Rocco's 17 Things at 17 Months (What He's Learned at College)
1. Clicker and Food Reward Training (phase 1): Rocco has been introduced to clicker training. Clicker training uses operant conditioning. The clicker when reinforced with food is a wonderful training tool. (Note: unless otherwise instructed no puppy raiser for GDB should introduce their puppy to a clicker. This is to insure that the puppy has a "clean slate" when going in for training.)
2. Obedient Responses (phase 1): Rocco has also been taught about collar responses. This means that he should respond to even slight tension on the collar.
3. Focus around Distractions (phase 1): This is part of the Obedient Responses. What this means that the dog should respond to pressure on the collar when around distractions.
4. Formal Obedience (phases 1&2): As a puppy Rocco learned "sit," "down," "come," and "stay." Now he has been taught to "sit" and "down" and "stay" in precise positions next to his handler. He's also expanding on the puppy raisers' "come" protocol to learn his new verbal command of "heel." Distractions are used during obedience training along with higher value food rewards if needed. In phase 2 the verbal command "over here" is introduced. This taught Rocco how to move behind his handler from the left to right side so that the team may safely pass through a door that opens on the left.
5. Food Refusal Protocol (phase 1): Rocco has learned how to take food politely from his handler as a reward and when to reject food given from anyone but his handler. He has also been taught to ignore food on the ground or on easy to reach tables.
6. Van Rides and Crate Training (phase 1): Rocco has learned to jump in and out of the GDB vans used to take the dogs into the city for training. Before actually jumping into an actual van a "mock" crate is set up to correctly teach them how to get in and out.
7. Body Handling (phase 1): Rocco has been taught how to accept all forms of body handling in proper ways. He's not suppose to run or jump into people as this could cause problems with his visually impaired partner later on.
8. Intro to the Harness (phase 1): Rocco was introduced to a harness back in phase one. Initially, he stood around and walked without pulling in the harness. And he would wear it in relaxed settings so that he would come to accept it calmly.
9: Treadmill Training (phase 1): Rocco's been on a treadmill! The treadmill is used to teach the dog how to pull in harness and how to maintain lead. Verbal commands are introduced while the dog is on the treadmill while the dog learns to pull with a straight body position. Also, a comfortable gait is accurately identified for each dog. Dog will have at least two treadmill sessions before starting "Pattern Training". (Note: Raisers (at least with GDB protocol) should never take their puppy on a treadmill or on an escalator.)
*The next few are all lumped under what GDB calls "Pattern Training". This is a way to introduce guidework to the dog in a calm and very positive manner. At this point (phase 1) the instructor corrects the young dog so that they complete the exercise with no mistakes. The dog will learn to make his or her own decisions in later training. In phase 2 the dog is given more freedom to make decisions and mistakes. Though, at this point, the handler still correct for major mistakes to decrease the possibility of the dog getting into a habit. Also at this point, advanced environments such as heavily crowded and loud areas are avoided. *
10: Stopping at Streets (phases 1): Rocco has learned to stop at streets regardless of whether it's a wheelchair ramp or a curb.
11: Clearing for the Handler (phase 1): Rocco has learned to clear for his handler on the left, right, and above the dog's head.
12. Crossing Streets (phase 1): Rocco has learned to cross streets in a straight line that will efficiently and quickly get him and his handler to the "up curb" on the other side.
13. Maintaining Pace (phase 1): Rocco is learning to maintain a consistent, comfortable pace with the verbal cue "forward".
14. Verbal Command "Hopp-Up" (phase 1): Rocco learned how to correctly respond in different situation to the verbal command "hopp-up" whether it's resuming or increasing pace, moving closer to a stopping point, or refocusing.
15. 90 Degree Turns (phase 1): Rocco learned how to lead his handler in a 90 degree turn to the left or right and pick up a new line of travel.
16. Curb training (phases 1&2): At first Rocco learned to target curbs via clicker training. Then in phase 2 he was taught the verbal cue "curb" as a command to move up on the curb as efficiently as possible.
17. Agility Training and Obstacle Course (phases 1&2): Rocco was introduced to an agility course to increase confidence and develop coordination for stair and escalator work. This agility training continues in phase 2. He also is being taught to back up efficiently. In phase one he was introduced to an on campus obstacle course. His handler taught him to move past the obstacle safely. In phase 2 there were more obstacle and the pace was increased.
Bonus! Planned Distraction Route and Responsible Lead Session (phase 2): Rocco was set up in a planned distraction route so that his handler could see what decisions he would make around certain distractions. He also took part in his Responsible Lead Session. This is where his guidework training would be reinforced. As in the planned distraction route this included set-ups to see what choices the dog would make.