Brilliant, followed by…what?!

There really isn’t a lot to say about this trip, which of course means that I’ll take forever to say it. Gotta be me.

Hilda for sure needed a walk today, so off we went to nowhere. Just down to 29th and Cascade by the elementary school, up to 36th over to Washington (maybe four very long blocks west), then back home over 32nd. It’s a fair haul, anyway. We’re still working on moderating pull, but that’s getting a lot better.

Distractions, oh yes. First, at 31st and Cascade, we encountered a dog out for a walk with its human, and Hilda was interested, though she didn’t take off to go visit the dog, even though the dog certainly had her attention. We still got across the street OK, but it did take a bit of persuasion, though not much, to get her going.

There was one bit of brilliant reasoning on her part further on. A block before Washington, on 36th, there was something about this curb approach she didn’t like. I’m not sure if they had dug up part, or if we were just by a storm drain, or what exactly. I can tell you she stopped shot of the curb, and I could tell that the pavement went down for some reason, and Hilda didn’t like it. So she went around the corner, got up on the sidewalk from the side, and went on. All on her own, on her own initiative.

There were several times when she thought “Forward” might possibly mean “Left” or “right”, because those were maybe more interesting directions, but fortunately, she is very easy to redirect, and she didn’t really insist. When she did, ultimately she was right about it and ended up going my way anyway.

Another time, we crossed, and she missed the curb and was walking down our parallel street for a few feet. She realized the error on her own and took us back to the right and onto the curb, again on her own and with no prompting from me.

At 33rd and Washington, we hit a snag. I’m not sure exactly how this worked, if she veered onto some other part of the sidewalk, or what, but we hit a curb, and she was very reluctant to step off it. Eventually she did though. … And then the crossing wasn’t quite right. So we turned around to cross back over and rework it, except we diagonaled. Or…umm, well, we did something, anyway. Trying to rework *that* really made things even more confusing, so we eventually just found our way to where we were supposed to be going in the first place and went on with life.

Right before we got back to Raspberry and the left turn to our block at 30th, Hilda very suddenly lunged to the left. Something really, really got her attention. I’m not sure what. Maybe it was one of the kids that I heard a few minutes later commenting on my nice dog. Maybe it was something else entirely, but that was not at all a typical reaction from her. She sprang forward towards something else a bit closer to home, too. I think this was perhaps tired brain. I don’t think it was anything aggressive, certainly if she was trying to visit the kids, they didn’t seem too upset.

Another successful trip

This time to Circle K. She hasn’t been there with me in several months.

This is another easy route, with mostly a straight shot. It does, however, present a couple challenges.

We live at 30th and Raspberry. The route is from our house to Raspberry, left on Raspberry down to 26th, take a right, and walk several long blocks to Cherry, where theCircle K is. At the corner of 26th and Raspberry is Elmwood Auto, a small used car place or some such. (Elmwood is the next block over to the east, go figure.) It’s very tempting to accidentally end up where some of the cars are parked there at the corner lot. Fortunately, we avoided that pitfall and walked up to the corner. Actually, Hilda felt the need to investigate the light pole at the corner. Gave it a name but not much attention. This may be something to work on at some point.

Took the right. At the second long block, between Cascade and Plum, we somehow managed to angle into what I assume is the furniture store parking lot. She did it so gradually and so smoothly I didn’t notice. She did notice, however, when we started getting to an obstacle, and she took the left back towards the street all on her own. We then had to work the crossing at Plum several times, because she kept missing the blended curb. I’m not sure what had her attention, but it wasn’t kids playing basketball like it was yesterday. Praise big time when she got it right!

The next crossing was Liberty, which is a nice busy light controlled, though very straightforward crossing. No problem. Easy peasy.

We got to the store. No worries, no trouble. She tried to greet some guy in line, looked around a lot, but stayed right with me and mostly stayed sitting in the store.

Pace and pull on the way up were nearly perfect. On the way back, there was a more pull, but much better. We even took a slightly different way home, and she handled it very well.

Oh, nearly forgot. On the way up, at Raspberry at 30th, when I asked her to turn left, she did left about instead. We had to do it about four times before she got it. The rest of the time, she did all her turns fine. She’s definitely showing more confidence in her decisions to execute a request from me, even if they’re wrong. They’re wrong less.

Trip Yesterday

Written yesterday…
We took a walk up to the Dollar Tree today. Not a bad trip, on the whole. We’re going to really start working on moderating the pull. Towards the end, I think she started getting the idea that pulling like a freight train really isn’t necessary.

She’s got a little bounce in her step sometimes. I’ve heard ofthis wonderfully smooth GSD gait, and I’m getting that sometimes, but other times? Not so much. I’m not sure what it is she’s doing really. Like maybe she’s thinking about stopping and thinking better of it? Don’t know.

She’s definitely taking initiative though. We found a car blocking our sidewalk. She stopped, I directed her to go around, and she went around. She gave some thought to continuing down the street, then correctly decided to get back around and onto the sidewalk instead. Pretty cool.

We got to do lots of right about, and sometimes she didn’t want to, but mostly because it was to rework something. At this one spot, she wanted to go right instead of forward. The crosswalk was a bit off from the sidewalk, but it was only a slight angle. She wanted to take the right to cross theother stret. We had to do it several times before she got that “Forward” in this case meant “Forward”.

We also need to work on Little Miss Social Butterfly’s social tendencies. She’s perhaps a bit friendlier than is good for her. Or at least, good for me. Definitely a work in progress there.

One thing that I’m really enjoying though is she’s starting to get pretty confident in her decisions. Definitely more decisive in her turns today. Following in the store wasn’t really great, but not worried about that.

Right About, Left About

Today was far too nice a day to be stuck inside for all of it, so even though I have to be stuck inside for most of it, owing to things that need done, I was able to go out for a little walk with the Beast today. Today’s exercise was turns, and the difference between “Right” and “right about”, and “Left” and “Left about”.

Another owner/trainer suggested that teaching a “Right about”, which is a 180-degree right turn, and of course by extension a “Left about”, would be useful. None of my program trained dogs would do this, and in fact turning around involved dropping the harness handle and turning, then picking the harness handle back up and going, or whatevering. Still, even if “Righta bout” and “Left about” were of absolutely no use, and they probably will be of some, though I think “Right about” more than “Left about”, they’re useful in at least one respect: they’ll be something I can ask Hilda to do that’s different from a right or left, and something that she wants to do naturally.

We started by going to the nearest corner and making curb to curb rights and lefts, just as an exercise. I note some reluctance, especially to turn left, and I’m not sure why. Anyway, we then worked out “Right about” and “Left about”, which she seemed to pick up very quickly. Seems “Right about” came more quickly than “Left about”, which is OK, since I think I’d actually use that more. We finally took our actual left, after just doing turns and Hilda probably wondering, “OK, what’s the point?”. Went down the block, took another left, and worked on our weird corner with the offset crosswalks, that is, offset in relation to the sidewalk. We crossed all four ways, and walked to all four crosswalks, although before making the last one to go back the way we came, we took the right and walked up a block, specifically so we could do a “right about”. After doing the offset corners a few times each, that is, and when she got it on her own without extra prompting.

On one block, a block up from my house, we were walking back towards the corner I live on but one block up, and we encountered the back end of a car. Hilda stopped and did her indecision dance. I didn’t direct her around the car, just encouraged her to decide which way to go. She started to go the wrong way, towards the front of the car to go around, then changed her mind and made the correct decision. Went around, and almost kept going up along the other side of the car. Just one little “Hupp-up” reminded her to pick up her line again, and we were off.

This trip had lots of bouncing and looking around and a bit of drifting and speed changes as one thing or another caught her interest. Even so, for the most part she stayed pretty on task, especially considering her age and maturity and how it’s such a lovely spring day.

When we got to the corner just ablock up from home, Hilda decided she was going to immediately take that left to go home. I didn’t necessarily want her to do that, or at least I didn’t want her to get into the habit of makinga decision like that without an OK, so we went up to the curb and worked some more on curb to curb turns. She was quite reluctant to make that left, and she really wanted a left about. I did eventually make two lefts to go the way she wanted, but it was a great opportunity to reinforce, yes, thank you foryour input, now we’re going this way. We’ll definitely be working on these things more.

Brains FAlling Out

Fortunately, we recover from brains falling out.

Friday morning, Hilda and I took a walk down to the CVS. I think the nice weather may have been getting the better of our Miss Missy, because…yeah…brains were definitely falling out on the way there.

We still haven’t quite figured out the crosswalks offset from the sidewalks at 29th and Elmwood. We’ll work that a bit more, as we did on Saturday, more on that later. Anyway, there were a couple times on that intersection where she didn’t want to pick up our line of travel again, but we worked it out.

It felt like she was sort of all over the place! And so she was, because when we got to the four-way stop at 29th and Washongton, just four blocks from home, most of the way to the CVS (many of these blocks are quite long), she really screwed up the crossing! Seriously. I don’t know what she was doing, but I found myself walking down the street we were meant to be walking beside…yeah, that crossing felt awfully long! So we got up on the curb, and we crossed back over. We did this about three times before she got it well enough. On our second trip, this guy walks up and asks if he can help me, because my dog “looks confused”. No, thanks, we’re OK. Nope, nothing to see here.

During one part of our trip, Hilda was trying to avoid an obstacle way way way before the obstacle. SHe stopped, and she was sort of dancing around, and her head was going every which way, and I had no idea what she was on about. Encouraged her to go forward some more, eventually found the car she wanted to go around that she wasn’t sure about how to get around (I guess she didn’t think there was enough clearance, but there was, as it turned out). We got around, and it was all good.

When we got to CVS, she decided that pulling to the door like a freight train was definitley the thing to do, so we had to discuss that.

Fortunately, she started collecting her brains again when we got into the store. One thing I’m working on is keeping her on task while walking, as she’s very social and wants to visit with people she sees as we’re walking. She tried to visit a couple people on our way to the pharmacy counter. On our way up to the front counter for some other stuff, I thought she was going around someone, and maybe she was, but next thing I know, I hear a surprised squawk from this lady to our left. Apparently Hilda has now scared her first human. You know, I thought having a black sable GSD might be at least a little intimidating to someone, but…no, no such luck. I reckon Hilda’s just got too friendly a face, because I have, correctly, gotten nothing but compliments on her. Not counting Mr. Russian Guy several months ago and her first scared human Friday. While looking for a few other things, Hilda did a really pretty nice job of following, something we haven’t done a lot of, and when we have, she’s tried to follow too closely, because she wants to follow from the front. This time though, she did better, although perhaps still a little close. Still, she kept track of the person we were following really well.

The trip home was much better, and she only ran one curb as I recall.

Saturday, we worked mostly on those offset crosswalks, which we still need to work through some more. We also need to work on not making 180 degree turns, which she wants to do sometimes instead of just turning to hit the sidewalk.

A guide dog…already?

No, not really, except…

We had a longer walk than I’d planned.

Actually, we’ve had a walk or two since the last entry, including a trip to the grocery store, where we got to practice lying down in the car, not her favorite thing ever, but she’ll do it, and yes, she can squeeze down amazingly small if she has a mind to. But there really isn’t anything much to say about that. Today’s walk is what we’re concerned with.

First, yeah, I think she’s definitely a fan of the work, or at least of the going. When I put Leno in the crate, she ran around a little, then ran to the front door. Right to the front door, as if to say, “Oh boy!!!! We’re going, let’s go now!!!!”

My plan was to find a convenience store that I thought I remembered, on some block with which Hilda was not familiar. Come to that, I wasn’t exceeding familiar with them either, but they weren’t that out of the way. She required a few more reminders, verbal only, mostly, of what she was about, as she would try to go left down a street instead of continuing forward, or look distractedly off somewhere and get us off track a little, but she was easily redirected. Very easily really. I wasn’t quite sure where this store was, but when I prompted “Inside”, she took us right to a door all right! It was the wrong kind of door, in the wrong place, but by gosh, it was a door, and she did what she was supposed to. Someone took us to the correct door though, and we went in for milk. And we got the “No dog” Indian guy. So here’s the thing. Even though in Pennsylvania, trainers of service dogs also have access rights, and even though I still consider her very much in training as she has a lot yet to learn, I felt absolutely no compunction at all about calling her a guide dog. She got me to the store, clearly understanding and applying what she’s learned to new and unfamiliar areas. Yes, she still needs some work on her social graces, but she’s still quite young and immature, and considering that, she’s doing wonderfully well. Anyway, I didn’t have to argue much, and other customers were telling him, “Yeah, hey, he needs that dog!” and things like that, and the guy was then saying, “Yeah, I know”, and was very helpful after.

Then, we had our adventure.

I’m still not sure how exactly, but instead of going west on 32nd street, we ended up going north, towards downtown, on Cherry street. Best I can figure, I was lined up at the corner a little bit wrong. To Hilda’s credit however, we didn’t diagonal the crossing, but rather went across the wrong street. The only way I found this out was that Hilda took a little side trip into aa parking lot and up to somewhere, not sure where, and we had to backtrack. This is where GPS came in very handy. The other thing is, I’m also not sure how I ended up, eventually, on the wrong side of 29th street, so when I found myself, I then ended up going west instead of east for several blocks. Once I figured that out, we were home free.

The thing is, our getting lost in that way was all my doing, except perhaps the initial error that got us across the wrong street. Hilda kept her line pretty well and, up until we got closer to home, a couple miles or so after we started our walk, stopped at all the curbs.

A couple things. Sometimes, when she’s turning, she’ll do a complete 180, instead of just a 90-degree left or right, or at least to wherever the sidewalk is. That’s really just a matter of getting her to understand what I want, and that’s getting better really.

She’s also learning to look for all kinds of obstacles. There were some small logs on the sidewalk at one point. My foot hit one once, so I back her up and reworked it. She cleared me the next time. This guy commented on it, and I explained what we were doing as he moved the log (after we passed it). He told us there was another one further up, which, if it was still there, Hilda passed without running me over it.

She also encountered someone on a mobility scooter in the sidewalk, so we got to work past her. Hilda was initially hesitant, but after she got a good look and said howdy, I asked the woman to move into the sidewalk more. Hilda worked past, the scooter also went past us and Hilda had no trouble.

A couple other things that required a little verbal redirection. Once, while crossing, Hilda tried to angle over to an idling car to, one supposes, greet her adoring public. It didn’t take much convincing to get her to change her mind. Another time, a “Forward” off the curb, she wanted to instead go right and walk down the street instead. The really great thing about her is that she’s very, very easy to redirect. Mostof the time, she only requires a “No, hupp-up” or some such, and not even very sternly.

I sort of wish I could figure out a good way to get some video of a walk, but I’m not really sure how I’d accomplish such a thing. I’ll have to think on it some more.

More Trips!

We had a couple more outings. Today’s was definitely more brains falling out, but even so, not bad. They can’t all be perfect, after all, but there are good stories to come out of these trips, at least.

Thursday, I had to go to the bank, so Hilda and I rode the bus downtown. As with other bus trips, she was a bit whiny. The good news is that Hilda is very people friendly. The bad news is that Hilda is very people friendly. She definitely would love to greet everybody with a wet nose to somewhere and a schlurpy tongue. Never met a stranger has our Hilda. Even so, we’ve seen a lot of improvement. She’ll sit fairly still for attention, and she’s not jumping on people so much these days.

She’s definitely got the whole curb concept down pretty well, as she stopped at all of them in this area that isn’t home and that she hasn’t been to in at least a couple months. Hilda got distracted on the way by, of all things, a bird. I’d have never known, except this guy was coming up from behind me and told me i could go on ahead, because he was just coming, but then told me that she was distracted by a bird in front of her. I assume standing in front of her, anyway.

She also definitely has the “Inside” and “Outside” concepts for finding a door pretty well, too. We passed my bank, which is right at the corner. I noticed this and cued “Inside”, and she zipped a 180 and marched us right to the door of the bank.

All that must not have been nearly enough adventure for our Hilda though. She wanted more. When we got to the bus stop, I accidentally dropped her leash, and somehow didn’t notice right off. A bus had just pulled up, too (not my bus, as it turned out). Next thing I know, I reach down and there’s no Hilda. I call her. I get her back, and I don’t remember if someone got her or if she came on her own, or a bit of both, but she had gotten on the bus without me. To go heavens only knew where, but I’m sure it would have been an adventure.

Today’s walk was just a routine trip to the drugstore. She missed stopping at exactly one curb, and that was a curb to curb left turn. She stopped at the first one, but when we turned left, she wasn’t going to stop at that one. She also went back to missing upcurb sidewalks by a couple feet again, and in a couple cases decided we needed some cross country experience, even though there were perfectly usable sidewalks that we found with a bit of encouragement. Except the one time. This one was as much my fault as hers. We started walking on some grass and dirt, and I stopped and cued to find the way, which turned out to be just a tiny bit to the left. So I thought. Next thing I know, wait, a curb? On the left? Oh no, you didn’t do what I think you did. Yeah, she did. Crossed the little side streeet we were meant to be walking along. Like I said, at least half my fault, because I thought it was a sidewalk, not a street. No traffic, you know.

On the way there, she showed she’s really starting to geththe funny jog the sidewalks on this one corner take to get to the crosswalk. I barely had to say anything to her to keep her going to the crosswalks correctly.

There was one funny thing that happened today though. We were crossing this tiny side street that dead ends into 29th, which we were walking beside. We’re crossing, and Hilda approaches this car that’s stopped and waiting for us to cross. I mean she seriously veered to the right to find this car. She must have really liked whoever, because she goes up to the driver’s side window, which was down, to say howdy, apparently. The driver sounded like a lovely person, she sounded very friendly as she told us we could go while we were walking around her car, but really, I don’t think that’s exactly the best way to meet people. Especially since she never properly introduced herself.

So proud…who knew?

Who knew we’d get this far this soon? And with weather and spaying recently and brains falling out and all of those other things? For real, I have an exceptional dog here, because I didn’t really do anything that unusual, except walk on leash as a pup, stop at curbs and steps, do a little bit of exposure to life…and yet, it would appear that something’s clicking in her furry little (well, not so little) head, because she really seems to have the basics, basically down. At least today. It would appear that now, it’s just a matter of lather, rinse, and repeat, plus add complexity…like more dogs, more people, more traffic, more obstacles.

It was no big deal of a trip. We went down to the traffic light at 29th and Raspberry right around the corner, took a right, walked a block to the elementary school at 29th and Cascade, took a right, walked past the front of the elementary school and up two blocks to 31st, a left, one block over to Plum, another left, two blocks back down to 29th by the elementary school on the other side, left onto 29th, up beside the elementary school, left to walk across the front of the school again on Cascade (why in a minute), right onto 30th for a block, right again onto Raspberry back to the traffic light, across Raspberry to our block, left back up Raspberry to 30th, then right onto 30th to home, four houses in. Pretty easy.

She absolutely nailed every single curb. She didn’t run even one. Not an up, not a down, not one single curb.

She didn’t diagonal any street crossings. She didn’t try to diagonal any street crossings. She nailed every single blended curb and sidewalk.

We had some distractions. She handled them beautifully and was easy to redirect.

So here are the highlights.

On 29th between Raspberry and Cascade, Hilda slowed down, then stopped. I thought there must be something, but wasn’t sure what, so I encouraged her forward, and stepped on a downed tree limb. A big one, it would appear. So we stopped, backed up, and I had her re-approach. She stopped again. This time, I just told her to “find the way”, which I’ve just sort of started saying to encourage her to look for a clear path…hey, it was working. She looked around a bit, then turned around. We backtracked, and she went down a driveway into the street. She would have walked right down the middle, or perhaps across, but I sort of coached her towards staying right, along the curb. She seemed to get the idea, because past the tree, she hopped back up onto the curb, we took our left back to our original line, and off we went to the corner of 29th and Cascade and across.

At 30th, we crossed. At the opposite corner, I told her “Forward”, and she decided she wanted to go left instead. Not sure why, because home is to the right. I just stopped, gave a “hupp-up”, waited her out, all of two seconds, and off we went again. Really, most distractions were that easy. Only a couple times did she start pulling to huge excess where I’d have to stop and kind of rein her back in, but that wasn’t even often.

Instead of going all the way up to 32nd where I’d usually go, we took the left at 31st and walked over. Back at 30th again on Plum, there was a dog across the street and down the block a couple houses that had Hilda’s attention. Just in case, I took the leash in my right hand to get her back if I needed to, but I didn’t need to. While she looked, she didn’t head towards the dog. Maybe verbal encouragement helped, but she nailed the crossing.

School wasn’t quite out yet, so it wasn’t a big deal to go up beside the elementary school again. When we got back to Cascade, I decided not to deal with the tree again, so we went back in front of the school again. I heard some kids talking about…sounded like my dog…So I thought i’d go and introduce her. Turned out to be a great opportunity to do stairs. Sure, it was only about six of them, but it was good anyway. I think I’ll use them again, just to reinforce that front paws go on the first step, not the second or third. But even so, she stopped at the steps. I treated at the step, we approached a couple times to reinforce the idea. We then went up. No kids, they were elsewhere and their voices were apparently getting thrown off from wherever, so we turned around. What would she do on the way back down the steps? Turns out she did the right thing: she stopped. Just a step short, but she stopped, and when I encouraged her forward another step, she didn’t overshoot. She had me right at the top step, no problem. Amazing, since the only steps she’s really dealt with much have been the ones at home, and not in harness.

When we got down, some kids came down after. Hilda stepped half in front of me as they were going by. Not on my side, but to our left. It was almost like she wanted to be sure to be out of their way as they went by, or something. It was a bit unusual. As they went by, I got her going, and she slowed right down and stayed behind them. When they ran across the street, she stopped right at the curb and waited for her next direction.

We took the right and went over to Raspberry, but there’s no light there, so not terribly safe to cross. So we took the right to go back to the light to get across. Hilda, however, took it into her head to do a 180 instead, so we reworked it. And she did it perfectly.

The only thing that happened next was that she tried to cut the corner at 29th and Raspberry. Rather than approaching the curb at 29th, she tried to cut the corner and go left to Raspberry and cross. Nope, that isn’t allowed! But love the initiative.

The rest of the way home was great, and she even nailed the walk up to our steps. It’s easy and tempting to cut the corner too close, but she didn’t.

I really couldn’t be happier with this trip, really I couldn’t. It was just so amazing to see all the pieces clicking in her head like that, especially since I don’t feel as though I did anything much.

One kind of interesting thing. Putting the harness on, she kind of barks like she doesn’t like it, sort of the way she does when brushing her legs or tail. Just the one time, and then she’s fine, and only sometimes. I thought she might not like it because it was too tight, but I loosened, and same reaction. Sorry Jewel, I think there really is such a thing as body sensitivity. No big, really, I think she’ll be fine and get used to it, because once she’s dressed, she seems to be fine.

Distractions, lots of distractions

Well, the best laid plans of mice and men so oft go astray.

My plan today was to work on some of this contract work I have going on, but I’ll do that later. Because, as it turns out, today was far too nice a day to waste completely indoors, so Hilda and I went off for a training walk. It felt like spring, with a temperature of 52 and a stiff breeze. Enjoy it, I said to myself, because it’s probably the last we’ll get for at least a week and a half. Maybe more.

She did some absolutely brilliant work. Hilda stopped at all the curbs. Didn’t miss a single one. I have trouble with this one very flat curb a couple blocks from my house, but I think we even nailed that one. Wait, I take it back, I think she actually ran one, but one is really pretty good.

We also had a chance with a few barricades. Some were melting snow piles, and she worked her way around those very nicely, requiring only a small amount of coaching from me to get around, in the street, and back onto the sidewalk to continue on our line of travel. We had a couple cars parked across our path, too, which I was sort of hoping to engineer sometime or other, and again, she handled those beautifully.

I noticed that she was doing a lot of window shopping today, and who can blame her? This meant sometimes we were too close to one side or the other of the sidewalk. It’s kind of an interesting feeling to be walking more or less straight while your dog is also looking off to the left at goodness only knows what. I don’t really mind that so much, as long as she’s paying attention to where we’re going, which I think she really was.

I think she’s starting to get the idea of reworking something she got wrong the first time. I think this because one time when I went to do that, we were walking back and she was doing the pokey slow pouty walk. You know the one, I’m sure. They all do it. All three of my last dogs did. But when she nailed it the second time, it was all good!

The thing we had to rework was a street crossing. Well, actually, there were two. The first one we had to rework because she got distracted by a dog that was out, maybe loose, I’m not sure, but he was caddy corner from us, and Hilda was giving some serious thought to a diagonal crossing. This would definitely not be high on my list of things to do. First time she ever attempted such a thing. But we got back on track, went back across, and did it over, without the distraction dog, and she nailed it. And then I nailed some sharp dead twigs from a tree at the corner, so we got to show her that looking for overheads is a good idea. Only took two do overs to avoid the tree.

She was also a bit distracted by another dog, barking at her from its yard and running as far as it could towrds us. She didn’t want to walk past it and kept trying to block me. Eventually, we got past it and life was good.

The other crossing, I almost let slide. See, here’s what happened. We approached the corner, and she stopped perfectly. We made a left to the other curb, also perfect. Then we crossed. And instead of hitting the curb, she went more around the corner and approached *that* curb. I thought, oh, she was just avoiding a big pile of snow. So I went to investigate, and sure enough, the approach she should have taken was clear. So we went across and did it again, and again, she went around the corner…or almost did, but I stopped her and got her to where I wanted her to go. And realized what she was probably doing. She didn’t want to step in the huge puddle that was sitting right in front of the blended curb. Suppose I can’t much blame her for that.

It was very windy, with lots of stuff blowing around, so there was lots for her to look at and get distracted by. All in all though, she didn’t let a lot of things distract too much. Sure, I had to stop a couple times to slow her down, but all things considered, with a pretty high level of distraction by new things happening, I’d say it wasn’t bad at all. I’m still having to coach her through going around things that block our path, but only a little bit. She’s definitely got “Right” and “left” down, and I really think she’s clued into the fact that I’m following her.

I tell you, this is pretty amazing stuff!

Progress? Yeah!

How the time flies.

How is it that more than a month, like a month and a half, has passed since last I checked in here? Well, it has, and, in spite of the cold, and limited workouts, Hilda’s made real progress. I’m more confident than ever that we’ll make a guide dog of her; in fact, I’d say she’s really starting to do guide dog like things now, and more deliberately.

We’ve had a couple more trips in the car, and she’s pretty well gotten the idea that she’s supposed to lie down on the floor. She doesn’t always like it, and she whines about it, but mostly she’s staying down. She’s also walking better on leash, although she sort of doesn’t like walking behind the shopping cart. She wants to pull out ahead a little so she can see around the corner of the cart, I think. A couple things to work on, really…one, she still wants to sniff people inappropriately. That’s an improvement over wanting to jump on people inappropriately, and mostly people know she’s just friendly, but it’s a thing to work on. The other thing is slowing down indoors. She wants to rush, which means running into people. This, I think, will come with time and the taming of youthful enthusiasm.

There’s definite improvement in her in-house, off-leash behavior. While she still may try to run after a cat, she comes back readily when i call her. This would never happen, or rarely, just two months ago. Melanie’s aids have even noticed the improvement here.

There are a couple routes we walk fairly regularly, and that she guides on, or has, anyway. Now that she’s sort of been exposed to some of what she’ll be doing, we’re starting with short walks around some of the blocks close to home. Here are some things I’m noticing.

She definitely understands that I want her to stop at curbs. However, as we go, she forgets more often. She’ll stop at the first few perfectly, but as we walk more, she runs more of them. I think this is because, as Peter Putnam said in one or two of his books, curbs pose no natural danger to a dog. I’m sure stopping at them feels a bit arbitrary to them. Still, it seems to me that the time she’s consciously doing it is longer each time we go out.

Obstacle avoidance: I think she’s really got the idea that I’m following her, and that she has to take this into account. While it’s true that we’ve run into a couple things, like a very short fence and the ends of a car or two, here’s the thing. when I hit one of these obstacles, and then back up and re-approach, Hilda very deliberately will go around what I ran into, leaving me a lot of room when we approach again. Just to be sure this wasn’t a fluke, when it happened on a walk on Sunday, I passed the same car two or three times after running into it once, and she gave it a wide berth each time. In fact, there’s a bush at the corner right across the street from me. I walked into it this afternoon. Backed up and reworked it, and didn’t hit it the second time. This was something well over Hilda’s head, too. So either she’s generalized “Oh, if we back up, I just need to angle off to the left more next time” for everything, or she’s actually accounting for obstacles.

Traffic: I don’t expect much. Actually, I don’t expect much for anything just yet, but I’m getting a lot more than I expect anyway. Even with traffic. Sunday, we were at a corner, and there was a bus. It was stopped. After giving it a while and it didn’t move, we started to cross. When we got to where the bus was sitting, Hilda stopped, with the bus in front of us. She could have gone around the front, but she didn’t. Then, the bus started to move, and Hilda backed up a step. When it was out of our way, she proceeded across the rest of the street. Really, I don’t think traffic is going to be a huge problem. Mind you, we aren’t working on anything very busy at all yet, but I really think she’ll be fine once we’re ready for that.

She’s doing a very good job at turns, even curb to curb ones, even stopping when we hit the curb after turning the corner. She seems to do a pretty good job of staying on the sidewalks, and the couple times we got really off track (like…umm…crossing a street that I didn’t know we crossed, the street that we were supposed to be walking beside), I think that was more my fault than hers. Can’t explain what we did, but I think I know what it was. Because she did it perfectly when we went back and had a do over.

Now what I really need to do is set up some things. Like having people park their cars across the sidewalk, or across their driveways so we have to go around them. And follow people in the store so we can practice not running over people. And stairs…we really have to find some outdoor stairs. And crowds. And escalators, eventually. Lots of things. But she’s really doing nicely with a lot of really basic stuff.

Oh…and if anyone thinks Leno’s fast, Hilda is faster. I think we were jogging by the time we got home this afternoon. I think she’d definitely be one of those old school four miles an hour or so dogs! Maybe a little faster than I would naturally go, but I won’t complain, it’s probably good for me, and anyway, again, youthful enthusiasm.