This morning Kender got up close and personal with A’Kos again. He stayed up a little late last night and so was grumpy and sleepy today. A’Kos became a handy cuddle toy after Kender was done with his breakfast.
This morning’s tracking session was wet and rainy, but blessedy not as cold and windy as yesterday. Brian still waited in the car with Kender until it was our turn, but I enjoyed being outside with A’Kos in the sprinkles. We jogged together up and down the parking lot to let out some energy, and I got a chance to chat a bit with some parents I hadn’t gotten to know yet.
Brian and Kender went out alone this time, without Venus. (We didn’t switch because Brian was concerned about keeping up with A’Kos in the rain his first time out.) Jeremy handled A’Kos. Again we let him watch Kender leave, saying things like, “There goes your Kender!” Then we took A’Kos behind a van as Brian and Kender finished hiding. When we came out, even I didn’t know where they were! A’Kos didn’t not do as well on the track this time. Jeremy says about a third of the dogs are like this the first time they are told to track their child. We need to keep up the “Where’s your boy!” games in between formal tracks to strengthen the association for A’Kos. He got his treat and a ball to play with anyway once we got to Kender. The important thing with tracking practice is to never ever have a failed track. A’Kos needs to expect a super treat for finding Kender, so he thinks this is just the best game in the whole world. That way, he will do his best at playing the game.
Back at the training center we prepared for our first public access outing. We practice walking with A’Kos at “close” past strange people, other dogs, and even a person carrying a shopping bag filled with pupperoni treats, corrected the dogs until they ignored everything. We practiced keeping the dogs in “sit” while other people came up to pet them and call them good dog…and while Kender menaced the room with a shopping cart!
We also practiced the “under” command and Jessa discussed the importance of making sure the dogs are out of the way and not likely to get stepped on in places like restaurants. This is something that Brian and I have noticed other service dog owners often forget about. A service dog in a “down” should never have to choose between being stepped on by traffic and breaking his command!
As the other families headed out for lunch, Shelby called us aside to give us a wonderful present: a guide dog harness for A’Kos!! We’d been wondering and hoping that they’d trained A’Kos with this type of harness, and we’d kept our eyes on some we liked online to buy when we got home. It turns out that 4 Paws planned to offer this harness to us as our one “free” included harness with A’Kos’ equipment! We broke it in today for out first public outing. It definitely makes A’Kos stand out in our class a bit. It’s going to be so nice for Kender because he can hold not only the usual handle, but the sides of the handle and a couple of handholds on the side of the harness. There’s also a ring on the top that we will use for tethering. Brian will be able to make use of the handle as well when out and about with A’Kos and Kender. We’ll be keeping the red strapping harness for tracking, and saving the nice leather guide harness for the rest of our public time with A’Kos.
After our practice session, it was time to head to the mall for our first public access outing.
We ate lunch in the Food Court, and then we waited for our turn with Jeremy or Shelby next to a play area for Kender to run around. A’Kos won the blue ribbon by being the first to poop in public. I wasn’t too upset with him, as his tummy has been a bit upset today. I was just glad that I was fully prepared and able to blow it off as no big deal, nothing like the humiliating experience of taking Blackie out in a pet store years ago. Brian and I took turns walking around the mall while we waited for our turn. Lots of folks watched us and commented. I overheard one lady in the Food Court telling her friend all about the local dog training program that always comes to this mall to practice. Several kids came up to pet the pretty doggie in the play area, and we got to play “Where’s your boy?” a few times when Kender would run out. Brian and I both walked around the mall and up and down the stairs and elevator with Shelby watching how we did, and we both passed. We are officially allowed to take A’Kos with us wherever we go from now on.
After the short night, the long, wet track, the running, and the mall walking, A’Koos and Kender are both pretty exhausted. A’Kos is chilling under the table even though we got him some new toys on the way home from the mall, and Kender is just plain whiny. Sounds like a quiet evening and an early bedtime are in order!