Jul 242017
 

The last day of camp is wildly bittersweet.  We have some of our most memorable activities, with campers and dogs moving as partners and doing things they could not have imagined doing on Day One.  And then, having achieved this, we have to say goodbye.

Today we woke up from our sleepover and made breakfast for ourselves.  Then we cleaned the barn — it has to be spotless for graduation!  Then we took a break for lunch.

After lunch we went to Encore Assisted Living, where we brightened everybody’s day by letting the residents visit with our dogs.  Imagine trying to do this on Day One!  The dogs entered a strange building, met a lot of people they did not know well, saw people in wheelchairs for the first time, saw older people possibly for the first time, encountered strange smells and strange sounds and everyone did quite well.  We are so proud of our campers and our dogs, whose hard work made this possible!  The residents always love visits, and today they particularly enjoyed the tiny puppies, Moana, Maui and Kane, who could sit on laps.

Graduation this session was in the rain, but even with the crowds and the rain on the roof everyone put on a spectacular performance, showing off all the skills they had learned over the last two weeks.  We even managed a swimming demonstration!

Goodbye is always sad, although this session we did have several dogs leaving graduation directly to their new forever homes!

Jul 212017
 

Today we did some work training in the morning, and quickly cleaned the barn, but the highlight of the day was the trip to Kings Landing to go canoeing with the dogs!

We can fit two or three kids and their dogs in each canoe and go around a short circular canoeing path or simply canoe up to the “swimming hole”, with the rope swing and the diving platform, and spend the day there.  There are things to climb on and logs to sit on and we can run up and down in the water with the dogs.  This is always one of our favorite trips!  Even though some of us had never been in a canoe before, we all did really well and had a great time!

Tonight is our camp sleepover, where we spend the night in the barn (or even outside, if the weather holds) with the dogs.  Tomorrow we will make ourselves breakfast, and have a busy day before graduation at 4:30 pm!

Jul 192017
 

Today was “nonprofit day” for us!  We have raised $123 so far in our fundraiser for United Against Poverty, and today we took our donation to their headquarters to get a tour and learn more about what they do.  UAP, partnering with a variety of local charities, specializes in empowering those who do not have stable housing situations to regain control over their lives through a variety of means.

After a morning spent working on loose leash walking, we went to visit UAP.  We got to tour their discounted grocery store and learn where the foodstuffs there come from, and we also got to see their clinic and classrooms and computer lab, where they help people with a huge array of issues from domestic violence to resume writing to classes in activities of daily living (such as cooking) to simple medical care.

We stopped for lunch on the way home, and afterward we worked with the dogs, adding chairs as a distraction.  Later on, we were lucky enough to be visited by Mari and one of the dogs from Canine Companions for Independence, another nonprofit!

Jul 192017
 

Today began with more training!  We polished up work on pedestal training and added the cone/pvc pipe, which is an object around which the dog is asked to turn, to everyone’s repertoire.  Then we cleaned the barn….

…and went on a field trip with the dogs!  We went to Oviedo Riverside Park.  We stopped somewhere to get lunch on the way so we could have a picnic with the dogs in the park!  Then we spent some time just being out in nature with the dogs.  The dogs got to sniff, run, crawl, climb, and wade in the water, as well as move around on a very long leash so they could really get out and exercise.

At the end of the day we took the dogs to one end of the field and let them run toward their camper, who was calling them (a “long recall”).  Campers had to get very inventive to get the dogs to run toward them!  Everybody enjoyed the running, but it was very, very hot and we got back onto the bus and stopped to get drinks on the way back to Doglando.

Jul 182017
 
Today we doubled down on crate exercises and their variations (bed, hula hoop, and pedestal). The dog is *generalizing* its crate skills — staying in place until released not just in a crate, but in a hula hoop, on a bed, and on a pedestal. The dog is also adding “getting onto a pedestal”, “lying down on a bed”, and a variety of other skills to its arsenal.
 
After lunch we got to work for our fundraiser, where we hope to raise $400 for United Against Poverty. We all made nifty key holders with paw prints, hand prints, and other messages on them. Along with baked goods, we put these up in the Doglando store and are hoping for donations!
 
We got out on a field trip today! We took a brief trip to Panera Bread, one of our favorite destinations. We took a walk around the outside of several stores, met some nice people who were interested in our dogs, and grabbed some food for a restful break before heading back to Doglando to clean up.
 
Jul 122017
 

Today was full of training that was surprisingly hard work.

We worked on adding duration, distance, and distraction to the dogs’ crate exercise skills.  This means we practiced those skills but added more time waiting in the crate before release, added more distance between the handler and the dog, and added distractions for the dog to ignore.  We all did very well but practice will make perfect!

We went outside to work on loose leash walking but it was very hot and we went back in quickly so the dogs could get some water and cool down.

After that, we learned about how difficult it can be to be a dog if the trainer does not present reinforcers promptly and in a position which makes them easy to eat.  To demonstrate, we had to pretend a string was our “trainer” and eat the donuts it was offering us without using our hands, just like a dog would have to.  It’s surprisingly hard to eat things without being able to use our hands to control them!

Then we took a rest in the air conditioning, and learned about how people breed puppies for sale at pet stores, and the surprisingly awful things that can go into cheap pet food.

After lunch, we took the puppies swimming for the first time.  Swimming is an important confidence-building skill for puppies.  They learn how to use their bodies to move in water and learn that they can float in water and successfully exit the pool.

After swimming we did chores and cleaned out the barn, and took a well-deserved rest.  More excitement tomorrow!

Jul 112017
 

Today we jumped right in to training with crate exercises and loose leash walking.  We are not perfect yet but everyone made a very good start!

Crate exercises teach the dogs about waiting for a signal to move or leave the crate, but mostly they teach the humans the basics of training: setting up the environment (or “antecedent arrangement”), giving cues properly, and proper timing and delivery of reinforcers.  Loose leash walking teaches the humans how to use their body to give cues to the dog, rather than using the leash.  It’s all very complicated but we are learning fast!

In the afternoon we gave everyone a bath and nail trim.  Then, while the dogs were resting, we caught up on some of the details of crate exercises and loose leash walking: defining terms like behaviorinteractionpositive, and reinforcement so we have a better idea of exactly how we are communicating with the dogs.

At the end of the day everyone went out to take a break on the grass outside, so that we can continue to build our relationships with our dogs!

Jul 112017
 

Today we learned about Doglando, where everything is and what we need to do to keep our dogs healthy and happy.  We learned how to hold a leash properly and how to clean the crates and pick up poop.  We visited the enrichment dogs and learned about how Doglando takes care of their enrichment dogs.

We went on a field trip.  We visited Petland, Orange County Animal Services and Pet Alliance to learn about how people go about getting dogs, and what happens when the people and the dogs don’t get along.  We learned about how people adopt dogs and even met an adoptable dog, Star.  We also learned about habitats and how habitats can shape behavior later in life.

Then we worked with each dog, and made our selections.  It only came down to one game of rock-paper-scissors to choose who worked with whom!  Everybody got a new and interesting partner to work with and learn from for two whole weeks.

Jul 032017
 

The last day of camp is always bittersweet.  We have some of our most memorable moments, because the dogs are by now used to working with us and trust us to help them through strange spaces, and we can do things like visit public beaches or — as we did today — visit senior care homes and interact with the residents.  Imagine trying to do this on Day One, with the dogs fresh out of the shelter!  But today everyone was happy, peaceful, and enjoying receiving kibble from complete strangers.

We also visited Full Tummy (without the dogs), to meet the people and animals who benefited from our bake sale fundraiser.

Then we showed off everything we’d learned in the last two weeks in our graduation ceremony!  Despite rain bucketing down and rattling off the barn roof, everyone did very well, both dogs and kids.  We’re always so happy to see how everyone has grown and changed in only two weeks.

Afterwards came the sad part — we had to say goodbye.  Some of the dogs, including Xena and Harry, were adopted right out of the graduation ceremony!  Some of the dogs, including Girl, had meet-and-greets scheduled after graduation.  Anyone who did not get adopted does not need to worry — Pet Rescue by Judy is there for them until they do find their forever home, which will be EASY with all the work our campers have done with them!

It’s hard to say goodbye to the campers, too.  We all learn so much from each other.  Hopefully we will see you all next year!

Jun 292017
 
Today started off with some work on the recall — we went out in the Tree Tops area with the dogs on a long line, one or two at a time, and practiced recalls with them. Then we went out and walked along Colonial Drive for a bit, getting better at working through distractions.
 
After that we reviewed our homework, and talked about learned helplessness and how that can affect training.
 
Just before lunch, Mari and Trenton from Canine Companions for Independence stopped by, and we got to learn about how they train hearing alert dogs for the hearing impaired. Trenton alerted Mari to all sorts of noises, including an alarm sound he’d never heard before, and correctly led her to what was making the noise!
 
After lunch we hopped on the bus and rode to Greenwood Park, where we practiced recalls — a little bit — mostly we just ran around and had fun. Some of the dogs were more willing to go into the lake than others — some were just content hanging out peacefully with their human in the quiet.
 
When we got back we did cleanup and then had some quiet time. Looking forward to another eventful day tomorrow!