Just For Fun

Five months is probably a little early to start, or even contemplate, harness training. I mean, focus…what’s that? There isn’t any, really. OK, that’s a little unfair. In just the past month, Hilda has calmed down a lot. She can even sometimes walk past a cat without trying to pounce on it. She can even sort of sit and let Melanie pet her, but she does end up losing her cool. Even so, Melanie has been able to pet her a little bit, which could have never happened a month ago. She still wants to jump on people, especially new people. She also really wants to be out in front, a good thing for guiding, not so much if you want a dog to walk on a loose leash, which she’ll need to do some of the time. But she really is getting better with that, too. She also comes, some of the time, off leash. We’re working on that, too. Also, crate behavior when I’m gone is improving.

But back to the harness. Recall that I put the harness on just for fun. She’s worn it without the handle a few times, maybe an hour or so during several days. She tolerated having that put on pretty well, and didn’t seem to mind it on her while she hung around the house. Today, I put the harness on complete with handle, and, just for fun, we went for a walk. From the upstairs crate, we went to the stairs, and she stopped at the steps, just like she has been all along. She took a bit of encouragement to go down the stairs with me, and we walked across the house to the back door and out to park. Naturally, I didn’t expect anything like guiding, or paying any attention to me, but it was pretty cool nonetheless, because she really did keep moving quite a lot of the time. She didn’t take a lot of encouragement to move when she would stop to sniff or for whatever reason. We even made it down the driveway and a couple houses down the block. Turning around to go home was another matter, as she wanted to just kind of go everywhere, jump on the neighbor, sniff the front lawn of the neighbor’s house, all very puppy-like and, hey, I don’t wanna go home!

Still, it was pretty cool to have this puppy walking in harness, even if not in actual fact doing much. I definitely see some awesome potential here though.

Hey, if I’m living right, there will be a picture of Hilda in harness, taken a few days before her five-month birthday. Or whatever you’d call that. Hilda in harness  nearly 5 months

A Long Walk, And Things We’re Doing

We continue to make progress. It’s amazing how much difference a couple weeks make.

First, I want to say that Hilda is at least 40 pounds now, according to my scale and me carrying her on it. My tape measure also says she’s 21 inches at the shoulder. That’s got to be pretty close, even if I couldn’t exactly get her to stand still for very long.

We’ve had fewer parking accidents in the crate. I think, on the whole, she’s getting the idea, because mostly, when she has one, I can take her out and she still has more to do. Melanie also tells me that she doesn’t bark constantly when I leave her. There is actually some quiet time in between sometimes.

Last week, I had to leave Hilda with a friend to take Alena to an appointment out of town. No problem. Or, as Melanie’s dad says, “What? You’re leaving?” I think she might maybe want to trade me in for Heidi and Kaitlyn and Cheyenne. Seems she had a good time and was well worn out when she came home.

I have actually been able to leave her lying down long enough to walk around the kitchen and do stuff without having to put her in the crate. She stayed put! This would have never happened just a couple weeks ago. Also, she’s been having a good time running around and playing with the other dogs a bit during the day, off leash. We still have to work on the recall thing a lot, but that’s OK.

Other useful things we’re working on:

Not rushing through doors. I can now stand at a door, open the door, and mostly, she won’t go through the door until I do. Not rushing through doors is a good thing. Of course, we haven’t tried it off leash, but on leash, she’s doing great at standing at the door.

Very useful: I’m prompting “Upstairs”, and teaching her to just stop at the bottom of the stairs, with her front paws on the first step. Sometimes she puts her paws on the second step instead, but generally, she does stop on the first. This is really great, because when a guide dog stops at steps and curbs, they stop with front paws on the step or curb. Great for getting an idea of the height of the step, not to mention knowing a step is there in the first place. When I prompt “Downstairs”, I want her to stop at the steps, and sit just to reinforce that yes, this is a place to stop. She stops, and mostly she sits, too. Huge!

While she is not walking completely on a loose leash, she’s doing a lot better. She’s doing enough better that for the first time, we took a long walk today down to the drugstore. It’s like a mile and a half round trip, and only at the last couple blocks did she start to get tired. I could tell, because she was pulling more and listening to me less. But even then, if I gave the full length of the leash, she generally didn’t get too awfully far ahead of me. Thing is though, she did pull a little, and gave me more tension than I ultimately want, but in general, she stayed with me mostly, if a bit further to the left than I’d prefer. But this gave us a chance to work at stopping at curbs, too. I wanted to introduce one of the ladies at the drugstore to her, as she was asking. I think Hilda was a hit. Bonus, we met a baby on the way back. Hilda had only met one or two other babies and toddlers since I got her, but she didn’t seem put out or bothered by them at all. In fact, she was very excited to see the baby and wanted to make friends with her, just as much as she does with everyone else she ever meets. I’d really like to hang out around the elementary school when school is letting out sometime, too. Anyway, excellent stuff going on with that. All progress is good progress.

Just for fun, I tried putting one of the nylon harnesses on Hilda, at its smallest settings. It’s just a little bit too big for her, but not by a whole lot. I don’t think it’s going to be very long at all before she can wear it around and start getting used to it. Without the handle, of course.