As of this posting, Lacey “Little” is nearly 19 months old. She’s been in training for about 18 months, having started when she was about 8 weeks old and boarding with me for the first couple of months after her people bought her. Over the last 18 months, Lacey has sometimes been a real challenge; she’s a high-energy, extremely intelligent dog, and when she gets bored, she gets vocal, she misbehaves, and she sometimes gets destructive. Keeping her interested in her lessons has definitely kept me and her people on our toes. While her breed is still in question, we know for sure that she’s definitely born to be a working dog.
Last night, I worked with Lacey and Tanya, her pregnant person. We went on a training walk. Lacey did an “okay” job with the basic exercises (sit-stay, down-stay, wait, and recall), but with the loose-leash exercise, she kept pulling ahead of Tanya and pulled to investigate scents that distracted her. We also encountered a couple with three Pomeranians, all of which were well ahead of their owners and which were barking loudly at us and pulling hard to get to us as they got closer. Lacey was put into a sit-stay on my left so the other dogs could pass us on the right. When they were only a couple of feet away, she broke the position and then tried to pull towards them to greet them.
As a Therapy animal, Lacey must stay focused on her human charge. She must not respond to or get distracted by other dogs or people. As a Therapy animal to an autistic child, this is critical. So, when the other dogs were nearly right beside us and Lacey broke position and pulled to greet them, I was more than a little disappointed, because she knows better.
So, we have to go back a few steps. She needs consistent, daily practice with distractions, focus, and loose-leash walking. She needs regular exposure to other dogs to help her master those tasks. Until she consistently practices ignoring those things regardless of where she is, she is not ready for the Therapy Animal certification test.
However, while she isn’t ready for the Therapy Animal test, Lacey is ready for the CGN (Canine Good Neighbor) test. She meets all the requirements for it and there is no doubt that she will pass it. When Tanya is ready to register her for the exam, it will be my great pleasure to record the event and post the results.
Have a great day, everyone, and remember to stay calm and lead on.