COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The WIS PAALS pups are 10 weeks old and starting to get the big kid treatment!
If you have no idea what we’re talking about, let me fill you in. I have the horribly difficult and daunting assignment of following three service pups-in-training as they earn their vests. Tough, right? I know.
It’s hard to believe our sweet little babies whose eyes were closed just a mere 8 weeks ago are already in the initial stages of their training. They’ve gone from sweet little furballs to firecrackers of infants who just want to wrestle with their buddies, but it’s time to get to work.
We checked in with the pups at the PAALS training facility in Columbia, where they’re now living during the week. On the weekends, they make their way to foster homes around the Midlands, with specially trained volunteers who keep them focused on their weekends away from PAALS. And at the facility, they still get the puppy treatment in terms of patience, but they’re now getting the big kid treatment in terms of training.
"They split up into individual kennels yesterday so that was a pretty big step for them,” said Jen Rogers, Executive Director of PAALS. “This is the very beginning of how we work with the puppies."
Trainers use a special clicker to reward things like eye contact and simple commands like “sit.” Each pup has a checklist and a timeline.
"There's everything from different sounds to different textures underneath their feet,” Rogers said. “Different places that we expect them to go, different sounds that they have to hear, different weird things that people do, and different kinds of people themselves."
And then, there's the confidence training on the playground outside the building. A series of obstacles, moving playground equipment and new surfaces to walk and traipse across. The puppies are challenged to walk up to new heights and tackle stairs! Sometimes, they do it triumphantly. Sometimes, they take a little tumble. But their trainer is always there to praise and encourage the brave little pups as they make their way to new heights and accomplishments.
And hey, if you missed it, we now know the three puppies we will be following on this journey! Their names are Hayden, Sassy, and Skip. Two yellow lab ladies and one male black lab. The trainers have started to see little bits of their individual quirks and personalities.
"Hayden is the one who is whining right now while we're talking,” said Rogers. “She's the less socially confident one and so for me that really stood out about her. And just watching Sassy, she is very brave and she doesn't seem to be thrown with anything we challenge her with. Skip is very socially oriented with people.and he seems fairly confident with dogs as well.”
They are embarking on their second weekend with their weekend foster families and learning how to be respectable new house guests…learning, being the keyword.
Stay tuned to WIS News 10 at 4 for continued updates on the PAALS pups!