19 May 2018

The Puppies Go To The Farm

It's one of the puppy's first field trip! The trainers take the dogs to a park full of chickens and a barnyard filled with all sorts of other animals to see which dogs ...

- [Narrator] The service dogs in training

are gearing up for a big day. For any student, some of the best days of school are days like today, field trip day. Even though field trips mean a day of new sites, sounds, and smells, these puppies are going to have to stay focused if they have any hope of passing Puppy Prep. ^(upbeat instrumental music) The dogs are loaded into the van and driven to today's field trip location, (chickens crowing) Rooster Creek Park. For all the puppies, it's an exciting day, ^but for Kaya especially, the pressure is on. Today is her first field trip at Doggy Do-Good, the first time the trainers will get to see how she does in public. If she or any of the other dogs become too distracted while off campus, they could fail out of service dog school. Rooster Creek Park is a park in downtown Arroyo Grande with a bunch of frickin' roosters running around. The ample opportunity for distraction provides a great test for the dog's focus, a test they must pass. Since trainers Paul and Karen can only work with one dog at a time, they find a shady spot to put the dogs into a down stay. The dogs can only get up after they hear their name and the word "release".

This is one of the most basic but crucial commands for the pups to master, and doing so on a field trip is good practice. When they train at Doggy Do-Good, the puppies wear only bandanas. During fields trips, however, they wear their working vests. The Do Not Pet vests help the dogs maintain focus. Owners who suffer from PTSD, seizures, diabetes and other issues could need help at a moment's notice. If someone is distracting their dog by petting them, the owner could fall into serious distress. Heck, even the undeniable Mr. Pip has a tiny vest. Don't worry, the dogs get plenty of pets, but when they're wearing their vests, they need to focus. ^So far, Kaya seems to be doing well on her first day out. Down stay is her specialty but her trainers do not know she's been exposed to so many chickens. Apart from all the chickens, and again, there are so many chickens, Rooster Creek also features an old-fashioned swinging bridge. The pups need to be comfortable walking across all kinds of surfaces, so the bridge is a great test of their focus. ^First one up is the veteran Deacon. At almost two years old Deacon is mere weeks away from graduation. By now, you've no doubt noticed Deacon's harness. You're polite to ignore it but it's fine, you can stare. Deacon is a stability dog.

One of his special commands is "steady". When Deacon hears this, he tenses up so his humans can use him for balance. Even on stairs, Deacon needs to be able to provide additional stability. Deacon is also a retrieval dog. He loves holding things in his mouth and can carry light bags for his owner. If someone drops something, Deacon loses his mind with excitement at the chance to pick it up. Keys, a wallet, even a spoon. I mean, I think even a spoon. Well, would you look at that. He actually used his paw to get the spoon. This is one puppy who really wants to pass. ^It's Kaya and her brother Luke's turn with the trainers as owner Sandy watches the dogs in down stay. So far, the golden retrievers seem only slightly curious about the roosters. This is a good sign. They're not scared but not aggressive towards the birds either. Still, they need to maintain laser focus to work on their commands. ^While Deacon's specialties were "steady" and "get it", Luke is learning "alert". The golden is trained to get his owner's attention when he hears an alarm go off. This could be a reminder to take medicine or a malfunctioning insulin pump.

Also, if an owner is prone to anxiety or PTSD attacks, Luke is being trained to act as a smokescreen of sorts. When Karen taps her thigh, Luke will jump up and start nipping, becoming a general distraction. This allows the owner to excuse themselves to, quote, go and deal with their dog, extricating themselves from the problematic situation. Kaya hasn't been working with the trainers long enough to have any special work-ons. Everyone's just pleased that she seems to be handling her first field trip beautifully. With the day at Rooster Creek Park done, it's time for the pups to go home. Some of the animals stay at Doggy Do-Good, while others go home with employees. Two puppies that go to trainer homes at night ^are Benelli and her best friend Kleo. They began the program at the same time and though they look like siblings, they aren't related. Kleo goes home with volunteer Christina. Even though she wasn't on the field trip, Kleo still had a big day of training back at Doggy Do-Good. Now it's time for her to just be a puppy. While Christina won't make Kleo go through drills, she still needs to make sure Kleo is obeying the basics of being a civilized pup. If Kleo chews on something or has a potty accident, Christina has to stop what she's doing and handle it.

Kleo can get shy, especially around loud noises, but this isn't the time to work on that. Kleo can relax and worry about her training tomorrow. Speaking of tomorrow, that's what time it is now, and what luck, it's time for another field trip. Because all the dogs did so well with all those dang roosters running around Rooster Creek, it's time to see how they'll do with other animals at Avila Valley Barns. The first priority for every puppy on any field trip is to taste the local flavor of grass. As well trained as these pups are, ^there are some things they just need to grow out of. ^Once again, Deacon is the first to work. The trainer applies occasional pressure on Deacon's harness to make sure he's always ready to stabilize someone. The emu is only a temporary distraction and Deacon is still able to retrieve items with it nearby. Deacon recognizes even though it's a fun day at the farm, he has a job to do. ^Next to go on a lap around the farm is Benelli. Things that didn't phase two-year-old Deacon could be a major distraction for the six-month-old lab. Whenever Benelli meets something new that could startle her, the trainer feeds her a treat and pets her. This boosts the young pup's confidence and gets her to associate nervousness with treats. These field trips are all about positive reinforcement in unfamiliar situations, such as the emu, which hasn't phased Benelli.

This cow is unphased and so Benelli. When a stranger approaches, however, her body language changes. She suddenly presses against trainer Paul, a clear indication that her confidence needs to be sharpened. ^Back with the dogs in down stay, ^the undeniable Mr. Pip is restless. He is so attached to Doggy Do-Good owner Sandy that while she's around he can barely focus. Because the plan is for his future owner to carry Mr. Pip most everywhere, this is less of a problem than it would be with the larger dogs. At his size, he's much more vulnerable to the large animals. Whoa, did you see that? That frickin' goat just tried to tear Mr. Pip's head off! Believe it or not, courage has been an issue for the small Yorkshire terrier. It's crucial he unlearn this behavior so he isn't distracted when he's needed to leap into action. For instance, when he needs to work on his pressure therapy commands. Mr. Pip is able to give hugs and kisses on command. When he hears the command "happy", Mr. Pip's job is to become a calming, happy presence. This can soothe people with emotional issues when a dose of puppy love is just what's needed. Back with the dogs in down stay, Deacon has discovered a way to cure his boredom

without getting into trouble. He reaches his paw out to tempt a classmate, that way he has a friend and hasn't broken his down stay. Very tricky, Deacon, stop getting the puppy into trouble. You're supposed to be a role model. ^Now, it's Kaya's turn to tour the farm. Like Menelli and Mr. Pip, she too needs to work on her courage, but it's a tough balance between becoming familiar with new things and being distracted. The pups need to be comfortable around everything, but these goats are testing them. The trainers are sure to praise Kaya up when the stupid goats scare her. This helps Kaya know she's alright. Meanwhile, Mr. Pip has found a friend. These pups spend most of their schooling around the adult trainers, but for dogs that are going to families with children, it's important they get exposed to kids. Children have a different energy and way of interacting with animals. For people-loving Kaya, it's no problem. She has a blast as the children take her through the claustrophobic hay maze. Mr. Pip also is already a pro around kids, a good sign for when he'll eventually interact with children every day. For some of the young pups, today is a day of exploring not just the farm,

but also hidden talents. Trainer Karen is testing Benelli's knack for the command "get it". Some day, she might be as good as Deacon. Well, as good as Deacon sometimes is. But for now, the trainers are curious to see if it's something the pup would even like to do, and it appears she would. Benelli has much more enthusiasm for the drill than Karen had even expected. Benelli has a strong desire to please, which is a key quality in service dogs. Now, it's a matter of building her confidence over the following months. With the day drawing to a close, there's still time for a quick class photo. Today went well, but tomorrow will be another day of unexpected challenges, challenges that might be too much for one of the students. Sleep tight, pups. (upbeat instrumental music)