A productive lockdown for puppies-in-training
Whilst many of us cannot wait for the COVID-19 level 4 lockdown to be over, for others, the time at home has been very productive.
Assistance Dogs New Zealand Trust puppies, living in homes throughout the Bay of Plenty, have been spending the past four weeks working on their home behaviours and getting ready for life as a service-dog.
“Lockdown has been a great time for our puppies to practice general obedience with their puppy raisers: things like sit, wait and down," says Robyn Marek, ADNZT Puppy Development Supervisor.
"Playing ‘hide & seek’ for recall is always fun and a great way to get the kids involved. Some have also had fun playing dress up, an activity we encourage to get the dogs used to the sorts of things they might have to do as an Assistance Dog.
“The role of a volunteer puppy raiser is to build the foundation for a future Assistance Dog by teaching the pup to be responsive to them, and by teaching the dog good home manners and basic commands. These rules and boundaries need to be consistent, learning through positive reinforcement."
Jojo, one of 14 puppies in the ADNZT development programme, playing dress-up with her puppy raiser family. Photo credit @ADNZboarder.
These puppies will one day grow up to perform tasks for New Zealander’s living with a disability, giving them greater life experiences and independence.
Once they graduate from their training, they will have government-granted public access rights and become internationally accredited Assistance Dogs.
But for now, they are living with volunteer puppy raiser families and learning basic behaviours and commands.
Puppy-in-training Hui with a member of his puppy raiser family Amy. Photo credit: Craig Redmond.
Puppy raisers have also spent their time in lockdown working on good home behaviours like ignoring food, practising proper house training, and correcting bad habits like chewing, digging and jumping up on family members.
There are, however, some activities they cannot do while in level 4 lockdown, including socialising in malls, supermarkets and at events.
Socialising and providing positive experiences for the puppies is one of the most important things a puppy raiser family provides.
With a slow introduction to new environments, the dogs learn to be relaxed and confident with good behaviours, no matter the environment they are in.
While level 4 restrictions are still in place, Puppy Development outings have stopped and checkups are taking place virtually.
Level 3 will allow our puppies to begin accompanying their families to the supermarkets and other public spaces again, but they are to be treated as part of the puppy raiser’s bubble and must not come into contact with the public.
Proud puppy-in-training Waitomo. Photo credit:Heartstrings Photography.