Southeastern Guide Dogs

Southeastern Guide Dogs give visually-impaired an opportunity at independence and freedom

It was a beautiful sunny morning and I, naturally, gravitated toward the beautiful black lab.  Later on when we were in the park, his handler said to me, “he’s a service dog, I’m visually impaired”.  At that very moment, my interest in this beauty shifted to admiration.  Robbie’s life had completely changed when she was diagnosed with Usher’s Syndrome.  A disease which in her case, causes her to gradually lose her vision and hearing.  She wasn’t sure she wanted a service dog.  She had dogs throughout her life, but at this point in the game, she wasn’t sure she could handle the long term commitment and responsibility…then she met Spike and everything changed.  “Bonding was instant”, says Robbie “trust was a bit harder”.  Nonetheless, she knew to go with the flow of whatever led her to Southeastern Guide Dogs, a school based out of Palmetto, Florida that trains and provides the visually impaired with guide dogs.  “I couldn’t believe it when I received the call notifying me that I had been selected, they provided the guide dog, equipment, single-room lodging, all meals, outings, instruction for 26 days and post-graduation support completely free of cost”.   If that’s not impressive enough, Southeastern Guide Dogs is a non-profit organization fully supported by private donations.  Most of the staff at the school are volunteers that truly believe in the cause.

Match made in heaven
Match-making is a detailed, thoughtful process that begins with a representative actually conducting a home visit.  They look at the area where the person lives taking into account whether it’s a rural or urban location.  Lifestyle of the person is also a consideration, so that an active or sedentary person may be placed with the appropriate dog.  Additionally, trainers assess the person’s pace, pull and pressure in order to match them up with a dog that will be fitting.  According to Jennifer Bement, Public Relations Specialist at Southeastern Guide Dogs, trainers make perfect match-ups about 85% of the times on the first attempt, with only 10-15% of the times where a change in dog is required.

One of the things I was most impressed with is that Southeastern Guide Dogs not only has this amazing program of placing dogs with visually impaired people, but also they have programs for Veterans and children.  The Canine Connections program is specifically designed for visually impaired children ages 10-17 and the Paws for Patriots Program places guide dogs with blinded soldiers.  Some dogs are even trained to show empathy to help mitigate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and some will hug veterans on command when they are having a flashback or an anxiety attack.  I was so touched when I heard about this and about Robbie and Spike’s story that I had to get in touch with Southeastern Guide Dogs and spread the word about all the wonderful things they are doing to help those in need.  Please look them up at www.guidedogs.org and if you are so inclined, make a donation to benefit their cause.  Also stay tuned for fundraising events here in our local area and hats off to these wonderful dogs that make such a difference in our lives.

Rocco’s Pack Out ‘n’ About: Waterways Dog Park, Aventura

For this week’s weekly review Rocco’s Pack is at the Waterways Dog Park. Beautifully maintained by the city of Aventura, this dog park definitely gets two “paws up” from Rocco’s Pack. There’s a lovely walking path around the perimeter of the park, so you can go there and actually get some exercise too. There’s tons of shaded areas, benches and picnic tables with the center of the park being under a big canopy. There’s two water stations for the pooches and a hose, so if the doggies get too hot, you can hose them off. The people are friendly and attentive to their dogs. The best thing about this park, unlike other nearby dog parks is that the city does a great job with maintenance. So there’s no muddy areas and it’s regularly re-sodded whenever it’s needed. Also various times during the day you’ll find park staff around willing to help or answer any questions you may have. Kudos to the city of Aventura!!
Love,
Rocco!

A VID (very important dog) and frequent visitor of the Aventura Park

 

National Train Your Dog Month: Part II Reasonable Training with Nadine Litterman

So as you may know, Rocco’s loose-leash walking video received some recognition from APDT earlier this year for National Train Your Dog Month.  Although I was very flattered, I wanted to share the credit with a very special dog person, canine interpreter, rescue advocate and all around good person, who helped turn Rocco into a Canine Good Citizen.  Specializing in socializing shy and rescue dogs, trainer, AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator and owner of Rollover Rover Dog Training, Nadine Litterman.  “A lot of the dogs that come here are rescue dogs, that’s why they need to be socialized.  They’ve never known anything outside a cage”, says Nadine.  When asked to share a little bit about her theory for dog training, the word reasonable was key.  Not only are Nadine’s prices reasonable, but also “training needs to be tailored so that it’s reasonable for the dog, and the expectations of the owner must also be reasonable”.  Hmm, reasonable, makes sense…but what does that really mean?  She explained that there are important factors such as age, temperament, breed, upbringing and background that should always be taken into account before creating expectations.  Ah, I thought, just like people, some of us excel at some things and others at other things.  How unreasonable would it be if our parents expected and demanded that we all be marathon runners or Olympic swimmers, without taking into account our strengths, weaknesses, upbringing, knowledge, etc?  “Too often owners place unreasonable expectations on their dogs when they really should be focusing on ensuring their dogs are 100% social by showing good behavior toward people and other dogs”.  Another very important part of Nadine’s philosophy is walking your dog.  People need to walk their dog, even if the dog weighs .25 ounces, okay, I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea. “You can’t keep your dog inside all the time and expect it to be good when it goes out and you can’t expect your dog to be well-behaved when you haven’t given it enough experiences for it to know what’s appropriate”.  This all makes so much sense, but then again that’s why Nadine’s a canine interpreter, it takes people like her to speak on behalf of our dogs for us to listen.  Here are some other tips from Nadine:

  • Don’t handicap your dog.  Let your dog figure things out for him/herself.  It’ll make him/her confident.
  • Dogs bark to communicate and they only do so when they have something important to say, or when they want you to do something.  Listen to them.  Yelling only makes them think that you’re barking with them.  And yelling their name can sometimes cause them to block their name out; which is a bad thing if you want him to come when called.
  • Be careful not to project human feelings onto your dog.
  • Having a backyard can be a double-edge sword.  While it’s nice for your dog to have the space to run around, it won’t give your dog the necessary exposure.  It’s still important for your dog to get his daily walks and have experiences outside your home and backyard.

Cool, huh?  Want to learn more?  Stop by Rollover Rovers at 1933 NE 164th Street in North Miami Beach or call her at 954-531-8421.  Nadine conducts private and group lessons and free small dog socialization on Wednesdays at 10:00 AM and 5:30 PM.  She’s also an activist against animal cruelty and an avid dog rescuer, always looking for foster homes.  So if you have some extra love for a doggie who’s had none, she wants you!

She's an evaluator
Nadine can train and then test your dog for AKC’s Canine Good Citizen

Winners of 2011 National Train Your Dog Month Contest

Winner of APDT's 2011 National Train Your Dog Month

So, I’ve stalled long enough on this one and it’s about time I put this important bit of information out on the information super highway.  I’ve decided that pack members around the globe should not go on one more day without knowing that WE WON A CONTEST!  Yes, that’s right, we won!  We were selected!  Me and Rocco and our video.  Filmed on the beautiful streets of the fine Eastern Shores neighborhood using only the highest quality equipment (my blackberry) and produced and directed by the distinguished filmaker and biggest supporter of Rocco’s Pack (my mother).  It was the morning of January 31st about and hour before her departure that I remembered that it was the last day of National Train Your Dog month.  “Yikes”, I thought, “the contest, I need to submit my photos, my videos!”.  So we skipped all the lessons on using a smartphone and jumped right into the very advanced crash course on making videos with a blackberry…and boy she passed that with flying colors because not only did she get it, but we did one take and best of all WE WON!  Just a few short weeks after downloading, converting and uploading my video which was quite a tasking endeavor for someone who’s never done anything with videos, I received an email from the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) letting me know that our video demonstrating loose leash walking had been selected.  Yay!  Shortly thereafter I received my Amazon gift card followed by what was supposed to be a basket of premier products.  In reality it turned out to be a huge box full of goodies from special food bowls to fancy training clickers and intricate dog toys designed to mentally stimulate the doggies…you know what that means, fun toys for all pack members!  And if that wasn’t enough, the wonderful people at APDT also sent me a NewTrix halter, which I absolutely adore and highly recommend as an alternative to harsh prong collars and choke chains, which not only hurt your dog, but also can cause permanent damage, people please…for the love of your pooch!

So without further adieu, I’d like to publicly thank the wonderful folks at APDT for their second annual “National Train Your Dog Month” campaign http://www.trainyourdogmonth.com/media/20101229/default.aspx

designed to bring awareness to the importance of socialization and training.  And on a personal note, I’d like to just say to everyone that has a dog and enjoys spending time with him/her that training is so much fun.  In addition to giving your dog a job, which will make him a confident and thriving member of your pack, it’ll increase the bond between the two of you and it is truly rewarding to see just how eager he/she is to please you, his benevolent leader.

Take a look at our video where I get to show off a little bit of the work that I, with the help of the awesome trainer, Nadine Litterman have done in training Rocco to not drag me down the street and walk on a loose leash.  Best part:  ALL of it was done using positive reinforcent which equates to treats, lots of praise and lots of love, oh and a dash of patience too.

http://www.trainyourdogmonth.com/winners/default.aspx

http://www.trainyourdogmonth.com/

Rocco’s Pack @ Humane Society’s Walk for the Animals

The “pack” went out to the Humane Society’s Annual Walk for the Animals event.  There was tons of great vendors, the music was great and it was a beautiful morning to be out and about with your four legged friend.  Check out the photos and videos.

The pack goes for a walk

Proud Member of the Pet Chamber

Rocco's Core Pack
Rocco, Remo and Kole
Charity Sign
Animal Charity
Number 1 Supporter of the Pack
Number 1 Supporter of the Pack2011 Humane Society Walk for the Animals

Where Dog Training is Done Using the Brain, Not Pain 786-309-5109