Service dogs play an invaluable role in enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities. These remarkable animals are trained to perform tasks that mitigate their handler's limitations, ensuring greater independence and a higher quality of life. The journey of transforming a young pup into a reliable service dog involves dedication, patience, and effective training techniques. To assist service dog trainers and handlers in this endeavor, we've compiled a list of three engaging and effective dog training games specifically tailored for service dog puppies. 1. Scent Discrimination Game Service dogs often need to differentiate between different scents to perform tasks like alerting to allergens, finding a specific item, or alerting to medical conditions. The scent discrimination game is a playful way to develop your service dog puppy's olfactory abilities. How to Play: Place several small containers, each containing a different scent, on the floor. Start with scents that have distinctive characteristics, such as vanilla, cinnamon, and peppermint. Use scent swabs or cotton balls soaked in essential oils. Allow your puppy to sniff each container and provide a treat or praise when they identify the correct scent. Gradually increase the difficulty by using similar scents or introducing distractions. Why It Works: This game taps into a dog's incredible sense of smell, honing their ability to differentiate scents. As your puppy becomes proficient, these skills can be applied to tasks such as detecting allergens or alerting to specific medical conditions. 2. Retrieval Challenge Service dogs often assist their handlers by retrieving items or assisting with mobility tasks. The retrieval challenge game helps build the foundation for these essential tasks while keeping training fun and engaging. How to Play: Begin by teaching your puppy to retrieve a simple object, like a toy or a cloth. Use positive reinforcement, rewarding them with treats and praise when they successfully bring the item back to you. Gradually increase the complexity by teaching them to pick up different objects by name. Visit servicedogstandards.org for detailed guides on training retrieval skills. Why It Works: Retrieval tasks are fundamental for service dogs, enabling them to assist with a wide range of tasks from picking up dropped items to fetching important objects. This game fosters a strong bond between the puppy and the handler and lays the groundwork for more advanced training. 3. Task Sequence Puzzle Service dogs are trained to perform sequences of actions to complete a task. The task sequence puzzle game helps service dog puppies develop the cognitive
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a Service Animal as: any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, developmental, psychiatric, intellectual, or other disability. Per U.S. federal law, the Service Animal and Service Dog definition is clear cut. It includes any dog trained to assist a person with a disability overcome obstacles affecting their day to day life that directly result from their disability. As such, Service Animals are skilled and highly trained dogs who partner with people with disabilities. Service Animals are also known as Assistance Animals, Assistance Dogs, and Service Dogs. These unique working dogs utilize their specialized training to mitigate their partner’s specific disability and the difficulties caused by the disability. They perform some of the functions and tasks that an individual with a disability cannot perform easily for him or herself. In order to be a Service Dog, a dog must be partnered with a person with a disability that hinders their ability to function independently. Furthermore, the dog must have specific task training or work that directly lessens or reduces the impact of the handler’s disability. Without both of these pieces, a dog, no matter how well trained, is not legally a Service Dog. Service Dogs can be trained to assist with tasks and work related to a wide range of disabilities, including — but not limited to — deafness, blindness, autism, epilepsy, severely limiting psychiatric conditions, life-threatening allergies, diabetes, mobility issues, neuromuscular diseases, and many others, such as endocrine system, circulatory, or pulmonary irregularities. Some disabilities, like many neurological disorders or the cardiac condition POTS, are invisible and may not be apparent to others. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a Service Animal as: any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, developmental, psychiatric, intellectual, or other disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to: Assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the
Before we begin, please note that our focus is on Service Dogs, not Emotional Support Dogs, Therapy Dogs or other types of working dogs or other species of animals. Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) and Therapy Dogs are important types of working dogs, but they are not Service Dogs. It is very important to understand the difference. Simply being disabled and having a dog isn't enough Simply being being disabled or having a disease and having a dog isn't enough to make a dog a Service Dog. Many disabled people have pets. Service Dogs must be trained to perform specific physical tasks or work that you would otherwise have difficulty completing on your own due to your disability. Tasks or work should be things that are physically necessary. Under the law, people are allowed to ask you what specific physical tasks your dog performs to help with your disability and you should be prepared to explain. Providing comfort or emotional support are not qualifying tasks. Some people are surprised to learn that there are no legally-mandated training standards for Service Dogs — or even for Service Dog trainers. There is no “formal” test for Service Dogs because the tasks Service Dogs can be trained to perform vary too widely. Furthermore, under the law it is illegal for anyone to ask for proof of training or certification. The ADA is written this way because it is a civil rights law designed level the playing field for disabled people — not add challenges for them. If any form of "paperwork," "certification" or "licensing" were required Service Dog handlers could and would be stopped and forced to show proof to whomever asks, or, if police are only allowed to ask, police would be routinely called on Service Dog owners who are just trying to go about their day. Service Dogs do not always make life easier Before you begin to explore partnering with a Service Dog, you should know that they do not always make life easier and you should fully consider it. Please read 5 Questions to Ask Before Partnering With a Service Dog Fully training a Service Dog requires hundreds of hours of hard work If you don't already have a list of specific trained tasks, the first thing you should do is sit down and write out a list of specific things you would like your dog to perform. Tasks or work should be things that are physically necessary. Under
Dogs bark. It's what they do. But if your dog is getting in the habit of barking excessively, you probably want to take action before your neighbors start complaining. There can be many reasons that can trigger your dog to bark. However, the longer wait to start to training, the longer it will take for your dog to change their ways. First things first: always remember the following things while training: Don't yell at your dog to be quiet! To them, it sounds like you're barking along with them and only works them up more. Keep your training sessions short, positive and upbeat. Be consistent. Everyone in your family must apply the training methods every time your dog barks inappropriately. You can't let your dog get away with inappropriate barking some times and not others. Figure out why your dog is barking Trying to imagine what your dog is thinking is the first step to solving a lot of issues. You may not realize it at first, but your dog gets some kind of reward when they bark. Figure out what that reward is, in other words, what they get out of barking and remove it. Then, try to remove the opportunity to continue the barking behavior. Example: Barking at people walking by If your dog barks at people walking by, ask yourself what does the barking behavior achieve. In your dog's mind, when they bark at someone walking by they leave. In your dog's mind, barking equals making trespassers leave. Desensitize your dog to the stimulus One of the most effective strategies is to gradually get your dog accustomed to whatever is causing them to bark. Start with the stimulus — the thing that makes them bark — and then distract them. Reward them for ignoring the stimulus with treats and praise. As they become better about ignoring the stimulus, move the stimulus a little closer. If the stimulus moves out of sight, stop giving your dog treats. You want your dog to learn that the appearance of the stimulus leads to good things. Example: Barking at other dogs Have a friend with a dog stand out of sight or far enough away so your dog won't bark at the other dog. As your friend and their dog come into view, start feeding your dog treats. Stop feeding treats as soon as your friend and their dog disappear from view. Repeat the process multiple times. Remember not to try to
Using a dog training trail mix allows a trainer to offer a variety of high value and low value treats during training sessions. This keeps a dog's attention better than using only one type of treat. Furthermore, a dog training trail mix provides a wider balance of nutrients, which is important for young Service Dogs in Training because they often get the majority of their calories via training sessions. Dog training trail mixes supercharge training sessions by acting like a lottery -- is the next treat delivered going to be the most epic on the planet or is it only a piece of kibble? Your dog continues to work because not only do they want the treat, but they're holding out for the best treats possible. This also keeps your dog from working for only one type of reward. Additionally, it allows the trainer to include nutritious food such as kibble, freeze-dried raw, or other high-quality foods. Another great benefit of dog trail mixes uses a dog's nose to up the value of everything included in the mix. Kibble is pretty boring and dogs see it all the time in routine meals. However, if you include kibble in a training trail mix with hot dog slices, freeze-dried liver, and cheese chunks, all of a sudden, kibble carries more value. Your high value, and often more expensive, treats go further when combined with lower value options. Rewards to Include In a Dog Training Trail Mix When making a dog training trail mix, you'll want to include treats your dog likes. However, you'll also want to make sure all the included treats store well, aren't super messy, and will still be useable after a few days in a treat pouch or canister. Most trainers incorporate a balanced blend of high value and low-value dog treats in their trail mixes. Low-value treats are usually crunchy, with minimal stinkiness, and they aren't very interesting. High value treats usually are soft, smelly bits of yumminess your dog doesn't see or get often. Included treats should be bite-sized, about the size of a piece of kibble. Smaller dogs need smaller treats. Bigger dogs can manage bigger treats, but there's nothing wrong with using smaller ones for them, too! If you're using your dog's meals for training sessions, try to ensure included rewards are nutritionally balanced. Using high-value food-based elements like Ziwipeaks air dried, Wellness CORE tender bites, Zukes mini naturals, Bixbi
This summer, a university research team led by Ragen McGowan decided to find out if dogs enjoyed working, or if they only enjoyed the reward/payment for working. The finding? Dogs love to work! Read on to find out what the McGowan study means for you and your Service Dog.
With a clicker, some treats and a little patience, you can teach a dog to do almost anything quickly, easily and with minimal stress. Check out the attached video to learn how to teach a dog to jump through a hoop and jump over your leg in two directions.
We all think our Service Dogs know basic commands inside and out, but do they really? This week's Service Dog Challenge will shake up your behavior proofing knowledge, polish your Service Dog's performance and solidify your partner's comprehension of cues. Get ready to have some fun perfecting your canine partner's positional knowledge and learning how to test understanding!
During the 2014 Service Dog Challenge Week Four, you started reinforcing handler focus. By this point, your partner should offer rock-solid eye contact almost as a default. Now, it's time to engrain that handler focus in all situations and make it a habit. If there's something distracting going on, then self control and impulse control are the only things keeping your partner's attention on you.