Puppy training coordinator for Leicester & Nottingham, Katie Roche, updates us on Candy, our now adolescent sponsored dog, as she progresses to advanced training
Katie tells us, “Candy is still with her Puppy Parent volunteer, Les Powell. She was spayed last month, 16 weeks from the end of her first season, with a one month recovery period.
This time was used to tighten up her general skills before she will go on to advanced training. Candy coped with her first season well and managed with not having as much exercise. We stuck to light exercise in the garden and inside tasks when she felt up to it. We wait 16 weeks before we spay to avoid a prolonged phantom pregnancy, which can happen a few weeks after the procedure and can make young dogs feel a bit low.”
Since Candy’s come out of season, Les has noticed that she has matured and is less excitable. She’s still full of beans but is making better decisions! Katie says, “We refer to this age as their adolescent phase. As the dog gets bigger, they form more neural connections in their brains, making them more independent. They want to go off and do things on their own and may become less engaged. So, we go back to basics and refocus on solid recall and keeping their engagement around distractions. We lower our expectations of what to expect and make it nice and easy with lots of little wins. Candy is extremely toy and people-motivated and has a huge love of life. Les is a fantastic handler and they really enjoy working together.
Candy enjoys all the obedience training and shows good resilience. She’s happy to go off with other trainers, which will help when she is in advanced training and living with a new foster family. “The general stages that the advanced training team are looking for are recall and settling around people and other dogs. We are going over the three main core skills: touch, tug and retrieve. With retrieve, we are introducing objects of different textures, shapes and sizes, such as keys and items she’s not familiar with. “We’re doing lots of classes together to manage distractions and to ensure she can stay calm and focused. Les works hard with her every day to encourage her to settle in public, increasing the time she stays by his side, just switching off from what’s going on around her. Candy’s inquisitive and very clever, and we’re very happy with her progress so far.”
At this stage in her training, Candy is learning core skills that can be extended to full tasks as her training progresses
USING THE RAMP TO GET INTO A CAR
Candy is comfortable using a vehicle ramp. She will need this skill when she is a jacketed canine partner.
Candy has mastered recall – she doesn’t wander or get distracted
THREE MAIN CORE SKILLS: TOUCH, TUG AND RETRIEVE
These skills can be extended to cover almost any task. From opening doors to picking up objects, they are crucial skills to work with.
Pictured here with Les and Katie, Candy walks well on her lead and gives Les her full attention. She’s a clever girl and is learning to ignore distractions from other dogs and people. As she progresses, she’ll receive lots of treats and praise. Candy is doing well and we ensure that her training is always fun.
Caring for Candis
Laura Loftus, interim director of operations, gives us an update on Candis’s future
Occasionally, our dogs don’t complete their training to become a fully jacketed assistance dog as they may require additional support and training that makes them unsuitable for life as a canine partner. Sometimes, these issues are to do with health or allergies. Other times, the issues are behavioural and to do with their early socialisation experiences. Such issues can become apparent at any time during the puppy’s early years, or later, in advanced training.
Our training teams are highly experienced in reviewing and assessing our puppies and dogs. They know how to support the puppy or dog to work through issues that might arise during training. However, there are times when a dog
has a behavioural issue that proves too difficult for them to overcome.
Our dogs’ well-being is a priority and Candis had been developing well with her taskwork, but has shown sensitivities that, despite support from our specialist trainers, she was not able to overcome. Candis is also receiving ongoing treatment for her health.
We had assessed Candis for a career change to join the demo team as an applicant assessor dog, but now we do not feel this is the career path best suited to her needs and well-being.
A small number of dogs each year are deemed unsuited to becoming an assistance dog and we then consider rehoming them with a loving family. These dogs, like Candis, may require additional support and training once they are in their new home.
We are now looking to rehome Candis, hopefully into a home where a family member has a disability so she can continue to have a positive impact. This will be a place that is best for her, in an environment where she will receive the best ongoing health and training support.