Ruby has now left the Cozze-Youngs to begin training
“Friday was Ruby’s last day with us, and she is now acclimatising in the kennels at Dogs for the Disabled’s Training Centre. She is sharing a kennel with Usher, a Chocolate Labrador, and will be spending the first few days settling in before her training begins.
Ruby is the second puppy that I have socialised for the Charity, and the last week always seems to fly by in the knowledge that the last day of the week brings to an end a twelve to fourteen month relationship.
Of course, any feelings of sadness at returning Ruby to the Training Centre are easily outweighed by the happiness in knowing that she is capable of building on her basic skills and mastering all the new ones she will be taught by her primary trainer, Clare Mehmet (pictured welcoming Ruby back to the Centre), over the coming months.
I have met a number of Dogs for the Disabled’s Clients, who have been helped by their trained assistance dogs to lead fuller and more independent lives, and it is incredibly rewarding to know the positive difference each puppy goes on to make. From performing practical tasks such as opening doors, helping a person undress or picking up hard to reach or dropped items such as keys, the post or a mobile phone. The dogs can even be trained to empty the washing machine.
Ruby has definitely shown the aptitude to learn these tasks, and also has the character to form a strong partnership. She loves to work, loves to play, and definitely enjoys praise, cuddles and affection.
I have really enjoyed socialising Ruby, and hope that you have enjoyed reading about her growth from a seven-week-old puppy to confident young dog. During that time she has taken many different experiences in her stride, and I would want to take this opportunity to thank Claire Lush, our Dogs for the Disabled Puppy Co-ordinator, for her support and advice throughout Ruby’s stay with us.
Thank you for your regular kind messages sent to Ruby, including the most recent wishing her a swift recovery from her operation. Despite setting off on a couple of mad dashes through the house, Ruby’s stitches have healed well and she will be building back up to longer walks in the not too distant future.
Lastly, to answer the question, “Was Friday very sad”? Of course. There were a few tears (including my husband’s), and there’s a definite Ruby-sized void in the house as I write this, but we know we will see her again at some stage and are absolutely thrilled to be able to help the Charity’s work to produce trained assistance dogs. I would recommend getting involved in any way you can. It is inspiring work and you can definitely help produce the next gem.”
Editor's note: They say as one door closes another opens and we’re delighted to bring you the news that although Ruby’s socialising has come to an end, her blog hasn’t. Over the next few months we’ll continue to follow Ruby through ‘school’ as she starts her training at Dogs for the Disabled’s national training centre in Banbury.
Ruby will soon be moving on to her next stage of training
“Ruby’s stay with us has been extended by a week, as her confirmed date to start the next stage of her training has now been moved to June 11.
During the week, Ruby and I accompanied our Dogs for the Disabled puppy co-ordinator, Claire Lush, to a presentation she had been invited to give at a Careers Day at Moulton College in Northamptonshire.
Claire talked to the roomful of students for around 30 minutes, about the Charity’s work and a career working with dogs. For her part, Ruby was very calm and quickly settled into her ‘down’ position, before stretching out on her side to doze, and, finally, rolling onto her back into a deep sleep with all four paws in the air!
It’s fair to say that the students paid far closer attention to the presentation than Ruby did! But she did wake up for the question and answer session at the end, just as I was explaining about the rewarding role of a socialiser.
I mentioned that Ruby’s intake date had changed. One of the reasons for the change was that the Charity decided to book her in to be spayed, so that she could spend a week recovering with us before being admitted to the Training Centre.
So, on Friday, I took Ruby to the Charity’s vet and collected her later in the day. Of course Ruby was not allowed to eat after 6pm the night before, and, as any Labrador owner would fully understand, Ruby did not seem to appreciate missing her breakfast!
However, she was fine at the vet, slept well in the evening and overnight back at home, and is gradually recovering from the effects of the operation.
So, Ruby’s final week with us will be limited to time in the garden (separated from our other two dogs so they do not start a game of chase) and, if all goes well, a short walk on lead before Friday arrives.”
“Ruby has a confirmed date to start the next stage of her training – all being well, she will return to the Charity’s Training Centre on 4 June.
Intake days are usually Fridays, so that each dog can meet their Dogs for the Disabled Trainer, have an initial physical check, and then settle into their new surroundings over the weekend. The phased training programme will then start on the following Monday.
So, for Ruby, her last few weeks with us are very much the end of the beginning of her life as an assistance dog, where basic training techniques have been combined with socialising and exposure to as many experiences as possible.
This week, I visited the town centre with Ruby. It was quieter than usual, so I took the chance to walk slowly around one of the department stores, frequently stopping to look at different racks of clothes. The stop-start nature of shopping means that a dog in training needs to be very patient and calm, and Ruby performed this task admirably.
I also took her into a changing room with me to see how she would react while I tried a few clothes on. I was delighted that she quickly settled, sitting down by the mirror and acting as if this was part of her everyday routine!
As well as a few social visits and one trip to Tesco, Ruby also had the chance to be in the garden with my husband, Tim, while he was cutting the grass. It was only after a few minutes that I realised Ruby had invented a new game featuring her favourite blue rubber chew.
Each time Tim stopped to empty the cut grass from the mower, Ruby waited by him, holding the ring in her mouth. Tim would take it from her, roll it across the lawn, and she would head off to retrieve it. Then, when he’d started mowing again, she would walk a pace or two behind him with the ring, patiently waiting for the next cut grass stop!
Fifteen minutes later, the lawn was cut and Ruby was ready for a drink and a lie-down in the shade – closely followed by my husband (though he was not carrying the rubber chew)!”
Editor's note: Do you have training questions? Hop on to our Forum and ask other H&C users.
“Ruby is now back at home with us after her successful acclimatisation week in the Dogs for the Disabled’s kennels.
She quickly settled in at the Charity’s Training Centre, sharing a kennel with Veto, a Cocker Spaniel of similar age. Each day Ruby was either taken for a visit to town or the out-of-town supermarket. I was also pleased to hear that she was taken on a visit to a potential new socialiser’s home, and remained calm throughout.
The team of kennels staff reported that Ruby appeared to enjoy the experience, and reacted positively to the new surroundings, particularly the busy nature of the kennels with clients, dogs and staff coming and going all day.
Having said that, Ruby certainly looked pleased to see me when I picked her up – although, on arriving home, that greeting was nothing compared to the one she gave my two dogs. The three of them ran round and round the garden together for ten minutes, only stopping so they could sniff her from nose to tail, before setting off on another circuit or two!
In the last couple of days I have been to town with Ruby, where she calmly walked past a huge, noisy tarmac-laying machine and was only momentarily unsettled by the sight of a mannequin in one of the department stores we walked through. I’m not sure if it was the model’s position or choice of clothes, but Ruby gave a most unexpected bark, sniffed its shoes, then decided all was well after all and settled back by my side.
Just to ensure there was no recurring problem, I walked around the store for a few extra minutes, but Ruby ignored all the mannequins we passed and showed no signs of adverse reaction.
Last night I took Ruby to a service in our village Church, where she settled down alongside the pew and barely moved through the 30 minutes of hymns and a short sermon. As always, she was more than happy to pose for a photograph at the end!”
“Ruby’s busy week began on a train and finished in the Charity’s kennels – here is a brief summary of these events and the bits in-between.
At the start of the week, Ruby and I accompanied my husband to the train station, including a walk down onto the platform to wait for the train to arrive. Ruby was completely at ease amongst all the commuters, and remained calm when the train arrived. Her ears pricked up at the sound of the shrill whistle as the doors closed shut, but she it did not unsettle her at all, which was excellent.
The next day, I took Ruby to town for a walk through the shopping centre, into a few shops and to the bank. I was really delighted with how well Ruby responded to me as we walked around. She ignored all distractions and did not try to scavenge when she passed food items from the market stalls that were discarded on the pavements.
A couple of days later, we all went to watch a rugby 7’s competition at a nearby club. Having walked around the outside of the pitch from a distance to enable Ruby to experience the levels of activity and noise, we then settled down on a picnic rug in the shade and watched a couple of matches. At first, Ruby was definitely interested in the hustle and bustle of the games and was keen to get closer when the oval ball came bouncing by. But, within ten minutes or so, she was content to stretch out and fall asleep – a case of the experience being more important than the result!
And yesterday, at the end of a busy week which also included plenty of walks and play, Ruby went to stay at the Dogs for the Disabled’s kennels. She will be there for a week, to familiarise her with the environment, and to enable the training and kennels teams to ensure that she will settle in these new surroundings. She is accompanied by Veto, a Cocker Spaniel of similar age, and my next blog will give you an insight into the activities that take place through this week of familiarisation and ensure she is right on track.
To finish, I wanted to thank you for all the comments from Ruby’s last blog entry. Now that Ruby has celebrated her first birthday, some of you were asking if this means that Ruby would soon be commencing her training. Sadly for us, Ruby’s start date is not far off, but we do have her for a few more weeks yet. Dogs for the Disabled aim to take each of their pups in for training at around 14 months old. Experience has shown the Charity that these extra couple of months give their dogs a little extra time to mature which ultimately means that they find learning their role as an assistance dog easier to adapt to from puppy socialisation.”
“Ruby is one year old today – it is amazing how fast the time has gone!
From being a delicate little fluffy black puppy, not certain whether to be brave and investigate or just quickly hide, she has developed into a strong, lean dog, full of confidence and keen to seek new experiences.
She spent the morning on a walk in the fields with our two other dogs, and returned to open the present and card that my Mother insisted on buying for her “adopted Grand-dog”. As always, Ruby liked the pull-toy present, but loved the wrapping paper most of all!!
As I write this, she is intrigued by the melting ice that keeps falling out of the freezer that I am defrosting, batting the blocks of ice across the kitchen floor with her paws in an imaginary game of ice hockey!
Last week I took Ruby to the local train station with our Puppy Co-ordinator, Claire Lush, to check if she was at ease in that busy and often noisy environment.
Ruby was an absolute star, quickly settling down on the platform as we talked with one of the many commuters about Dogs for Disabled’s work, and confidently stepping on and off a couple of trains which pulled up to the platform.
In fact, the only undesirable behaviour we experienced that morning was that of a driver who pulled straight out in front of Claire’s van, causing her to make an emergency stop! We were both shaken, and were concerned that the unplanned halt may have unnerved Ruby a little, so we both instinctively looked around into the cage in the back of the van.
Far from being unnerved, Ruby was actually curled up, fast asleep, completely oblivious to the drama we had just experienced! We had to laugh!!
Two days later, Claire took Ruby out again, this time without me, as she was visiting a potential new socialiser and wanted to take along a puppy that is currently being socialised.
Apparently the visit went very well, and Ruby behaved impeccably, heeding all Claire’s commands and quickly settling down quietly on the kitchen floor.
Ruby has come along way in her first 12 months. I wonder what the next 12 will bring?”
“As supporters of Dogs for the Disabled, we were delighted to see the Crufts Friends For Life 2010 competition won by eight year old Sam Daly and his assistance dog Josie.
The pair have been together since Spring 2009 when Sam attended a two week training course with his mum at Dogs for the Disabled’s national training centre in Banbury, and was matched with Josie to give Sam the independence he is losing as a result of having a life-limiting disability.
This recognition highlighted the charity’s work to a wider audience, and, hearing Sam and his mum describe the huge impact the 2 year-old yellow Labrador has made to their lives, it emphasised the role that volunteer socialisers can make to help each puppy successfully follow in Josie’s footsteps.
As for Ruby, I am pleased to say that her season has now finished, and she is fully back into socialising and training exercises. She is quick to learn when in training mode, and equally keen to burn off excess energy when in play mode (today’s picture captures her having just retrieved her Frisbee toy!).
I always appreciate the comments that are regularly posted on the Horse & Country TV web site, and, related to Ruby’s season, wanted to reassure readers that every precaution is taken when exercising her.
By taking short walks in a fenced and secured field (with the land-owners permission) away from the village and with no public access, I always ensure that Ruby is not exposed to risk, walking her on lead from the car to and from that area.
Looking into the future, as well as arranging a visit with our Puppy Co-ordinator, Claire Lush, I am also awaiting confirmation of when Ruby will be brought in to the charity’s kennels for a week of familiarisation.
Each dog in Training is based at the on-site kennels unless they do not settle there easily, in which case they ‘lodge’ with one of the charity’s staff. This initial experience will help Ruby acclimatise, and is part of the puppy programme to complete prior to Ruby entering the next stage of training.
The timing reminds me that Ruby will only be with us for a few more months, and then she will be taking her next steps to being a fully trained assistance dog like Josie.”
“I have been able to take Ruby on a few training walks now that her paw is healed, and have been working on down-stays and recall from a distance.
From the start, I have trained Ruby to respond to whistle and voice to ensure that she is familiar with either method that a future client may be able to use. Overall her recall is instant and excellent, even when she is running about with my own two dogs. Ditto with her down-stay, where she stays focused despite potential distractions around her (including one of our dogs walking up and sniffing her).
It was after returning from one of these training walks that I noticed a couple of small spots of blood on the kitchen floor. Of course, given her recent paw injury, the first concern was that Ruby had had another brush with a Blackthorn, but a quick inspection soon confirmed what I had suspected – Ruby’s first season had started!
My own two dogs have both been castrated, so, although they are showing more interest in Ruby, they are not a risk to her. But I have to take care to ensure she does not mix with any dogs that are still entire.
This means that, for the next three weeks, I will restrict Ruby’s walks and activities to a couple of fields outside the village where there will be no risk of Ruby meeting any other dogs. I will keep working on the recalls and stay commands, as well as enable her to free run in a safe environment with my own dogs.”
“I am very happy to report that Ruby is on the mend, gradually resuming her training and extending the length of walk she can undertake. But not without a minor set-back soon after the previous blog was posted.
I was very hopeful that Ruby would be back to her usual healthy self a week ago, but she continued to limp and, with the agreement of Dogs for the Disabled, we took Ruby to the vets for a scan to fully check her paw.
The concern was that there may have been some blackthorn left in her paw, or that there may have been slight bone damage. However, I was relieved to hear that the result was clear, and that a short course of antibiotics was all she needed to address some soft tissue damage and act against potential infection.
For the first evening home, Ruby slept and slept, only rising to eat some food and have a few drinks of water. But the following day she was fully bright and alert, and within three days she was back to being her usual energetic self!
Four days after Ruby’s trip to the Vets, I had an arranged visit from Claire Lush, our Dogs for the Disabled Puppy Co-ordinator. Usually, we would take Ruby to town for training, but, given Ruby’s recent injuries, Claire just wanted to check on her recovery.
Claire also used the opportunity to see how well Ruby settled after greeting a visitor. An important part of the puppy’s training and development which Ruby handled well – although our own two dogs were less keen to let Claire sit in peace!
For the last two days, Ruby has been on training walks on lead around the village, and I will gradually build up the distance over the next week. I am also working on the “Go to bed” command with her, and the next stage is for her to go to her basket on the verbal cue - at the moment she will get into her basked when rewarded with a treat, but is not yet familiar with the verbal cue.
So, with training resumed, Ruby is definitely on the mend, ending today’s walk just in time to enjoy the brief flurry of snow - back to her usual playful puppy self!”
“Firstly, thank you to all the readers of Ruby’s blog for so many kind words wishing her a swift and full recovery. Your support for Ruby and for Dogs for the Disabled is very much appreciated.
So how has Ruby been? Well, the answer to that question is very much a good news and bad news story.
Starting with the good news: the rest that Ruby received had enabled a vast improvement in her hind right leg. My husband had gradually started to exercise her on the lead, and she did not appear to be in any discomfort when walking. So we will keep an eye out for any signs of a recurrence, but, hopefully, the muscle has healed.
Unfortunately, there is a new injury to report: on returning from one of her gentle walks last week, Ruby started to hold her front left paw in the air, unwilling to put any weight on it.
As part of the puppy training programme, I have taught Ruby to stand, sit and lie down, and have also ensured that she allows anyone to check her mouth/teeth, ears, eyes and paws on command. This is especially important at the vets as well as for the client who will be handling her in the future, and meant that, in this case, I could quickly command her to lie down so that I could take a close look at her leg and paw.
On closer inspection, I discovered a quarter inch thorn from a blackthorn plant embedded in her paw, in between two of her pads. I was able to pull it out, but recognised there was a risk of infection, so my husband took Ruby in to see the vet again and came away with a course of anti-inflammatory tablets and some antibiotics.
For the first couple of days, Ruby was not able to put full weight on her foot, but in the last two days she has been improving and is now stepping on it okay but still with a slight limp.
Obviously this has meant that exercise has been restricted to the confines of the garden again, but I am hoping we can start to gradually build up her activities once she has completed the course of medication and has the all clear.
So, I am hopeful that by the next blog I will be able to confirm that she is back to her usual healthy self, supported by your kind words and messages!”