Everyone knows it takes a lot of training to become a Service Dog, but few people know how much training or what kind of training. Service Dog training includes several areas of study and can take lots of time. Continue reading to learn more about the types of training Service Dogs require.
Puppy Training for Service Dogs
For many Service Dogs, training begins in puppyhood. Most of the puppy training for Service Dogs consists of the same type of skills all well-behaved dogs learn, including house training, crate training, and learning what to chew on or play with. However, some Service Dogs also begin learning basic obedience exercises while they’re puppies. Clicker conditioning, shaping and luring games, nose and paw targeting, and learning to accept all types of gear help build a solid foundation for future Service Dog training.
Manners Training for Service Dogs
When it comes to Service Dogs, manners form much of the backbone for future training, especially public access training. Manners training includes lessons like:
- Sitting politely to greet people
- Not jumping up
- Not mouthing
- Not playing keep away with household items
- Ignoring dropped food items
- Impulse control
- Not taking food away from people or off plates
- Learning to load and unload quietly from a vehicle
- Calmly waiting for a leash to be attached or taken off
- Waiting until released to go through doors
- Moving out of the way on cue
Basic Training for Service Dogs
Basic training includes the skills most people think about when they think about dog training. The “standard” commands are sit, down, stand, come, heel, and stay. For Service Dogs, basic training helps imprint positions (sit, down, and stand), many of which are useful during task training and work. Basic training also begins the process of distraction proofing.
For many Service Dogs, basic training also includes mat or place work, perch work, and more advanced positional exercises and skills. Some Service Dogs learn to heel on both sides of the body, as well as front and rear positions. During this phase of training, a Service Dog learns the obedience and working positions necessary to do their job. They also begin learning to focus on their current task, regardless of what’s going on around them.
Advanced Training for Service Dogs
Service Dog advanced training refines the skills learned in basic training. Many Service Dogs learn emergency obedience, like a sit on recall or an emergency down, during this portion of training. If they’re necessary, off leash skills are worked and polished. All basic obedience behaviors are thoroughly trained and proofed for distance, duration, and distractions. Pivots and heelwork, if necessary for the team, will be taught and honed.
Public Access Training for Service Dogs
Most Service Dogs build public access skills as they’re undergoing other training. However, some specific public access behaviors include scooting under a table or chair, tucking the tail so it doesn’t get walked on, and building familiarity with all kinds of surfaces, sounds, and situations. Public access training works on a lot of stays and leash walking of all kind, especially under high levels of distraction or with extended duration. Impulse control skills are particularly important for public access.
Task Training for Service Dogs
Task training is the meat and bones of Service Dog training. Without trained, specific tasks, a dog cannot be a Service Dog. Tasks vary widely from Service Dog to Service Dog, but they’re always related to their person’s disability and needs. Task training teaches the Service Dog the skills necessary to help their person live a more independent life. Common Service Dog tasks include:
- Opening and closing doors
- Pulling a wheelchair
- Helping a fallen person stand
- Transition someone from lying down to sitting
- Turning lights on and off
- Retrieving a phone
- Picking up dropped items
- Helping remove clothing or blankets to assist with temperature control
- Providing counter balance for an unsteady person
- Offering deep pressure stimulation to someone having an anxiety attack
- Waking up someone having a nightmare
- Alerting a caretaker to medical equipment malfunction
- Alerting to dangerous blood sugar levels or the presence of deadly allergens
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