Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Coco Passes AKC Good Citizen Training Test

Here are a few pictures of Coco passing her AKC Good Citizen Test. Going through the training process and being in the Morris Service Dog Program has been an amazing experience. This is Coco and me with Coco on a down stay and a sit stay.

Coco walking through a crowd and being non-reactive.
And this is Coco being non-reactive when a strange dog approaches. The other dog looked a little nervous but she was as cool and calm as could be.

Coco being groomed by a stranger and giving little kisses too.

This is a picture of Coco waiting patiently, for three minutes while I am in another room. You should have seen her come to me when I called her. She had remained at her stay until I called her and then she ran to me from about 30-40 feet away with such focus and strength and joy. It was an absolutely breathtaking moment.

A year ago I wondered how we were going to get to the point where Coco would be able to stay focused in a room with dogs and people and commotion of all kinds going on in the background. But she did it. We both did. That has been the surprising part of this whole experience. Because of my disabilities and being more symptomatic the more that is going on around me, having Coco to focus in on during our training process has really helped me with my challenges and also has really helped me as her trainer/handler. I don't have to take in everything and get overwhelmed anymore, trying desperately to stay focused enough to get to a chair or to find a door. I just keep my eyes on her and whatever new training challenge or situation we face, we face it together and we adjust together.

This is Coco and me graduating!! A huge thankyou goes out to our trainer and amazingly unassuming and wise teacher Sarah Rothberger!!!

Before I made the commitment to train Coco I knew the basic training approaches for teaching a dog how to sit, lay down and stay. I knew how to create a trusting and respectful relationship with all of my dingbat animals. Whether I was training one of my akitas or other dogs or my llamas or donkeys(back when we had our farm in Michigan), the one thing all of our creatures great and small had in common was that they were all kind. They all had their own distinctive personalities and they were all playful and didn't hurt one another. That is important to understand when training an akita or any dog. Whether you are training your companion to have good manners or you are in a service dog training program: Knowing how to demonstrate and nurture respect and honor and to observe them and listen to them communicate through their eyes and their actions, is crucial to establishing the balance that is found in any good partnership. In fact, many of those principles my first akita Angel, taught me.

All that being said, the communication and trust that has developed through this program between Coco and me has been incredibly enriching.

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