Heat and Progress

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Lacey is in her first heat.  She is nine months old. She’s handling it fairly well, though, and she’s doing a great job keeping herself clean. I visited the family last night to work with Lacey for a bit, and I was very impressed by how much progress she has made since the last visit.  The family is doing a great job practicing the instructions I give them, and in turn, Lacey is doing a fantastic job following them. She still vocalizes, but nowhere near as often as she did prior to my previous visit. And despite the physical discomfort of her heat, Lacey has been doing the job she’s being trained to do: interrupt, calm, and comfort Jake during a melt-down.  Tanya sent me a video of this the other day; the video quality is not great, but it was very clear that Lacey was handling the situation like a pro.

Lacey’s training will continue, but while she is in heat, the duration of the sessions is reduced to 20-minute increments. Just like human women do, female dogs get cranky and feel uncomfortable during their cycles, too. Right now, Lacey can handle about 20 minutes of focused work, so that’s what we’re working with.

In other news, Glimmer is coming along beautifully with her lessons.  Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours working her on her long-line and loose-leash recall, sit-stay, and down-stay, as well as doing some shaping and conditioning work with her to help her overcome her anxieties.  I recently discovered that when we’re on a walk and scents become unfamiliar to her, she becomes very anxious to the point where she will whine and shake and try to turn around and go home.  So, finding her threshold – and helping her move past it – is important.

It turned out that Glimmer has a few thresholds, so we spent several minutes at each one to give her time to explore the area and familiarize herself. When her anxiety started to ease, we repeated the exercise. We did this several times – moving further forward each time – for almost 45 minutes.  When we were almost half a kilometer ahead of her threshold point, I ended the exercise and we began a slow, calm walk towards home. She did pull a bit a few times, but quickly came back into the heel position when gently corrected.  I made a point of stopping several times along the way to give her permission to smell the surroundings. This helps familiarize her, which in turn eases her anxiety.  Glimmer loves children, and on our way home, I noticed that the children at a nearby day care were outside playing. To reward Glimmer for working so hard, we stopped there so she could greet them.  The children love to see and visit with her, and they made their joy clear with high-pitched shrieks that made my ears ring. Glimmer sat very calmly beside the fence and invited them to pet her. She even gave a few of the children kisses on their hands. One of the attendants commented on how calm she was despite the shrieking; I was unable to respond, because I was overwhelmed with pride and joy.

Just as Lacey is meant to be with Jake, Glimmer proved yet again that she is meant to work with children. So, her training for the CGN test – and ultimately, her Therapy Dog vest and badge – will continue.  The sooner she achieves those things, the sooner I can start taking her to visit with children in need. Women’s shelters, the Children’s Hospital, the day care centers with special-needs children…

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