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!
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.
Today the campers and dogs learned about interactive toys — toys that don’t just entertain the dog, but which require the human to be a full participant in the process. Dogs and humans were meant to play together! Everybody tried different types of toys — hiding toys which hid food, toys which made food hard to get, and a strange bell-looking thing which everybody just liked to chew on because it was made of wood. (Okay, the dogs liked to chew on it — the campers, not so much!)
In the afternoon the puppies had their first swimming lesson! Camp Doglando has a great, full-sized swimming pool, with a dock to dive off of and a rubber-covered ramp to get out with. Campers gently placed their puppies in the water and guided them right to the ramp, so their first time in the pool was short and sweet! Tomorrow will be much more exciting!
Now that the dogs have the basics down, it’s time to work on the “three D’s” — distance, duration, and distraction. The dogs can “sit” — now they have to sit for longer times (duration), sit while the handler is further and further away (distance) and sit even if someone has dropped kibble on the ground next to them (distraction)! Not every dog is great at this at first, but we are all learning!
Everybody did so well today that we went on our first field trip with the dogs — to Twistee Treat! Everybody had a great time and enjoyed their ice cream — even the dogs, who got “Pup Cups” of their own to enjoy, topped with a dog treat.
Today introduced the basics of training. Dogs and campers learned to do “crate exercises”, which is a fancy term for learning to come out of the crate politely, carefully, and only when asked. Campers introduced the dogs to the language of learning — treats! — and brought them homemade tug toys made from old shirts so they would not be lonely in their crates. Dogs and campers both learned about crate exercises, “sit”, “shake”, and “down”. The dogs had their first bath, too! We also learned about how working together with everybody else creates a web of responsibility — when one of us drops our part of the web, the whole thing falls apart!
A few lucky dogs even got to go home with their campers tonight!
This first day of camp is always full of information and wiggling dogs. The dogs are in the barn ready when the campers arrive in the morning and immediately need care! New campers learn quickly how to grab treats, leash a dog, and get that dog outside to potty. Then the crates need cleaning, and everything needs to be organized! Campers spend the day learning the rules of camp and then working with each dog so that they can find a dog that suits them.
We went on field trips to Petland, Orange County Animal Services, and the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando so that campers could see how people get pets, why people give their pets away, and what happens to pets who cannot find homes. We underscored the importance of picking the right pet, not just based on looks but also on needs — both the humans’ needs and the dogs’ needs. Then the campers and the dogs picked the right partners for each other! Camp is officially underway!