Follow the Journey of Bryn, an Assistance Dog in Training
Especially for Pets is pleased to welcome Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) puppy, Bryn, to the Boston area! Bryn is an Assistance Dog in training for CCI and is being raised by our Obedience Manager, Leslie Zelamsky.
In keeping with our philanthropic spirit, we are sponsoring this very special puppy by donating all necessary supplies, food and training for Bryn. We are pleased to collaborate with Framingham Animal Hospital, who is donating her veterinary care.
Her journey begins here.
May 18, 2016
This is the last entry that I will make about my wonderful puppy, Bryn. It seems like the past 18 months have gone by in a blink of an eye. Bryn came to me as an adorable eight week old puppy and on Friday, May 13, my “little one” began the third leg of her journey to become an assistance dog for Canine Companions for Independence.
We left home on Thursday afternoon and drove to the Northeast Regional Training Center in Medford, NY. When we arrived at this incredible facility, Bryn was so happy. She stood up in the car, tail wagging as she had remembered all of the fun she had there when she visited in the past. She was greeted by many canine friends, some of whom were entering advanced training like her and others who were already matched with their new human partner. I was so elated to see Bryn happy and comfortable. Every puppy raiser’s wish is to know that the puppies are happy when they are in advanced training.
Friday morning was graduation and matriculation which is always an incredible experience. The first part of the day celebrated 13 people who were matched with their new canine partner who were graduating from advanced training. Then the matriculating puppies, who included Bryn, walked across the stage with their puppy raisers who presented them as the newest group of dogs entering advanced training. After that, the tears started to flow as the new graduates' leads were officially given to their new canine partner by their puppy raiser. Having been in this position four times over the last several years, I can say that this is an incredible experience. Knowing that the puppy I raised is going to this special person who needs them is the fulfillment of a dream that began the moment I held eight week old Bryn for the first time.
For the next six to nine months, Bryn will live at the Northeast Regional Training Facility. It is a beautiful campus, with fenced in play yards full of toys, a pond to swim in and an immaculate kennel area where the dogs are housed. During the first few days to weeks, Bryn will undergo numerous health and temperament assessments and also begin her advanced training work. She and her canine buddies will learn 50 commands that will allow them to assist their disabled partner in daily tasks in order to help them lead a more independent life. Among other things, these fabulous dogs will learn how to turn light switches on and off, how to push on a disabled plate for entrance into public facilities, open and close doors and drawers, and retrieve items as small as a nickel. If they are slated to be a breeding dog or they look like a possible hearing dog candidate, they will be flown to Santa Rosa, California which is where the national headquarters is located. As they move forward, the commands will all come together to create a highly skilled assistance dog for people with disabilities.
When I returned home on Friday evening, the house seemed so empty. I continually found myself anticipating what I needed to do for Bryn. I kept thinking that her little head would pop up while riding in the back of the car or that she would be running down the stairs to greet my son when he arrived home. I would catch myself thinking she was there for a moment. I really miss my “little one.” For 16 months, she was my constant companion. She has seen me through many tough and wonderful times. Bryn is possibly the easiest and most compliant CCI puppy that I have ever raised. She felt like such a part of me because she always agreed to do whatever I asked of her. Raising her was no effort at all. As each month passes, I will get updates on her progress. I always look forward to receiving monthly reports with great anticipation.
As I sit here writing this entry, I know that Bryn is doing well. She is such an easy going girl and I am certain she is having fun too. I think of her often and how perfect she will be for the person who eventually gets her. And I think about the day, six to nine months from now, when I will walk her across the stage to hand her leash over to her new partner whose life will profoundly change by her ability to assist both physically and emotionally.
March 30, 2016
As a puppy raiser for Canine Companions, I enjoy the bonus of automatically becoming part of a wonderful community of people. Here in the Boston area we have a nice group of about 15 active puppy raisers and volunteers. Just one of the ways we support each other is caring for each other's puppies if someone is traveling and in need of a dog sitter. Leaving these puppies in the care of others is a wonderful way to promote flexibility and confidence because they have to learn to adapt and adjust to a new handler and a different home with different rules.
This past week, Bryn spent her time at the home of my fellow puppy raisers and friends in Sudbury. Mary and Andy are currently raising Chicory, a six month old sweet and large Yellow Labrador and Golden Retriever Cross. Chicory is the second puppy Mary and Andy are raising for Canine Companions. He is a love and, as I hear, he is in love with Bryn! I asked Mary to write Bryn’s entry for this week. She and Andy did so many wonderful things with her and I am so pleased that she did so well!
“Bryn visited with Chicory, a fellow Canine Companions for Independence pup in training this week. Little Chic is now 60 pounds and is bigger than Bryn! At first, Chicory was playing too roughly and the play needed lots of supervision, but after a few days, Chicory calmed down and was able to control his six month old self enough to play nicely with his friend! Bryn is very calm, patient and attentive to whatever her handler is asking her to do, so she was an excellent role model for young Chic!
Every day, we had training sessions. Again, I see Chicory learning from Bryn's modeling. The biggest surprise of the week came when I asked Chicory to “speak” and a big bark came from quiet Bryn! She is an excellent “speaker”. The trick is that she only speaks when commanded and that she also understands the “quiet” command. I was able to take Bryn out in public with confidence. We took her out to eat in a crowded restaurant, into Boston and she even went to church a few times. Bryn made many new friends with her ability to sit quietly and greet appropriately (when allowed). She may have slept through the sermon, but thankfully, she doesn’t snore. When I am ready to take Chicory to church, I may be in trouble (he is a noisy sleeper)! We will miss Bryn and we hope she visits again soon. Chicory still needs her help!”
February 19, 2016
For this month's journal entry I thought I would share the method CCI puppy raisers use in training their puppies. This method, called “Lure/Reward” is also what is used in our classes at Especially for Pets. Below are the three phases of training which explains how puppies and dogs learn.
How Puppies Learn: The Three Phases of Teaching a Command
Lure = Learning
A lure is something that the puppy absolutely loves that makes his body move willingly. It is something that he is happy to follow. It can be a piece of kibble, a soft treat or a favorite toy. A lure is used to teach the pup what he needs to do with his body in order to perform the behavior that you are teaching. It is important in the early part of the luring phase that we do not apply or rely on the word that means the command too early. During the lure phase, the treat is used most of the time and then it gradually disappears as the puppy becomes more reliable and moves into the reward phase.
Reward = Knowing
The reward phase starts as we wean off the treats to actually guide the puppy into the behavior we are asking. The command is requested and it is expected to be performed on the first request. The reward (a treat or toy) is given after the behavior is performed.
Follow through is the action that you take when you know that your puppy knows the command you are requesting and refuses to do it. In this case, you will calmly make that command happen by using fair, humane and appropriate correction.
A word about distractions. A common phrase dog trainers often hear is “but he does it at home.” Training a dog in your home is very different than when he is in training class with his new furry friends. As you are adding distractions to your puppy's environment, he is most likely not going to be as attentive to you. While your puppy is young and learning, do not expect him to perform the same way in class or with other distractions as he does at home. A high level distraction may force you to go back a few steps and may even require more treats in order to get your puppy's attention. However, his distractions should not distract you. Remember as his leader, you will make it happen if you are asking it of him. You may need to go back to using treats when introducing new environments.
Good luck and have fun training!
January 30, 2016
Bryn continues to do well with her commands and public outings. Over the past few weeks, I have increased expectations in public venues. One outing was to the movies, where she was in a “down” command the entire time. She did very well but I am not sure if she liked the film; she fell asleep! She also came with me to visit a friend in the hospital and loved the attention from all of the doctors and nurses. I continue to be very proud of the progress she has made as she has matured and can see her being a wonderful Service Dog in the future.
December 15, 2015
As we enter full swing of the holiday season, Bryn has been celebrating as well. In December, we visited with customers in our Newton and Canton stores. We greeted visitors and spread some good will as we told people all about the wonderful work Canine Companions does for people with disabilities and about Especially for Pets being Bryn's sponsor.
Bryn was greeted by lots of friendly people and dogs and she was on her best behavior. She practiced all of the work we have done in her Advanced and Canine Good Citizen classes in regards to appropriate greetings and being calm in a busy environment. All of the practice we have done in class has really paid off. We have been able to apply all that we have learned to real life situations without a hitch.
November 30, 2015
There is a new guy in town! Chicory has arrived all the way from Canine Companions for Independence Headquarters in Santa Rosa, California. Chicory is the newest member of the Boston Area Puppy Raising group for CCI. For the next 16 months, he will reside in Sudbury with volunteer puppy raisers, Mary and Andy S. As an Assistance Dog in Training, Chicory will get started right away on learning his basic commands and manners. He will also be exposed to many new and exciting activities in order to be well socialized.
Especially for Pets is pleased to welcome Chicory and his buddies into our dog training classes. In just a few weeks, he will begin his training at a Puppy Kindergarten class at our dog training academy in Sudbury. No doubt, he and Bryn will have many playdates and training sessions together. I will be sure to keep you updated on his progress from time to time as he is now a part of the CCI/Especially for Pets family!
Especially for Pets has been an ongoing supporter of Canine Companions by donating the proceeds of our nail clipping program as well as providing dog training classes completely free of charge for all CCI puppies. There are currently ten puppies living in the Boston area who participate in our dog training classes.
November 20, 2015
All of the early training I have done with Bryn at Especially for Pets is paying off. I have been exposing her to more and more new things and the work we have done in our classes is now being applied to her success in the real world. Bryn has gone many places with me. Her latest adventure has been to my gym. In this environment, she has to basically lay down and stay there for as long as I am on the equipment. As I move from place to place, she needs to come with me and then resettle. She did beautifully her first time there both in her training and temperament. She maintained her down/stay beautifully and was not phased by the noise or clanging of the machines. As people wanted to meet her, she sat politely and ignored them when she was told to do so. Even though Bryn needs exceptional manners for her public exposures, what we have learned in class can be applied to any dog. The same skills that Bryn uses in my gym can be applied to house guests, especially around the upcoming holiday season. It is important that my dogs are behaved and welcome wherever I go. A well-mannered dog, who politely lays under the Thanksgiving table is more likely to be welcome at such events. And maybe such a well behaved dog will get some yummy leftovers!
October 30, 2015
Now that Bryn is over a year old, I am beginning to increase her exposure to real life situations. It is extremely important that a service dog be comfortable and confident everywhere that his partner needs to go. This past weekend my Canine Companions puppy raiser group enjoyed a field trip to Boston. One of our main goals was to get the puppies confident using public transportation. The subway (otherwise known as the T) was quite crowded, but all of the puppies did extremely well. Bryn was fabulous.
When we were getting on the T, there was a gap between the platform and the steps. Bryn has a bit of sensitivity towards difficult stairs and I have worked her through it in the past. This was a bit more stressful because the train was waiting to move and we had to get on. The driver was kind and helpful by opening another door where the step was more even. If I had more time to work through it, I could have gotten her to do it, but this was the best solution.
As I consider a good path to teaching Bryn to be more confident in using her body, I have decided to bring her to an agility class at the Sudbury location. Angela Nickerson teaches a terrific agility class and I know that this will help build her confidence. Bryn will learn to navigate over, through and on many obstacles which will help her confidence tremendously. All this is done in a 100% positive way. It is also a great time of year to take this type of class. As the weather changes, it will be great to be inside, treating her to fun exercise, without the worry of cooler temperatures.
September 23, 2015
Bryn turned one year old on September 13! She had a lovely birthday as we celebrated with a scrumptious doggie cupcake from the bakery at Especially for Pets. It even had a candle in it but she was shy about blowing it out. She was not shy about posing for a photo, however!
One activity we enjoyed while celebrating her birthday was going to our weekly playgroup in Sudbury. Bryn and I are so happy that Especially for Pets provides a safe environment where dogs can romp while learning how to play appropriately. Having a professional instructor leading the group is a huge bonus. We sometimes integrate obedience skills, such as coming when called, into the hour. At $15 per hour, it is surely a bargain. Owners will learn about canine body language, pack dynamics, and how to promote positive play. We usually attend playgroups in Sudbury but Newton also offers them on Tuesdays. If you and your pooch have not tried a playgroup, I highly encourage it. Bryn meets and plays with pooches of all sizes and temperaments. And I must say, she loves them all. After an hour of fun and productive play, I am sure to have a happy and relaxed girl.
August 25, 2015
Bryn has been a very busy puppy these past few weeks. Like so many of her fellow canines, a top priority has been trying to keep cool. She has enjoyed many days in the kiddie pool this summer!
In early August we attended a special training workshop at the Canine Companions Northeast Regional Training Center in Medford, New York. It was a day filled with fun and learning and Bryn did really well. It was apparent that the training classes we have been taking with Sudbury Academy Dog Trainer Angela Nickerson have really paid off. Not only did she do really well following her commands, she also did well in all aspects of her behavior. Of particular note, she played appropriately during our focused play session with other Canine Companions puppies. She was also happy and gentle. Her recall from the other dogs was wonderful! These are all part of the curriculum that we have worked on in the Especially for Pets’ training classes over the past nine months. In addition to the classes we have taken, the skills Bryn has acquired during play sessions with other dogs during playgroups are paying off. We can’t wait until it is back to school time and classes start up again in September!
Last Sunday, Bryn and I got to meet a very special young lady named Elisa C. Elisa is about to become a Bat Mitzvah and has chosen Canine Companions to be the recipient of her fundraising efforts. We spent a good part of the day at Especially for Pets in Medway where Elisa greeted the public with information and a kind request for a donation to Canine Companions. It was a wonderful day and we really appreciate Elisa choosing Canine Companions for her Mitzvah project.
July 23, 2015
As most dog owners know, the heat can be dangerous for our precious companions. In these dog days of summer, it is important to consider the heat when exercising your pooch. One of the items I always recommend to my dog training students is a hard plastic kiddie pool. For under $20, your dog will have a blast and safely stay cool at the same time. How can we make our pools more enticing for our fur-kids? Floating toys of course! These bright, colorful and durable toys bring summer fun to a whole new level. I surprised my adorable and slightly spoiled Canine Companions puppy, Bryn, with an array of floatable Chuck It! toy choices made by the folks at Canine Hardware. Bryn was so excited by all of the shapes and sizes that she could hardly contain herself. I am so happy to be able to exercise her while assuring her safety in the heat of the summer. I am so grateful that Especially for Pets is Bryn’s sponsor. Their generosity is making a huge impact in my ability to raise and train Bryn to be a successful candidate for a lifetime of service to an individual with disabilities.
July 9, 2015
Over the last couple of weeks I have added a new command to Bryn’s repertoire. The command "bed" means that she needs to go to her bed, lay down and stay until she is either released or given another command. This is a very practical command that comes in handy for all well behaved dogs. Family events such as a Thanksgiving meal can be more enjoyable with your dog calmly lying in his bed and/or near the dinner table. Because your dog is following a command, he is focused on that and he is not begging you or your guests for food!
In order to teach this command, I start off the way I do all commands, by luring her with a treat to her bed and guiding her into a down. Once she is in the proper position, she gets the treat. For this first step, I do not use any verbal language, just physical. After a few days of repetition, I do the same thing and add the word "bed." Her body must be completely positioned inside of her bed and lying down.
Canine Companion dogs do not have a "stay" command. They are just expected to do the last thing that was asked of them until they are released or given another command. However, most dogs are taught the "stay” command, and that is said after the dog gets his treat for laying in his bed. As they progress, the lure is removed and the treat comes out after the dog performs the command. It is best to have a leash on them for more control. Once I feel that Bryn really knows the word, if she doesn't do it, I give her a little correction (by popping and releasing her leash) which will prompt her to go to her bed and lay down.
Teaching your dog the “bed” command is a lovely way to have control over him while he is comfortable and relaxed. It can even be used when the doorbell rings or guests arrive to control energetic greetings. I also like the “bed” command because it is very black and white. One thing is expected, the dog must lay down and stay in his bed. With such a clear expectation, the dog knows exactly what he must do. There are no grey or "almost" areas with this command.
June 16, 2015
It's so hard to believe that Bryn is already nine months old. She continues to work hard in training class and expand her repertoire of public outings.
For this entry, I want to focus on one of the most important pieces of training equipment that puppy raisers use, the Gentle Leader. When a new Canine Companions puppy arrives at the home of the puppy raiser at eight weeks of age, they are instructed to immediately start acclimating the puppy to their Gentle Leader. The Gentle Leader is a wonderful training tool that helps the puppy gain control and focus. One of its primary uses is to prevent pulling on leash.While it may appear to be a muzzle, it is not. When properly fitted, your dog is free to open his mouth to eat, drink, pant, fetch, bark and even bite. The Gentle Leader sits comfortably on the face and head. When the young puppy or adult dog is first introduced to this training tool, he may not like the way it feels. That is why it is very important to create positive associations with wearing the Gentle Leader.
This is how to acclimate a puppy or dog to this training tool. I begin by putting the Gentle Leader on for a short period of time and giving the puppy or dog treats just for wearing it. I fed Bryn her favorite treats and also gave irresistible edibles to chew on during her acclimation process. Bryn’s most favorite edibles are Barkworthies bully sticks. She loves these long lasting treats so much that she focuses on chewing them and forgets about her Gentle Leader!
As a dog trainer, the Gentle Leader has become my tool of choice to recommend to most dog training clients. It is ideal for controlling dogs who are strong pullers or aggressive. It is helpful in deterring lunging, pulling, jumping and barking. Here’s how it works. The collar features two soft nylon straps—the collar portion fits high at the top of the neck, and the nose loop fits loosely and comfortably across the top of the muzzle. It does take some getting used to but providing patience and positive associations is the sure way to a positive outcome. Less pulling and more attentiveness equals longer walks and a happier dog.
The Gentle Leader helps Bryn maintain focus and control in public situations. Here she is pictured in the supermarket. It was a wonderful outing.
If you are interested in learning more about this training tool, the staff at Especially for Pets is happy to help and fit your dog to a Gentle Leader. An instructional DVD is available online and is included with any purchase.
May 21, 2015
Bryn has been having a fabulous time in her weekly class at Especially for Pets in Sudbury. She is building on her basic commands and is doing particularly well with her down/stay. I have been able to leave her in a stay and she maintains that command regardless of any distractions. Even when other dogs break their command and run over to her, she works really hard to control her impulse to join in the party!
Bryn's exposure to public venues continues to grow. She has had some difficulty with open staircases but with patience and guidance, her confidence has grown. The trick to getting Bryn to be brave enough to conquer her fear of open stairs was for me to be a calm and steady leader. I didn't rush or force her. Instead my leash was loose and I coaxed her up each step with a yummy treat. I would reward her for even the smallest attempt. Even one paw on the first step would get her a reward. I rewarded every effort she made and remained calm and supportive throughout the whole process. This is actually a technique that anyone can use in dog training; if your dog sees that you are calm, he will hopefully follow suit! Try it the next time you find yourself in a challenging situation.
May 7, 2015
Bryn continues to expand her world by taking an elevator for the first time at the mall, visiting new venues and tackling some new challenges. As the weather has greatly improved, she has started to attempt to learn to swim. With proper time and positive reinforcement, I am certain that she will learn soon. She continues to do well on her public outings with me. She especially likes the supermarket and Home Depot but her favorite outing is going to Especially for Pets in Sudbury where she attends playgroups on Fridays with instructor Angela Nickerson. Appropriate play is a requirement for Canine Companion puppies. At our playgroups, Bryn learns proper greetings, toy sharing and respect for even the tiniest dog.
This photo is one of my favorites. Over the past few days Bryn has accompanied me to the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Massachusetts where I am installing an outdoor sculpture. Once again, the flexibility that I aim for with my Canine Companion puppies comes through in her. Despite the acres and acres of incredible fields, she was perfectly content to just hang out with me while I worked. Good girl, Bryn!
April 14, 2015
It's been a busy few weeks for little Bryn. While she is petite in size, her accomplishments are big! Bryn's public outings continue to expand at a successful rate. Among other places, she has accompanied me to doctor appointments, Friday night services at my temple and shopped with me at Home Depot. I am extremely pleased with her progress. She is calm, polite and responsive.
In addition to her public training, Bryn continues to enjoy her classes at Especially for Pets in Sudbury. On Friday mornings we attend playgroup where she meets and romps with a large variety of lovely dogs. Playgroups are wonderful! We learn all about appropriate play, canine body language and also work on coming when called. Bryn makes friends wherever she goes. She has been a wonderful ambassador for Canine Companions.
March 19, 2015
Bryn’s adventures are beginning to expand! I have started taking her to public places and she is doing really well! I started our field trips slowly to make sure she was relaxed and not stressed. We visited a Panera Bread during a quiet time of day and when I had plenty of time to give her attention. Bryn was fantastic and comfortable. This successful trip encouraged me to continue to expose her to more low-key public situations. As Bryn matures, the challenges will become bigger and more intense. For now, our field trips will be quick and simple.
March 3, 2015
I can’t believe Bryn is almost six months old! Six months marks a special time in the journey of Canine Companions puppies because they receive a new yellow cape that allows public access into venues where they might eventually go as a Service Dog. It is important that the puppies are well socialized and learn to be well behaved in all situations. They must learn to be calm and polite and also trust their handler as their leader. Although six months marks the start of the ability to start venturing into new venues such as restaurants, libraries, and the movies, it is the responsibility of the puppy raiser to know and respect the temperament of their particular puppy. While six months is a basic guideline, it is most important that the puppy be ready for these new adventures.
I will begin by taking Bryn in and out of public venues quickly. She should have a positive experience and do well. My plan is to bring her to a casual restaurant such as Panera Bread and get an iced tea for our first outing; we won't begin by going to a five star restaurant! As Bryn builds her confidence in public places, I will expect more of her. The important thing is not to rush the process. We have a whole year left for perfecting public outings and enjoying our time together.
February 21, 2015
Whenever I visit clients for our Puppy 911 service, I discuss the benefits of teaching their puppy to go to the bathroom on command. If the weather is favorable, I remind them of the potentially harsh New England winters and the fact that they will not want to be forced to walk their dogs in order for them to relieve themselves. I then teach them how to teach their puppies to eliminate on command.
As Canine Companion for Independence (CCI) puppy raisers, we are required to teach our puppies to eliminate on any surface on command. When a service dog is working, it is important that he is able to do his business right away wherever and whenever it is requested. This allows more freedom for the handler to move freely throughout his day, in and out of different situations such as in a work environment or during leisure activities.
Considering the current weather pattern, I thought that I would share how to teach your dog to go to the bathroom on command. This method can be used for any age dog. Teaching it to puppies is easy because they tend to go frequently and on most surfaces.
1. Take your puppy outside on a leash. Don’t forget to bring treats!
2. Do not walk him around.
3. Stand still, like a tree and just allow your puppy to move around the length of the leash.
4. When your pup eliminates, praise him by saying “good hurry or good potty” or any other word that you might choose. That word will become your command for the life of your dog so it is best to keep it consistent within your family.
5. Right after your puppy eliminates, reward him with a treat.
6. Give your pup a few minutes to go to the bathroom. Wait in the same area and do not give in to the temptation to walk him.
7. If your puppy does not eliminate within five to ten minutes, bring him in and put him in his kennel.
8. After about ten to 15 minutes in the kennel, take him out and repeat the process.
As you do this training, make sure you always have treats with you and that you feed right after your pup eliminates. Eventually, you will be able to give the command and the puppy will eliminate.
February 2, 2015
Bryn and I have had a busy couple of weeks! In addition to our weekly Puppy Kindergarten class with Angela Nickerson on Thursdays, we also attended the monthly Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) training class, both in Sudbury. Especially for Pets kindly donates their 2,200 square foot Dog Training Academy in Sudbury for these classes, and I am so grateful! As a dog trainer, I teach the monthly class for the local CCI puppy raisers where we work on commands and issues that are specific to raising a CCI puppy. A few CCI graduate teams attend our group; it is so nice to see them as it is a direct reminder of what we are working towards. We are very lucky to have such a dedicated group of puppy raisers and graduates in this area.
One of the commands we worked on this month is ‘fetch’. Bryn's new favorite toy is Northwest Pets’ Ballboy Ringball Tennis Ball. This toy has made learning ‘fetch’ fun and easy because she loves tennis balls and really loves this toy. We teach our puppies this command in order to build their desire to bring objects back to their handler.
Teaching Bryn has been fun and fairly easy because as a retriever, she naturally likes to fetch and bring her toys back to me! I attach the leash to her and keep it really loose. Having a leash on her is just a way of making sure she returns to me. Then I toss the toy. When she gets it, I encourage her to bring it back to me. As she starts to do this consistently, I add the word “fetch”. When she brings it back, I trade the toy for a treat and say “drop”. She must drop the toy in my hand, not on the floor. CCI puppies must retrieve to hand because dropping an item on the floor is of no use for a person who cannot reach it.
What starts as a fun game of fetching toys will be shaped into very careful and specific retrieval of anything her partner needs. CCI dogs learn to retrieve anything and everything for their partner. They can even retrieve items as small as a dime off the floor! However, as puppy raisers, we do not teach our puppies how to retrieve anything other than toys. When Bryn enters Advanced Training at the training facility in Medford, NY, she will learn how to do the more directed and specific retrieve.
When you are stuck inside on a snowy or cold day, try teaching your puppy or dog ‘fetch’- it is a guaranteed fun time!
January 8, 2015
Now that the holidays are over, it is time for 15 week old Bryn to get busy and more serious about training. Today we started her first class at Especially for Pets in Sudbury. We had a fabulous time with our instructor Angela Nickerson and we learned so much. Angela’s classes are always a great balance of formal training and play. The great thing is that the formal parts of her classes are always fun and the play parts of her classes also have aspects of work included.
Socialization and play are a very important part of puppy training. It is important that Canine Companion puppies are well socialized and know how to play appropriately with other dogs. Angela is great at teaching her students to read canine body language and teaching the pups how to play nicely. Bryn made so many new friends today during playtime. She had a blast!
In the more formal part of our class, we worked on sit/stay, down/stay and walking nicely on a loose leash. We also worked a bit on come when called. I was very pleased with Bryn’s happy and willing attitude and I was so happy to have a tired pup at the end of class!
I am really looking forward to watching this wonderful girl grow and learn. She is a delight.
December 3, 2014
This past week with Bryn has been quite an adventure. I have been working on a number of commands including sit, down, let’s go, kennel, dress, shake, wait and speak. While most of these commands are commonplace, “dress” is specific to Canine Companions. For the “dress” command, Bryn is learning to push her nose through the Gentle Leader loop and to stand when her cape is put on. The goal here is to make “dress" fun and enjoyable. The pup should want to put her equipment on. We have been having fun with this and making a game out of it.
The highlight of our week has been socializing and training Bryn in two different obedience classes. On Monday we attended a Puppy Kindergarten class in Sudbury with Lisa Rockland and on Wednesday we attended a Graduate Puppy class with Angela Nickerson. As an 11 week old puppy, Bryn was quite distracted by all of her new friends. She eventually settled in nicely and had good focus in class. I always find group dog training classes to be enjoyable. Even though I am an experienced trainer, it is important that my Canine Companion puppies learn in a group environment. While learning at home is important, the group classes offer the distractions and socialization that are important to raising any puppy. We had a lot of fun and look forward to our next class.
In the above photo, I was teaching Bryn to resist eating kibble off the floor. An important rule for Canine Companions Assistance Dogs is that they do not eat anything off the floor. When food is dropped, they must not eat it. This rule evolves out of the need for proper hygiene in public situations such as restaurants. It is also important for the safety of the dog. I was very pleased with Bryn’s behavior during this exercise. She did extremely well and respected my leadership.
November 21, 2014
Today I celebrated Bryn’s one week anniversary with my family. Most of the week was spent getting her settled in and accustomed to my routine. She has done very well and is a delightful "little lady". The most important accomplishment so far was getting Bryn comfortable in her crate. She took to it very well and even goes in when the door is open. I made it a point to give her wonderful things in her crate. She has durable, edible treats such as a bully stick, a sterilized bone and a Kong stuffed with frozen kibble mixed with yogurt. By giving her special and long lasting edibles in her crate, she has developed positive associations with it.
Another focus was helping Bryn to sleep through the night. CCI puppies are required to sleep in a crate in the bedroom of their puppy raiser. This promotes bonding and helps the puppy learn to follow the handler's lead of sleeping and waking. It also helps to acclimate the puppy to the family's lifestyle quickly. As a dog trainer, I am a big proponent of the puppy sleeping in a family member's bedroom. I always recommend this to my Puppy 911 clients. I am pleased to say that in just a few days, Bryn is sleeping through the night!
Puppies are ready to learn the moment they come home and Bryn is no exception. I am currently working on the following commands: sit, down, wait and kennel. For fun, I also introduced the "shake" command; this is the equivalent of "give paw". Bryn learned this command in about five minutes and she does it in the cutest way possible! In order to make training fun, I plan short and happy training sessions throughout the day. Additionally, I am getting Bryn used to her puppy cape and Gentle Leader; these are two pieces of equipment that all CCI puppies must be comfortable wearing. Her cape is bright yellow and identifies her as an assistance dog in training. Her Gentle Leader is a training tool that helps maintain focus and control. Like all new things that I introduce, I make it fun and upbeat for her to be wearing these items. We put them on for short periods of time while she is eating or playing. As with her crate, this promotes positive associations.
Bryn and I have bonded quickly. In addition to serving as Obedience Manager for Especially for Pets, I am also a professional artist and have a studio at ArtSpace in Maynard. Throughout the week, I have taken Bryn to my studio. With wood, nails and other potential hazards on my studio floor, I set up an exercise pen to serve as a comfortable area for her. The exercise pen keeps her safely contained and also gives her room to play. Her crate is within the exercise pen and allows her to nap whenever she wishes. I am pleased to say that Bryn took to my studio right away! She settled in immediately and has happily occupies herself while I work. I am also glad that she shows no fear of the loud power tools I use.
Today we go for our first visit to Dr. Nord at Framingham Animal Hospital. Dr. Nord is excited to meet Bryn and I am sure Bryn will be equally delighted to meet her.
This coming week we will dive right into traveling as we are heading to New York City for Thanksgiving with my family. I am confident that Bryn will do very well. If she is extra wonderful, I am certain she will get a bit of turkey in her bowl.
November 13, 2014
My name is Leslie Zelamsky and I am the Obedience Manager at Especially for Pets. Many of you who have attended our dog training classes may be familiar with the work of Canine Companions for Independence, as many of their delightful puppies have participated in our classes. Canine Companions is a non-profit organization that breeds and trains assistance dogs for people with disabilities other than blindness.
I have had the privilege of volunteering as a puppy raiser for this wonderful organization which has the distinction of being the first accredited service dog organization in the United States. Founded in 1975, Canine Companions has placed over 4,500 assistance dogs, completely free of charge, to people with varying disabilities. I have raised six CCI dogs over the past 20 years.
Tomorrow, I will drive to Logan airport to welcome my seventh Canine Companions puppy into my life. For the next 18 months, Bryn will live with my family and we will provide a safe and loving home for her. As her puppy raisers, we will socialize and train her in basic obedience as well as 30 special commands, in order to prepare her for her work as a certified Assistance Dog. My son and I are so excited!
I am grateful to Especially for Pets and the Framingham Animal Hospital for sponsoring Bryn. In collaboration with the Framingham Animal Hospital, who is donating veterinary care for Bryn, Especially for Pets is donating all necessary supplies, food and training.
As she grows and matures, I will share Bryn's story with the community. My intent is to give insight into the wonderful world of raising a puppy as we prepare her for a life of assisting another human being to live a more independent life.