Well folks, we have a new working family member. Meet “Flora” my Hearing Ear Dog!
Flora is a Flat Coat Retriever. I never heard of this breed before meeting Flora (but then again, I never hear a lot of things…). This is a fairly old breed. Dating back to the early 1800’s, this breed was the most popular birding dog, before Labradors and Golden Retrievers were developed.
In appearance, the Flat-Coated Retriever resembles a black or brown Golden Retriever. Flat-Coats are often called the “Peter Pan” of retrievers. They generally mature more slowly than other dogs and maintain their puppy-like exuberance for years. In my experience, the best Hearing Ear Dogs combine intelligence, playfulness, and an eagerness to please. So far Flora seems to be all those things. I do notice that she while she is a responsive and sensitive dog, harsh corrections will cause her to shut down until I make amends. She tried to eat some nachos off the coffee table, and I scolded her for that. She marched into the corner to pout for 20 minutes until I encouraged her to come back into the room.
Flora is a tolerant and friendly dog. She adores everyone, perhaps a bit too much. Thank goodness for the “Halti” head collar. These things are a godsend for anyone trying to control a large or busy dog. Flora is definitely both of those things. The Halti works off the theory that a dog does not like to walk with its head turned left or right. If Flora pulls the leash, or forges off in a different direction, the energy is gently transferred into turning Flora’s head, thus stopping the behavior.
Note that even though Flora may appear to be a bit of a spaz in public, this same energy and playfulness are what will make her a fantastic hearing ear dog. Plus, she is only 14 months old; she is still a bit of a puppy. For the record, for those of you who knew Amie my previous hearing ear dog, she also required the use of a Halti for the first 3 years I had her until she settled down. Radar, my first hearing ear dog, was a breeze to handle in public, but he never had the passion for hearing ear dog work as Amie did. So my point is that smart and playful dogs are the best Hearing Ear Dogs.
One thing I am working on with Flora is to curb her desire to jump up on everyone and kiss their faces (she is long enough to do that with most average sized people). First, the Halti collar will get rid of most of this behavior. Second, the rule for everyone is as follows. If you want to pet Flora, she must be sitting first. Training a correct behavior that is incompatible with the undesired behavior is better that a harsh correction. So in this case, we will make her sit first, give her a treat for a reward (I will have them, not you) and then we pet her and say hello. If she tries to jump up, I will restrain her with the Halti, and you must not pet her.
Flora, like all Flat-Coat Retrievers require a fait bit of exercise. Flora needs a give 45-minute walk, run, or other activity daily to satisfy her exercise needs. The nice thing though is that once she has her exercise, she enjoys relaxing with us at home. So she does have the capacity to settle down. As I like to run, this makes her a perfect match for me. We have gone on 2 runs so far and it has been great! I now have a buddy to run with.
I am also amazed at how loyal Flora is and how well we have already bonded after only a few days. She follows me everywhere, even to the bathroom, which is not a wise thing to do especially after I have consumed some Chicken Tikka Masala with extra Pataks Hot Curry Paste. I left her with the family yesterday while I went to the gym…apparently she just stared at the door for almost an hour waiting for me. Here’s the picture my wife took…
Just as a final reminder why I have decided to get another Hearing Ear Dog, please click here to read my previous post on this topic. If you are too lazy to do that, then I will sum it up again. Without my CI, I hear nothing whatsoever. Therefore for at least 10 hours out of 24, I won’t hear any sounds such as fire alarms, door knocks, alarm clocks or phone calls. Secondly, the microphones of hearing aids or CI’s really work best in a 2-3 meter (6-9 foot) range. So if I am on another floor of the house for example, my ability to hear sounds is very inconsistent. Finally, there is the issue of signal to noise ratio. Even if something is close by I can’t hear it if there are other competing sounds such as the television.
Some Rules for Everyone.
- Don’t feed Flora. Anything. Ever. Don’t even ask me. No exceptions.
- Don’t pet her unless you ask me.
- If I do allow you to pet her, she will need to sit first, and then you can pet her. If she tries to jump up and kiss you, turn away. This behavior should go away in time.
That’s really it for rules for you.
I want to thank Tracy Church and the Hearing Ear Dog Team at Lions Foundation of Canada for training such a wonderful animal for me. If any of you are feeling the urge to donate money to a worthy cause, I cannot think of a better one.