Some of you may or may not know that I am legally disabled and due to my disabilities I require the use of a service dog, now and again. This past January I lost my service dog, Hurley, due to kidney failure. He was my service dog for nine years. I adopted him from a rescue at 9 weeks of age and his training began that very day. It took a few years to get him 100% and from there he has traveled all over the United States with me. Delta loved having him travel, despite his intimidating size, because he was so good with the kids on the plane. It was always a cry free flight, when Hurley was on board!
Since Hurley’s passing I have known that I would need to get a new service dog to start training as soon as possible. I also knew that I needed a little bit of time before I would be ready.
The last month or so I have been looking for my “match.” I have looked at two different puppies and neither has been quite right or they would potentially not reach the size I will require for mobility support. The dog that I am looking for needs to be around 3 feet tall, at the shoulder, so I can put my full weight on him/her. They will need to be sturdy and strong. As far as temperament I need a dog that will be smart, loyal, calm, aware, able to easily deal with change, good with all kinds of people and animals. This is not an easy task, if all dogs were like this they wouldn’t be in shelters…so finding the right rescue dog and being able to help the dog understand my needs and be willing to trust me in all situations is not the easiest accomplishment.
Tomorrow I will be going to a local rescue and doing a temperament test on a 7 month old pup that may be right for me. If he is I will post lots of pictures and if he’s not I’ll hope he gets adopted quickly! Wish me luck and be thinking of names as I may need some help!
May 8, 2013 No Comments
Klyde’s crate conditioning is going very well! Since my previous post, keepers have continued to work with him daily. To start, each evening they would close off access into the crate, giving Klyde a break from seeing it through the night. Then, in the morning, they would re-open it and he would find it contained his breakfast and extra treats. Each day keepers moved more and more of his breakfast into the crate, creating an inviting space that allowed Klyde to feel comfortable and confident. After several days, everyone felt they were at a point when no food needed to be offered in his other stalls except for in his crate. This was no issue for Klyde, as every crate experience he has had thus far has been very positive. He had no problem with his new designated feeding area. Each morning the food would appear an inch further back in the crate, from the day before. And every day, Klyde never even thought twice about his advancement into the crate.
By day nine, keeper Marjorie was able to stand outside the crate, toward the front and encourage him to come in as she tossed treats into his food pile to make every inch of progress as smooth as possible. Days 10 and 11 were breakthrough days for Klyde’s progress – he decided that his crate was really positive place to be and confidently walked in until he had all four feet in the crate! He was still not quite close enough to hand feed but having all four feet in, making that step up into the crate was a HUGE progression and his keepers were thrilled. Later on day 11 of training Marjorie decided to try one more quick session and attempted to get Klyde to walk in far enough to hand feed. He finally did it!! Marjorie was able to reach his lip and give him some of his favorite cookies for entering that far.
We are all so excited about Klyde’s progress moving forward! In the first 11 days of training it has gone far better than ever expected, but that’s what happens when keepers and animals have such a wonderful and positive relationship! Klyde is willing and wanting to work with his keepers and his keepers are allowing him to move at his comfort level… setting him up for success is the most important part of training!
May 8, 2013 No Comments
Many families in America have had the opportunity to crate train a puppy. Crate training can be a pretty easy task, as puppies tend to enjoy a secure place while their parents are out of the house. At the Cincinnati Zoo there comes a time when many of our animals have to be crate trained… but rarely is it an animal as large and as powerful as a black rhino. That being said, teaching a rhino to crate train is not unlike puppy crate training, it is just on a MUCH larger scale.
We are fortunate, here at the Cincinnati Zoo, to have a wonderful keeper staff that cares about our animals and always has the animal’s best interest at heart. Immediately after finding out our black rhino,”Klyde,” was scheduled to move to the Sedgewick County Zoo for breeding, the Cincinnati Zoo staff started planning and preparing. They found a size appropriate crate and had our maintenance department bring it in and set it up so Klyde has access to it from his indoor holding area. Before they even allowed Klyde to lay eyes on it everyone got together and created a game plan for his introduction. We started by discussing Klyde’s personality, his daily needs, how the keepers wanted to see the first week go. Once we had that all laid out it was a matter of putting together a schedule that I, as a trainer, thought was appropriate for the animal and meeting the needs of the Zoo.
The first part of training is to figure out how quickly to progress. It’s very important to understand that nothing is planned 100% when it comes to training animals. You always have to be willing to adapt or change your plan as the animals change theirs. Step one is to keep things calm and allow Klyde to be desensitized on his terms. Klyde has three extra large stalls in his indoor holding area. The first stall is where he has access outside, which is now the entrance to his large rhino crate.
Day one we wanted things as normal as possible for Klyde. He had is primary keeper, Marjorie, who kept things calm, gave him his daily bath and moved him from stall to stall for cleaning, as normal. In the morning he was not allowed in the first stall but had a window to be able to see what was going on. Marge prepared his breakfast, left some browse (a favorite treat for Klyde) leading up to the crate and set it all up in his first stall so that as he ate he could see his crate.
As he was allowed access to the first stall he kept a wary eye on the crate but he mostly ignored it. Keepers did not allow him to fully enter in the crate the first two days. It is very important that he is not given an opportunity to have a negative experience. However, the second day, he actually went towards the crate and stuck his head in it, smelling it and just checking it out. By day three he was much more comfortable in his adjacent stall and was no longer jumpy. The desensitization process was right on track!!
By day four we were ready to allow Klyde more access and time to get used to the crate. The pole blocking his entrance was removed from the crate and his breakfast was moved right in front of the entrance to the crate. Further inside the crate we placed hay and some of his favorite treats along with some browse hanging around the entrance to entice him to eat near it, around it and inside of it. We wanted him to always pair the crate with positive experiences and feelings.
Check back for updates on Klyde’s progress. You can also follow me on Twitter @MeganKateF for more frequent updates. When you come to the Zoo you will be able to see his extra large crate, and you may even see one of his keepers feeding him treats from the yard side of the crate.
May 2, 2013 No Comments