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December 2019

  /    /  December

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