One of the greatest joys of raising a puppy for Canine Companions is having the opportunity to witness the growth and development of a dog with an important destiny. At 8 weeks old, puppy Miller was just a little pup in a big world, trying to figure out how everything works. Now, almost a year later, he’s filled a lot away in his library of experiences.
Basic obedience is the bread and butter of any future assistance dog’s puppyhood. Miller always starts by learning his commands in a comfortable and familiar environment. He is slowly introduced to commands by following a treat placed in front of his nose while being lured into completing the command.
Once he demonstrates that he understands what is being asked of him, he hits the road with his new skills. Miller has mastered the basics (sit, down, loose leash walking, etc.) and is taking it to the next level. At first, he practiced in less distracting environments, such as the driveway or a familiar convenience store. Now he practices these commands without physical cues in new places with higher levels of distraction. Miller can easily go under a subway seat, put his two front paws up onto a counter, and shake the hand of anyone wanting to meet him.
Not only is Miller being asked to perform commands with greater distraction, but he’s also being asked to maintain a position (or command) for longer periods of time. Miller attended the Broadway show, “Waitress,” where he rested quietly under the seat after being asked to do an “under.” He stayed there until intermission. When asked to “sit,” Miller should hold that position until he is given another command. This can be a big task for a small pup, but with a little praise, and quite a few kibble treats, Miller quickly learned to hold his commands until directed otherwise. This makes posing for a picture on the Brooklyn Bridge, with a couple canine friends, in a big crowd of people, no big deal.
Even at home there are many opportunities to practice his commands. Practicing “down,” “bed” or “kennel” while we’re cooking or eating dinner are all valuable commands that will come in handy when Miller goes on to work with someone with a disability.
While Miller still has a lot to learn, he’s working hard to ensure that he’s ready for whatever the future may hold.
You can help give a puppy the foundation to become an assistance dog too! Click here to learn more about becoming a puppy raiser.