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December 2019

  /  2019

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

Holiday travel with a Service Dog doesn’t have to be stressful. By following a few simple tips, you can reduce any difficulties associated with bringing your partner along for Christmas celebrations. Prepare Ahead of Time Preparing ahead for holiday travel solves many potential problems. If you’re flying, call the airline and let them know about your Service Dog. If you’re driving, look up good spots to stop so your Service Dog can stretch their legs. Having a solid plan in place means you don’t have to think about details on the day of travel. Preparing ahead also means packing for your dog. Divvy out individual meals and put your Service Dog’s gear in a small bag so it’s easily accessed. Bring extra food, medication, treats, and copies of documentation. It’s better to have a bit too much and not need it than to need more and not have it. If you’re traveling for an extended period, consider purchasing a bag of food once you reach your destination instead of trying to fly with or pack enough for several days. Understand Travel Buddies May Not “Get It” People who don’t routinely see you working with your Service Dog may not entirely understand what your partner does for you. Many people are lucky to have friends and family who support their Service Dog, but some teams might face criticism, disdain, or other difficulties when they return home for the holidays. Be prepared to enforce boundaries concerning your partner, especially regarding access and interaction. Many holiday guests may not “get” that your partner is working for you while around the house, so be sure to be clear about when your Service Dog is on duty and when they’re off duty. If there are children, consider using a visual cue that your partner is working or not. A bandana often works well for this. If your Service Dog has a bandana on, it’s like an invisibility cloak and the kids should pretend they can’t even see your dog. If your dog isn’t wearing a bandana, then they may be petted or played with. If you’d prefer that no one interacts with your partner except for you, then enforce that from the very beginning. Be clear and consistent in your expectations. Stick to a Routine Try to avoid changing your Service Dog’s routine during holiday travel if at all possible. If your partner generally eats at 10 am and 3 pm, do

At first glance, "sit" seems like a pretty easy position to teach a dog. In fact, sit is often the very first thing puppies learn. Did you know, though, that there are several different kinds of sit positions? The type that's commonly taught, the rock back sit, isn't always the most efficient or best version for working dogs. Learn how to teach a "tuck sit" by following a few simple steps! Dogs sit via one of two basic ways -- by shifting backward on their haunches with or without moving their front feet towards their rear or by scooting their rear end up towards their shoulders. The first way, called a "rock back" sit, uses gravity to sink the dog's rump to the ground. The second, called a "tuck sit," requires enough shoulder strength and stability to support the dog's body weight as they transition into the sit. For most dogs, the basic rock back sit is just fine -- they just need to be able to put their rear on the ground when asked. For working dogs or performance dogs, especially those competing in obedience trials, the tuck sit reigns supreme. It allows the dog to remain properly aligned without moving away from their handler. If you put the dog's front feet on a line and ask for a tuck sit, the feet stay in a place. In contrast, a dog using a rock back sit might end up feet away from the place they started! For Service Dog trainers and handlers, tuck sits prove invaluable because they ensure the handler can easily reach the dog or anything the dog is carrying in their mouth or in a pack. Furthermore, the tuck sit also prevents the Service Dog from occupying more space than necessary while working in public. There are many ways to teach a tuck sit Multiple methods exist for teaching tuck sits. Depending on how your dog learns, one way may work better for you guys than another. Below, you'll find a step-by-step guide to teaching a tuck sit that relies on simple foundation skills. The method outlined tends to work for a wide variety of dogs, including puppies. Before beginning tuck sit training Ideally, before beginning to teach the tuck sit, your dog will already have some paw targeting and nose targeting skills. The targeting isn't completely required but it will shortcut the process. You'll need high value treats, some kind of

Astro the robot dog looks like and learns like its canine namesake. This 100-pound quadruped robot features a 3D printed Doberman Pinscher head, a tail, and a deep neural network computerized brain that learns from experience and can be trained. Designed and developed by a Florida Atlantic University research and psychology team, Astro's potential is far-reaching. Using deep learning and artificial intelligence (AI), scientists from Florida Atlantic University’s Machine Perception and Cognitive Robotics Laboratory (MPCR) in the Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science packed Astro full of some serious technology. Unlike previous iterations of quadruped robots, Astro isn't "programmed" to perform simple tasks. Due to the kind of neural network in Astro's Doberman-shaped head, this robot can be trained to perform a wide variety of tasks, just like a real dog. Astro can see, hear, process, and respond to a wide variety of sensory input. Developmentally, Astro is still a puppy. It can sit, lie down, move forward, and perform other basic commands. The research team who built the robot wants to teach it to respond to hand signals, colors and multiple languages. Additionally, they also want Astro to recognize different people by sight, which would allow it to be paired with a wider variety of handlers. In addition to responding to cues and commands, Astro's "brain," can, with training, sync up with drones and other mechanized technology. The K9 robot could send and receive a wide variety of intel and respond to real-world input on the fly. Astro the Robot Dog's Uses Astro's is no lightweight -- it weighs 45 kilos (100 pounds) and can traverse extremely rough terrain. Not only can Astro move through challenging geographical areas like dense forests or over mountains, but it can also enter disaster zones more safely than human rescuers or search dogs. Originally, the FAU team built Astro for military applications. The robot was to serve as a scout. The team equipped Astro with over a dozen sensors including optical, auditory, olfactory, gas, and radar. Its key missions include detecting guns, explosives and gun residue to assist police, the military, and security personnel. This robotic dog can also be trained for and/or assist in the following ways, as well: Guiding the blind Pulling wheelchairs Assisting with mobility tasks Medical diagnostic monitoring Exploring hazardous environments Assisting soldiers on the battlefield Search through thousands of faces in a database Sniff

Like humans, dogs go through different moods depending on the moment and the situation they witness. Sadness, joy, fear, or restlessness, are some of the feelings we share with our pets, and they tend to correspond accordingly. Learn the science behind about common funny and weird dog behavior.     Understanding the behavior of our dog is essential to training. Knowing their body language, gestures, and attitudes can help us communicate with them and react accordingly. Some of weird dog behaviors may be funny — however, some behaviors can hide their pain or discomfort. Let's dig deep to discover the reasons behind all those nutty behaviors, supported by science. 1. Why does my dog eat grass? Let's start this off easy. "Why do dogs eat grass?" is probably the most often question asked about weird dog behavior. Fortunately, it's extremely common and for the most part harmless. Some dogs complement their diet with the nutrients which are contained in plants while others happily munch on the grass as they love the taste. However, most of the time dogs eat leafy greens to help with an upset stomach; however, if this is repeated often, then it's time to visit your veterinarian. Generally, the only concern may be if the plants have been treated with pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals.   2. Why does my dog spin around before laying down?     We've all seen it in cartoons, movies or in your own home. Dogs walk in a circle two or three times, scratch a little, and lie down. Of course, your dog is trying to make his or her space as comfortable as possible, similar to how you may fluff a pillow. But why do they all act the same way? Wolves perform the same 360 degree turns to, in addition to seeking comfort, ensure that there is no danger in any direction.   3. Why does my dog eat poop? The scientific name given to this super gross habit is coprophagia. The word is derived from the Greek κόπρος copros, "feces" and φαγεῖν phagein, "to eat". Coprophagy refers to many kinds of feces-eating, including eating feces of other species (heterospecifics), of other dogs (allocoprophagy), or one's own poops (autocoprophagy). Yum! Stool eating has both behavioral and physiological reasons; science says that eating fecal dropping is a normal way of obtaining key nutrients due to deficiencies. However, there's often more to it. On the most simplistic end of the poop eating spectrum, your dog may smell certain scents

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 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. Handler Focus 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. Positions 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 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

This year, select Anthem Medicare Advantage plans will offer members the option to receive support for their service dog (food, leash, vest) as part of their health insurance plan. Anthem, Inc.’s affiliated health plans in more than a dozen states will offer wellness, social and support benefits, including support for service dogs, in many of their 2020 Medicare Advantage plans. Consumers who are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans that offer these benefits and qualify for the service dog support benefit can select this benefit, at no additional cost to them. This benefit includes an annual allowance for up to $500 to help pay for items used to care for their service dog, such as food, leashes and vests. Consumers must have a qualifying chronic condition and service dogs must meet the requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act and have approval from their healthcare provider. Other social and support service options offered as part of the benefits package in these Medicare Advantage plans include transportation, nutritional support, a fitness device, pest control, and sessions with a dietitian and home-delivered pantry staples. These benefits are part of Anthem’s commitment to whole-person health – an approach to healthcare that takes into account the drivers of health, including medical, behavioral, and environmental obstacles. “When we looked at the underlying medical, behavioral, and environmental obstacles our members face, we designed an expanded menu of wellness services,” said Josh Martin, President of Anthem’s Medicare West Region. “Last year, we led the industry in offering robust Medicare Advantage supplemental benefits, and saw strong demand for services such as alternative medicine, transportation, and the allowance for assistive devices. Our 2020 benefits will help remove hurdles to healthier living for our Medicare Advantage members – from nutrition counseling and fitness tracking to pest control and service dog support – by expanding our social and support benefits.” Members who are enrolled in the Medicare Advantage plans will have access to this package of wellness benefits, at no extra cost. Members should consult their Evidence of Coverage document for specific benefit details as benefits may vary by plan. Pest Control: Quarterly preventive treatments to regulate or eliminate the intrusion of household pests that may impact a chronic condition. (New in 2020) Prescribed Meals: 2 meals per day for 90 days delivered to home. Based on qualifying clinical criteria, health plan consumer receives a prescription for meals and periodic appointments with a registered dietitian. In-Home

In the United States, every Service Dog handler enjoys the right to travel with their Service Dog. However, finding straightforward information about airline policies and requirements, international laws, TSA regulations, security checkpoints, and other commonly encountered situations isn't easy! To help you prepare you for your trip, we've compiled Service Dog travel tips, tricks, hacks, guidelines, and resources. Terminology note: U.S. Federal law includes miniature horses in the list of allowable Assistance Animal species. Miniature horses trained as Assistance Animals usually provide either guide services or brace and mobility support. Since the majority of Assistance Animal handlers partner with a dog, we usually utilize the term "Service Dog" instead of the more universal "Service Animal." However, any time you see "Service Dog," you could replace it with "Miniature Guide Horse" or "Brace and Mobility Support Horse" seamlessly. Miniature horse users possess identical public access rights to Service Dog teams. Airlines Updated Service Dog and ESA Policies in 2018 Throughout the course of 2018, nearly every major domestic airline updated their Service Dog travel policies. Most airlines designed their new protocols to crack down on people using legal loopholes to transport untrained or unsuitable dogs free of charge in the cabin. As such, many of the new rules differ greatly from the "old" airline Service Dog requirements. This is particularly true concerning Emotional Support Animals (ESAs). Many airlines now require an extensive, multi-step approval process for Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals. Some airlines outline different rules or behavioral expectations for different types of Service Dogs. As an example, American Airlines requires Psychiatric Service Dogs to meet the Emotional Support Animal (ESA) requirements instead of the standard Service Dog requirements. Learn More About how Service Animals, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals Differ Other types of professional working dogs, like Search and Rescue Dogs and Police K9s, often fly under an airline's established Service Dog policy. However, that's far from universal -- airline working dog policies range from nonexistent to clearly defined with everything in between! All handlers should confirm their airline's Working K9 or Service Dog travel policy several days prior to flying. Airlines accept Service Dogs in Training (SDiTs) at their own discretion. Service Dnimals in Training are not covered by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and therefore have no legal rights to fly under any Service Animal policy. Some airlines provide better SDiT policies than others. Service Dog Definitions and Requirements Vary Widely In addition to tightening the rules for flying

In October 2019, a trained Military Working Dog (MWD) named Conan helped take down the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, during a special operations raid. K9 Conan and members of Delta Force chased Baghdadi into a dead-end tunnel. Baghdadi subsequently panicked and detonated his suicide vest, resulting in his death and that of 3 children he brought with him. Conan has been hailed as a hero dog for his part in the successful raid. While information about him is scarce as both he and his handler are still operational, here are 5 things we do know about him. He's a Belgian Malinois Conan is a male Belgian Malinois. This medium to large herding dog breed is a hardworking powerhouse of ideal size and temperament for multipurpose fieldwork. Furthermore, the Belgian Malinois traits of trainability, exemplary performance under stress, and unmatched athleticism make them a prime choice for Military Working Dog positions. The U.S. Military also utilizes German Shepherds and Dutch Shepherds, as well as Labrador Retrievers, for both combat roles and detection jobs. Belgian Shepherds, including Malinois, tend to be smaller than their German cousins. Males average 24 to 26" tall at the shoulder and weigh approximately 60 to 70 pounds. They boast a sleek double coat that's most commonly seen with varying shades of brown, tan, and black, although the breed does come in several other color combinations. They have a sharp, inquisitive, take charge nature. Most members of the breed are extremely intense. Belgian Malinois require highly experienced handling and extensive training. They do not often make good pets or Service Dogs, although they thrive as working and performance dogs. MWD Conan's Training Took Place in Texas The United States Air Force selects, trains, and places Military Working Dogs of all kinds. K9 Conan, like all MWDs, was trained by the 341st Military Working Dog Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, which is located in Texas. Specifically, Conan belongs to the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Military Working Dog program. He's attached to the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, more commonly known as Delta Force. Delta Force is an Army unit that falls under the umbrella of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command. Military Working Dogs utilized by U.S. special operations teams undergo some of the most rigorous and sophisticated training in the world. These special dogs run messages, serve as eyes and ears for their handlers, sniff out hostiles, assist with

In early 2017, multiple deadly forest fires swept the country Chile. As a result of these fires, 11 people lost their lives, wholes towns disappeared from the map, and over a million acres of wildlands burned. The aftermath of forest fires not only destroys lives but also devastates local flora and fauna. Animals leave due to lack of food, invasive species take over, and the ground lies barren. Usually, nature heals itself over the course of many years. For some regions in Chile, though, a special team of working dogs is out to lend nature a helping hand. Border Collies Save the Day After Forest Fire Dog trainer Fransisca Torres and owner of the environmental NGO Pewas decided to put her 3 Border Collies to work doing an important job -- reseeding the Chilean forests. All 3 dogs are female and they're named Das, Olivia, and Summer. Each of the dogs wears a backpack designed to allow seeds to scatter as the dogs run. Torres drives to the day's work location and releases the dogs from the truck. They run through the forest leaving seed trails in their wake. Being Border Collies, they can rack up some impressive mileage each day -- close to 20 miles each, in fact! Furthermore, they can scatter close to 20 pounds of seeds. Most humans who reseed the forests after fires average 5 miles per day and oftentimes far less. After the packs are empty, the dogs return to their handler for love, treats, and a refill. Once their packs are restocked, they're off again. The efforts have already started to pay off -- regrowth is occurring much quicker in the regions the dogs have ran. Greenery and vines are already starting to show. The efforts by Torres, Das, Olivia, and Summer have been praised by the president of Chile and multiple organizations dedicated to environmental preservation and awareness.