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Self-trained Service Dogs 2

Just a quick follow-up to my blog the other day. There are two wonderful books that can help you train your dog to perform specific tasks for you. They are called Teamwork I and Teamwork II.

The first book covers the basic Obedience training that your dog must be capable of in order to be a service dog. If you and your dog can’t truly master these tasks, unfortunately, self-training is probably not be the right path for you. It takes a special dog to be a service dog; it takes a lot of time, patience and effort to train your own. Be honest with yourself about your dog and your relationship with him/her, it will save you from heartache and embarrassment later! Most importantly, it will preserve the rights of the disabled to continue to take Service dogs into public areas.

The second book, Teamwork II shows in detail how real-life people creatively taught their dogs how to perform specific tasks. It was inspiring to read how a man with severe Cerebral Palsy, with the help of a friend, taught his dog to pick things up that he had dropped. If you have any interest in dog training, this one is an interesting read, just to see the trial, error and ultimate success.

Remember to always keep in the back of your mind: “how do my dog’s behavior in public and mine potentially effect the rights of those who have a more severe disability than mine?” Even if your dog can’t master the public obedience requirements, there is no reason why you can’t have him/her help you around the house. The mental stimulation of training these tasks is good for both of you!

Enjoy your dog(s)! Let them help you have some fun and enjoy life!

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More Indoor Training

I know I promised to give you some fun ways to train your dogs. Rosie used to get very bored doing the same routine at home she had already mastered in class. Also, in the first 6 months after my neck and wrist surgeries, I wasn’t quite up to really “making her do it the first time I asked…”  So, yeah, I had to be a bit creative.

As I’ve said before, Rosie is very bright, and tends to anticipate what I am going to ask her for. She learns the set up instead of, or in addition to, the command. She is very attached to me, so in class we never had trouble getting her to Recall in general, but would have lost points for jumping the gun, and positioning. Watch your own dog, when you put them in the stay position, are they relaxed and waiting for you to tell them what to do next, or more like Rosie, staying, but every muscle tensed and ready to spring into action? If they are  relaxed, you’re golden. Even if they don’t “come” when called, you can teach them the Recall using a long leash and their favorite treat. I would put Rosie in a Sit-Stay or Down-Stay, turn and walk about 20 ft away. She would be there just waiting for me to call her back. Her hind legs were quivering in anticipation of the command to come and be with me, sometimes she couldn’t contain herself and she would come to me before I even asked.  Then she would get to me, and instead of sitting nicely in front of me, she was so excited, that she would run around me, or jump up to kiss me! It’s nice to be so loved, but not really what we’re working toward!

Ready to GO!

See how her weight is forward, her ears are perked, both hind legs are under her and she’s staring at me? Not how I want her in a long stay situation.

So I had to learn to mix it up a bit. Really, it was when  I was recovering and trying different methods to get results that she made the most progress.  So the first thing that I had to do was teach her to “relax” or “settle” before I walked away from her. That was pretty easy; I started with down-stay, because it is a more comfortable position for a dog than sit. I  would tell her “down”-“stay”, then “settle”. As I told her to settle, I would put my hands on her shoulders and hips and kind of push/massage so that she would relax a little bit. When I saw that she was in a comfortable lying position, I would walk just a few steps away so that she didn’t get so anxious. If she stayed calm, I told her “good stay” and would take a few more steps. I kept repeating this until I could see that she was getting uncomfortable, anxious or distracted by something else, if that happened, Iwould tell her “good stay” and take a step or two closer. If she was too distracted or anxious, I would call her to me right away. Better to have a successful short stay than a “broken” long one. Set your dog up to succeed! It took us a couple of weeks to get to the point where she was OK with me being 20-30 ft away and not looking like a race horse at the gate.

Notice the difference? She is smiling, her tail is flat on the floor, her hind leg is out.

Once we had that part solid, we moved on to getting her to sit in front of me when she came. (To be honest, we’re pretty good at this inside, but outside, we are still working on it.) All you need to do this inside is a hallway or a few chairs that you can set up to create a “lane” where the dog can’t get around you + your delicious stinky treats, or toy whichever gets your dog more motivated. Can’t get much cheaper than that for training equipment! Put the dog in a down-stay on one side of the room, then walk into the hallway or lane of chairs. Make sure they are relaxed, if they are not, bring them closer. Wait as long as the dog seems comfortable, but not more than a minute at this point, then call them. You can use whatever command you want, there are several, the point is that to the dog it should mean, “Get your butt over here now!” As your dog approaches you, make sure that you stand up very straight, fingers together holding the treat, elbows out a little to the side, these are the visual cues that your pup needs to understand that you want them to sit when they get to you, and not run around like it’s a party because they found you! When they get to you, tell them “Good Come…Sit” then give them the treat. Eventually, they will learn that “Come!” really means “Come,!sit in front of me!” We’re working on an outdoor version of this now using a soccer(football) goal or a Lacrosse goal. I’ll let you know how that works out! Once they get all of this solid,  start introducing distractions, like a cat, or walk around, don’t stand still, or have another person walk through the room. But take it slow, set them up for success, because every time they (you) get it wrong, you have to redo it 4-5 times correctly so that they will learn.

Let me know how it works out for you. Remember to have fun!




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