Monday, December 28, 2015

.....and we are back

Hey everyone, I am so sorry that I have not blogged in a few months. We have been very busy with Ara's doctors appointments, her starting school and we had a huge surprise in our lives, I am currently 17wks pregnant.

Training Luke has been going very well and we have had a lot of great opportunities in the last few months. It has also been a bit sporadic due to our hectic schedules right now, that is why owner training can be so hard sometimes. We have had several set backs, retraining, reproofing things because of lack of time to train. Thankfully we are figuring it out and making it work :)

Ara is doing very well in half day school, we are hoping she will be able to do full time in a few months. Luke goes to drop off and pick up with me and is exposed to lots of busy noise, voices, door banging ect. He still hates to see Ara walk away from him and him not be able to go. The school is very willing to have Luke at special occasions now and with Ara once he is fully trained and ready.

Over Halloween we got to meet many people in costumes and do some night time training in crowds. He did so great, no costumes bothered him, he even got to say hi to a warewolf man and other scary costumed people.

In November we had many doctor appointments but not many other outings. Luke was out from work for a few weeks, thankfully it was just a cut on his paw and nothing too bad.

December we got to see Santa and Luke was so excited to see him. I am so thankful for the Santa in Billings who made it such a great experience for Ara and Luke, it is so important that dogs in training have those great experiences as they do have lasting effects. We got to ride in a Christmas cart parade and meet many new people. We are also working hard on team work and Luke working for Ara and taking directions/ques from her. Ara is working on giving commands and when to use them.

That's all for now hopefully will be able to update more regularly. Remember to follow us on Facebook and Instagram @servicedogforara

Friday, October 2, 2015

So good to have space to train again

I did not realize how little space we had to train with at our old place. At our new home we have a very big grassy area perfect for Rally O and our other training and we have another space that we are working on for when the weather is bad (will talk about this more after the project is finished). There are also more training opportunities in our new community.

We have been working on team work with out me being right next to them. Luke knows my commands over rule Ara's but he also needs to be able to listen to her and see her as a leader. Our whole goal is for one day them to be an independent team. The both need to be confident and trust in each other so that is why we are working on this.

I know some people think it may be odd that we practice dog sports. Most dog sports take a great deal of focus, obedience and build confidence not to mention burn off extra puppy energy.
"Rally is a sport in which the dog and handler complete a course that has been designed by the rally judge. The judge tells the handler to begin, and the dog and handler proceed at their own pace through a course of designated stations (10 - 20, depending on the level). Each of these stations has a sign providing instructions regarding the next skill that is to be performed. Scoring is not as rigorous as traditional obedience." - AKC Site

If you think about the skills required it goes hand in hand with a lot of the training done for service dogs.

It is just so nice to have a big yard and places to do more training. We have been slacking off for a while now and really need to buckle back down and get to work.  Did you know Luke has over 400 hours logged of training and public access work.

This month is Luke's Birthday he will be turning two years old on Oct. 26th. I can not believe how fast the time has flown. He is a special boy and has made a huge difference in Ara's life. To celebrate I will be making some homemade dog goodies for him. Also if anyone is interested I also have an amazon wish list set up everything on the list will help with Luke's training and care :) 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

We have Moved

We made the very hard decision to move last month. We hated to leave Montana (and I miss it terribly) but we are now in Florida and settling in.  Luke did awesome on the long three day trip and he is getting use to the new environment aka lots of rain and a new 

The good news is that we have a very nice grassy yard to do more training in. We will also have many more training opportunities here in Florida as well. Here is what we have done so far.

3 Day trip - wow what a looooong trip. Luke did great in the car. He also had his first ever hotel stays and did very well. He softly woofed a couple of times when someone ran down the hall or he heard another dog barking, but overall he did wonderful. 

Florida Museum of Natural History - We went to the museum with some family and it was super crowded. Luke did great and assisted Ara through out the day, Ara on the other hand struggled with the large crowd and excitement. 

Chili's - We went out to lunch after the museum. As we came in Ara had to use the potty so we headed that way, then were seated. The water brought Luke some water which was so nice. Luke did an awesome under and slept through lunch. As we got in the car my mom asked "did you see the other service dog" I said no, she proceeded to tell me that it was a German shepherd and as soon as the other dog saw Luke it started whining and pulling on its leash. She said she was so proud of Luke for ignoring the other dog and being focused on Ara and guiding her. Made me very proud too.

Walmart/ Publix - there is always a walmart :) and oh how I have missed Publix.  We worked on something a bit new for public. We worked on the "hold" command. We have worked with this at home and on walks but never in a store. Luke did great and did not budge until I gave the release word.  I have to say he is amazing at generalizing commands from situation to situation.

If the rain ever stops this week we may start up doing rally o again. We are also working on Ara giving commands and walking with Luke as the leader. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Going to the Zoo

Last weekend we went to the zoo. It was a great outing with friends and we even got to work on some of the public access test items, I have no worries that Luke will pass with flying colors. The test is not required by law but I think it is a nice test to video tape as proof of behavior and training in public situations.

Luke always draws a lot of attention from the Tigers and Wolves. The bears dont seem to care one way or the Here are some pics from the day.

The other outing we had this weekend was going to walmart. Funny story - I needed to grab a few goodies for our upcoming trip and Daddy took the girls and Luke to the sporting goods area. After about 15min or so I see Luke and Ara heading my way, with Ara holding the leash and Daddy and Molly a little ways behind them. Luke lead Ara right to me and stopped. I always hold the leash as we are still working on Ara being in charge and Luke's pace when she is. Apparently Daddy did not realize this and Ara wanted to be in  They both did very good with Luke guiding her at her pace and listening to her.  I guess it is a good testament to all the training we have been doing.
A bit later Ara started to get paranoid and anxious while we were in the check out line so Luke did an awesome passive block the whole time. So very proud of these two.

We also had OT. Luke even dressed He did a great sitting block as well.

As I announced on our facebook page A Service Dog For Ara we are moving to Florida in the next few weeks. We are just not getting the medical care and services that Ara needs here in Montana. We believe we will get better care and services in Florida plus we have a big support system there with lots of family. We will miss Montana greatly and all our good friends here. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

All the Places We Go and Luke the Teenager

So it has been over a month since my last blog entry. Things have been really busy and unfortunately Ara's health has become worse which has caused some slacking in Luke's training. This is the hard part about owner training, whether for yourself or a child. When health issues arise or life gets busy/complex it can effect your dogs training. Usually it just causes delays in training but depending on the situation it can cause negative effects and take longer to get back on track, such as being lax on obedience and allowing bad habits to form.  With Luke we are behind in where we were a few months ago and yes he has picked up a few not so great habits at home. However we are working on them adding more structure into our training.

Luke has also hit a teenage stage of doggy life and yes it is just like teenage Again adding a bit more structure into training but also having a lot of fun with training such as doing rally practice and just running around playing fetch.

Here is were we have been this last month and some of the training we have done. (Note: I am not listing everything in the post as it would just be to long since it has been a month since our last post)

Training - Dog Shoes - It is very hot now and to protect Luke from the hot asphalt he will wear dog shoes. (Thank you Grammy for the shoes) We started out just putting them on then taking them off then gradually increased the amount of time he wore them. It only took a few days for him to get use to them. Last winter we used mushers secret for the snow and ice melt, this year we will probably use the shoes once the winter snow starts to fly.

Walmart - (yes I know we go there a lot we dont have many grocery stores here) - Working on guide tasks, find out, car and dad, vocal commands (are near perfect), "say Hi", distractions (such as dogs in carts ect), and working when Ara is having a hard time.  With Ara's health getting worse it has made shopping very hard. Luke is having to learn to work even when Ara is not totally engaged with him or when her body is making odd movements (movement disorder).

4th of July - Luke really showed he knows his stuff and can focus during the 4th of July events we attended. There were tons of people, lots of pet dogs, loud noises and people dressed up. He did great guiding Ara through the events, even when we had two dogs rush us and get up in his business ( I really dislike those flexi leashes). None of the loud noises from the fire trucks, fire works or air horns bothered him. He did all vocal commands, blocking, and even alerted to Ara's overload/anxiety. We were watching the parade and Ara was doing so good. Luke was sitting behind us while Ara and sister were in front of the curb to get candy and see the parade. Luke broke his stay and went to heel position on Ara and did a nose touch. This was the second time I had seen him do this when we have been out some where so I just waited to see what happened. With in just a minute or two Ara says "I need to get out of here. go home" since Luke was already there she was able to grab his vest and we were able to leave quickly.

BBQ Fest - This was an extremely bad day for Ara. Here body was just fighting her at every step. Luke did great with all the people and the distraction of lot of food smells. He also did good with vocal commands for guiding her in the crowd such as over right, over left, stop, come around ect and blocking both front and back. He also ignored all the other dogs that were there.

Appointments - Luke is doing really good with applying DPT in public and it has been a huge help for Ara. We also worked on guiding tasks, paw touch, down stay, under,  and "say Hi" . Luke did have some teenage moments during a few of our appointments but nothing too bad.

Zoo trip - Our little zoo is very accommodating and we love having a family pass to visit. Luke did the best ever this last trip. He totally ignored the Tiger following us in her exhibit, the wolves playing and all the other animals. He walked next to the stroller perfectly and would check on Ara frequently. He also helped her with being on a raised platform and blocking

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Big Adventures this week

We had some big adventures this week. I have found my rally gear and will be doing some at home rally practice starting this new week. As always this week we worked on obedience and even a few new tasks and had some really neat outings.

Luke is very reliable with finding exits, finding the car and finding dad in a store, paw touch and. He is really good at following vocal directional commands (right, left, stop ect), obstacle avoidance (still working on terrain/elevation changes), stairs , under, around (giving Ara space), block, DPT and Distress response. We are still working on behavior interruption, retrieving dropped items, and tactile stimulation (in different situations).

The two new things we are working on is turning on/off lights and closing the door. Ara does not like going into dark rooms and is sometimes afraid of the door being opened at night, so we are teaching Luke to help in this area. He will go into a room and turn on the light, once she is in bed he will then turn off the light and close the door.

Now on to our adventures:

Geocaching - Thanks to another service dog team Musa the Marvelous we have discovered geochaching and are hooked :) We did three searches this weekend and are 2/3 which is not bad for just getting started. We have found a micro tube and a small container. Here are some pictures from the two finds. It is a great way to get out and enjoy your local area. Ara was in charge of Luke the whole hike. We were even passed by several bicyclist, in which Luke ignored them.

Here are some videos from the first find of Ara and Luke working together.

Our second big adventure was going to Jurassic Quest. It is a display of over 50 life size dinosaurs and many of them move and it is very loud. Luke handled everything like a pro nothing phased him and he was able to guide Ara through the exhibits and even over to a quieter area to help with a mild panic attack. Here are some pictures and even a video of our fun.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Videos of Ara in Charge

Here are some videos of Luke and Ara working together with Ara being in charge.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Great Strides for Luke and Ara

Sorry it has been so long but that is how things sometimes work when owner training and raising a family.

We have been back to training and doing public access all of which Ara is "in charge". Ara is wanting more and more to be a trainer and will even put on my treat bag and get his leash out. Ara is also being more vocal about Luke when out in public, she is wanting to tell people about him and even invites kids to pet him and will tell him "say hi luke". It is super cute.

We have had some great outings over the last month (or including the zoo, the park, stores, camping, and lots of playing outdoors.

Lately when we go into a place and it is not too busy I have been letting Ara be "in charge". She loops the leash around her (like I do) and gives Luke commands. I am walking right next to them and will give Luke vocal commands as needed, I can also quickly get to the leash if needed. We are working on Luke not always following me as well. So I will tell him "Stay with Ara" (with daddy next to them) I will then walk down the isle and return back to them. I also tell him "follow or Go With Ara" and having her give him treats after the command so he focuses more on her.

The zoo is always a fun trip. We have not been in a while so I was not sure how Luke would do. The zoo can be a huge challenge because it is so out of the realm of normal. Luke did really good most of the visit and not so well at two points. There are two places we dont get too close to with Luke, the Tigers and the Wolves.  The Tigers and Wolves get very active when they see Luke, Luke barked twice while we were at the Tiger exhibit but it was due to Ara getting over excited and her running next to the tiger. At the wolf exhibit we almost got clear of it before the wolves noticed Luke, they two wolves began vocalizing and play fighting and Luke was more than ready to get out of there. We were able to talk to the head of the Zoo and he was so happy to see us there and said it is such a great enrichment for the animals to see Luke and a great training opportunity for Luke.  We will be working on Luke doing a quieter alert and not barking. Usually I will asking him for a paw touch after he has barked and reward for that.

We had our first camping trip of the season last month. We went out to a trout farm that has ponds, play ground and you can either tent or rv camp or they even have basic cabins. We got one of the cabins and it was a good thing because it rained the whole time and we even had to cut our trip short due to it. We did still have a great time, Luke did really great with all the pets that were there and all the people walking by our cabin (at all hours).  Ara and Molly had a wonderful time fishing and we caught about 7 small trout. We baked the trout in the skin and it was so delicious, I was surprised that Ara liked it but she ate two whole

We have had a lot of fun playing in the yard and now that it is warm enough we are enjoying playing in the sprinklers and being outside every day.

And just like always we are always working on obedience and tasks. Hoping to do some rally training this summer as well. I promise to do my best to get back to making blog posts more regular :) I really appreciate everyone who reads our blog and facebook pages and Thank you for joining us on this amazing adventure.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Finally Back to Training

It has been a long time since I have posted. Do to a Training issue and our family has been sick Luke was off work for about a month. We are slowly starting training back up.

Luke will not be with Ara for every outing as we slowly build back up to public access and such. He is in teenage mode as well so we are slowing down and working on obedience and throwing in some fun rally.

Last week we did out door obedience training as the weather is so nice. We also did some dog distractions. Luke is getting really reliable off leash in our yard. Off leash obedience is important in case a situation ever arises that Ara or I am unable (due to a medical issue) to hold his leash. Also if Luke does Rally the advance stages are to be done off lead.

We are starting outings slow and in places he is very comfortable in. While in a store the other day I had Ara hold his leash while I put the bags of groceries in the cart (it was 15min quick trip). A man walked by with the big cleaning dry mops and Luke did a great block for Ara (with out cue) and then guided her to me (4ft away). After him being off duty so long I was so happy to see this.

The other outing was therapy, this outing did not go as well. He refused to paw push and was just tense. So I took a step back, I took off his vest and head halter and did a few trots around the small indoor court yard. Then when back to the door and asked for the push. He happily did it. When we went in I asked if it was ok if he was unvested (in MT service dogs in training are required to wear a vest and be labeled as in training). They said no problem, he did a great under and was much more relaxed during her therapy session.

So I began to think a bit more and realized it is the vest is causing him some stress or discomfort. So we will be working on that and again holding off on PA training right now.  I never want to push Luke or put him in situations he is uncomfortable with. He is just a young dog and is not yet mature, he still has a lot of growing up to do.

Fun story - Daddy was laying on the floor and stretching is back after a tough day at work the other night. Luke decided that Daddy needed DPT and then some puppy kisses lol

Friday, April 10, 2015

How our Journey Began

Last week I was invited by Autism Daily Newscast to write an article about our experience with getting a service dog for Ara. Here is the link to my google docs with texts, documents and more about our experience  

Here is some of the article:  

IMG 0679 221x300 Service Dog Horror Story   Dont let this happen to you"In 2013 after doing a little bit of research we decided that a service dog could help our young daughter Ara who is diagnosed with autism as well as other health conditions. We found an organization, Great Lakes Assistance Dogs (GLAD) in MI that seemed to be great, they even helped us come up with tasks that the dog could do for our daughter and they already had a few started dogs so the wait would not be long. We had to raise $500 to start the process and get a dog matched to our daughter’s needs. Once we sent in the $500 we signed a contract and needed to raise another $12,000 for the dog. I immediately got to work making a Facebook page, sending out emails to family and friends, setting up funding pages etc.
As we raised money communication got sparse and I began to worry, but the director would always reassure me that they were just very busy. After we raised all the money the dog had a few health issues, but again were reassured that everything was fine and if not they would match us with another dog. We were told that a trainer would bring out the dog for us to meet him and just get to know him. We tried to schedule the meeting many times but they kept changing trainers and then putting off the date.
Finally a few weeks before we were to go to Michigan to pick him up they came out, they also charged us an additional fee for this, which was not in the contract. The dog had an ear infection and I had to give him medication while he was here. I sent messages to the director about this and again was reassured it was not a big issue and it would be resolved by the time we picked him up.
Finally it was time to drive to Michigan to pick up Cooper, it was a whirlwind  of meeting in different places (never at the facility) and with very little actual training. We passed the Public Access Test (looking back parts were skipped over or half done) and they told us we could go home with him. I asked for his paper work, vet records and tags and they told me they would mail them to me, so we left with just Cooper and the last of his ear medication and no further instructions.IMG 9990 225x300 Service Dog Horror Story   Dont let this happen to you
Within two weeks of being home we were having training issues and received Cooper’s paper work in the mail. I was surprised to find out he was kicked out of another service dog organization for having a chronic health issue. When reading his records I found out Cooper was a year late on his vaccines and he was due for his ear to be rechecked before he even left Michigan. I had to immediately make a vet appointment  to have all his shots done, recheck his ear and to ask about his skin and constant itching  issues. The vet recommended allergy testing as well as topical medications.
Within the next few weeks I realized Cooper did not know any actual tasks and was so food motivated he would nip your hands.
We contacted GLAD and they did not help us, they did give us back $400 for the allergy test which came back with over 20 items he is allergic to. We reached out to our local dog training community to help us with Cooper and took him to an independent evaluator, who temperament tested and administered the canine good citizen test, which he did not pass.
During this period of time we found a few other families that had very similar experiences with this organization, one had paid $12,500 for a service dog but received an untrained dog who now is an expensive pet, another was still raising money when they realized that the dog they were matched with had some health issues, they returned the dog and were not re-matched or given the portion of money they had raised.
IMG 7990 225x300 Service Dog Horror Story   Dont let this happen to youWe also found out that the organization was not a legal nonprofit as they were advertising (they were using another companies number), and that many of the director’s claims in experience/titles were false as well.  Cooper’s training/behavioral issues and allergies all led to us retiring him from  work within just a few months of having him. Thankfully our friends offered to adopt him as they had experience with dogs that had health issues and had the funds to provide for all his extensive lifelong special needs. We were completely devastated by this experience and our daughter was heartbroken. She did not understand why her Super Cooper could not stay with us and help her.  The organization did nothing to help us and even threatened to sue us.
We have been very public about what has happened to us and other families. We don’t want another family to go through this devastating experience. The scary thing is that it happens all to often and there are several programs/organizations out there that make money scamming families with disabled children. The dogs are also victims as they get recycled to other unsuspecting families when they are returned to some of these programs."
To read the full article please visit Autism Daily Newscast page
Also here is a link to the post I wrote about red flags of programs to avoid.