Friday, Padawan and I were first to go out at White Plains. She was happy to get her energy out first thing rather than wait an hour or more before hand.
For the preliminary few days, a trainer usually works beside the team on the left with their own leash attached to the collar of the dog. This gives the dog a confidence boost and keeps the trainer close so that they can easily communicate with the handler. Our support leash came off halfway through our morning route
There was an immediate difference in the way it felt to work together. It was a little bit freer and required more trust that Padawan would guide me safely. She did some excellent podestrian avoiding in a couple of street crossings, including an entire family with grandparents, children, and squeaky cart. There was also a small dog disraction. A dog passed behind us. Padawan looked, but quickly turned her attention back to me, and I got to reward her for her calm demeanor and attentiveness. Immediately after that was the right turn… we have had a bit of trouble with this right turn every time. There are multiple other obstacles in the way, so that we cannot turn directly to the right. Padawan first has to curl a bit around me to get us around something to our left, and then avoid something on the right in order to continue on our way. It took a little bit of finagling for both of us, but we figured it out.
A lot of what I am working on during our routes is learning to understand her movements in the harness. Oleta was a gentle glider. She was very calm and moved in a way that reflected that. Padawan is more aggressive. She’s a city traffic driver, not a country Sunday driver. Her pul is very firm, and her movements are decisive. At our best pace, following her feels easy and clearly defined. At our fastest, I feel like I am trying to keep up with a tiny mack truck (as my trainer referred to her once) plowing around curves down a mountainside. The Mountainside Mack Truck pace is fine when we are out for a joy run on a track or something with no obstacles to avoid and no curbs to find, but on a busy city sidewalk it’s less desirable as it makes accurate obstacle avoidance a bit more challenging, if not impossible. That means we are utilizing the “steady” command to slow her down at some points and refocus her attention when she gets a tad too excited, especially in areas with a lot of pedestrians. I may have used “steady” a grand total of one time with Oleta, so it’s kind of new to me, but I think we are both getting the hang of it.
In the afternoon route, we encountered a 2 year-old, and thankfully didn’t knock him over, although I think it was close. Children are difficult obstacles in some cases because they are unpredictable, so we did a bit of a dance with the child and the mother before we could go on our way. We also had a small distraction with some men loading things into a van. Padawan was briefly curious about who they were and what they were doing, but got right back on task with a leash cue.
Other than that, our routes were fairly uneventful, and we returned to GEB for our lecture and some time to rest. Saturday, we have the same route again in White Plains in the morning, followed by individualized mystery work in the afternoon. Can’t wait to discover what the mystery might be.