Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Puppy Who Started it All

On January 27, 2008, I received my 9th Guide Dog puppy: Ross. Ross is special for many reasons, which have become even more apparent every day. Initially, Ross was deemed special because he was in the first group of puppies at Guide Dogs for the Blind to participate in the clicker training trial. Guide Dogs has been using clicker training with dogs in formal training for a while, but up until now, had not permitted puppy raisers to utilize this training method. I was eager to participate in this trial, as my many years of graduate school in psychology convinced me of the power of positive reinforcement in shaping behaviors. Ross was one of an elite few (30 in total) to participate in this trial.

I later learned that Ross was special for another reason. Ross received his name as part of the grand prize for a fundraiser raffle at the Oregon Fall Luncheon. The winner got to name a puppy and fly to San Rafael, CA to meet the puppy that was named. Ross was named by a member of the Lake Oswego Lions Club, after a prominent and well respected Lions Club member whom had recently passed away. Ross had big shoes to fill, and a lot of people eager to watch him grow and succeed as a guide.

Along the way, I also quickly realized that Ross is very special because of his personality. He is a very "soft" or sensitive dog. He is generally calm and unsure about the world. He wants to please, but is sometimes unsure how to do so, and will choose to do nothing instead. Most of all, he really worries about doing something wrong, and punishment is devastating for him. Fortunately, this made clicker training a great technique for him, as he learned through positive reinforcement, instead of punishment. 

Along with Ross' "soft" personality, he is incredibly sweet and lovable. He sometimes lacks the confidence to explore the word on his own, and he is comforted by the presence of people, primarily me (his "mommy"). Ross is often by my side, and he loves to cuddle. Ross' personality deems him special because it lends him to be better behaved than the average puppy, even the average Guide Dog puppy. Ross is calm, quiet, and unlikely to cause any trouble. Instead, he'll loyally lay by your side and give you kisses when he gets the chance.

Another special attribute about Ross is that he has been the first of my puppies to be allowed at my work. (see Introduction) Ross' behavior at my work is critical, not just in his representation of Guide Dogs, but in paving the way for future Guide Dog puppies to be permitted, and in the level of welcoming and acceptance they receive. The pressure is on!

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