Saturday, October 20, 2012

Not a Therapy Dog Yet

I'll cut to the chase.  Barley and I did not pass our TDI test, and it wasn't nearly as good an attempt as the first try.  It's ok, though.  In reality, with the end of the semester quickly approaching and my slightly southern migration to my parents' house for the holidays for a few weeks in December and then the start of the spring semester and new classes, I wouldn't have much time to devote to therapy dog visits until probably mid-March anyway, so while our certification might have been delayed a bit, therapy visits really haven't.  So, we're going to spend the next six months really training and focusing and then test again in the spring whenever out training center offers it.

It's also ok because I just have a really awesome dog.  Even though we didn't pass, she still did really well on the things she passed.

So excited before the test.  Don't judge me by the dog fur on the side of the front seat.
Heeling was awesome.  She was with me the whole time with a loose lead.

She was perfect for accepting a friendly stranger, sitting politely for petting, and appearance and grooming.

She sat and conquered our problem area from last time--down on command--and did a beautiful recall.

Reaction to another dog went ok the second try and really the first try wasn't bad; she just wanted to say hello and the dogs aren't allowed to cross in front of you, but there was no growling or barking or mohawking of her back fur.

Our first problem area was reaction to distractions, which was strange because Barley is usually fairly oblivious to the world around us when there aren't dogs and squirrels involved.  She was fine with the clanking of metal objects, but responding to someone jogging by was the problem.  (So, I hope her Aunt L is ready to help us practice at Thanksgiving and Christmas by jogging past us daily!  Maybe it will be good running blog material to talk about the vicious Honey Badger Barley!) We see a lot of joggers at the Geneva State Park and a couple in our neighborhood, and Bar's never given them more than a passing glance.  But today, she decided she wanted to bark at the jogger during our test.  That is not acceptable.  Then when we tried a second time with a different jogger, she didn't bark but she did try to approach the jogger.  I felt a little bad--the first jogger was a pre-teen boy and even though Barley wasn't barking aggressively and was just being noisy, she scared him.

Supervised separation wasn't perfect, but I don't think we would have failed for it.  She whimpered a bit, but I don't think it would have been considered more than "mild agitation" if everything else had gone well.  I think that one is harder on me than it is on her--although I did get to pet a sweet golden retriever (my first dog breed love) while we were separated.

Most of the items that are just on the TDI test and not the Canine Good Citizen test were cake, though.  She was not bothered at all by the medical equipment, the infirmities (I think I was more bothered by people hacking and wheezing than she was--damn hypochondria), and reaction to children.  She didn't bat an eye at any of those things.  She was even more perfect with the Say Hello item, which is approaching someone in a wheelchair to be pet.  Even though the person in the wheel chair wasn't actually in need of a wheelchair, Barley acted as if she needed to be extra gentle.  She is so good in these situations--just like she is with our neighbor with special needs (sorry if that's not the politically correct term--I can never keep up with what's in fashion now)--she approaches so slowly and calmly and sets her chin on the person's knee and lets them pet her and then after a few seconds of getting to know each other the crazy tail wagging begins.  But she never jumps or acts like a crazy dog.

Our other huge problem area was Leave-It.  I take full responsibility for this one.  We haven't practiced nearly as much as we should have.  I know she's food motivated, so it didn't surprise me at all when she  saw the chicken and cheese on the floor and acted like she'd never seen a meal before.  I was a little surprised that she didn't even pretend to pay attention to me when I said "Leave it" or "Watch," though.  I thought after we passed two glazed donuts on the side of the road during yesterday's walk and all of the left over Grape Jamboree food a few weekends ago that we could make it through this one.  But from now on, we're practicing inside with  people food at least once a day until we pass.  I really can't blame her for living to eat, though, when my whole life revolves around meal time.

Even though we didn't pass, it's still been a good day.  We woke up early (for a Saturday) and walked two miles at the State Park.  It was cloudy and preparing to rain--which happened while we were warming up in the yard at the training center--but it was a really nice morning.  We had good interactions with other dogs and some good reinforcement of heeling, stays, and recalls.  And we got a couple cute pictures (as far as pictures with my stupid phone can be called cute).
Ears blowing in the wind in front of my favorite tree and picnic table in the park.
Watching the clouds roll in over the marina.
Probably the best news of the day is that I got a $500 check from State Farm today!  Almost a year ago, my 5-month-old awesome car was hit and the woman didn't actually provide me or the cop with accurate information, so I had to pay my deductible to get it fixed.  They finally got that resolved and recovered the money they had to pay as well as my deductible, so that was a lovely surprise to have in my mailbox this morning.  I almost burst into tears when I opened that envelope!

This also means that Barley and I can afford to sign up for a new class at the training center again! So, I've emailed our trainer to see which class (agility, repeat of obedience, etc.) would be best to help Barley with the issues we had today.

So there are no regrets and no sadness over today's test results.  When I got this dog almost two years ago, I never would have thought we'd do as well as we did today, so, to me, this is a training victory.  We've come a long way and I can't wait to see where we end up together.


  1. Congrats to Ms. Barely. If she doesn't go any further with her training, may I suggest a career in modeling? That first picture is just so charismatic.

    1. We definitely plan to audition when Tyra runs out of ideas for human models and decided to film America's Next Top Dog Model. We want to show the world that mutts can be beautiful, too ;)

  2. Barley has come a long way!! She will get it :-) I will definitely help her practice as long as she promises not to go too honey badger on me. You'll have to be our professional photographer so we can document it haha!