When it comes to training a Service Dog, absolutely nothing is more important than exhaustive socialization. Socialization and exposure to the world is the foundation upon which all other training rests, and a Service Dog who hasn't gained real-world experience via systematic socialization is not fit for public access. With this list of oft-missed opportunities, you'll be able to ensure you're hitting all the bases while socializing Service Dogs in Training. Important Considerations Before Beginning Never, ever put a vest on a dog or claim it as a Service Dog in Training that is still displaying any behavior issues that would be eliminated during basic training — including leash pulling, inappropriate sniffing, etc. There are plenty of opportunities to socialize a dog in public at pet stores which allow animals, public parks and other areas which allow dogs. Remember, your behavior and that of your dog not only effects you but other Service Dog teams as well. Before bringing your Service Dog in Training (SDiT) home, you need to have a defined plan for socializing him. While many people decide to simply take the puppy with them and introduce him to everything and anything they can, utilizing that approach results in missed experiences and an uneven education. Unfortunately, more Service Dogs are released from training programs across the country for socialization concerns than any other reason. Protect your partnership by not only picking a puppy from a source that began socialization and stimulation at birth, but by also continuing socialization, exposure and training throughout your puppy's training. The most important rule of socializing Service Dogs in Training is to never, ever, ever, for any reason, force an SDiT to approach, interact with, touch or be on/near/with something that appears to frighten them. Forcing a puppy in training to engage when afraid ensures he'll never form positive associations with the object, person, place, surface, equipment or situation. Instead of forcing your SDiT, always keep high-value treats with you and use them to encourage a suspicious puppy to explore a situation of his own accord. If you lay a solid foundation of socialization that rewards a puppy in new situations, you'll create a confident learner who thoroughly enjoys circumstances he's never encountered. Finally, your Service Dog in Training needs to encounter a situation more than once before you can ensure he'll always be comfortable with it. You should try for at least 3 instances of positive exposure. Always
Working with young or inexperienced Service Dogs in Training isn't always easy. It's even harder if you're learning alongside your young dog. Here are 5 tips for getting the most out of your training sessions with your Service Dog in Training.
People love showing off their dog's tricks. Flashy skills like rolling over, playing dead, or sitting pretty provide lots of opportunities for fun. While many dog owners assume training tricks serves little purpose for their dog beyond entertainment, they're quite wrong! Training tricks offers many health benefits for dogs both young and old. Trick Training Provides Mental Stimulation Make no bones about it -- mental stimulation, science says, is just as good, if not better, than physical exercise! Working your dog's brain offers great opportunities to stave off boredom and reduce excess energy. Learning tricks requires your dog to focus on the new skill or behavior, master it, and link it with a cue. Performing tricks on cue means your dog has to sort through known behaviors and cues, select the correct one, and then do it! That's hard work that occupies a lot of brain power and mental juice. If you don't have enough energy to train tricks, try some of these other tools for increasing mental stimulation for your dog. Training Tricks Builds Strength Many tricks require your dog to use their body in ways that aren't common in day to day life. Sitting pretty, commando crawling, standing on hind legs, perching, pivots, and many other common dog tricks work your dog's core strength and body awareness. Training tricks builds strength, enhances mobility and flexibility, and allows your dog to get a nice workout while having fun. Remember to start slowly and built up duration and intensity. Performance in the beginning may not be awesome, but don't give up -- keep practicing and your dog's physical capabilities will improve. Tricks Help Bond Dog and Owner One of the best ways for dogs and owners to bond involves spending qualiy time together. Playing, grooming, and, you guessed it, training, all offer ample opportunities for bonding. Learning tricks helps handlers hone training and communication skills. It assists dogs in furthering knowledge and capabilities, while also letting them practice focus, learning to learn, and all kinds of other important engagement skills.
Basic obedience positions, consisting of sit, down, and stand, provide a foundation for much of the movement your Service Dog does throughout the day. Public access uses long downs, mobility work relies on rock solid stands, and sit is the most commonly cued position for most dogs. Lots of puppies learn sit first. Next, they master down and down stays. Some go on to learn stands, but many don't. By improving your basic obedience positions, you can improve your communication with your Service Dog while also improving task work, public access, and functionality. You can also use basic obedience positions to build your dog's strength, mobility, and flexibility. In addition, improving sits, downs, and stands offers a great chance to work on your dog training skills, including timing, reward placement, and reinforcement schedules. These skills also serve as a base for more advanced obedience and positioning skills, like pivots, emergency downs, and stays out of motion. Basic Obedience Positions and Cue Differentiation Does your dog know sit? Many people believe their dog does but then discover their dog relies on a mixture of physical, environmental, contextual, and verbal cues and not on the cue "sit" itself! The same goes for downs and stands -- does your dog still respond to the cue if you're standing straight up and you don't use your hands? What if your back is turned? Many dogs, including highly trained ones, only know what their handler wants if the cue is delivered with precisely the correct elements. Work on improving your dog's response to verbal cues. Strive to reduce or remove physical elements from your cues. Change the way you deliver cues -- sit down, stand up, lay on the ground, try it from an elevated position, etc. Work until your dog performs reliably off a single verbal cue regardless of the environmental set up or the position you yourself are in. Expanding your dog's generalization of a cue might come in handy during emergencies or in situations your dog can't readily see you. Basic Obedience Position Transitions Playing position transition games is a great way to improve basic obedience positions. Most dogs can go into a down from a sit, but does your dog pop into a sit from a down on cue? Do they stand on cue while sitting or in a down? How many times can they transition cleanly? These games are great opportunities to work on cue differentiation
With another year nearly behind us, it's time to start looking forward to the new year. The question is simple: how can we better ourselves as Service Dog handlers, owners, trainers, puppy raisers? Setting Service Dog training goals offers an easy place to begin. Good goals provide a concrete endpoint so you know when you've succeeded. They give you a way to focus your efforts and work efficiently and productively towards what you want. Knowing how to set goals can be tricky, though! Many experts recommend utilizing the SMART goals system. SMART goals are: Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Time-based Basically, SMART goals consist of concrete steps you take within a certain time period to achieve something specific that's quantifiable. An example of a SMART goal for dog training would be "Obtain my Service Dog's Canine Good Citizen certification by Valentine's Day." An example of a goal that does not adhere to the SMART protocol is "Train my Service Dog more." More than what? What counts as training? Does a single repetition of sit-down-stand count, or does it have to be several minutes to matter? Now, if you said, "I'd like to do 90 seconds of obedience training twice per day at least 4 days a week," now you're talking! Goals like that allow you to know whether or not you've achieved them -- there's no guessing and thusly, less stress. It's important to keep the "achievable" part of the SMART goals process in mind. Set goals you can feasibly reach so that you can succeed. When you've achieved the first set of goals, set new ones. It's far easier to start a habit of training for 3 minutes a day than it is for 30 minutes twice per day! Be kind to yourself, your dog, and your capabilities. Step One: Decide What You Want Your Goals to Be Before you can set goals, you need to know what you want to work on. Ideally, your goals involve behaviors or skills you'd like to build or improve in your dog or in your handling. Not all goals have to directly involve training your dog. Maybe you'd like to read a chapter per week of a book on canine behavior or maybe you'd like to take an online course on canine massage. By all means, though, set goals for direct interactions with your dog, too! Consider including goals for exercise and enrichment, too. Chances are both you
Halloween 2013 is tomorrow and with it comes fall festivals, parties and trick-or-treating. While Halloween events are fun and exciting for the entire family, this most spooky of nights also carries many dangers, particularly for four-legged pack members. Before heading out to celebrate Halloween 2013, review our list of precautions to learn how to keep you and your Service Dog safe and your night of frights as trouble-free as possible.
Many common dog training mistakes get in the way of your dog learning. Most people have no idea these common errors exist, though! While professional dog trainers make dog training look simple, it's far too easy to do it wrong. Dog training mistakes include simple things like practicing for too long plus more complicated errors surrounding timing, reinforcement, or other technical concepts. If you want to become a better dog trainer and handler, then keep reading. You'll get an overview of the most common dog training mistakes plus tips on how to avoid or fix them. Dog Training Mistakes: Training For Too Long Training for too long results in increased frustration for both dog and trainer. It also causes your dog to retain less material and, furthermore, can build a lack of focus and enthusiasm into behaviors. You don't need to train for 20 minutes at a time in order to get results. Stick to frequent, short (2-5 minute) sessions multiple times throughout the day and watch your dog's progress soar. Dog Training Mistakes: Not Training Enough Oddly enough, not training enough is just as common, if not more common, than trying to train for too long at a time. It's too easy to train your dog for a few minutes one day and then, before you know it, 4 or 5 days have passed with zero training time. Falling into this dog training trap means spending your time perpetually going back over things you've already worked on instead of building new skills and polishing old ones. Set a timer on your phone for the same time every day to remind you to do the bare minimum -- 90 seconds to 3 minutes of active, focused training on a single skill you're seeking to teach. Do this every single day. If you can, add additional sessions throughout the day for quicker progress. Dog Training Mistakes: Under Reinforcing If you want your dog to work for you, you have to pay them for their effort and attention. Trying to get your dog to work for pats on the head is akin to someone trying to get a professional photographer to work for "exposure." No one likes it and the idea is just insulting. Reward your dog frequently and well with things your dog finds valuable. Note: just because you think your dog should like something doesn't mean they do! Behaviors that aren't reinforced don't stick around. This doesn't mean you have
When you first bring home a new Service Dog candidate, it's easy to become overwhelmed at the sheer volume of "stuff" that needs to be mastered. While every Service Dog's end job may vary, there are foundational behaviors and concepts every working dog should know, no matter his or her specialty. Teams should be adept at skills in addition to the ones presented below (this list is not at all all-inclusive), but these are, without a doubt, the first five skills you should teach any Service Dog in Training.
While many appreciate the beauty of fall colors, from the leaves on trees to potted mums and carved pumpkins, there are seasonal hazards for Service Dogs and their owners to be aware of, no matter what part of the country you live in.