February 23, 2011
My, Ruby is looking pretty buff, dontcha think? Actually, the "weight" she's holding is really just a light plastic tool used to train her to hold things in her mouth and carry them around.
It's important for a service dog to be accustomed to the mouthfeel of different objects and materials. I'd introduced this concept to Roo as a puppy by letting her experience the sensation of things like keys, remote controls, utensils, a plastic cup, phones, etc. Now in advanced training, she's learning to take lots of items and hold on to them. It's a valuable skill many service dogs need when partnered with individuals with mobility-related disabilities.
And you never know what they might need to retrieve! I remember one night while Roo was living with us, I accidentally dropped half a lemon in the kitchen. Both dogs responded to "Leave It," but they were intrigued, so the whole thing turned into a practice session. First, I let Kiva pick it up. She spit it right out, then picked it up again very gingerly with just the tippy tips of her teeth, then spit it out again and made a PTOOEY! face. (Yep, dogs can, and it is hilarious!) Then I let Roo have the lemon, and she just held it like a ball — no problem with the taste — in fact, she seemed to like it!
As always, so many thanks to S for the photos.