Although we were almost sure Don would be a good match, the only way to find out if there’s really a click is to let him stay with me for a week. On January 15th the big day came. The trainer would bring Don and some food and he would hang out with me for a week.
Just like in every new situation, I was nervous. Was Don going to settle in with me? Would he be happy? Would he listen well and do everything I asked? I was worried about going for walks with him and the buddy’s. I had never walked a dog this way before and didn’t know how or even if it was going to work. I need not have worried though, as you all know if you’ve been reading my columns regularly, Don and I make a really good team and we enjoy walks with the buddy’s.
There was a lot to learn before the trainer could leave us alone. We first went through some information about safety. Which human foods are dangerous for dogs was one of the most important safety topics. I already knew that grapes and chocolate is poisonous to dogs. I didn’t know however, that raisins are also an issue. Logical, they’re just dried grapes. Pork is apparently also something that shouldn’t be fed to dogs. So that’s something we avoid too.
We talked about bones and which type of bones are safe for Don to eat. It’s not a good idea to feed a dog bones from your chicken or lamb. They can easily split and the dog could choke. Even some brands of bone from the pet store have the same effect. Dogs are good at biting bones off in big chunks which they can easily swallow and choke on. It’s better to buy a brand thet turns into a chewy substance when wet. That way it’s not so easy to bite off big chunks and if that does happen, the dog is less likely to choke. It’s also important never to leave a dog alone with his bone. If you leave the house for a few hours, it’s a good idea to put the bone away. You never know what might happen while you’re gone.
We discussed toys and play time. Don loves to play with a tennis ball, but he also loves to chew them. He is good at breaking them. The strongest type of tennis ball is an actual sports ball. I’ve discovered that tennis clubs only use their balls once. After which it’s ok for a dog to play with it. Although, they contain grit which can damage a dog’s teeth if chewed too much. I have to ensure Don doesn’t chew them. I learned very quickly that cheap tennis balls from the pet store is a wasted investment. Don went through six of those balls in the first two weeks. I found another brand from the pet store that does withstand his chewing. However, it squeaks and squeaky toys are not something the trainer recommends. They sound like a squeaking puppy and squeak when chewed, it makes Don hyper. A hyper service dog is never a good thing.
Lots of cuddles and play time was the recommendation. It would give Don and I the opportunity to bond and build trust in each other. In the two previous visits, I had learned how to ask Don to pick up things from the floor. Before the trainer left us, she showed me how to ask Don to take off my sweater. She also taught me a game where Don could look for objects in the house. We did it with keys. By the end of the week, he looked in six different places every time I gave the command ‘get the keys’.
It was a big adjustment for both of us. We both experienced sleep deprivation and Don insisted I get out of bed at 7:30 every morning to give him cuddles. Luckily it wasn’t difficult to teach him to wait until I decided to get out of bed. It was an enjoyable trial week with lots of learning curves and I haven’t stopped learning yet. After the trial came the training. I’ll tell you all about that next time.
Picture by AHfotostudio