Category Archives: GDApupVolt
Volt is the now working guide-dog we raised from 8 weeks old to almost a year old!
He is ¾ Golden Retriever and ¼ Labrador.
His father is Timba, his mother is Lyla and he has 6 siblings- 2 brothers (Viking and Vincent) and 4 sisters (Umeka, Vera, Vegas and Vossie).
Our beautiful boy has been in training for a little over seven weeks, and in that time he spent about ten days at home with us whilst his trainer assisted another trainer.
He’ll be coming home for a two week Christmas holiday and we’ll fetch him just before the Christmas weekend, by which time he will have been in training for nine weeks.
His trainer says he is doing really well, but we are under strict instructions not to allow him to “speak” when he’s on holiday.
He LOVES to speak and it only took him about 45 minutes to learn the command. This was back when they were going to review Volt’s potential as a service dog for someone in a wheelchair. The “speak” command is used by service dog owners in order to attract attention if they need assistance and can’t call out. But Volt is far too strong and too energetic for someone who is wheelchair bound and may not have the physical strength to rein him in, so service dog training was ruled out.
We continued using the “speak” command after that though because it was clever, and it impressed grownups and children at expos when we were selling raffle tickets to raise funds for SAGA.
The problem is that Volt realised most people were impressed by his bark and used it to curry favour, like trying to get you to throw his stick or ball, or give him a cookie or some such.
His trainer has worked very hard to stop him doing it for fun, so whilst he doesn’t have to “work” whilst he’s here with us on holiday (meaning he doesn’t have to go everywhere with us like he did when he was little), we must not allow him to “speak”.
We’re looking forward to having Volt visit for a while. And we know Riddick is going to love having him here again!
Volt had been on training for a couple of weeks so they hadn’t seen each other, and Riddick was very glad to see his “big brother”!
When we got home and I took Volt’s leash off, the two of them took off into the garden and I didn’t see them for 10 minutes!
What they did manage to do – twice in one week – was get Riddick’s Rogz collar off (like the one pictured in the link) and chew it to shreds! Each time leaving only the little strip with the big metal loop on it and the name tag! I “found” the remains of both collars in Riddick’s poop over the next few days.
The two of them played so much, wrestling and running, and both chasing the solid rubber ball I’ve found in the back yard (it bounces but it can’t be punctured) and, of course, getting up to mischief!
Evidence of their mischief? A hole in the plastic mesh covering the bottom half of my front gate! Its only there to keep puppies in (or smaller neighbourhood dogs and cats out) so its not a problem as such…
And more evidence – the remains of a toilet roll all over my balcony!
He spent a week with us and went back to SAGA today. He weighed 34.2kg on the vet’s scale and he looks so sleek and grown up.
One thing that springs to mind about the week he spent with us was that he was suddenly spooked by the chlorine floater in the pool!
I am sure we’ve had one before, but this time Volt didn’t like it at all. He was barking at it and giving it a wide berth when he walked past it in the pool (if it was close to the edge).
This would not do, of course, guide-dogs can’t be spooked by anything and a big part of our puppy walking work is exposing the pups to every possible kind of scenario or noise they may encounter in their every day life.
I took the floater out of the pool, stood it upright on the bricks and sat next to it, quietly praising Volt if he came up to it without flinching. Eventually his curiosity got the better of him and he sniffed it with his neck at full stretch. I put it back in the pool and Volt responded as he had before, but with gentle encouragement and praise for ignoring it, he got over it and within a couple of days he was bopping it with his nose when it floated by him (he loves lying on the side of the pool with his nose under the water).
I was also able to see a difference in Volt’s behaviour on-lead since he started his training! Its very impressive to have him not pulling at all!
And he’s visiting us for a week!
He weighed 34.6kg on the vet’s scale today, and he’s still 60cm tall at the shoulder so he hasn’t grown much in height.
On Friday last week I got a Whatsapp message from SAGA asking if we would be able to have Volt visit for a week! His trainer is going to PE to assist another trainer and she didn’t want her dogs to stay in kennels while she was gone as they have already had two weeks of their new routine with her. So we get to have our Volt home for a week much sooner than I anticipated!
I got to have a quick word with his trainer when I fetched him and she says he’s doing just fine. His positive dog distraction is a bit of a hindrance but he is obedient so its not a huge problem. And she says he’s a bit of an escape artist too, which is something we didn’t experience here at home! He is a very high energy dog but he is very lovable too.
We visited my folks over the weekend and he had a lovely time playing with my mom’s dogs and visiting with the family.
Volt has been back at SA Guide-dogs for a little over a week already so there won’t be any peanut butter cupcakes for my boy today.
I still can’t get over how quickly you went from this:
Happy happy birthday my sweet Voltinator! I know you’ll be working hard and they won’t be making any fuss, but I will be thinking about you all day long!
His trainer sent us a little update on how he’s doing last Friday, which I thought it was very kind of her to have emailed us some news already!
The first week of training is always a big adjustment for the dogs as they bond with their trainers and get used to a whole new routine.
He’s sharing a kennel with Bentley and he’s settling in well.
His trainer says he is a sweetheart indeed and that he is very energetic and easily distracted, LOL!
He’s obviously got a long way to go in his training still.
Will we be raising another guide-dog puppy?
My husband and I discussed it all through our 10 months of puppy-walking Volt, and yes, we will do it again.
When we first started speaking about it, when Volt was still a little puppy, we decided we would take a few months off before walking another guide-dog puppy as it is a very intense and time consuming process.
And then- five months ago- we adopted our Riddick from SAGA.
That meant we had two Labrador puppies in our house, but Riddick benefited from it immensely as he learnt a lot from Volt on how to behave (dogs do well with good role models) and he had Volt to play and snuggle with. Volt didn’t have the same as our two older dogs, Thelma and Louise, are very set in their ways and don’t like having to deal with puppies! They’re not mean or aggressive, but they don’t play and they don’t snuggle- not even with each other.
Our Volt has now gone back to SAGA for his formal training, and whilst most puppy-walkers take a new pup as soon as they are told their year-old dog will be going back to SAGA, we have Riddick so we still have a puppy in the house.
On the way back from dropping Volt off at kennels, we discussed getting a new puppy again. We have already told SAGA that we would like to take a new pup when our Riddick is a year old next April, but that also means it will be around the time Volt completes his training.
That led our train of thought along these lines:
- Volt will have a couple of training “holidays” and he can come “home” for them
- With Riddick already here, having Volt visit will make it a house full
- Having a new guide-dog pup, Riddick AND Volt visiting will be a lot to manage
- Should Volt not make the programme- touch wood- we will have “first dibs” on him coming back to us as a pet
- Should Volt come to us as a pet, having a new puppy will be tricky as our house isn’t big enough for five dogs
- Waiting until our guide-dog puppy graduates will give us a good break between dogs
And of course not having a puppy doesn’t mean we won’t be involved with volunteering for SAGA events!
So yes. We will be getting a new puppy as soon as Volt graduates. And we will continue to follow that pattern in the future.
Today is Volt’s “intake day”.
This morning I took off his blue all-the-time collar with his name tag on it because when I dropped him off he was wearing his working collar and lead, which belongs to SAGA. We took him back to SA Guide-dogs and on Monday he will begin his formal guide-dog training. He is in a group of five dogs and will be training with Qedo, Ruby, Titan and his sister Vegas.
It was very undramatic as they try not to make a fuss of the dogs arrival as they pick up on their people’s emotions. And of course we have dropped him at kennels for several week-long stays whilst we were raising him so this wasn’t a completely strange experience.
I have so very many thoughts going through my head! Have I done enough? Did I do it right? Is he going to miss me? Is he going to do well? I am so proud of my boy going into training, and yet I am heart sore that I won’t see him every day anymore. A tiny part of me almost- almost– wishes he doesn’t make it and he can come back home to us forever, but the biggest part of me wants to see him graduate next year with his blind partner and start doing the work he was born for.
I will miss him pushing himself between me and my laptop so he can rest his head on my arms or my lap whilst his tail wags furiously.
I will miss his tail bumping the back of my knees as he wags it during our walks.
I will miss him going upstairs to wake my husband by pulling the duvet off him.
I will miss him “smiling” at me with a yawn and a stretch when I let him out of his crate in the mornings.
We will see him whilst he’s on training, the pups have a couple of holidays and he may be able to come and stay with us over Christmas when his trainer goes on holiday, but we won’t see him for a few weeks while he gets used to being at kennels full time and bonds with his trainer.
Volt’s kennel cough seems to be all better! He’s not coughing anymore but I am still giving him some vitamins to boost his immune system. Taking a tip from SAGA’s methodology, I discovered it is FAR easier to give Volt his meds by putting the capsules in my hand with a few of his pellets as a treat, and he gobbles everything up without batting an eyelid!
We didn’t do much walking or anything this week past as I didn’t want to aggravate his cough- or spread it- and I had a lot of work to do.
And we have less than a week with him still living with us as he goes back to SAGA kennels for his formal training on Friday already!