The adventures of SD Juno and SDIT Kaline (and their human, Colt).

24 August 2012


Let's begin with a disclaimer: I dislike IKEA. You might even say I loathe IKEA. So easy to get lost (getting there, in there, getting out of there ... ), clogged with people, too many tempting smells of cinnamon buns ... I avoid the place.

But there is one thing that must be said for IKEA. If you are looking for a training ground for future service dogs, there is absolutely no better place. (All photos courtesy of Sonja)
Chief and Kaline playing in the car ... shhhh.
This afternoon Sonja and I took Chief and Kaline to IKEA for the first time. Well, it was Kaline's first time anyway. I think both Kaline's and my brains were on fire by the end! We both worked hard. Sonja is an amazing person to do outings with. (I know, should be "with whom to do outings," but it sounds so stilted!) She is incredibly creative about training and creating opportunities for training. Unlike me, she has no qualms about asking strangers to participate in our training. Kaline and I really got a workout being with her and Chief! And it was lots of fun to use the clicker so much, though I ended up having to mooch treats off Sonja after I ran out. (Oops!)

Right as we got in, Sonja noticed a pair of people checking out some furniture. She asked them to call to each of our puppies in turn, after telling them their names; then we rewarded our boys for maintaining their focus on us, not the strangers. I kind of wait for real life situations to happen and then respond; Sonja creates them on her own terms so Chief can always be practicing. Awesome. She also helped me with getting and rewarding Kaline's attention: Instead of immediately trying to get his focus back when he looks at something, I should let him look, and then reward when he looks back to me on his own. Clearly it's a method that works, because Chief is constantly looking to Sonja for direction. I think I got the hang of it as we moved through the store.
Pups in IKEA!
More things we did with strangers: Multiple times, we got people to pet the dogs in vest and rewarded the boys for maintaining their focus (yeah, that's gonna be a theme). We set up the dogs about one stride apart, in downs, and after we stepped over them repeatedly, we had a stranger do it. (They were great.) When we came across three little boys with their parents, Sonja got the boys to come up near the dogs and wave their stuffed animals. Other times we had kids run past and make noises.

Sonja also worked on other scenarios that might happen. She and I made weird noises at the dogs, trying to be a little scary, waved our hands around their faces, pretended to scold them, all kinds of things that grouchy and/or drunk people might do when they see them. We stomped, we jumped around, we made sudden movements. Chief and Kaline mostly just sat there and looked at us like we were crazy, utterly nonplussed. The whole time, amusingly, Kaline kept slithering into downs, both because he was tired from the morning (three pack walks, running around with Juno, short outing to Jan's Deli) and because he had little to no traction on the floor. Poor guy, those cat feet are freaking cute but the lack of hair doesn't help him much.
This happened a lot.
Another thing we did, which sounds bad when you type it, was knock stuff off shelves onto the floor to "surprise" the boys. Obviously, we never did it with anything breakable or that would get scratched up. We're talking mousepads, wicker baskets, plastic baskets, plastic-wrapped whisks. We also banged some metal canisters together. If the pups did startle, it was pretty minimal, and they were quickly able to focus again.

We did "under" at different tables, let the dogs explore the multitudinous surfaces and objects all over IKEA. In various places, we had them practice their actual tasks. Chief retrieved a pouch and returned to settle on Sonja's chest as she lay on the floor; Kaline did lap-ups and even an on-me when I found a long chair just perfect for stretching out on. He worked on touch and leave it as well.
"lap up"

"on me"
My only gripe with the little man, who did a fantastic job today, was the pulling. Obviously in IKEA, when you are searching out training opps, you don't walk at the nice brisk pack-walking pace. Plus Chief was usually ahead of Kaline. Just for shits and giggles, I might review the Kikopup videos on no pulling and try to do a couple training sessions like that. I have to take my own advice—if what I'm doing (corrections on the prong and rewards for slowing down and giving me attention) isn't accomplishing what I want, and I have given it a good chance, it's time to try another tactic.

In the middle of our outing, Sonja found a secluded corner and we took the boys' vests off so they could have a little wrestle. Sonja thinks it's really important that SDs be able to play and then return to working mode quickly, and I couldn't agree more. They did pretty well, although Kaline can never pass up a chance to take a swipe at Chief with one of his massive paws. I figure when they can finally work side-by-side without losing their focus on their humans, they'll be able to work through any situation! It's so cute how much they like each other though.

The outing was wonderful and we need to do it more ... but oh man, was it a pleasure to put Kaline down for a nap in his crate and grab Juno so we could go to dinner with the parents. I'm sure this will come as a huge amazing revelation to everyone in the world, but puppies are a LOT of work! My brain could kind of turn off once I was with Juno—she knows her job and we just know how to work together. I know someday it will be like that with Kaline but I am so glad that Juno didn't have to retire, and will be here to get me through Kaline's training! Fabulous girl. She looked so pretty in her wide collar with its brand new DogTagArt ID tag.

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