Sunday, April 22, 2018

Happy Earth Day!

CHS facility dog Mustang reminds you to celebrate the natural beauty of our planet and to do your part to keep it healthy!

As the weather starts to warm, Mustang reminds you to take a walk and smell the spring flowers!

Earth is teeming with new life this spring! This new baby gets one of his famous, sloppy kisses. Mustang loves all "kids"!

Friday, April 20, 2018

CHS Welcomes A New Faculty Member....Mustang!

We had an assembly today to give Mustang an "official" welcome to CHS. We introduced him to the student body, and his student handlers helped me demonstrate some of his over 30 commands. I am so thankful for the help of these wonderful young leaders!

Mustang "relaxes" as I explain his role as a facility dog
The assembly gave us all an opportunity to recognize and thank Mustang's sponsors. We are so grateful to these individuals and organizations for providing the funding to purchase and train this amazing dog for our building. Mustang's arrival at CHS was made possible by these financial donors: Trinity Hospital Twin City with the help of Mrs. Tiffany Poland, Director of Marketing, Outreach, and Recruitment; Mr. Kevin Johns from Material Handling Specialists, LLC; Mr. Mark Natoli and his family; Ms. Debra Garner; and Dr. Andrea and Paul Fanti. We are also thankful for Dr. Nat Fisher from Twin City Outpatient Veterinary Clinic for volunteering her time and services to keep Mustang healthy, and to Jennifer Riegle from Merial/Boehringer Ingelheim for sponsoring his flea/tick and heartworm preventatives.
Some of our donor joined us today to celebrate Mustang's arrival.

Mustang showed off his training for the crowd. He performed some of his basic obedience commands, advanced commands, and fun tricks. 

Mustang "flies" across the gym floor back to me after performing his "back up" command.
Mustang gives a "high five" to a student handler.
After the assembly, he greeted students and staff and wished them a great start to their weekend.

This beautiful, smart dog is already making a "pawsitive" impact on our school.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Mustang arrives at CHS!

Welcome to CHS! Students in our Sigma Tri class pet Mustang
as he performs his "settle" command.
Mustang has started transitioning into his work at the high school! He has been working half days and will slowly work his way up to full days. Both the students and the staff have been welcoming and supportive. He has already had two different opportunities to perform specific animal assisted activities that helped students respond to and reduce stress and anxiety.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Homeward Bound

Our training is complete, and we're on our way back to Ohio! I've learned so much and am grateful for the wonderful work the Viking Pup handlers have done to prepare him for his role at CHS! Thank you Alyssa and Ali!

I know that many at CHS are excited to finally meet him, but his trainers have advised that I wait a week before I introduce him to the school. This will give Mustang time to adjust to his new home. After all, this is a huge transition for him. He just left the people who been his handlers and trainers for nearly a year and a half and traveled nine hours to a new home in Ohio. 

We will give him this week to adjust to me as his handler, learn the routines of my family's life, meet our pets and farm animals, and learn how to peacefully co-exist with them. That's a lot for any dog to take in. Those of you who have introduced a new dog into your home understand how critical this time is to ensuring that his placement with us is successful.

Following this period of transition, I will work out a schedule with his head trainer to begin introducing him to the school. We will start with short days and work our way up to the whole day. We want his transition to go smoothly and to set him up for success! Of course, every consideration will be made to minimize disruptions, as that week is the start of state testing.

Thank you all for your patience and understanding during this period of adjustment! In the meantime, I have so much to tell interested students and staff. Mustang can do some amazing things!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Pet Mentality vs. Working Mentality

Many of us have pets at home. Some of you may even have dogs that are well-trained and well-mannered. I have had dogs all my life. As a teen, I was involved in 4-H dog obedience. During my college years, I did an independent studies course that involved taking my rescue dog to visit nursing homes and study the effects of those visits on patients. My husband and I also trained our collie and took him to rally obedience competitions. These were all great dogs and loved pets who lived to nice old ages before passing on. However well-trained these dogs might have been, they were different from Mustang.

Mustang is not a pet. He may be friendly, happy, and loving, but he is first of all a working dog. Mustang was trained with the same methods used to train service dogs. If you don't understand the difference between a service dog, facility dog, and therapy dog, please see my blog post with that title.

So you may be asking, what is the difference between pet mentality and working mentality? As you watch me interact with Mustang, you may notice that he often looks up at me for reassurance that he is doing the correct thing. Unless he is sleeping in his crate at home, he is always "on". When he is given a command, he is expected to stay in that command until he is given another. For instance, if I give him the "settle" command, he is to lie on his side with his head on the ground and never move or lift up his head no matter what chaos may be occurring around him. He can only get up when I release him. This command could be used if small children are on the floor petting him. He is a large dog, and we wouldn't want him to accidentally bump a small child.

This type of complete, reliable obedience is always expected. He is not permitted to do anything at random. He even eats on command, drinks on command, and relieves himself on command. Some of you may think this sounds strict; however, if you consider his background training as similar to service dog training, then you will better understand this necessity. A service dog could never just up and leave the individual he is serving at random because that could put the individual at risk.

Now is he perfect all the time? He is 90 to 100% reliable, but he is not a robot. He is a young dog and may still need occasional reminders and corrections, and he always gets positive reinforcement in the form of verbal praise and food rewards for a job well-done. Overall, he has a willing mind and is eager to please.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Meeting Mustang

It has been a busy couple of days training with Mustang! So far, I've learned to ask him to perform over 30 commands and am working to remember all the little nuances that his handlers use to help him perform them correctly. I will spend the next few days working with him in an elementary school and on the campus of Augustana college. It has been really exciting getting to know and work with him!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Difference Between Service Dogs, Facility Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Companion Dogs

When talking about Mustang's role in our school, students and staff should refer to him as a facility dog. Why? There is a big difference between a service dog, facility dog, therapy dog, and companion animal.

Service dogs are dogs specifically trained to assist a person with a disability. The tasks performed by the dog directly relate to the person's disability. These dogs often undergo years of training. Individuals with disabilities are legally permitted to bring service animals into any area open to the public. Typically, service dogs have a "no petting" policy. To try to "pass off" a dog that does not fit the definition of a service dog (does not perform tasks directly related to a person's disability) is a disservice to individuals who depend on the assistance of these dogs.

Facility dogs are highly specialized therapy dogs whose job is to comfort people and perform animal assisted activities primarily in an assigned building. These dogs are there to bring comfort and reduce stress. They are often assigned to a specific handler at the facility who is trained to work with the dog. Facility dogs can work in schools, hospitals, courthouses, hospice houses, and nursing homes. Facility dogs do not perform tasks related to a specific disability and may not legally enter public locations without an invitation.

Therapy dogs are dogs with stable temperaments and easy-going personalities who visit hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and more. Typically, they are trained by their owners who also act as their handlers. Therapy dogs do not perform tasks related to a specific disability and may not legally enter public locations without an invitation.

Companion Dogs are dogs that do not work, but provide companionship as a pet.

So, there are distinct differences between these types of dogs. Mustang is facility dog. He underwent 18 months of professional training to learn how to behave in public and to perform specific animal assisted activities. I also underwent training to serve as his handler. Despite this extensive training, he is NOT a service dog and should never be represented as such. He can not go into stores or restaurants. He will primarily serve the high school and may be invited to visit other schools in our district. You may also see him visiting our local hospital and nursing home and spreading smiles in those locations as well!