Service Dogs raised from puppyhood learn Service Dog foundation skills early. Without daily practice, though, young Service Dogs in Training often struggle to master the complex behaviors required for public access and advanced training. To help your SDiT master responsiveness, focus, and relaxation, practice the following 5 skills every day!
Settling & Matwork
Public access often requires young Service Dogs in Training to lie quietly for long periods of time. Whether the handler or trainer is working, at school, or standing in line at the store, the ability to settle proves invaluable. This Service Dog skill doesn’t happen accidentally — it’s built through daily practice. Use matwork, place training, tether training, and long downs to build quiet, calm, settled behavior in your young Service Dog in Training.
Impulse control allows your Service Dog in Training to decide whether or not to engage with a distraction instead of doing so instantly because it’s exciting. Puppies do not come with impulse control pre-installed. This skill must be earned through daily practice. Use training games like Zen or It’s Yer Choice, along with programs like Control Unleashed or Crate Games, to assist you with teaching your young Service Dog in Training impulse control.
There’s a lot going on in public. People walk around and make strange noises. There’s lots of motion and activity. Children drop food or reach for your dog. Solid handler focus allows your dog to ignore these everyday distractions without stressing. Furthermore, lots of practice with handler focus gives your dog a clear job with clear expectations on what to do when they encounter something new — just stay focused and wait for further information. Build handler focus through reinforcing eye contact, check ins, movement-based games, distraction proofing, and leave it.
Sit. Down. Stand. Settle. Heel. Side. Front. Positions are an every day Service Dog reality. Young Service Dogs in Training should learn positions early on and then work daily to master them. Work on transitioning from one position to another and on gaining clear cue recognition. Make sure you’re practicing in a wide variety of environments, too, since dogs don’t generalize behaviors automatically.
Shaping, along with luring and capturing, allows trainers to easily teach complex skills and behaviors. If young Service Dogs in Training start playing shaping games early in their education and practice them daily, they often prove easier and more fun to train overall. In addition to being useful for training, shaping games also serve as great mental stimulation. Try teaching tricks or playing 101 Things to Do With a Box.