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So, this year I went back to school to finish my Bachelor's- I initially left school in March of 2015 because of a bad horseback riding injury in order to get surgery to fix the resulting badly broken arm and heal, and then decided I wanted to transfer schools. I was thinking about going to school for Equine Science for a short time, and then got interested in dog training again and realized I'd rather train dogs than horses.

I really, really didn't want to get a bachelor's completely unrelated to what I wanted to do professionally (dog training), especially since I wasn't getting the degree FOR what I wanted to do, but more as a back up to fall back on if I ever wanted to switch careers/for while I build up a client base with training, and while I considered some programs for behavioral biology/general animal science degrees, while looking into service dog programs for myself I stumbled across an accredited University founded by Bonnie Bergin, the woman who pioneered the concept of Service Dogs, and since they were accredited figured I'd look into their Bachelor's program (they also offer Associates and Masters degrees). It ended up being exactly what I was looking for.

Part of what I'm interested in offering professionally is helping people owner train their own service dogs, and I figured what better place to learn about service dog training than from the literal source of service dogs. Bergin University also functions as a service dog training program that places mobility assistance dogs and dogs with veterans with PTSD, and students do all the training- you get one dog for the first 2 weeks of the program, then a new dog for the remainder of the first semester, and after that you get a new dog each semester. I took home the dog I'd been working with for the first two weeks on Thursday and will be getting matched with a new dog for the remainder of the semester after the holiday weekend.

I'm very, very smitten with this pup, Roux, I must say. She's 8 months old, purebred Lab (the program also has Goldens and a handful of Lab/Golden crosses)- from a litter full of black labs, she was the last born and the only yellow pup in the bunch. I absolutely love the whole litter- the incoming students were split into 2 groups, and a bunch of her littermates were paired with people in my group, and every one of them is just darling. They organize the litters by first letter, so her whole litter starts with "R".

From our first day together, last Tuesday:


Her first night of our 4-day sleepover, having an absolute blast with Evie (who is sporting her craziest play face):


Finally settling down enough to rest next to each other without one young dog trying to play with the other:


Until their youthful energy kicked back in and they could rest no longer (Roux lost privileges with the rope toys today; the first day she played much gentler with them, and today she started ripping them apart and trying to eat them, so now they're in a bathroom closet until she goes back to school):


I'm really impressed with how good both dogs are at playing gently with one another- Evie just turned 1 and Roux is only 8 months, and I expected a lot more chaos. Apparently Roux's puppy raisers had 3 small dogs, so I can see she learned appropriate play with them:


And from tonight, after a 45min walk with both dogs (Evie was on a hands free cross body leash, Roux is still learning about walking nicely at heel without forging/pulling, so I had to hold her leash- still, considering her age she is a spectacular loose leash walker; Evie has been on her best walk behavior both walks we've done as well). As you can see, Roux is a huge smush, very loving, and is making herself at home:




I am literally in love with this dog- I'll miss her so much when I have to hand her off to someone else for the remainder of the semester. She has the best work ethic of any dog I've ever worked with- not surprising since it's something they're trying to breed for in their breeding program. Her biggest issue is that she doesn't understand that socks on feet don't NEED to be pulled off- one of the things they teach their dogs is the cue "socks", which means to pull socks off at the heel. Very useful for someone with limited mobility, and Roux has the idea of it down pat, except she does it with a little too much enthusiasm and doesn't understand that there are toes in there as well as the sock, LOL.

Evie is absolutely ecstatic with having a playmate in the house. We moved from NYC (where were had been living with my parents and their dog since I brought Evie home at 11 weeks) to Northern CA in late July, and since then Evie's been struggling as an only dog. The last two weeks have been hard on her because I sprained my ankle the day before school started and then that + how exhausted I was from school meant she wasn't getting walked except for quick bathroom breaks, so she's been understimulated and alone for a lot of the day because we had longer than normal days these first two weeks (we were going through a mock client training program, which all new students and staff members go through). She seems much more content having a playmate, which I figured she would, and especially seems to like having one her own age. The next two years of this will be good practice for her, too, since I'd like to offer a Service Dog Board and Train program eventually to clients and want her to be bombproof with other dogs coming in and out of the house.

I'll have to update with more pictures of whatever dog I end up with on Tuesday as well! And there's another litter being born mid October that I'll have to get some pictures of, too!
 

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I discovered Bergin a few years ago - it's only like the coolest school ever from what I've seen. Roux is a great-looking dog! Yes, post more pics and updates; I for one will be interested in hearing about your firsthand experience with this place :)
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What an awesome opportunity! Can't wait to see all your updates as you go through the program.

Also sorry to hear about the sprained ankle, those are the worst!
 

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We've now started official classes, Roux was reassigned, and I got my first "Semester Dog", who I'll have for 6 weeks.

Roux made herself comfortable in the days she was with us, and I let her sleep in bed with me and Evie at night. The last day we took a group nap all snuggled together mid-day:


Usually, they send their puppies to puppy homes so they don't have any dogs under ~6-7 months being worked with by students, but they grew the school quite a lot this year and kept their 2 most recent litters- one 3 months old and one 4 months old- so they'd have enough dogs.

I got one of the 4 month old pups from the "S" litter, and once again I'm in love. When I toured the school, their mother had actually just moved into the puppy room because she was getting closer to whelping, and the "R" litter (Roux's litter) were in the puppy room and headed for their puppy homes the next day, so I've felt extra close to both the dogs I've had so far.

This is Skype, who is 1/8 Standard Poodle and 7/8's Golden (one grandparent on the dam's side was a Poodle). He looks quite a bit like the dam, in both color and build/head shape, though she is unusually small and judging from his size compared to his siblings and the size of his feet he's going to end up being quite a big boy.

Skype and Evie posing for a pic for a Facebook status:


Finally settled down his first night home (last night), before I got him a bed:



Today I tried putting toys out for the first time while they were together (the girl that had him before me claimed to have seen resource guarding, which I have not seen a hint of at all, but I had them trail leashes just in case- one of the things I've been working hard on with Evie is learning that we DO NOT go near dogs with toys, because I want her to be as bomb proof with others as possible):


During lectures, the dogs sit in the room with us and lay on the ground. It teaches them to settle and gets them used to relaxing quietly while people are talking/moving around (the lecturers more than the student)/etc. Skype fell asleep in one of the lectures today for the whole time, I was very proud, and I just had to take some pictures.

Prior to falling asleep with his ear all flipped inside out:


Out for the count:


His little face:
 

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Great update! Please keep them coming I think this is so interesting! Great thing that during the lecture both you and the dog learn a lot! It is very good to teach them to settle... I try to replicate what you have done by going out for a drink or to restaurants and to let the puppy settle there. It is sortof the same!

He looks adorable btw. You are so lucky with him <3

When he is a full service dog, will you be helping to match him to a patient?
 
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