I went to a DAD training conference in Cleveland on February 1-2. It was taught by Scott Smith, the guy who basically started DADs. It was fantastic. I learned so much, and it gave me so much confidence. Every one of the 3 books written on DAD training says different things, so I was completely overwhelmed when trying to plan out my training because I didn't know which method to use. But, this conference gave me so much information and clarity on what I needed to do, all the methods made sense and were easy to understand. The first day was when all the information was thrown at us, then the next day was when we got to see DAD teams work on the skills needed on a day to day basis - things like telling people their dog can't be pet, sending your dog to their "place", leave it, calling past a distraction, etc. I had learned so much and I was totally exhausted after the weekend. But, this conference was priceless to me, because it gave me a sense of direction and confidence. Also, Scott said I could email or call him with questions if I had any. This gave us such a sense of security knowing that I could ask somebody who knew what they were doing.
Ok, so last time I wrote I said we found our Sadie, well.......just kidding! After a few more days of examining Sadie (Reff), we realized she was just too independant and she didn't care about people and what they wanted. This is not a good temperament for a dog that has to constantly be trying to obey and please their human. So, I went to my second option - Jackie. Jackie had been a barky pup, making me a little cautious about her and causing me to originally not choose her. But, I knew that too independent of a dog would be a large problem as well, so I decided to ask someone for advice about the issue. I emailed Scott Smith and asked him which pup he would suggest - the one who could find the scent immediately but was independent, or the pup who barked, wasn't as good at finding the scent swatch, but loved people. Scott was extremely helpful and replied quickly telling me he would choose the one that loved people. Having Scott's opinion really helped my confidence in this pup, so the new Sadie became Jackie - Female 9.
So, at this point there were still 9 puppies in my bathroom, and they were becoming increasingly more destructive, noisy, messy, stinky, and just miserable in general. Don't get me wrong, they were cute and stuff, but they were a pain! I walked in my bathroom one day and found they had begun chewing on my wall with the nice Victorian wall paper - well this didn't go over so well with my mother, so we called Kathy and justmentioned that if she by any chance wanted to take the pups early we would not mind at all! Thankfully, she came and got all but two pups, and it was glorious! I kept Sadie and one other pup, Marlie, they were both going to be trained (Marlie for 12 days as a pet). I've always said I only train one pup at a time, but since I had just gotten rid of 7, two was not problem! For those 12 days we worked on basic obedience - sit, down, heel, stay, come, and kennel; as well as manners such as no biting, no jumping, no barking, no getting on furniture, etc. They did well, but just as I had remembered, it was difficult because they enjoyed each other so much they didn't have the need to please me as much. It just took a lot more time and work, focusing on keeping the two seperate.
Eventually I sent Marlie off to her new home in Arkansas and I could focus on Sadie. We continued to work on just obedience as this is extremely important in a service dog, but we also had to keep working on scent work. When she was 4-5 weeks old, I just had her find a scent swatch on my floor in a container of some sort. I used plastic containers, shoes, trophies, dominoes holders, anything I could find that would give off a different smell. We did this for a long time, but as she got to be 8-9 weeks old it became more structured. I would put it in a container and we would play the shell game - mixing up the boxes. She got to be pretty good at this, walking around sniffing each box until she found the correct one. Sadie naturally uses her paws, so at just 7 weeks old she naturally began putting her paw on the swatch or container the swatch was in - hooray! This was fantastic because she did it herself and I didn't have to teach her. But, this also means that she uses her paws for other things and now I will have to teach her not to since it is only used for her alert. We are still trying to work on this, but it's difficult because I can't punish her for using her paws for other things, because she will stop using them to alert and I can't give her what she wants because it will encourage it, so I will have to just ignore it and it will hopefully teach her that it is useless to try. But, it's confusing to her because pawing is the way that she gets the giant low party too.
When Sadie got to be about 11 weeks old, I started putting the scent swatch on my body rather than in a container. I noticed that her cue to find the scent was when there were boxes on the ground. This obviously won't do unless Mackenzie turns into a box when she goes high or low - very unlikely - so I figured we should try scent work without boxes. I first just put it in my fist down at her level until she recognized it - no problem. She pawed my hand and caught on right away. I put it between my toes, fingers, in my hand, and any other places that were obvious and at her level. But, the hardest part is getting her to notice it when she isn't watching me hide the scent swatch. This is difficult for multiple reasons. The first being because I can't tell if she isn't responding or whether she just doesn't smell the swatch, this would be so much easier if I could smell low BG! The second reason is because she is a puppy, and she a lot of times enjoys chewing on bones or playing more that alerting to the scent. So, this is the stage that we are at now, putting a scent swatch on our body, and waiting until she notices and paws us. I still try to do boxes too, just to reinforce it as well as keep her sharp for when I put normal BG swatches in the boxes.
She has started public access now, we go about once a week to new places. We have gone to banks, grocery stores, the airport, bookstores, the post office, and the mall. She has been a charmer at each one! We go outside often, just to be absolutely sure we won't have an embarassment, but she is great. When I stop she sits immediately, then after a minute she will lay down, and she will eventually fall asleep next to me. We have our fair share of things to work through - mainly not saying "Hi" to every person that walks by, but this is why she has now gone into service dog training where no one but family can pet her. Speaking of which, I have heard many stories of people walking up and petting their service dog without asking, kids being mean to the dogs, people being rude, etc., and I'm sure we will encounter this at some point, but so far everyone has been extremely respectful and complementary. They read the vest and even say "I know she's not allowed to be pet, but she is beautiful", or something to this effect. I was thouroughly surprised! The only dirty look we have gotten so far is from a woman in a bookstore who had a service dog! Her child was reading to the dog in a corner, and we were walking away from them, about 15 feet away when the dog stood up, wanting to see Sadie. She was not very happy with us, even though we didn't do a thing wrong, but she kept an eye on us the whole time. But, anyways, Sadie has been a little angel on every trip and she has made us quite the celebrities - lots of "How adorable!" comments.
So, this is quite the update, but this is where we are and hopefully I will give another update soon, maybe sooner than 2 months!