or every time he is outside so I hope it was accidental.
On Friday evening we drove through to represent SAGA at the prize-giving of Bedrock Mining's Golf day! They had had a fundraising for SAGA and their staff had pledged a fantastic R5100 which Bedrock then matched to make a donation of R10,200 to SAGA! This is a full sponsorhip for a guide-dog! Volt stole the show when he and I went up to accept the cheque, and we had the opportunity to speak to several people who came to ask about how the pups are trained and commented on how well behaved Volt is!
We continue to work on Volt's "positive dog distraction" and whilst it is going better he doesn't seem to realise that the same rules apply no matter where we go.
My boy goes back to SAGA in lkes than two months...
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!
Follow @SAGuide_Dogs on Twitter and on Facebook!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

#RiddickPup Is Twenty Three Weeks Old

Riddick weighs 23.6kg!
He is more Labrador than Volt is and he has a much stockier, bulkier build than Volt did at the same age. Sometimes I can't get over the difference between the two pups!
I have not increased his thrice daily food ration by 10g this week (from 220g to 230g) as he is a little, erm... "rounder"... than I would like him to be and I don't want him to get fat.
Last week he experienced his first Gauteng thunderstorm! And it was a real doozy- thunder and lightning and hail and big fat raindrops! The first thunder he heard was when we were outside before it started raining and he was quite spooked, half running back to my side a couple of times, looking up at the sky to try and work out where the noise was coming from. Volt and I were calm and didn't react though, so he quickly chilled out and ignored it. He was completely un-phased by the little raindrops that were falling on us.
Later on we were inside and there was a big storm with the rain pummeling the windows and that got him very excited- bouncing around and barking- so I opened the curtains and sat calmly with Volt in front of the window until Riddick calmed down, praising him for his non-reaction to the noise and the water running down the glass.
Yes he is still allowed on the couch with me- and look how he's grown!
He's really getting too big for the box he has in our bedroom!
We visited my folks and Riddick LOVED the cool mud next to the flowerbed!
When he can't sit in front with me he will lie with his head on the armrest to be close to us in the front seat.
His big teeth are coming in nicely, and all his baby canines are gone due to really rough play with Volt (they were loose already)!
Here he is fast asleep on the lounge floor.

#SAGApupVolt Is Forty Four Weeks Old

I can't believe how he's grown... and we have less than 2 months left with him in our home!
He weighs the same as he did with the last update, 33kg, and we have now successfully switched from Purina One All Breed Puppy to Purina One All Breed Adult food, of which he gets 190g twice a day.
We've spent a lot of time at shows like Hobby-X and the Getaway Show with Volt in the last few weeks. SAGA gets a stand at the various shows and the puppy walkers volunteer their time- with their puppies- to sell raffle tickets for the car SAGA is giving away. Their annual car raffle is their biggest fund raiser and my hubby and I- with Volt- make quite a team at the shows and we sell a lot of tickets! Its fun and its good for the puppies to be exposed to all races and ages and we get to interact with the general public and educate people about the puppy walker programme and what makes a guide-dog.
We are still working on Volt's "positive dog distraction" issues. Its going well on our normal walking routes but as soon as we go elsewhere he forgets the rules.
We are also putting in extra time on Volt's "recall" training. He comes when he's called most of the time, but I slipped up somewhere because hearing me say his name or saying "come" is supposed to be the most exciting thing for him! SAGA has given me some tips to do the retraining and I have to keep them up to date with how we're progressing.
"B" litter pups Burlesque and Burberry fast asleep while working on fundraising at Hobby-X Midrand
People and puppies hard at work on fundraising at Hobby-X Midrand

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!
Follow @SAGuide_Dogs on Twitter and on Facebook!

#SAGApupVolt And #RiddickPup - Week Sixteen Together

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Growing #SAGApupVolt

This is a little series of pictures where you can see how my Volt has grown!
22 December 2011
11 March 2012
1 September 2012

Saturday, September 1, 2012

#RiddickPup Is Five Months Old

He is 22 weeks old, he weighs 21kg and he's eating 220g of Nutriphase Puppy three times a day. As the weather is considerably warmer than it was a couple of weeks ago he is no longer getting the extra 10g of food per meal.
Riddick is getting so big and he is so smart!
His defensive behaviour is kicking in nicely and he is barking at noises he hears outside, people at the gate or the doorbell. Since we want him to be a guard-dog for us I am not discouraging his barking but I am going to investigate when he barks and then telling him to stop barking. We are discouraging barking during play though because we don't want him yapping for fun. His sense of hearing is exceptional and it seems it is definitely a compensation for his eyes not working 100%.
Walking on lead is going really well. I learned several lessons in training Volt- some of them only after asking SAGA for help- and putting them into practice with Riddick has really made a big difference. He is much easier on lead at five months old than Volt was at the same age and its fantastic. We have not yet ventured into the street on lead as Riddick is still exceptionally vocal when he is insecure, but he is happier and happier inside the complex every time we go for a walk.
I am working on "sit", "down" and "stay" a lot more than I used to. I realised I hadn't focused on it enough and I want Riddick to respond to the commands the same way Volt does.
Riddick is still very attached to me too. If I have groceries in the boot and I need to unpack the car he will follow me back and forth from the kitchen to the car and back until I am finished unpacking. When I am baking he literally lies in the middle of the kitchen floor and I am now accustomed to stepping over him while I work. He goes just about everywhere with me in the car and usually sits on the front seat next to me unless someone is sitting there.
Riddick still sleeps in our bedroom every night, and whilst he is allowed on our bed he is getting big for the bed and if he joins us he lies across the foot of the bed, and he prefers the cool floor and LOVES the cool bathroom floor tiles!
The coprophagia is still a problem. I bought a liquid called Copranat which you spray on the animals' food, but it takes 6 weeks to work and in those 6 weeks you have to keep the animals completely away from any poop! That means I am pooper scooping the garden several times a day and watching the dogs like a hawk when they're outside. Its really expensive stuff and I went through a whole bottle in less than 3 weeks! I am really hoping it works... It has a guarantee on it but only if you can keep the dogs away from the poop and spray it on every meal.
I am really hoping it works because I am going to have to buy a couple more bottles...