Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.
Sky just goes from awesome to awesomer.
He truly has ‘wait’ down now, and will just stop at gates, doors, and in front of food until I say ‘okay’. We have also been doing some more leadwork, and he is really getting the idea of walking with me! I am going to have to get him a harness as he does drag at his collar and then panic if he gets distracted and tries to wander off. A harness would be much safer and more comfortable. But this morning we were able to practice walking from room to room and even out into the garden without him chewing on or playing tug with the lead. And it was a really good chance to practice/reinforce ‘leave it’ too, every time he took it in his mouth. I think he has had most of his day’s food as training treats rather than in his bowl! I keep the sessions short of course, but I am going to do some more work with him tomorrow morning and hopefully get (or get Nick to take) a video that I can upload.
He is also going longer in the night before asking to go out, so I have adjusted my alarms a bit. When he first came home, he needed to be out every 2.5-3 hours, but now he sleeps for about four in between each garden trip. It’s making a big difference already. It’s so good to be able to go to bed at 10, just to get up at 2 and then 6, spend a bit of time with him and give him breakfast at 6:30, then go back to bed again until 11. I’m still tired but I am able to cope a lot better. We usually do some training and/or playing before lunch at 12pm; then he sleeps on my feet for a bit. At about 2-3pm he goes out then into his crate and I run errands, then I come back and we do some more training and playing. Nick gets back at about 5:30pm. I go and lie down again at that point, Nick feeds Sky his supper at 6 and plays, then at about 7:30 I come down and sort out my own food. Sky follows me, watches me and sits on me the whole time! Then sometimes a bit more training, a big cuddle, supper at 9:20, then garden and bed at 10. He always sleeps beside me in his crate at night, too, so he isn’t often alone – just enough to keep him used to being left so he doesn’t develop separation anxiety, and we are building that time up gradually too.
…This is probably why I am not holding it against him that he jumped up and dragged Alfie’s water bowl off the table this morning. Cough.
I mean, we feed Alf on a small picnic thing, so he is up off the floor and he (and his food) are theoretically out of range of Skylerish investigation. All I could do was watch from across the kitchen – there was just no way I could get to him in time – as he pulled the stoneware bowl over the edge and let go… I am just hoping that the resounding crash and spray of water will at least deter him from getting up there again. I whisked him into the garden and shut the door while I cleared up, lest he hurt his paws on the splinters, and by the time I was done hoovering about ten minutes later, I went out to find him half under the hedge, wriggling joyfully around on his back with all his paws in the air, wrestling with a bundle of torn-down puppy proofing. I’m going to have to stop calling it that.
Thank goodness I have a date for the fence now! It’s going to be put up on the 3rd and 4th of July and I. Cannot. Wait.
This afternoon we were off-routine a bit, though. I went out earlier than usual, straight after lunch, to replace the water dish. We got a blue PLASTIC one this time… and Sky bought Alfie a special pouch of food to say sorry.
Afterwards, at 4pm, Skyler had his second vaccination appointment. He only just fitted in his carrier! We saw the nurse this time and she was also lovely; I think she was even more cuddly and melty with Sky than the vet had been. She made a huge fuss of him, weighed him (7.8 kilos!!), checked his teeth (‘beautiful’), and gave the injection. He didn’t react at all, I am not honestly convinced that he even felt it… She asked how his training was going, too, and looked really surprised when I told her. Her immediate question was ‘ooh, are you going to work him?’, so I think maybe he is pretty exceptional for nine weeks, even among retrievers.
I replied that… actually… yes, I was… that he was going into training as a PTSD assistance dog for me, under the CGI charity. And she was so genuinely enthusiastic. Her face really lit up. “Oh wow – that is so special – hey, you’ve got a really important job to do, boy!” Her response meant so, so much to me.
We came away with six months’ worth of flea/worming spot-on and some VERY exciting news… the vet hadn’t actually told me how long to wait before taking Sky outside after his second vaccination, only that it would be fully effective from fourteen days. When I asked the nurse, she said that they only suggest waiting for seven of those, then it is pretty safe, and of course socialisation needs to get going as soon as possible.
So this time next week we will have gone for our very first walk! Eeek, I can’t wait, and I don’t think he can either. He has so much energy, and from the way he has been whenever I have taken him out in the backpack he is obviously eager to explore. He adores people and loves meeting everyone and anyone who comes to the house so I don’t think he will have any problems being fussed over by strangers! Obviously I will build up to traffic and crowds at his pace, starting with shorter quieter routes first, but I really can’t see him being worried.
This means leadwork is essential this week! I want him to be calm and happy with it by the time he is ready to go out, so he can just enjoy all the new things. I’m going to do little bursts several times each day, maybe starting with five minutes early morning, late morning, and a couple of times each afternoon/evening. I’m going to put brushing and teeth on hold for this week while we get it sorted out, he’s so young still that I can always come back to them later. I just don’t want to overwhelm him.
Once he is going out and about it will be all about socialising him and keeping his focus on me around different distractions. That is going to take time, of course, but it’s vital to work on that from day one with a trainee assistance dog – it’s such a crucial skill.
Puppy classes start on July 11th. He already has a lot of the things that will be taught, but it will be really good to go back over everything and for Caroline to see how we are working together and make any corrections or tweaks that she needs to – and of course, for him to meet other people and puppies of all kinds. In the classes we will start learning stays, stopping, settle and recall in more challenging situations (he will come whenever I call him in the house and garden but I can’t promise he would feel the same in a big field with five other pups!). We will also really get him solid with ‘leave it’, because at the moment he tends to take his time.
It’s all so exciting! So much to look forward to, to do and learn and see together. So much future.
Although the present isn’t too bad either…