My name is Faith and I am one of the team of seven specialist Advanced Trainers at the Canine Partners Midlands Training Centre.
When our dogs are around 14 to 18 months old, they move into advanced training at one of our two Training Centres. The core skills they learnt as puppies are extended to tasks, such as opening doors and unloading a washing machine. This is taught by me and 12 of my colleagues in the charity’s Advanced Training Team.
Working through the Covid-19 pandemic
I’ve worked throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and, as you can imagine, we have been through many different ways of working depending on what restrictions were in place. The Advanced Training Team at our Midlands Training Centre was split into two ‘bubbles’, to ensure that there are minimum people onsite at one time. Half of my week is working from home catching up with paperwork or taking dogs into the community to teach them different skills, and the other half is based on site.
Our amazing volunteer Fosterers
Our dogs in training live with our volunteer Fosterers full time off-site. Our training schedule means we work with each dog at least twice a week. We will collect them from their foster home or their volunteer Fosterer will bring them to the Training Centre so that we can work on the dog’s task work and they can see our Dog Welfare Team for a health check to ensure they’re looking beautiful and healthy. We also work with our wonderful Fosterers to give them training activities they can practice with the dogs at home, such as obedience and fitness tasks.
Out and about in the community
Depending on restrictions, I will take each dog I am responsible for out into the community. There we develop the skills for them to walk nicely next to different mobility aids, whilst getting them used to different distractions out and about. I particularly focus on training the dogs with specific task work, such as retrieving a dropped item, like a mobile or purse. It’s important to give each dog a break so after a short training session, I take them for a good off-lead run in a local park or wooded walk, so they can enjoy some free time, sniffing around and getting to play. Using positive training methods, we teach our dogs how to walk nicely on a lead, respond to obedience cues, and to come back when called when they are playing in the park. Rewarding them for coming back with some tasty food always helps!
At the training centre
The dogs are dropped off by their Fosterers for the day – almost like going to school! I generally have four dogs at a time to train, so each dog spends some of their time in our lovely new kennels. Throughout the day I really focus on the key skills the dogs already have when they first come into Advanced Training – retrieve, push and tug. We have all the household equipment they need to be trained to use too, such as washing machines, shop shelves and household furniture.
Fun and games
Our training programme has always been fun and reward based, with lots of enrichment. All of the training we do with our dogs is positive and fun for them! But they also get to have lots of rest, usually having a snooze whilst we have our lunch or getting to relax with a tasty frozen Kong treat. They then have a relaxing evening at home with their foster family.
Our amazing Fosterers
When the first lockdown began, our weekend Fosterers welcomed our dogs into their homes full time. Since then they have been fantastic at helping us train the dogs remotely using video call technology. It has been invaluable for us to have such amazing volunteers to care for our dogs and help them keep up their training and enrichment under our guidance.
Could you be a volunteer Fosterer? Please find out more at caninepartners.org.uk/foster.