It's been a hectic couple of months at work, so unfortunately I haven't had much time to get on my blog. However, I managed to pop to my uncle Richard's house yesterday, so I thought it would be the perfect time to combine my October/November updates on Quip (just in time for December)!
As you can see, Quip is getting so big now, I think it's safe to say he's not going to be an ordinary Guide Dog! Everyone thinks he's not just a cross between a labrador and a golden retriever, and you can see why. His personality is still shining through and Richard told me that the supervisor who monitors Quip's performance thinks he's still coming on leaps and bounds.
I know he probably shouldn't be sitting on me, but this is one of my favourite photos of me and Quip - he looks huge! This was taken in October when he was just over eight months. At this stage it's all about reinforcement working, and Quip seems to have really got the hang of 'stay'. Richard will tell Quip to stay and keep walking away and Quip is as good as gold and will stay where he is until Richard gives him the command to come. If Quip is also running towards him, Richard will call out wait and Quip will stop in his tracks and wait until he's allowed to continue making his way to Richard. It amazes me how well trained he is at such a young age - although by the look of him, you would think Quip was five or six years old!
Richard also took him to the High Street to get him used to lots of people and Quip didn't bat an eyelid at them - or the pigeons. He's still getting used to looking at escaltors, but Richard won't tackle this with him, this will be looked at during the next stage of training when Quip is trained by someone else. Hopefully, the months won't go by too quickly and we'll get to spend some more time with him before he goes.
Look at the smile on his face!
Here's Quip when I visited him yesterday during November. He's now nine months old and the pressure's on to keep his performance on track. He's still quite lively, so this time when we visited we had to ignore Quip and not stroke him until he calmed down. It's very important that Quip doesn't jump up or get too out of hand when meeting new people or when people are visiting as he's so big that he could easily knock someone over. He settled down really well after we ignored him, and we made sure to give him a bit of a fuss when we were able to.
When we saw Quip in October, Richard said that they were having a few problems with Quip going on the train. This happened just after Richard came back from holiday, and so the supervisor told him to leave it a month and then they'd try him again with a slightly older Guide dog for moral support. I was so pleased when Richard said they'd now managed to go on the train a coouple of times and Quip had no worries about this. They tried just walking Quip on and off the train a few times before the train started up and also took him to a different station - Quip went straight on! Once they got to the next stop, they got off, walked over the bridge to the other side of the platform and then got back on the train going in the opposite direction. It's a great step in the right direction and Quip loves wearing his Guide Dogs training coat.
Richard told me that when stands next to a blind or partially sighted person, he should always be on their left. As a result, when they go to their nearest town and go up stairs, Richard takes him up the left hand side of the stairs so that he is against the wall on his left side. This gets Quip used to walking this way and prevents any accidents should someone come down the stairs and Richard was walking up on the right hand side with Quip in the middle of the stairs. There's certainly a lot to remember!
While I was there, Richard also gave me a run through of some commands that he has to reinforce with Quip all the time. I was lucky enough to be able to try a few, and was privileged when Quip sat, laid down, sat up, stood up, stayed and then came when I called him. It's important that Quip is willing to follow commands from pretty much anyone, and not just stick to the one person. Otherwise, how would he fare when he went on to the next trainer and possible new owner?
Hopefully for my December post, I'll manage to get a picture of Quip getting into the festive spirit!