Becoming a Service Dog takes a lot of hard work and dedication. With so many things to learn, it can be hard to know what to focus on! Help young Service Dogs in Training succeed by practicing these 3 skills every day.
Foundation obedience lays the groundwork for future public access, task training, and advanced skills. Most trainers consider sit, down, stand, stay, leash walking, and recalls (come) to be basic obedience, but the definition varies widely. Some people include manners and other skills like targeting, place training, and husbandry.
Definition aside, there’s no doubt these skills matter. Young Service Dogs in training should practice positions (including sit, down, stand, heel, side, front, etc.), moving with their handler, and building duration on their behaviors every day. Eventually, as their abilities improve, they should work on distractions and adding distance, too.
Keep in mind there’s no need to practice everything every single day. In the beginning, an SDiT may only be working on one or two things. Practice those one or two things. Add more as the puppy is able to master the material.
Impulse Control and Focus
Service Dogs working in public deal with uncountable distractions — motion, people, smells, new objects, other dogs, loud noises, etc. In order to succeed, Service Dogs require bomb-proof temperaments, focus, and impulse control. As such, young Service Dogs in Training should practice these skills every day.
Training games like Susan Garrett’s It’s Yer Choice or Sue Ailsby’s Zen offer lots of ways to practice these behaviors in the context of everyday life. Handlers should strive to reinforce handler focus and distraction proofing at every opportunity.
Lots of Service Dog work involves long periods of waiting, watching, and relaxing, especially while in public. The ability to relax calmly is a learned skill, not an innate characteristic. Young Service Dogs in Training should work on their ability to settle for long periods of time every day.
Place training and tether training provide great opportunities for practicing this vital Service Dog skill.
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