Andy’s Album #5: Snapshots of an Aspiring Guide Dog

Lisa Mayers
By Lisa Mayers October 27, 2015 18:16

Friends and Neighbors Magazine is following Andy, a yellow Labrador retriever puppy, on his journey through the Guide Dogs for the Blind training program. Jean Jones, one of three leaders of Tuolumne and Calaveras counties’ Guide Dogs for the Blind volunteer network, has been raising Andy since he was 10 weeks old.  He is the 16th puppy she has raised for the nonprofit program. Check back monthly for updates on Andy’s progress. Click here to read Andy’s earlier chapters in Readers’ Journal.

Andy’s Album

Date: Oct. 26, 2015

Age: 8 months

Weight: “He’s probably about 60 pounds. He’s grown a couple inches height-wise; he’s got a lean, lanky build.”

Andy arrives at the party

Surfer dog: Andy arrives at the party

Latest adventure: “At one of our regular meetings last Thursday, we thought we’d see how the puppies do in little costumes since Halloween is coming. They had the costumes on for the beginning of the meeting, and they did well, all things considered. The challenge was keeping the costumes on because there was so much movement! Andy did really well with his sunglasses on. It just goes to show what compliant and tolerant dogs they are: If this is what I have to do to make Mom happy, it’s what I’ll do! It was cute, and it was an opportunity to put them in a little different circumstance. Then we took their costumes off and ran through obedience and socialization exercises.”

Highlight of the month: “This month we have a new member of our club who is doing a guide dog project for her senior project at Bret Harte High School. Andy stayed with her for five days, and he was well-behaved. Before we give a new member a puppy to raise, they have to do to several things: have a home inspection, attend three Guide Dog events (meetings or outings) and have one of our dogs stay with them for five days and nights.

Mighty skunk

Mighty skunk

It’s a big commitment and they have to know what they’re getting into. So Andy got to go to Bret Harte High School, and that was a new experience for him. He was a hit! And because he loves the guys at the tire shop so much, he loved being surrounded by all these young guys and young girls.”

‘In the doghouse’ moment: “Andy knows how to tell time! When I’d like to sleep in, he wakes up and says, Hey! It’s breakfast time! On the weekend the alarm didn’t go off, but he came over to the side of the bed to try to wake me up. I ignored him, so he got his food bowl and started flipping it and banging it, making noise to say, I want breakfast! Also, at work, he knows when it’s almost time to go: A couple of minutes before five, he starts moving around and stretching, doing his ‘downward dog’, and he’s ready to go.”

Andy’s progress so far: “Andy loves to chase cats, but he’s good in that I can call him off and he’ll stop. I have food outside for some of our neighbor cats that’s right by the path to the car, and of course cat food is better than dog food, and I can call him off of that. That’s a sign of maturity that’s good at 8 months old for a lab that loves food!

firefighter-puppy

Youngest firefighter

He’s also doing well with not going into the cats’ room in the house: The cats’ room has their food and litter box inside, and there’s a kid gate that’s installed a few inches above the floor so the cats can get in, but it keeps Andy out. Even if I have the gate down when I’m vacuuming or something, Andy will sit right at the doorway and look at the food that’s six inches away, but he won’t go in. He know’s he’s not allowed and I don’t have to say anything to him; it’s not his territory. I’m not putting him in the crate at night and he’s doing great about not getting into things.”

Bewitching

Bewitching

Focus on Andy’s training for the coming month: “He’s not chewing pillows any more, but I’m still working with him on chewing on my shoes. I’ve got ‘bait shoes’ out, and if he gets one I try to decide if he’ll just flash it around to try to get me to chase him or if he looks like he’s going to chew it. If he’s going to chew it, I have to work with tethering him: I put a shoe just out of reach and if he looks at the shoe and loosens the leash, he gets a treat. That reinforces him paying attention to the handler. He doesn’t get my shoes at night; he does it during the day for attention or when he’s just bored. You just have to decide why he’s doing it and decide what you’ll do: Take it from him with no acknowledgment so you don’t reinforce it, or work with tethering so he understands, I need to pay attention to Mom and I’ll get food!”

Braveheart

Braveheart

About Guide Dogs for the Blind

 Headquartered in San Rafael, Guide Dogs for the Blind is a national nonprofit that relies on a network of volunteer “puppy raisers” and trainers to prepare dogs for service to people with visual impairments.  To volunteer locally, contact Jean Jones, (209) 533-3620. “We provide tons of support to volunteers,” says Jones. “If you have an interest in dogs or just helping somebody, this is a win-win.”
 
To learn more, click here:  Guide Dogs for the Blind
Lisa Mayers
By Lisa Mayers October 27, 2015 18:16
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1 Comment

  1. Deanna October 28, 09:44

    Andy is an amazing dog, and Jean an even more amazing trainer. I’ve learned so much for her over the years. Her incredible gifts to the world of the visually impaired are beyond even her knowing.

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