Meet Winston Uppercut Charlesworth III!
He is Kit's new Autism Service Dog.
He is a Goldendoodle, which, for those who may not know, is a golden retriever and poodle hybrid. They often inherit the poodle's non-shedding attribute, or at least shed much less than most breeds.
He is four months old. He's still in training, but he has had a fantastic start thanks to the trainers at Puppy Steps Training who did a top notch job with his early socialization, desensitization, house training, leash training, and basic obedience and manners. They took a great dog, and helped him develop into an absolutely awesome doggie citizen!
To do on our own, the kind of training they have done with a puppy, would have been insanely stressful and probably not even close to this successful just because of where we are at in this season of life and the many variables involved. Their trainers and training program have given all of us the best possible start down this journey together. I have many more complementary things to say about this program, but I will have to do so in a future post as this one is to introduce Winston!
He arrived yesterday evening, and we are all still adjusting. But he has completely blown us away by how amazing he is!! He is the gentlest dog I have ever met. And he just accepted us immediately, willing to do whatever we asked and eager to please! And just loves to be with us and lay near us! And when it was time for bed, he did whine a bit in his crate when I left the room, but then he just settled down and went to sleep. He even got to wear his Service Vest on his first outing today! He enjoyed PetCo. Such a good boy!
So then, we have a very busy year ahead of us! Besides immediately falling in love!
First, we must keep up the excellent training he has already received and continue building on that foundation. So everyday, we must practice, practice, practice!
Second, we have more socialization to do. We need to expose and get Winston comfortable with as many possible situations, places, and people of all kinds as possible. When he is comfortable, then we will gradually keep working on performance in those situations, continuing to practice until he can excellently work under all conditions in all places. This process is slow and ongoing, spanning for well into the next year of his life, and only at a pace that he is able to maintain confidence in his skills. We don't ever want to push him past his limit and make him begin to resist working for us. We want him to enjoy his job!
Third, but in conjunction with socialization, is ongoing training. Winston knows over a dozen commands already, thanks to his early training. In addition to those he will be learning roughly fifteen more specifically pertaining to helping Kit, including learning how to give her deep pressure on her legs, several different responses to certain emotional or sensory behaviors from Kit, such as giving her kisses to help divert her away from a meltdown or pull her out of one, and acting as a physical barrier when she feels her personal space is being encroached upon and she is anxious about being touched.
He has a lot to learn still, as do we! Some of these new skills will likely come to him very quickly as he is very smart and in tune with his people.
To help facilitate a strong bond between Winston and Kit, we will be trying to set up as many interactions together to be very positive for both of them. Kit is my official helper at his mealtimes, and they will spend some time together each day snuggling while she watches her favorite shows on the tablet and I periodically give her treats to reward him with for keeping her company. Soon she will help with brushing him, and accompanying us on his walks as well. She has already expressed a strong desire to go with him where he goes and snuggle with him, so hopefully that is a good sign of things to come!
|"This is my Kitty!"|
|Kitty is not so sure about our newest family member, he went to hide.|
|Having some playtime with Winston's favorite toy.|
They are already good pals. They both cried when I had to put him in the crate so I could shower today, and again at bedtime. They didn't want to be apart. Or Kit didn't want to be apart at least, Winston most likely wanted to be wherever the action was. She is very clear about "he is my Service Dog!", which of course she doesn't fully know what this means. She does know however that he is here to help her when she is sad and "to help me not get mad", in her own words. And indeed, he is already doing that with his sweet kisses!
The big kids do get to have some snuggle time with him too. However, we have talked with them a lot about the fact that Winston is not our family pet. He is here to learn to help Kit, and that is an important job that he needs to learn to take seriously, so fostering the bond between the two of them is of highest priority. The big kids still get to play, pet, and eventually assist as I teach him new commands and concepts though.
No one can work all the time however, so he gets plenty of downtime and will still get to be a normal dog. We are still learning what he enjoys playing, but we are loving his sweet nature and soft soft shaggy coat!
This new adventure is both exciting and a little overwhelming. But we will all try to imitate Winston's natural positive spirit and take life one treat at a time!