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
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
Halloween 2013 is tomorrow and with it comes fall festivals, parties and trick-or-treating. While Halloween events are fun and exciting for the entire family, this most spooky of nights also carries many dangers, particularly for four-legged pack members. Before heading out to celebrate Halloween 2013, review our list of precautions to learn how to keep you and your Service Dog safe and your night of frights as trouble-free as possible.
If you're ready to invite a new canine family member into your life it's tempting to go out and buy all kinds of treats, toys and more. Before you start over-buying for your new puppy, here's our list of the top things to purchase when you get a new dog. Identification Tags, Collar and Leash The first thing three things you should purchase when you get a dog are, in this order, are identification tags, a collar and a leash. Be prepared for your new puppy's natural curiosity to get them into all sorts of trouble — including wandering off. A puppy is like a toddler and you'll need to keep track of them at all times. They should never be without a collar and tag. If your puppy is high energy, avoid tags and collars that can get caught on things and cause injury. Dog Pads If you live in an upper floor condo, apartment — or if you have a Service Dog in Training (SDiT) and your disability makes it difficult for you to take your dog out as frequently as needed, dog pads are definitely worth considering. They're soft, absorbent pads that are perfect for indoor potty training. Crate or Kennel Crate training is crucial for all puppies. In the wild, a dog's den is their home — a safe place to sleep, hide from danger and raise a family. Crates function as your dog's den, where they can find comfort and solitude while you know they’re safe and secure — and not shredding your couch while you're out getting milk. However, it's important to use a crate correctly. Choose a crate that is only large enough for your dog to turn around. If the dog has too much space they will choose a corner to go potty — and the main purpose of a crate is to teach them how to hold themselves. You can choose a larger crate if you block off the rear area with a sturdy cardboard box as long as they won't shred it
Puppies need exercise and activity. However, growing puppies, especially large breed puppies, should avoid heavy, jarring activities or exercise including lots of twisting and turning. Too much jumping and turning can injure growing bones. In order to preserve your puppy's joint health and structure, avoid these 5 activities. Running on Hard Surfaces Repetitive impact on hard surfaces, like running, can jam a puppy's long bones and prevent proper joint development. While puppies often enjoy wrestling and zooming about, such activities should be age-appropriate and kept to softer surfaces, like grass. Puppies naturally run and shouldn't be limited. However, they shouldn't be forced to run or walk long distances. Jumping Jumping results in huge amounts of force being distributed across growing joints. Young puppies should keep four on the floor as much as possible. Injuries to knees, ankles, hips, or shoulders can result in malformation or lasting issues later in life. "Jumping" includes things like jumping out of the car, off the couch, or in agility training. Frisbee Frisbee involves lots of running, jumping, twisting, leaping, and hard landings, often while in a hyper excited state. As such, full-on disc play should be avoided until growth plate closure can be confirmed. if you'd like to introduce your puppy to frisbee, learn to throw rollers along the ground for them. Treadmilling Treadmilling is the epitome of repetitive activity. It also forces the puppy or dog into a fixed gait or movement pattern. Puppies should avoid treadmilling outside of some very light introductions to moving surfaces. Forced exercise does nothing good for puppies, especially not for their growth and joint health. Walking on Slippery Surfaces Slippery surfaces can cause puppies to splay out, slide, or land in puddled heaps while running. While adorable, this activity isn't safe for developing joints. If you have hardwood or tile floors, consider putting down runners or rugs.
When it comes to training a Service Dog, absolutely nothing is more important than exhaustive socialization. Socialization and exposure to the world is the foundation upon which all other training rests, and a Service Dog who hasn't gained real-world experience via systematic socialization is not fit for public access. With this list of oft-missed opportunities, you'll be able to ensure you're hitting all the bases while socializing Service Dogs in Training. Important Considerations Before Beginning Never, ever put a vest on a dog or claim it as a Service Dog in Training that is still displaying any behavior issues that would be eliminated during basic training — including leash pulling, inappropriate sniffing, etc. There are plenty of opportunities to socialize a dog in public at pet stores which allow animals, public parks and other areas which allow dogs. Remember, your behavior and that of your dog not only effects you but other Service Dog teams as well. Before bringing your Service Dog in Training (SDiT) home, you need to have a defined plan for socializing him. While many people decide to simply take the puppy with them and introduce him to everything and anything they can, utilizing that approach results in missed experiences and an uneven education. Unfortunately, more Service Dogs are released from training programs across the country for socialization concerns than any other reason. Protect your partnership by not only picking a puppy from a source that began socialization and stimulation at birth, but by also continuing socialization, exposure and training throughout your puppy's training. Use the attached checklist or prepare one of your own that includes everything your partner may encounter as both a puppy in training and as a working Service Dog adult. By keeping track of your Service Dog in Training's education, you'll better be able to spot and fill in holes before they become an issue. The most important rule of socializing Service Dogs in Training is to never, ever, ever, for any reason, force an SDiT to approach, interact with, touch or be on/near/with something that appears to frighten them. Forcing a puppy in training to engage when afraid ensures he'll never form positive associations with the object, person, place, surface, equipment or situation. Instead of forcing your SDiT, always keep high-value treats with you and use them to encourage a suspicious puppy to explore a situation of his own accord. If you lay a solid foundation of socialization
Everyone wants their puppy to housetrain quickly. For Service Dogs in Training, progression relies on housetraining. Until an SDiT has reliable potty habits, public access training often proves difficult or impossible. If you're trying to make quick progress with potty training, make sure you're not making these common mistakes. You're Not Using a Schedule When a puppy gets up at the same time every day, eats on a schedule, and goes out on a schedule, housetraining becomes much easier. Not only can you predict when the puppy needs to go outside, but the puppy learns that an opportunity to go out happens regularly and they start to wait for it. Set up a schedule for your Service Dog in Training as soon as possible. Your puppy should come out of the crate and go to bed at roughly the same time every day. Meals and training sessions should occur at regular times. Puppies need daily exercise, grooming, and interaction, so pencil those in, too. You're Not Keeping Them Focused Puppies enjoy playing. If you simply put a puppy outdoors and then bring them in, oftentimes, you'll find a surprise on the floor shortly after! To prevent the "I took them out but they came inside and pottied" problem, take your puppy outside on a leash. Keep them on the leash and focused on business until they potty. Afterward, remove the leash and play. Business before play. Remember that puppies need to go outside first thing of the morning and just before bed, as well as after meals and during any changes in activity. You're Not Controlling Intake Fee feeding a puppy and leaving water down all the time is one of the top causes of house training issues. Feed your puppy on a schedule. What goes in must come out, so with time, you'll be able to predict when your puppy needs to go out. Pick up all water 2-3 hours before bed so your puppy has plenty of time to go potty before going to sleep for the night. Very young puppies might need an extra trip outdoors during the night, but older puppies are more than capable of sleeping through the night.
Although many people know that you are not supposed to pet Service Dogs when they are working, few understand the reasoning behind this rule. Even fewer people realize that you should not DISTRACT an assistance dog in ANY WAY.