Thoughts on Dog Leashes


Earlier this week I was discussing dog leashes with a friend. When we had a pet dog we always used a basic nylon leash or a retractable. After raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind for several years I’ve become spoiled by good leather leashes. I still love retractables and we use simple nylon leashes around the house but for anything else there is nothing like a good leather leash. When we got Apex we received this cool leash with two clips and an extra ring so the leash can be long or short. If you’ve never tried one of these I highly recommend them. A fellow puppy raiser has started making them, so if you are interested go to her website. The type we use with the puppies is the versatile dog leash.


Pupdate – Zodiac

Zodiac has always been attracted to sounds and somewhere along the way he learned that the doorbell usually meant something interesting was about to happen. When Zodiac hears the ding-dong, he gets all excited, barks a couple of times and runs to the door.  I then ask him to step back from the door and wait calmly for me to answer it. With maturing he has made progress and the last few days he has done much better than average. Hopefully he is out growing this behavior.

Zodiac is still in phase 1 this week. I can’t help but be a little disappointed. There are three reason I can think of why he is still in phase 1:

  • he is have trouble with something in the training
  • he is sick
  • his trainer didn’t update his status

Next week’s report will probably give us some clues. There were two other dogs who stayed in phase 1, which might help the theory that the trainer didn’t update their status. I’d love Zodiac to be a guide dog but even more than that I want him to have a happy life. If being a guide dog will make him happy, I all for that. If he wouldn’t be happy being a guide dog, I’d like him to find another career.


Pupdate – Zodiac

Once in a while Zodiac uses his paws like a zax and punches you. The most memorable time was when my friend Lisa, and I along with Zodiac and a career change dog name Osaka, where driving through the night to a Guide Dog for the Blind graduation. We were both too tired to drive, so the four of us slept in the car. At some point Zodiac punched out with one of his paws and caught Lisa in the eye. Boy did that ever hurt. I’m pretty sure her eye got scratched but it healed up fine. Of course Zodiac wasn’t trying to hurt her, she just got in the way of a powerful paw stretch.

Zodiac is still in phase 0! Half the dogs in phase 0 last week moved on to phase 1, too bad Zodiac wasn’t one of them. A new batch of dogs will be arriving on campus next week. If Zodiac doesn’t make it to a string this coming week than he must be having trouble of some kind. I’ll be waiting anxiously for Thursday and the next phase report.

Pupdate – Banta & Casey

Mark, Banta and a friend at the Bolder 10K


This week marks two years since Banta and Mark graduated from the San Rafael campus of Guide Dogs for the Blind. Here is what Mark had to say about their anniversary:

“It has been a very quick two years.  Each day for the last two weeks I have been thinking about what we did in training that day two years ago.  It is all good memories.  I have really enjoyed Banta and she has taught me a lot about patience.  I can not imagine a more perfect puppy at this time in my life, I love her to death.”


We got a wonderful email for Carrie and Casey this week. Carrie has finished law school and is now studying for the bar. She already has a job lined up for when she passes the bar. Here is what Carrie had to say about the past year:

“Casey is such a joy, I love her to pieces and she has saved me on quite a few occasions (stopping when I didn’t see a car pulling out of a driveway, disobeying my forward command when I didn’t see stairs, etc.). She has such a bounce in her step and playful spirit. Everyone who meets her, loves her. Her coat shimmers, and everyone comments on how she still looks like such a puppy. I have so much gratitude for her and cherish every moment with her. She has her head on my feet right now, as we prepare for another long week. I gave her today off and free ran her at a local schoolyard, then let her have a long sniff.”

Here are some photos from their recent vacation:

Pupdate – Zodiac’s Recall

studio shot of Zodiac ( black lab) - 3 months old - close up of his head and shoulders with just a little bit of pink tongue sticking out

Zodiac at 3 months

I’m working on my post about step one of the DOABLE approach but it probably won’t get done until tomorrow. But I have some late breaking news about Zodiac our puppy in training for Guide Dogs for the Blind. I just got a call that Guide Dogs wants him to return for his harness training on the next puppy truck. So on the 19th of May early in the morning we will be putting our fun-loving boy on the truck. A couple of weeks ago he wasn’t going back until June. But par for the course in puppy raising things change and now he is on the truck. They usually don’t take neutered males until 15 months old and Zodiac turns 14 months on Friday. So he will be on the young side.

There are lots of things to do before he goes back. I’ve got an extra report to write and I’d love to finish his book so I can send a pdf along with him. Plus we like to throw a farewell party for our pups before they leave to give family, friends and neighbors a chance to say good-bye. I’m trying not to feel panicked about this because I know everything will be fine but my stomach isn’t sure it agrees.

Zodiac’s Book – getting started

Title page for Zodiac's Book

Title Page for Zodiac’s Book

As our time with Zodiac comes to a close, I’ve been wanted to get started on his puppyhood book. I have a template so many of the design decisions are already made. Beside speeding up the process of completing each book the template gives a continuity to the series. Today I picked a font (Hobo Std) and two accent colors (blueish green and yellow). The colors might get changed as the book comes together but they are a good start. I also picked out 19 “Z” words to describe Zodiac. Finding “Z” words was a challenge but I did it.

  • zaftig – full-bodied; well-proportioned
  • zany – comically wild or eccentric
  • zap – strike suddenly and forcefully
  • zax – a hatchetlike tool for roofing slate
  • zealous – ardently active, devoted, diligent
  • zeek out – (slang) to lose control of oneself
  • zenith – highest point or state, culmination
  • zephyr – thing of fine, light quality
  • zero hour – a decisive or critical time
  • zesty – energetic; active
  • Zeus – supreme deity of the ancient Greeks
  • zigzag – a course with sharp turns
  • zillion – an extremely large number
  • zingy – full of zing; lively; zesty; exciting
  • Zion – where the pure in heart dwell
  • zippy – full of energy; lively; peppy
  • zoic – relating to or having animal life
  • zonked – exhausted or asleep
  • zoom – to move quickly or suddenly

The next steps are to work on the text for each word and find and/or take more photos to help illustrate all the “Z” words. Zenith will be used to talk about Zodiac’s partnership, hopefully as a guide dog, so that one will have to wait. Also zero hour will be about putting him on the puppy truck so I can’t do that one either. But I hope to have the rest of the pages done by the time he returns to Guide Dogs for the Blind. Then I can put it on to a cd and it will be given to his handler while they are in training. It is lots of fun for them to learn about how their dog was growing up in the raisers home.

Zodiac will probably be in the truck in 8 to 10 weeks. With 19 words to do I better get at least two spreads done each week. So that is my goal. I’ll post them here on pupdate day to help me be accountable for that goal. Since I’ve already do so much this week, I work to getting one spread done for Friday.

Do you have a project with an upcoming deadline that you are working on? I’d love to hear about it.


Zodiac & Dune

Dune and Zodiac are both so cute. Well maybe Zodiac is more on the handsome side these days. He is a year old now and no longer looks like a puppy. They really enjoy each other’s company. It is amazing how many times the two of them will be laying down near each other and Dune looks like an exact copy of Zodiac, except she is smaller and yellow (of course).

We found out at puppy class this week that Zodiac is scheduled to go back to Guide Dogs for the Blind on the next puppy truck. That truck is expected to come on May 18th. I’ve had it in my head that he would be returning sometime in June but it isn’t looking that way. I figured out how to put a count down widget here on my blog so I can count down to his departure. I was so proud of him on Sunday. I got up to teach a lesson at church and left him by my chair. I forgot about him because I was so focused on teaching. But he was very good, even with a little toddler distraction right by him.

Dune has had some challenges this past week or so. Our snow all melted and she didn’t like not having snow to pee on. She had 4 accidents in one day! It had been about 3 weeks or more since she had a single accident let alone 4 in one day. She is doing better now but we are having to pay a lot more attention to her relieving. Since she was very young she would let us know when she needed an extra potty break by sitting by the door. Dune isn’t doing that much any more.

Dune is making some progress on her kennel stress. While she still isn’t quiet while we are gone she isn’t stressing out so much about it. Before she would get so stressed that not only her jaw was wet with drool, but the whole front, down to her legs would be soaked. Now even her jaw is dry. She also got the last of her puppy shots this week, so now she can go on walks and to parks and places like that.

We also got an email for Banta and Mark this week. It is always so exciting when I see that I’ve received an email from one of our puppies. Here is some of what Mark had to say:

Banta is doing very well.  For the most part she is working perfectly.  She has her stubborn moments.  We finally had a big snow a week ago.  Banta likes about 6 inches of snow.  We got about 10 inches and she seemed annoyed that all of her favorite places to play had too much snow.  Eventually she got in there and played like a crazy little girl.  She is so much fun, I love her to death.

All in all it has been a good week on the puppy raising front.

Yakira and Waffle News


Yakira – photo by Karen Fuller

I got the official news today. Yakira will be returning to Guide Dogs for the Blind in just 12 days for breeder evaluations. It has been a bit of a roller coaster. First she is going in October, then no I think we will wait until November. But now it is real. I thought that the date was the 14th but we have an extra day. This is good because we like to do a farewell party for our puppies and Sunday is the easiest day to do that. She has to be to the truck very early in the morning so if her recall was the 14th we would have to do her farewell party this Sunday. I’m glad to have an extra week to get ready and to spread the word about her party.

Waffle – May 2012

Now for the really good news! Waffle was placed on August 31st with a middle-aged woman with special needs. She shares her home with two other mature women. Waffle goes nearly everywhere with her new partner, including on plane flights. The two of them are continuing their training with private session with a GDB employee. The adopter is VERY happy with Waffle. It is standard procedure to wait about a month to make sure that everyone is happy with the placement before the let the raiser know. I’m so happy that our little girl has her forever home and that she gets to be a service dog! Way to go Waffle!


Waffle Update


Waffle as a young pup in a basket (from Lisa Thompson’s photoshoot)

Yesterday we got a bit of news on Waffle. Her official “Dog Drop Notice” came. Here is what it said:

DOG: 50B7 – Waffle F\LAB\Yellow – PRP\REL  DOB:2/27/2011

RELEASED DATE: 7/24/2012

PLACEMENT: Pull for K9 Buddy evaluation.

SUMMARY: Waffle is a sensitive dog with a history of confidence issues.  She has shown sensitivity to heights with some improvement seen with use of the food protocol.  Her general demeanor on outings is subdued and although she has made progress in some areas, she continues to lack the confidence needed to enter formal guide training.

Waffle displays very good house manners and is a wonderful pet. She is snuggly and enjoys people of all ages.  She may have potential as a K9 Buddy or other Community Placement.

RELEASE REASON(S): 21301 – BEH: Fearful Behavior Environment  Generalized
LOCATION (if applicable):

I had no idea they were considering her for the K9 Buddy program. I’m so excited. This program places dogs with blind kids who are too young to have a guide dog. The kids get a chance to learn about taking care of and handling a dog so they are better prepared when it comes time to get a guide dog. Here are a couple of videos on K9 Buddies.

Nearly Blind Boy Gets Furry Friend




Guide Dogs for the Blind Jargon

A few months ago there was a really fun blog post about the jargon that goes along with puppy raising and training guide dogs. It was originally posted here on No Bones About It: The only official blog of Guide Dogs for the Blind but I thought it might be helpful for those who are following the progress of my puppies but are not directly involved with GDB. I hope you enjoy this.

Jargon, Jargon!

By Steve Grunow
Dog Placement Coordinator

Like many organizations, Guide Dogs for the Blind has a culture and jargon of its own, especially when talking about the dogs. Out in the kennel complex the eyebrows of the uninitiated might be raised when overhearing bits of conversations like the ones that follow. The “Guide Dog Speak” words and phrases (in bold font) are defined at the end of the sample conversations.

Veterinarian: “This Lab, Buddy, has (1) hips to die for, but his (2) ears are really ugly. I’m hoping for a (3) good bite when I open his mouth. Today is his birthday; hopefully we’ll have time to (4) shoot him later.

Instructor: “Gee, I don’t know about that new dog. When he gets (5) jacked up he can be pretty (6) rampy. He acts like he thinks he’s here (7) on a date. On top of that he is a (8) CF5, and he can be kind of (9) sharky in (10) CR.

Kennel Staff person: “I can’t come to that meeting right now. I’m right in the middle of a (11) whelp”.

Instructor: “Watson had an (12) experienced raiser who should have known how to feed him right, but Watson had to be kept on on (13) sawdust and peanut shells for a while after he was (14) recalled.”

Instructor: “Zeus is (15) a lotta dog. He’s (16) loaded on the clicker but he still (17) plays keepaway. He’s (18) high end and a little (19) mouthy. He has a problem with the (20) layover. He seems (21) to have his own agenda. And he isn’t very (22) responsible. He’s (23) from the outside. Those other (24) N dogs on his (25) string are like that, too. Some independence seems to be (26) in that pedigree. He does some (27) keying on (28) workouts. Maybe we’ll put him on the (29) food protocol for attentiveness. “

Instructor, in response: “That’s too bad; I (30) dropped him this morning before eye exams and he was an angel about it. I think that he’s scheduled to be (31) cut next week and maybe he’ll have a better (32) work ethic a while after that. “

Instructor: “Flora is a pretty (33) honest but I don’t know how (34) sound she is.”

Kennel Staff person: “Trapper is (35) in the dryer on low. He’ll be done in about half an hour.”

Instructor: “Daisy’s stools today were just (36) beautiful today! We still have to get rid of her (37) happy tail before we can do much with her, though. And Daisy is still a (38) garbage mouth – and her (39) roommate drives me crazy when he keeps (40) finger painting in their run.

Instructor, in response: “I know what you mean. And Daisy has also been (41) tanking a lot lately, too.”

Breeding tech: “Harvey is still (42) intact. We’ll need a couple of (43) straws because we’re going to (44) collect him a couple of times this week if we can. Harvey (45) loves his job but he doesn’t seem to do well when he’s been (46) frozen.”

Instructor: “Mikey is such a (47) smooshy marshmallow! Any unusual thing happens and he immediately becomes (48) wet mouth.

Instructor: “Darn! Spike is finally (49) bombproof and now we have (50) to pass him back!

Instructor: “Tulip keeps going to (51) hot spots and she’s so active that last week we had to (52) musher’s wax her.

One puppy raiser to another: “I (53) started that puppy. But somebody else will have to (54) finish him off. He still does lot of (55) counter surfing. He can also be a little (56) doggy. He’ll be my first (57) transfer puppy.

Instructor: “When Fred first began training, he had a really bad (58) recall. So we did a lot of (59) FIR’s with him and now he’s almost a (60) Velcro dog.

Instructor to apprentice: “Some challenging dogs do a lot better in a (61) GL.”

1. Has hip X rays showing that the head of the femur fits firmly into the socket in the pelvis, indicating that there is almost no chance that the dog would have hip dysplasia

2. Dirty, infected, needing treatment (common in many floppy-eared dogs)

3. Teeth straight and regular with the top incisors just overlapping the bottom incisors (as opposed to an overbite, an underbite, or a wry – crooked – bite in which the teeth are not positioned properly)

4. Give the dog injections/ vaccinations

5. Excited/ aroused

6. Rowdy/ impulsive

7. To be bred

8. The most challenging “type” of dog to handle and control on  a “control factor” scale (of 1 to 5) which assesses a dog’s activity level, physical toughness, distractibility level, and assertiveness, in order to later help select an appropriate handler to match with that dog

9. Plays roughly, “dominantly,”  often nipping at the neck area of other dogs

10. Community run (periods of time when groups of dogs run together for exercise and for their interactions with other dogs to be evaluated)

11. A mother dog’s act of giving birth (“whelp” can also refer to a puppy, or “to whelp” means for a dog to give birth)

12. A puppy raising volunteer who has raised at least one previous puppy for Guide Dogs

13. Diet/weight loss dog food

14. In this context, returned from its puppy raiser home to one of the Guide Dogs campuses to begin formal guide training, usually after having spent about a year in the  puppy raising home

15. Big, strong, active, assertive

16. Has received treats paired with hearing clicks from a hand-held training clicker enough times that the dog has learned that the click indicates that a treat is forthcoming/ the dog has learned that a click from the instructor indicates that the dog is performing the appropriate behavior

17. In the context here meaning that the dog doesn’t come when he’s called; instead, runs and tries to get people to chase (undesirable behavior in a working Guide Dog)

18. Very active, assertive, often inattentive, challenging to restrain or control

19. Puts mouth (not biting down) on people or on other dogs, sometimes in play, sometimes in excitement or greeting, sometimes in protest of what that the person is doing or directing the dog to do (not desirable in a Guide Dog)

20. Having the dog lie down and gently rolling the dog over onto its side, for example to check the dog’s abdomen

21. To be independent, inattentive, friendly but not very eager to please

22. Capable of continuing to following commands/working without needing moment-to-moment observation/supervision by its handler; seeming to enjoy doing its job

23. Purchased or donated – not from Guide Dogs’ own breeding stock dogs

24. Each litter of puppies is assigned a letter of the alphabet and all the pups in that litter are given names that start with that letter (so dogs which have names starting with the same letter and which are at Guide Dogs at the same time, are often litter siblings)

25. Group of dogs assigned to an instructor/team

26. Pedigree = family tree; so meaning a trait(s) that are evident in other dogs of the same lineage, so those characteristics are often  assumed to be highly influenced by the dog’s genetics

27. Staring tensely at something or someone in the environment with which the dog is apparently uncomfortable (undesirable in a Guide Dog)

28. Training sessions

29. A structured plan for rewarding a dog with food treats when the dog is paying attention to the handler

30. Put eye drops into the dog’s eyes

31. Spayed or neutered

32. Be more attentive, less distractible, more focused on work

33. An eager-to-please dog that tries hard to do as directed (if the dog makes mistakes it is usually due to the dog’s not understanding what is expected, or being afraid or unable to follow directions – as opposed to being overtly ”disobedient”)

34.  Confident, outgoing, unlikely to panic in new situations

35. In a crate in the bathing room with a blow dryer aimed at the dog in the crate to dry the dog after a bath

36. Normal, solid, well formed, usually said of a dog which had previously been having  diarrhea

37. When a dog’s tail gets sore from the dog wagging its hard against the bars or the walls of a kennel run

38. Serious scavenger, loves to “vacuum” the floor or the ground for food or other items which are interesting to chew (not desirable in a working Guide Dog)

39. When two dogs are paired in a kennel together

40. Stepping in feces then tracking it around the dog’s kennel run

41. Drinking a lot of water (can be related to boredom, stress, or a potential medical problem)

42. Unspayed or unneutered, an animal capable of breeding

43. Containers in which semen can be stored to do artificial inseminations

44. To get semen from a male dog, often to be frozen to be used for later artificial inseminations

45. Breeds easily and readily and without much human assistance (surprisingly to some people, some dogs do not seem much interested in breeding)

46. When previously frozen sperm from this dog is thawed and used for artificial insemination, the conception rate is often low

47. A temperamentally “soft” dog, sweet, easy to handle, affectionate, loves being touched

48. Drools, often as a result of stress (not desirable in a working Guide Dog)

49. Outgoing, confident, able to handle any situation that might come up (very desirable in a Guide Dog)

50. A new Guide Dog is fully trained, but there currently isn’t a suitable student in class that seems like a good match for that dog, so the dog needs to remain in the kennel until the next class begins

51.  Skin sores that can begin with a small irritation and then get steadily worse if the dog chews or scratched at the sites

52. Put a product designed for sled dogs on the bottoms of the dog’s feet to keep the feet from being irritated by running on concrete

53. The raiser who began to raise that puppy immediately after it came from Guide Dogs, usually at about 8 weeks old

54. To keep, train, and socialize a puppy until it is old enough to be returned to Guide Dogs to begin formal guidework training (usually at about 15 months of age)

55. Putting front feet on counters to see what is available, and maybe to steal off the counter if the opportunity  presents itself – common in dogs (not desirable in a Guide Dog)

56. Extremely interested in other dogs, sometimes in a way that involves attempts to bully,  dominate or threaten the other dogs

57. A puppy which goes from one volunteer puppy raiser’s home to another raiser’s home until it is old enough to begin its formal training at Guide Dogs; sometimes transfers are pre-planned; sometimes dependent on circumstances

58. In this context, the act of a dog coming to its handler when the dog is called

59. Food induced recalls (rewarding the dog with a bit of food when the dog comes when called)

60. A dog that voluntarily often sticks close to its handler – often a needy, less secure, more demanding type of dog

61. A Gentle Leader (like a halter on a horse, used often to make dogs easier to manage and walk)