Rambles with Remus: A Perfect Partnership

Image of Zoe with her assistant dog Remus, next to her is the animated text that reads: "Zoe's Rambles with Remus."

Hello everyone! 

I hope you’re all doing well during lockdown and have been able to enjoy some of the nice weather we’ve been having. In my next few Rambles with Remus blogs I wanted to do something a little bit different as, like many of you, myself and Remus aren’t able to get out and about at the moment. I wanted to explain a little bit more about how Remus helps me as my assistance dog and a bit about what his training involves. I hope you enjoy reading our story. Remus and I were partnered nine years ago in April 2011. In this blog I’ll give a bit of a backstory to Remus’ initial training and the start of our partnership.

Remus was given to me by the charity Canine Partners. The Canine Partners' main training centre is based in Heyshot in West Sussex however, in 2007 the charity established its work in Scotland. They now have two puppy training satellites in Scotland one in Paisley on the west coast of Scotland and one in Stirling on the east coast. Puppy parents are volunteers who help to socialise Canine Partner puppies and attend regular classes at the puppy training satellites along with a qualified trainer to help them through the first year of training. This seems like a good point to start our own story as my mum Barbara was Remus’s puppy parent for the first year of his life. Puppy parents play a really important role in an assistance dog’s training as they help the dogs to get used to the world around them and teach them not to be phased by it. The work of a puppy parent can involve things like teaching the dog basic obedience, travelling on public transport, going on hospital visits and teaching them how to react and behave in these different environments. This first year of training lays the foundations for the dogs next phase of training but also its future life with a partner.

 Picture on left: Remus as a puppy in training with Zoe's mum. Picture on the right: Remus and Zoe in her garden.

Picture on left: Remus as a puppy in training with my mum, Barbara. 

Picture on right: Remus and I on our first night back at home as a newly formed partnership

I have known Remus since he was an eight week old ball of fluff when he arrived at our house in November 2009. I was reunited with him again when he was in the advanced stage of his training. After living as part of our family for a year and learning how to be a well behaved dog he went down to the training centre in Heyshot West Sussex. Each dog in the Canine Partners training programme spends 4 to 6 months in advanced training where they begin to learn the tasks that they can use to help their disabled partner. These tasks can include things like fetching help when required, retrieving shopping from low supermarket shelves, handing over a purse to a cashier at the checkout, Providing support during transfers from one chair to another, loading and unloading the washing machine and many more! Here are two videos which give examples of how his training works. 

This video shows how the clicker and whistle work as part of our training routine and the tools that we use.

This video shows a recall exercise in training Remus to come back to me safely.

I travelled down to West Sussex on a few different occasions having applied for an assistance dog to work with different breeds of dog to see which would be more suited to my lifestyle and personality. Just like humans, different breeds of dog have different personality traits. The matching process between assistance dogs and their human partner is a very complex one! Labradors and poodles for example can be very bouncy dogs and like to be active a lot of the time and so would need to be suited to somebody with a very active and perhaps sporty lifestyle. Remus as a golden retriever is more laid-back but he is also very emotionally in tune with how I’m feeling. Golden Retrievers tend to have more sensitive personality traits. Remus enjoys being active and helping me with different tasks but he also enjoys his downtime when he gets chance to relax with his brother Alfie.

One of the biggest challenges that I found when I was first partnered with Remus was dealing with the general public and trying to make them understand the importance of not interacting with an assistance dog. This made the initial stage over advanced training very difficult. Remus himself was an absolute star! I was really surprised how loyal he was to me after less than two weeks of being matched. He seemed to realise that we were now a working partnership and I was the human that he was helping! 

Nine years on Remus is still a big support to me, particularly at this time of lockdown. Being with him and teaching him new tasks gives me something to focus on during this difficult time. In my next blog I will be sharing with you some of the tasks that I am training Remus to help me with. The videos linked above help to demonstrate how his training works. 

Do you have animals that you are able to share lockdown with? How do you think they have helped you? Do you have a particular hobby that you enjoy but you now have more time for? If you would like to share your story with us at Euan’s Guide, we would love to hear it! 

Stay safe everyone!

Image of Zoe Maclean

Written by Zoe Maclean, Reviewer Engagement & Outreach Coordinator

Tags: rambles with remus


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