Author Archives: Angel

Eight Weeks with #GDApupJake

Jake is 16 weeks old!

Isn’t he beautiful! He’s a light, caramel brown colour, rather than a golden colour like out other yellow Labs have been. And as he gets older, he gets more and more brown flecks on his nose.
He’s a big puppy, weighing in at 16.5kg, and he’s now getting 160g Vet’s Choice puppy kibble three times a day.
He also got his “big boy” collar this week, after he came back from his x-rays and check-up at the vet!

I take a picture of Jake with this bear every Thursday, so I have something to refer to show scale as he grows up.
He doesn’t get to play with this bear – its only for the weekly picture. 😛

Guide Dog Puppies are not permitted on the furniture, but Jake tries his luck every chance he gets – especially when the dogs are playing! Its quite comical to have a pup so determined to be on the bed!
He does love his crate though – running into it if he grabs something he shouldn’t have, napping and playing in the crate during the day, and sleeping in the crate overnight.

Puppy Classes have been at GDA for the last six weeks, working on the pup’s frustration tolerance and levels of distraction when they are together as siblings.
Jake is going out with me more and more, and having started loose-leash-walking exercises the week after he came home with us already, he walks beautifully on lead!

Jake has learned SIT, DOWN, TOUCH, and DROP IT, and we’re working on STAND and STAY.
He’s not quite as food-driven as pups we’ve had in the past, so we keep our training sessions short and fun, to keep him engaged and interested.

He’s a real snuggle bug, and likes nothing better than to try and curl up in my lap if I sit on the floor, while I brush him and handle him.

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Meet Guide Dog Puppy Jake #GDApupJake!

Jake is one of 7 yellow Lab pups, 5 boys and 2 girls, born to mom Zara on May 17th 2018.
Their sire by artificial insemination is an American Guide Dog stud named Bosworth. His siblings are Jozi, Jarvis, Jethro, Jet, Paddi (sponsored name), and Jackson, and two of his brothers will be growing up as part of the Cape Town Puppy Raising family. Jake joined our family on Friday July 13th! 😀

Jake is so precious, and At 10 weeks old, Jake weighed a whopping 9.6kg!

Baby Jake has “slept through” for 6 nights in a row, 11pm to 5h30! At bed time he now happily walks into his crate, and most mornings he goes back to sleep for an hour after having a busy!
He’s getting very long too, so I’ve already swapped his “snuggly” bed for a bigger cushion inside his crate. 

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heck out A Pup’s Life for regular puppy updates!

When a Guide Dog Puppy is Withdrawn…

People ALWAYS ask Puppy Raisers how they could possibly give up their pup, and it certainly isn’t easy, but it is far harder for us to deal with our puppy being withdrawn from the programme, and not going on to become a Guide Dog or a Service Dog.
And we don’t refer to a pup as “failed” or “rejected” when they are withdrawn from the Guide Dog Puppy programme, we call them “career changed”. 🙂

A puppy can be pulled from the training programme for any one of a number of reasons, even though SA Guide-Dogs have an amazing breeding programme.
Just like humans, dogs have their own quirks and personalities, so a pup could have an anxious temperament, making them unsuitable for work even if they love their training.
A pup might experience something that frightens them while they are growing up, an experience like this could be repaired with gentle exposure and a Puppy Raising Supervisor’s assistance – but if it can’t be “fixed” it could lead to a pup being withdrawn because a dog can’t concentrate on work or training if it is afraid.
Labradors and Golden Retrievers also have breed issues like hip and elbow dysplasia, and whilst the pups are bred to exclude these issues as much as humanly possible, its not an exact science. If a pup presents with hip or elbow dysplasia (and they are all tested) they will be withdrawn as they can’t be a working dog if they are going to be in pain, or needing regular veterinary treatment.
Should a pup present with something like severe allergies, or eye problems, or epilepsy, they will also be withdrawn.

Around the world, the “success rate” for Guide Dog breeding programmes is around 60-65%. This means of course, that there are specially bred and trained puppies that do not become Guide Dogs or Service Dogs, and they become pets. Career-changed puppies are most often kept by their Puppy Raisers, but as you might imagine its not always possible. We may already have a house full of dogs and so not have the space. And taking on a pup that may need special veterinary care and diet in the future is a cost we can’t all afford.
Having to rehome a career changed puppy is a very careful process, and it is heart breaking for a Puppy Raiser.

There’s a very complicated set of emotions we go through as Puppy Raisers.
We work very hard to prepare our pups for their formal training and their career as a working dog. We get a manual, and we take classes, and we have a long list of things our pup must be gradually exposed to as they grow.
This takes time and dedication.
Throughout this process we are preparing ourselves, usually not even consciously thinking about it, for the day we will have to say goodbye to our puppy.
When your pup graduates, there’s an immense sense of pride for this gorgeous dog you helped to raise and train, and there’s sadness because you may not see the pup again.
If your pup is withdrawn, you will be thrilled be if you are able to keep the pup, but you will also be heart sore because all your hard work raising your pup has been in vain, and you might feel like you have let the pup down.
If your pup is withdrawn and you can’t keep it as your own, there’s only sadness.

Inside every Guide Dog and Service Dog beats the heart of a Puppy Raiser.

The Dreaded Intake Day Email…

We got the semi-dreaded email from SA Guide-Dogs. Riggs’s intake day for his formal training is Monday April 9th.

It’s a strange email for a Puppy Raiser to receive… On the one hand you’re sad because your pup will be leaving, and you’re a little nervous about whether you did enough with your puppy while raising him. And on the other hand you’re excited about the next step in your puppy’s training, and you’re wondering how he’s going to do, and who he will eventually be matched with.

It’s bitter sweet indeed. We Puppy Raisers walk a very strange tightrope. But Riggs is ready for his training.

This is also the only time, in my puppy raising adventure with each of our dogs, that I cry.

What that means though, is that we only have a week left with our big boy (got the email about 10 days ago).
We’ll be meeting with his trainer in the morning to chat about Riggs’s likes and how he’s done with his training and how he likes to play.

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heck out A Pup’s Life for regular puppy updates!

 

One Week With Guide Dog Puppy Daisy!

This is Guide Dog Puppy Daisy!

She joined our family a little over a week ago, almost 19 weeks old, and she weighed 18kg.
As sometimes happens, Daisy’s original Puppy Raiser couldn’t continue to raise her, and as our Riggs is now a year old and will start his formal training soon, we decided to make Daisy our “new” puppy.

Daisy’s ears are so cute – they look like they have been splattered with bleach, with a darker caramel-coloured pattern along the edges.

She’s very clever, and has settled into her new home very well.

She’s great in the car, happily going to sleep or chewing on a toy.

Her previous Puppy Raising family gave her this big cushion, and they sent it along with her.

We bought her a brand new, bright pink Rogz collar that she can grow into, and a new dinosaur Nylabone chew.

She loves to sleep half off the bed! 😀

Our Riggs is LOVING having a Labrador “little sister” to play and wrestle with!
They get on so well, and they play themselves to sleep all day!

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Forty Six Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Our puppy Riggs is a whole year old already!

I can hardly believe he is already one!
Here he is the day we brought him home at 7 weeks old, and at 52 weeks old, the day before his first birthday!

He’s a big boy – weighing in at 37.5kg on the morning of his birthday.

November 2017

December 2017

January 2018

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Thirty Six Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Goodness! Its been weeks since I last updated Riggs’s progress here!

Riggs is 43 weeks old, he weighs a whopping 36.7kg, and he’s tall – a big boy even for a Lab!


We continue to work on the lessons from our weekly clicker class, and these are so much fun!
Riggs has mastered these cues:
SIT                    STAY                   DOWN
UP SIT                   STAND                   WATCH
TOUCH (Riggs loves this one)                   STOP
THROUGH                    STEADY (slow down)
LEAVE IT                    HUP HUP (go faster)
And his recall and loose-leash-walking is very good.
The following cues are not part of a Guide Dog’s training per se, but it builds confidence in the pups:
ROLL OVER                   CRAWL
SIT PRETTY (sitting up with his front feet raised)
UP (stepping up onto a box with his front feet)
MY LAP (putting his front legs and chest across my thighs when I am seated)
Last week there was an “Open Day” at GDA, the Puppy Raising Supervisors set up stations at the JHB training centre where the pups and puppy raisers are faced with different challenges and obstacles, and the Puppy Raising Supervisors and Trainers observe the pups in each situation, and provide assistance for how to move forward in a pup’s learning. Last week was also the first time the brand new GDA Obstacle Course was used! There were LOADS of puppies, big and small, and we had several new Puppy Raisers join us to see what its about which makes it fun for the Puppy Raisers to chat! Riggs’s sister Raffi was there too – they are so similar! After starting with walking in two big circles and some obedience work, there were 6 stations for the pups to go through:
● The Obstacle Course – the pups had to go over-through-onto all kinds of different items, and Riggs LOVED it! I wish I could get a video!
● The Different Dogs Station – the pups got to see and meet a Great Dane and a couple of Yorkies.
● The Obedience Station – we each had to pick three challenges out of a bucket to complete with our pup.
● The Little Kids on a Blanket Station – the pups had to ignore the children, the toys, and the food.
● The Big Umbrella Station – a beach umbrella was opened and closed, and the trainer walked around the pup with the umbrella open.

And a “Grooming Station”, where the pups are brushed a bit, their ears get looked at, they get handled a bit, and their nails are checked and clipped a little to see how they react. Riggs thought the grooming station was set up just for him and he lay there like he was in a spa!

We have had many outings with Riggs of course, and Riggs is quite the professional at being out in public. Restaurants, schools, retirement villages, shopping malls

I like using staircases to practise SIT-STAY with Riggs.


And just ‘coz he’s cute, here are some more pictures of our Riggs – he loves to play with his chew toys while lying on his back!

Riggs twists himself into a pretzel when he sleeps, ❤ and he loves to bring toys and try to tempt us to take them from him!

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Twenty Six Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Riggs is 33 weeks old and he weighed a whopping 33.4kg on the vet scale!


We continue to work on the lessons from our weekly clicker class at home (I will try and get pictures at home), and these are so much fun!
SIT                    STAY                   DOWN
UP SIT                   STAND                   WATCH
TOUCH (Riggs loves this one)                   STOP
ROLL OVER                   CRAWL                   THROUGH
STEADY (slow down)                   HUP HUP (go faster)
SIT PRETTY (sitting up with his front feet raised)
UP (stepping up onto a box with his front feet)
Loose Leash Walking                   Recall

We had a few outings with Riggs besides our usual shopping trips – one night we went to RocoMamas for supper and Riggs went straight to sleep.

We were also at GDA for a graduation ceremony – Service Dog Zorro and our friend Kelby (check out My Hero Has Paws), and then a long car ride to spend the afternoon with family. Here he is on his towel at GDA and at my inlaws house.


Last week at GDA there was an Open Day – the Puppy Raising Supervisors set up stations at their training centre where the pups and puppy raisers are faced with different challenges and obstacles, and the Puppy Raising Supervisors and Trainers observe the pups in each situation, and provide assistance for how to move forward in a pup’s learning. Before the training started, Riggs and Lyric (she’s a bit older than Riggs and much faster) had a few minutes to play in one of the free-run areas.
One of the challenges was for the pups to get into and out of the van used by the trainers when they take their dogs out every day. Riggs happily jumped into and out of the van, calmly waited while the door was closed, and then did a beautiful SIT STAY while the truck idled.  Then he hopped back in when the exercise was over to check if there were more treats to be had!  They also had ponies in one area for the pups to see and smell! This challenge is not for the pups to interact with the ponies, but to be able to see them and calmly walk past them – at a fair distance. Riggs has seen horses before, and they made him a little jumpy – but he did well enough yesterday to please our Supervisor. 

And just ‘coz he’s cute, here are some more pictures of our Riggs!

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Twenty Five Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Riggs is 32 weeks old!
He loves to sleep with the top of his head pressed against a wall or the side of his crate. He loves to play and will fetch a toy and try to get me or the other dogs to try and take it from him.
He loves his food and his training treats.

We’re still attending a weekly clicker class with an instructor at GDA, and these are so much fun! Each week is different, and really tiring – for me and for Riggs! Riggs is doing really well. He loves to learn, and we do a lot of SIT-STAY and DOWN-STAY work (Guide Dog puppies have to master a 5 minute STAY when they get to their formal training). We continue to work on the cues we have already learned:
SIT                    STAY
DOWN                    UP SIT
STAND                    WATCH
TOUCH (Riggs loves this one)                    STOP
loose leash walking                    recall
STEADY (slow down)                    HUP HUP (go faster)
We also have several other cues we practise to build our dog’s confidence and focus, and eagerness to train, so we now include:
ROLL OVER                    CRAWL
THROUGH
SIT PRETTY (sitting up with his front feet raised)
UP (stepping up onto a box with his front feet)
We combine the cues with physical obstacles – using a hula hoop in combination with the THROUGH cue, and using cones with the WATCH cue to walk our pup off-lead. It is challenging and SO rewarding!

Riggs and his brother Ringo had their first full-day kennel stay together at GDA last week – 9am to 4pm. They did so well, happily playing and napping.

We were away last weekend, so Riggs went home with his brother Ringo for a few days. Riggs was quite worn out when he came home from his 5-day stay with two other Labs and a Beagle! Thank you to Ringo’s mommy for the care and the photos!

On Tuesday morning Riggs and I had a training outing with our Puppy Raising Supervisor at Bartlett Park. I’d never been there before, but the place is full of bunnies, dassies, and guinea fowl, and a real challenge for a dog. Riggs did so well – I was so proud! We walked up and down the road with cars, bikes and people passing by, and we walked up and down heading towards the area where the bunnies and dassies are concentrated. There’s lots of poop, and interesting smells, and the dassies dart about whilst the bunnies tend to lie in the shade. Riggs did all his obedience cues when told to, and whilst he saw the bunnies and the dassies, and a guinea fowl, he didn’t try to chase any of them!
It was super hot in the car today though, so as soon as he had a good long drink of cold water I turned the aircon up full blast and we went straight home!

I’m bragging a little here – this is proof positive of our puppy learning that human food is not for him!

Riggs is a pretzel-sleeper, just like his mommy!

Five minutes before we had to leave for class – he came in from playing outside and he was filthy and so pleased with himself! 😀

Lyric and Riggs has a run around in a free-run at GDA after clicker class last week. 🙂

My new favourite picture of our Riggs! ❤

And just ‘coz he’s cute, here are some more pictures of our Riggs!

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Twenty Three Weeks With Riggs #GDApupRiggs

Our gorgeous Riggs is 30 weeks old and he weighed in at 31.75kg on the vet’s scale on Friday.
He’s a big boy with a big bone structure – isn’t he gorgeous!

We’ve been attending clicker classes with an instructor at GDA, which are great fun and super tiring – for me and for Riggs! 😀 Our trainer is very strict on having the right attitude and the right shoes and being present in class – for you and for your dog – and its strictly no phones, so no pictures! 😛 Riggs is doing so well too. He loves to learn, and we do a lot of SIT STAY and DOWN STAY work (Guide Dog puppies have to master a 5 minute STAY when they get to their formal training). We work on the cues we have already learned – SIT, STAY, DOWN, UP SIT, STAND, TOUCH, WATCH, loose leash walking, and recall, and we also have several other cues we practise to build our dog’s confidence and focus, so we now include ROLL OVER, SIT PRETTY (sitting up on his bum with his front feet up – he’s not quite sure of this one but we’re getting there), CRAWL, and UP. The classes are great for the pups as the other pups in class serve as a distraction they have to learn to ignore.

Last weekend, my husband and I and Riggs went through to the other side of Pretoria for a Cake Decorating Contest.
It was a good 40 minute drive to get there, and we were there all day! Riggs was an absolute superstar! There were lots of people, several children, we were seated in rows of chairs so we had to walk between people, and there was applause and music, and loads of people greeted and spoke to him through the day, and Riggs didn’t bark or whine once! He even watched the kids jumping on a jumping castle and ignored them!

Riggs and his brother Ringo have also had a couple of four-hour kennels stays together at GDA, we are slowly building up to a full day visit and then an overnight stay or two, so that when he goes in to be castrated, and has to stay till his stitches come out, he won’t be stressed and unhappy. As always they had a ball (thanks to Ringo’s mom for the picture of the two of them). When we drop the pups off we don’t say goodbye or make a fuss, and we go back and spy on them to see how they are doing without us. Riggs doesn’t even get particularly excited to see me when I fetch him which is great! The other picture is on our way to kennels, his head was on the back of my chair and I could feel his breath on my neck! 😀

Isn’t he just the cutest puppy ever! When he’s been napping and he’s wants to play, or he gets bored, he brings me a toy, wagging his tail furiously and nose-bumping me! 😀 Here he is chilling after a clicker training session at home, and a run around the garden.

What happened to our little puppy! He’s such a grown up dog!

And just ‘coz he’s cute, here are some more pictures of our Riggs!

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Check out my Facebook page: Its a Pup’s Life