Friday, December 26, 2014

What Skills Do You Need to Train your Own Service Dog?

What Skills Do You Need to Train your Own Service Dog?

Dedication and Persistence-Training your own service dogs for public access is an ongoing task. There is a reason why it takes dedicated organizations between 12 mos and 2 years to fully train a service dog and why they are worth between $25,000 and $70,000.  Training occurs every day and you will need to travel away from home to teach your dog to ride different forms of public transit, different places etc. You will need to get out of bed on those days you don't feel well enough to do so to provide your dog with her basic needs as well as do training.

Ability to interact with your dog as an equal partner. There are many things you can do better than your dog and many things your dog can do better than you. Working together, you can do anything!

The ability to reject much of what TV dog trainers tell you. They are reality TV entertainers, not knowledgable trainers or behaviorists. Most have no training in teaching people or dogs. Most train based on out of date information and the way they think dogs and people should interact (which may be quite dysfunctional). Dogs and people are two different species and interact with each other as such. Dogs do not expect us to act like dogs and we do not expect them to behave like humans.

Willingness to learn to read dog body language and interpret it based on the context.

Organizational Skills-to create and follow detailed training plans

Ability to see the big picture of the final desired behaviors you want.

Ability to break these behaviors into their tiniest steps to help your dog succeed in learning them.

Creativity to find different approaches than what others use. Your individual disabilities may be a unique combination that adds challenge to the basic training.

Interest in experimenting with teaching dogs. Every day is a different day. You dog's starting point may vary depending on what happened in the last training session or yesterday.

Ability to be willing to make mistakes and learn from them, to change the training plan as you go.

Patience to answer questions from the public and pro-actively deal with people who interfere with your dog while she is doing her job.

Resourcefulness to find, borrow, make, get donated etc equipment for training. Find other people to help you train. It takes a village to train a solid service dog.

Willingness to approach business owners to ask for written permission to access their business we your dog is still in training. Many states and provinces do not give access to Service Dogs in Training. Only trained service dogs are given access based on the fact that they are considered a medical device for the user.

Research Skills
-to determine the local laws that apply to you. Does your dog need to be certified? Do service dogs in training have the same access rights as trained service dogs?
-to find Facebook and other internet support and training groups to help you.
- to find everything else you will need to help you and your dog succeed

Ability to accept instruction from others while learning how to teach your dog.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Why Train Service Dogs with Positive Reinforcement?

The bottom line is because teaching with positive reinforcement works effectively and quickly and no physical force is needed. Several service training organizations have switched over to positive reinforcement and have found their graduation success rate has increased from 50-60% to 80-90%. Others have found the length of training time had declined (from as much as 18 months to 6 months depending on the skills required of the dog).

Positive Reinforcement can be done at a distance (via capturing behaviors and shaping). You don't have to be within arm's distance of your dog so it works well for people with mobility issues and those in wheelchairs.

Positive training creates a dog that thinks about what behavior is wanted and needed in a specific environment. It teaches dogs what TO do, rather than just teaching them what not to do. In a service dog, you do not want a doormat. You do want a thinking partner at your side. ]

Dogs work for what motivates them. They must eat. Food is motivating.  Using something that are willing to work for is a smart approach. Why not have them work for their meal? It makes their life more meaningful than just delivering the dish to them.

Note about dogs that don't enjoy eating: They have been trained to do that. Because food is a requirement for survival, it it unusual to find a dog that does not want food. They can be re-trained to like food. This may require you to re-examine your definition of dog food and how you use it.

Food isn't the only thing that can be used for positive training. Toys can be added after the basic behaviors have been taught. Things your dog really wants (such as going out, sniffing, chasing, greeting people, going for a walk etc) and games your dog enjoys can be used to positively reinforce desired behaviors as well.

Using the principles of positive reinforcement builds a fabulous trusting bond between you and the dog.    There is no fear involved.

Shifting to a positive-based training philosophy will change your life. Your daily stress level will lower when you are looking for the great things your dog is doing, rather than focussing on what he is doing wrong.  Learning that you create the social and emotional environment and choose the physical environment your dog lives and works in and the impacts it has on their dog (and others around them)  is eye opening for most people!

You can apply the same principle to your interactions with family and caregivers to create a more positive atmosphere in what is usually stressful. If you are living with a disability, why make it harder than it needs to be?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Two New Clicker Products to Check out for People with Disabilities

Here is a product that makes it easier to hold the clicker in your hand. Makes it hard to drop it and is soft and comfortable to hold, I understand.

Cosy Clicker

This is a ring clicker which is just in the process of being released. Will be handy to have the clicker on your finger. No worries about losing or dropping it.

Clicker Plus (Ring Clicker)