Today we learned a lot about the mechanics of working with a dog. You can’t just hand a dog a treat — you need to plan your whole motion, including how you present the treat, how you lure, signal, or cue the dog, where you place any obstacles or objects, and more. If you are awkward or don’t do it right, the dog can become frustrated because treats are not being delivered fast enough, or properly, or even at all.
As a demonstration of this, we all tried to eat donuts off a string without using our hands, like dogs trying to take a treat from a handler. The string wobbled, weaved, and bobbed, and we had a lot of trouble getting our reinforcers! This really drives home how much we need to pay attention to when working with the dogs.
Afterward we worked on training with the “pedastool”, a platform the dogs need to climb on. At the end of the day we had a visit from Rhyna, the head groomer at the Dirty Dog, who taught us how to make decorative collar bows!
Today was a very busy day. It started with a potty break and then went right into crate exercises, and then loose leash walking — outdoors! Being outdoors is always harder than indoors, because there’s so much more to distract the dogs.
After lunch all the puppies got baths and nail trims. Then we made “Adopt Me!” bandannas while the puppies dried off. Once everybody was beautiful and pretty, we took our formal photos for the dogs’ web pages!
At the end of the day we learned about successive approximations by “training” a bicycle to move while steering it only with pieces of string. We weren’t quite as good at “training” the bicycle as we were at training our dogs, but we learned a lot. We can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring!
Camp Doglando session I took off to a great start today with a fantastic group of campers and dogs!
Day One is always very full. We learn about Doglando, take a tour of everything, and learn what we will be doing for the next two weeks. We learn where everything is, where we can safely walk our dogs, and how to clean everything. Taking care of a dog is a lot of work!
We went on a field trip today. We visited a pet store and two different kinds of rescue so we could learn about how people who want a dog go about getting one.
When we got back, we took the dogs out to potty and worked with them a little on leash so we got to know them better. Some dogs work better with some people – we all have unique personalities.
At the end of the day, we chose our partners for the whole camp. This year we picked with no trouble at all.
In the morning we packed up our things, tearfully left the puppies at Doglando (no pets allowed at the Zoo!) and went to the Brevard Zoo to see how people work with other animals. We got to see meerkats and siamangs and even meet some giraffes on the Zoo’s giraffe-eye-level feeding platform. Everybody got to feed a giraffe a lettuce leaf. The giraffe’s head was almost as long as some of the campers were tall!
When we got home we went swimming very quickly one last time and then went to work cleaning out the barn for graduation which started promptly at 4:00. Almost 50 people were there, including everybody’s parents and even members of the community interested in adopting the campers’ dogs. For the graduation presentation every camper showed a video about his or her dog, and then all the campers got up, got their dogs, and demonstrated all the things we learned over the last two weeks. Everybody did great, at door exercises, crate exercises, cone exercises, bed exercises and even at loose leash walking! We have all learned so much!
At the end of the day we paused to say goodbye to our camp dogs. These dogs come to us from local shelters (in this case, Pet Rescue by Judy) and for two weeks, the dogs think that this is their new life, and we are their new owners. We are very sorry that we now have to make the dogs sad by sending them back to the shelter, but dogs who have been trained at Camp Doglando always eventually get adopted, and are never sent back to the shelter once they are adopted — they have great training and great manners and every single one of them is fantastic with kids, a wonderful pedigree to get them the best new homes and keep them there.
On the bright side, Bella’s new family was here today to take her home after graduation, and Steven’s family adopted Diesel, who also went home right then and there! Five other dogs have meet and greets scheduled soon. Success!
Today we worked on loose leash walking some more (it’s very hard!). Then we added some new tricks — “bed exercises”, which emphasize the dog lying down on a dog bed while the handler works on distance, duration, and distraction; “door exercises”, where the campers learn how to teach the puppies to go through a door politely; and “cone exercises”, or “around”, which teaches the dogs to move away from the handler, go around an object, and come back. We thought about how tricks like this might be used in the real world — you will hardly ever have to go around a traffic cone while out for a walk, but what if your dog got his leash wrapped around a tree and you could just say “around” and he’d walk away from you, go around the tree, and come back, with his leash now unwrapped? Cool!
At the end of the day we had a visit from Mary with Canine Companions for Independence, who taught us about how CCI “socializes”, or raises, their puppies to be incredible service dogs. We got to meet Ralphie, a real service-dog-in-training!
First thing in the morning we worked on loose leash walking outside some more. Then we went to the Bithlo-Christmas Neighborhood Center for Families to deliver the meals we made last night. Campers brought hot meals and water to people who really needed them. (Doglando works with the Bithlo center as part of Full Tummy, a program which delivers free dog and cat food to families in need.)
Afterward we drove to the Greenwood Urban Wetland to let the dogs be dogs and to have a picnic in the park. Dogs who enjoyed the water were allowed to fetch sticks out of the lake while other dogs preferred to play on the shore and just watch.
At the end of the day everyone was so tired we had naptime!
In the morning today we worked on loose leash walking some more. There is more room outside in which to work but there are also way more distractions outdoors!
After we worked on walking outside we went on a field trip to Panera Bread, which has an outdoor space where the dogs can learn. We worked on pedestal exercises (climbing on and off a platform; staying on the platform until released) and then had lunch. We even met some nice people who were interested in adopting some of the dogs!
At the end of the day it was back into the pool for more swimming. Today we went in full circles around the pool and then each camper raced his or her dog to the ramp to get out! (Mostly, the dogs won.)
We spent the evening making meals for the homeless, which we will deliver tomorrow. Our fundraiser (we ended up having a bake sale instead of selling dog paintings) was a great success, earning $180 to buy food! We made chicken, pasta, green beans, and corn, and the leftovers from our bake sale will go to the homeless too.
Today we introduced loose leash walking. The only rule (for the dog) is that the dog should be on the handler’s left side with the leash loose. There are a lot of rules for the campers to learn in order to teach this one rule to the dog! It is very complicated to teach even simple things when you cannot use spoken language to communicate. The campers learned to guide the dogs with their bodies and with food lures, and the dogs (sometimes) learned how to respond to the campers’ movements and the pull of the leash. (It’s okay, everybody — we all start learning at the beginning!)
In the afternoon we cooled off in the pool. Now the puppies are learning to swim past the ramp and spend more time in the water. The campers are learning how to guide the puppies around the pool. At the end of the day we let the puppies rest on the dock and the humans spent time learning how to dive off the dock into the water and catch a dog toy on the way down!
Today we had some fun on- and off-leash outside, with the campers and dogs learning to play with one another. We added the “pedestal” to our training arsenal — this is a small raised platform the dog can learn to climb on and off of, and sit or lay down on. In the afternoon, we brainstormed for a fundraiser to buy food to make meals for the homeless. (To make 60+ meals, our grocery list started with 18 cans of corn and 18 cans of green beans!) We decided to have the dogs make paintings we could sell, and everybody ran around covered with paint for a while.
Of course then we had to go swimming! Today the dogs learned to swim a little further before getting out of the pool. (This is how you learn to do things that are scary at first — take them in small increments.) To help them feel safe in the water as they swam, the campers got in the pool with them, and supported their bodies as they learned how to move in the pool.