Finnegan’s First Weeks

Finn1Finnegan, our new service dog trainee, has different virtues than Spice, our certified guide dog.  He’s a “designer dog” cross between a Goldendoodle and Standard Poodle.  Poodles are among the most intelligent of all breeds, and Goldens are affectionate and amiable.  Unlike Labs, he doesn’t shed, though he will need more grooming.  These dogs were first bred in the 1990s as an attempt to develop service dogs for people with allergies.  His soft, curly coat feels like petting a stuffed toy, and he looks like an Ewok in the face.  Finn is extremely alert to novel sounds, and turns his head to them immediately.  He does bark a bit, and he has a high-pitched whine.

For the first week we let him get used to our house and neighborhood, taking him on walks, practicing basic commands and managing interactions with our two cats.  Dixie, the alpha tabby, is less afraid of him than she was of Spice.  Despite her docility, Spice did look like a miniature body builder.  Strength is important when guiding for the blind.  If he makes it all the way, Finnegan will become one of the other kinds of service dogs, for hearing, health alerts, mobility or psychiatric assistance.  There’s a big demand for dogs to help with conditions including brain injuries, PTSD, autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and diabetes.  Unlike the guide dogs, they are taught to fetch desired items, and can be trained to help a person dress, and stabilize their balance.

FinnDockIt’s a different training regimen.  There are no collar corrections, and clickers to “mark” desired behavior, followed by a treat are used.  There are no puppy clubs in this organization.  Raisers are encouraged to enroll in obedience classes with other breeds.  We’ve had a couple of individual training sessions with him at a local behavioral academy, followed by supervised play.  At the end of the month he will begin a six-week manners class.  He’s already well mannered, but could use work on controlling his enthusiasm about approaching others when he’s in his jacket.


FinnBeachConsidering the number of new experiences we’ve introduced him to, the pup is progressing rapidly.  He’s only been to the water once, and the wave action frightened him.  We’ll work on it.  He’s visited a restaurant, a coffee bar and church, and behaved splendidly.  He lies on the floor in the back of the car so well he doesn’t need a tie-down.  He was unfazed being near the din of highway traffic, and passing by the noisy machines at the auto repair shop.

FinnPippasFinnTheaterThis is a small, quiet town, but we took the opportunity to expose him to the crowds of tourists who are here for our annual film festival.  This year’s special guest is Karen Allen.  Finn didn’t appear to know who she is.  That’s okay.  I’ll start home-schooling him on film history.  Yes, he’s that smart.


Filed under animal communication, photos

18 responses to “Finnegan’s First Weeks

  1. Oh my word! How cute is that face! Adorable.
    Thank you so much for sharing this journey with us. So special.

    • The only challenge is in being able to photograph him. Compared to the days of good old FILM, digital cameras produce line detail, but severely limit the range of contrast. I’m gonna have to use a lot of flash! In person, you can see his eyes better. Glad you could drop by, Tracy.

  2. I have such fond memories of Pierre a standard bred Poodle my mom owned. There’s no doubt aboput it when it comes to Poodles excelling when it comes to “intelligence” as measured in terms of comprehending human commands,etc. They are so intensely aware of their environment and everyone and everything in it. I wish you and Mary and Finnegan all the best.

    P.S. Clicker training works so well not only for dogs but also for young horses too. 🙂

  3. What a cutie! Keep us posted on his adventures!

  4. No kidding about the cute face. Maybe this is the kind of dog I should get if I decide I’m ready for another best friend. No shedding is nice and I like the combination of personality traits you described. What do you think about a dog like this as a pet?

  5. Christina Moss, Author

    I love dogs, and that looks like a very handsome and intelligent one. I think the happiest dogs are the ones who know they are helping someone, and provide needed service — much like people, I guess.

    • Now that he’s gotten his first haircut and can see out of that bushy face, he’s really showing his IQ. He can actually be a bit stubborn, but he’s so motivated to earn kibble and/or praise it passes quickly. I don’t know if he has connected what he does with service yet, but he has learned that the boundaries of acceptable behavior are different if he’s in his jacket.

      Thanks for contributing, Christina!

  6. I love your stories of raising service dogs! This is truly compassion in action. What a sweet looking one he is. Good luck to all of you!

  7. Service dogs are such a sweet blessing in the lives of those who need them. I deeply admire those who are willing to give of their time and talent to train them. There was a time I would have loved to have owned one for my son, Finnegan is absolutely adorable! xoxoxo

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