Saturday, August 1, 2009


For the past few weeks, Joy and I have been training Fiona to track a scent. She is learning this skill so that if her boy that she is placed with gets lost, Fiona will be able to find him. We started at Joy's house on her front lawn. Joy took a toy and walked a straight line away from Fiona and me and then walk back on the same line. She placed the toy at the end of the scent trail. Then, I told Fiona "ok, find it!" Fiona would race after it and grab the toy and dance around, quite proud of herself. After Fiona got good at doing that, we took her out to a large field, where the grass was taller. Taller grass helps a dog to follow a scent because more scent is laid, it is not just on the ground but on the spires of grass. We did the same thing as before, when we were on Joy's lawn. We then started hiding the toy off to the side of the trail, or made corners. This helped Fiona to learn that we wanted her to use her nose and follow the scent, rather than just watch as to where the toy was placed. Fiona is doing very well and is able to make short corners and follow the scent with her nose. We will be making it harder and harder for her, with longer and longer distances that she has to track. Fiona really enjoys her tracking lessons because it means she gets to run around and get toys and treats. She gets very excited when she finds the toy and prances around with her prize. Later, we will borrow one of her boy's socks or other article of clothing to be in place of the toy, so she learns to track for his particular scent.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Two weeks ago, Fiona went with my husband and I on a camping trip over the mountains in Powell Butte. For those of you who do not know where Powell Butte is, it is north of Bend and East of Redmond. We brought the Youth Group which we work to my parents house and we all camped in tents. Fiona slept in the tent with us and did very well. On Tuesday, we all went to the High Desert Museum and I had to sign a paper saying that if Fiona caused a raucous that she would have to leave. She did very well, except that she was concerned about the bobcat and lynx. Both cats were in a glass area that made it so Fiona could be almost right next to them. She growled a bit and wanted to be away from them. I distracted her with treats and after a while started to relax some more, but still was worried that such large cats were so near to her. Later, we went for a walk into a lava cave. It was pitch black in there and we only had flash lights. Fiona has better eye sight in the dark than me because she didn't have trouble finding where to put her feet. I held onto her jacket and she led me through. She did really well but after walking for about 30 min. into the cold darkness, she was getting a little worried. When we decided to go back, she was moving briskly, happy to be leaving the cave.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fiona encounters falling down and crying boy

Fiona went to youth group tonight and did very well. She slept during the first part and didn't try to get all the kids to pet her. It was game night tonight so we went down to the gym and she did a down stay as all the kids were running around and playing games. She got up once because she really wanted to run around too. One of the kids, Joel, has ADHD and is also a dog lover. After youth group, I asked him if he would like to help me train Fiona. He was more than happy to help. I explained to him about what Fiona is being trained to do. I told him that she has to learn to lie down immediately when her boy falls down and cries or screams. I told him that she has to do this so that it will help the boy's mom out because then she doesn't have to worry about Fiona and she can focus on her son. Joel held on the Fiona's small leash, which is attached to her coat, and walked around with her and we worked on her "brace" command. Then I instructed Joel to fall down and start crying. I showed Fiona that she was supposed to lie down and hold still until I told her "ok." We did this about 5 times and I think Fiona was starting to get it a little. She was a little worried with what he was going to do next and kept looking at him, but I used a treat to distract her and we worked on her "brace" and walking in a straight direction. It was a good training session and I told Joel that he helped out a lot, which he was glad about. :)

Dixon and the mall

Today, I went to Lancaster Mall to train Dixon while Joy working with Kagnee and her person. Dixon wears a harness now that his person will hold while walking. He has to learn to stop at curbs and stairs and wait for the command to go forward. He is also learning to obey all his commands though hand signal alone because his person is deaf. It was fun working with Dixon again and reminded me of the times I used to take him to class with me at college. He was only a puppy back then and a lot smaller. He is famous at my school because he had his picture put in the 2008-2009 yearbook. The funny thing is he was called a guide dog in it, which he is actually an assistance dog. But, ironically, he is now wearing a harness that is similar to what guide dogs where and he is learning to stop at curbs like guide dogs do. :P Anyways, he did very well at the mall, but I think he was wondering why I was working him and not Joy. He kept wanting to be where she was. Joy worked with Kagnee, well I should say Kagnee's person worked Kagnee as well as her person's caretaker. Kagnee's person's caretakers all have to learn how to work with Kagnee. She will probably have 3-4 different caretakers that she has to learn to obey. It was very cool seeing Kagnee interact with her person. She really enjoyed eating treats off of her lap and putting her nose under her person's hands so she could have physical contact. Kagnee really really likes to be pet, it is her favorite thing in the world. After we were done at Lancaster Mall, we went downtown to try to catch the Wednesday Market, but sadly when we arrived, it was closed. So, we decided to just walk around the Salem Center Mall. Dixon worked on not being scared of the elevator. At first he was appalled that I wanted him to go on it, but after about 8 times of going up and down, he got used to it and did much better (treats helped a lot :P).

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fiona's Training

Fiona is my current assistance dog in training. She is a year and 2 months old now and I have had her for the past 2 months. She has recently started training to become an Autism Dog. She met her perspective boy a few weeks ago and did very well helping him go for a nice walk outside. She seemed interested in getting to know him and enjoyed being loved on by his sister and parents. Since then, she has been learning some tasks that will help her be a good Autism Dog. She has been learning to brace. This means that she has to hold still when her jacket is being pulled on. This will help her boy's parents by keeping him with them even when he wants to go somewhere else. Fiona will help him by being his anchor and not running off with him. She has also started learning to track. This will help her boy's parents to find him if he gets lost. Fiona will have to use her nose and find where he went. She is really enjoying this training because she gets to run and get her toy. :D. Another part of her training involves her knowing how to get her handler and bring them to a place, thing, or person of concern to her. We are starting this training by teaching her to nudge my leg and then when she does this, I ask her "what?" repeatedly while following her to something she may be trying to tell me about, such as where her treats are, a toy, or the door. Eventually, this will give Fiona the tools to alert her handler if something dangerous is happening to her boy, she is worried about something, or of course, I am sure she will still use it to tell her handler that she would like a treat. :).

Now, a bit about Fiona and her personality. Fiona is a very fun-loving and happy dog. She loves to be with people, especially people that she loves. She gets sad if I leave her for a while and gets very excited, with wiggling butt and playing dancing, when I return. While we are just chilling at home, Fiona is laid back most of time and enjoys sleeping and bringing both me and my husband things that she figures we would be interested in. For example, she loves to bring us dirty socks, shirts, stuffed animals, her leash, her toys, oh and did I mention dirty socks. :P When she is in a playful mood, she will grab her rope toy or her stuffed duck, throw it around in the air, pounce on it, roll around on her back, and come over to my husband, Joshua, and I and wiggle all around, moaning, and giving us her pleading eyes look. She likes to chase her toys and bring them back and loves going for walks. She also loves to be pet, cuddled with, and to go on outings. Fiona goes almost everywhere with me and jumps into the car eagerly. She is very polite in public, doesn't pull on the leash except for occasionally when we are with other assistance dogs that she knows and she doesn't want to pay attention. For the most part though, she is easy to be with in public and doesn't attention seek from other people or go for yummy things on the floor. If we are in a particular place for a long time, such as at school, at a restaurant, or waiting at the DMV or doctor's office, she goes to sleep easily and is calm. While once she gets to know a person, she is very loving and comfortable, Fiona tends to warm up slower to people. She doesn't automatically relax and become best friends with someone she has just met. It takes her a little bit more time or if they are a bit intimidating, she likes to have a few treats from them to let her know they are an okay person. One of the reasons Fiona was selected to train as an Autism Dog is her love and calm attitude with children. She seems to find children interesting and fun people, as well as people who need to be taken care of by her. She is careful not to run them over or get too rambuctious next to them. She maintains her cool even when a 2 year old is screaming in her face. She seems to enjoy being pet and loved on by children and often has a smile on her face around them.