Sunday, January 25, 2009

55. How to Choose a Service Dog Trainer to Help You Train




I was recently asked how a person would go about finding a trainer that will help them to train their own service or assistance dog. Here is my answer.

The first assumption is that the trainer needs to be an experienced service dog trainer. This is not true. The most important part of a service dog is that the dog can pass the public access test. Here's another link: IAADP  This means the dog must behave appropriately (calmly, no barking etc) in public, be able to perform common cues (sit,  down, wait, leave it etc) and not be fearful or aggressive towards people, animals and the wide array of situations s/he will be faced with when assisting their handler in public. This is the hardest (and often the longest) part of the training so choose a trainer that is going to set you and your dog up to succeed and you will look forward to working with in the long-term.

1. Start by looking for a trainer that fits your personal training philosophy for both you and your dog.
a) Ask around (friends with dogs, dog clubs, veterinarian etc). Check the internet for trainers near you.
There are several directories to help:
regional training associations Vancouver Island Animal Training Assoc (VIATA)
Pet Professional Guild
Karen Pryor Academy
Jean Donaldson Academy

Choosing a trainer that uses positive reinforcement allows you to build a strong bond and create an confident and eager worker willing to take risks during learning. A trainer who understands how to correctly apply the 'quadrants and principles of operant conditioning' will help to ensure they understand how to break behaviors into small enough steps so your dog will be successful at each step. Dogs that get frustrated or who are punished (corrected) typically shut down and do not offer the creative and intelligent behavior choices a service dog will need to offer during his/her career. Look for an "About" page on their web-site. It should outline their training philosophy and techniques, maybe even mentors. 

Do be aware the term "positive" is applied in many ways so just because a trainer calls themselves "positive" does not mean you will get one that uses primarily reinforcement-based training. "Balanced" trainers use a combination of both positive reinforcement and correction-based approaches. Dominance-based trainers tend to use force, physical manipulation and intimidation (such as invasion of personal space) to get behaviors, much emphasis is placed on verbal praise and the use of food or toys is rare.

b) Since you are the other half of the service dog team,  the trainer will need to be able to anticipate and accommodate your needs as well. How do they interact with you personally? Are you comfortable with them? What training have they done to learn how to train people? TAG teach (Teaching with Acoustic Guidance) is good certification to have. Training as a teacher is handy. Training in ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) is a bonus as is anyone with a Master's in Behavioral Psychology. Anyone that has worked with children, people with special needs or disabilities (and enjoyed it) may be a good choice as they understand how to adapt their training to your needs. What teaching experience have they had?  Choose someone that can provide structure, is organized and can keep you on track since the process may take up to 12 months or more. 

2. Next, look at their dog training credentials. Is the trainer a current member of any recognized training associations? Do your research on the internet and find out the methods endorsed by these organizations.
Have they taken training or been certified by a recognized organization? Are they a tester or instructor for any? Which ones? 
Do they participate in regular (at least annual) professional development? (That is, keeping current on new ways to teach both you and the dog?) It might be in-person workshops or seminars, could be on-line learning or even purchasing books and DVD's, reading magazines etc.)

3. Do they have an area of specialty? This will be one or two areas they have a greater knowledge of due to either a special interest or more experience. (might be puppies, fearful dogs, aggressive dogs, working with children, service dogs, etc).  Trainers that list many "specialities" are likely using them as keywords on their site be found by search engines. 

4. When you have narrowed your list to 2 or 3 possible trainers, ask them some questions. Talk to them in person, on the phone or via video chat. E-mailing is usually too time consuming. Make an appointment to ensure they have time to talk to you. Explain that you are doing research to find a suitable trainer to help you train you and your service dog for the behaviors in the Public Access Test.

a) Ask them who handles the dog. If at any time does someone other than you (dog's partner) handles the dog? In what situations? Are you comfortable with that?
b) What type of training equipment do they use (collars, harness, food, objects, people etc). 
Some collars use force and punishment (prong, choke, e-collar) while others are designed to avoid that (head collars, front clip harnesses) but still give you more control over the dog's behavior. 
c) Where do they train with you? At your home? Their facility? Public places later on? 

d) If a dog doesn't do what they want, how do they respond? For example, sit. (Answers will vary from 'make him', 'push his butt down', to 'start with where the dog is at (assess for understanding, distractions, stress level etc) and train from there'. The second answer is preferred.) 

e) Can they list 5 calming signals given by dogs in a stressful situation? (if they don't know what signs a dog uses to communicate stress (look aways, whale eye, yawning, lip licks, sniffing, avoidance etc), this is not a good sign as they probably also don't understand thresholds.

f) Can they tell you when the various fear periods are in a dog's development? These will affect performance during training, especially during adolescence. (fear periods are 8-11 weeks, 4 to 8 months, 6 to 14 months)

g) Do they do an assessment of  the abilities of you and your dog? It might a verbal or a practical or both.

h) do they offer semi-private or private lessons if needed?

i) How do they deal with aggression and fear? (listen for methods to reveal their knowledge level as much as a general approach). Methods such as forcing a dog to ensure something it is afraid of (called flooding) or correcting the dog for growling, barking (called positive punishment) etc is now recognized as being damaging to both the dog and the relationship. Adding distance between the trigger until the dog stops reacting and using food or play to change how the dog feels are accepted ways to deal with fear or aggression.
j) what teaching methods do they use to help you learn how to teach your dog? 
(Verbal explanations, visual info (posters etc), demonstrations with their own dog, demo with your dog, mirrors, video recording of training sessions, written logs and /or journals, step by step videos, reading assignments, handouts?)  Is it okay if you write things down?


k) As they explain what they do, listen very closely to the language they use. "The dog MUST Do...", "We use only praise.", "You push the dog's bum down.",  "The dog is being dominant." or  "Your dog is part of your pack." rings alarm bells in a handler looking for a positive reinforcement approach. A trainer who recognizes that a dog (and their human) always has a choice in the behaviors they do during learning is one who may understand how a dog learns. One of those choices is to say "No." Words like "luring", "capturing" and "shaping" are good ways to elicit get behavior.
l) What will they do if your dog develops fears or aggression? What set ups they use to retrain this? Do they use controlled situations (lots of distance, or visual barriers to start using fake dogs or dolls for children (called decoys) to start the dog well below fear threshold. Do they use muzzles if necessary?
m) Can they tell you what "underthrehold", counter conditioning, systematic desensitization, Behavioral Adjustment Training (BAT), Look at That (LAT) mean? 
n) Ask them names of authors and other dog trainers they emulate. Research them to see how positive they are. Some names (in no particular order): Paul Owens, Ian Dunbar, Jean Donaldson, Karen Pryor, Grisha Stewart, Kathy Sdao, Nando Brown, Coppinger's, Steve White, Jesus Rosales-Ruiz, Emma Parsons, Sue Ailsby, Pamela Dennison, Victoria Stillwell, Leslie McDevitt, Silvia Trkman, Emily Larlham, Eva Bertilsson, Melissa Alexander, Steve Dale
o) How open are they to using/knowledgeable of additional approaches such as Telling Touch, body wraps, massage, recorded sounds, flower essences, etc
p) Ask what they believe the social structure of dogs is. The most current research indicates dogs  have a very loose social structure based on avoidance of confrontation and maintaining social peace. They DO NOT live in a dominance hierarchy, nor in packs. Typically trainers who believe in social hierarchies will also use force and correction during training. Research also indicates the use of both positive reinforcement and correction/positive punishment together is very confusing to dogs and results in less learning.

5. Go back and review the info you have gathered about each trainer. Which might be a good fit for you? Find out by watching classes at different levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced) to see what both dogs and handlers can do). The trainer should allow you to watch for free to help you decide if you like their teaching approach to dogs and people. Ensure that the trainer you watch is the one you will be working with. Take notes so you can compare them later. Record things you like as well as concerns you have. The trainer should be able to address to your satisfaction any concerns that may affect your service team's experience. Note things like, do they talk with each person? Can s/he recognize that a student is having trouble and help them to be successful in that lesson? Are the lessons structured for a group or individuals? Did the trainer do a demonstration with a dog first? Did the trainer use visuals or props? Did she talk the class through each step?

6. While at the class, evaluate their training location for your needs. Look for wheelchair accessible washrooms, ramps, acoustics, temperature, lighting, windows etc.  What specific things will you need that aren't there? Is the trainer willing to make alterations? Will the facility work long-term for you and your dog?  Think about the colder seasons too.

7. How big are the classes? Smaller is better. Classes of 4 to 6 dogs is ideal to start. Larger can be chaotic, even if there is more than one instructor. If they have 12 or more dogs in a large space, even with a second trainer, it probably isn't the class for you as you won't get enough personal interaction with the trainers and it is harder to see and hear and understand in larger classes with the instructor standing far away especially with poor acoustics. If this is the only option, start with private classes so you and your dog already know the behaviors before taking group classes. That way, you can work on using the class to add distractions, rather than having them work against you while learning new behaviors.

8. Get references and ask previous clients questions about the training process, effectiveness of the trainer, ability to adapt training to the person or family's special needs etc.

9. Use all of what you found and how you feel about the trainer to decide if s/he is a good match for you and your dog.

10. Book several classes and see how they go. Re-evaluate after the sessions are over. What progress did you and your dog make? How did you feel about the sessions?  Can you work with this trainer in the long run?

11. Keep your research records as you may need one trainer to help with the basics, another to help with the specific service tasks and still another to help as specific challenges crop up. If you learn to trust them, this gives you a support system to draw from.

54. Alzheimer's Support / Alert Dogs

Alzheimer's Alert dogs are dogs that are trained to help the caregiver but also provide emotional support and companionship to the person suffering from Alzheimer's. In some cases, they can also lead a disoriented person home.

Some common tasks they are trained to do:

*Stay near the person with Alzheimer's Disease and interact with them for companionship.

*Alert the caregiver (usually a family member) when the person is on the move. For example, if the person gets out of their chair or out of bed, the dog goes and gets the caregiver to prevent wandering. The dogs are trained in the same way hearing alert dogs are. One specific sound the chair makes as the person stands up becomes the cue for the dog to run for help. It would be considered a 'one way alert'. If the dog needs to take the caregiver to the person, it would be called a 'two way alert'. If this occurs at night, the dog will also need to wake the sleeping caregiver.

For our sound alert video examples: replace the alarm clock sound with the chair squeaking the floor or the person's feet hitting the floor. The dog runs and find the caregiver and gives the trained alert and brings the caregiver back to the person with Alzheimer's disease.

*Since people with Alzheimer's also lose their sense of smell and do things that might cause them harm (such as burning food, overloading washing machines etc), the dog's noses can be used to alert the caregiver to these smells. Pair the scent of food burning in the microwave, or the burning rubber of a washing machine with the alert behavior and add distance from the caregiver. Train a two way alert so the caregiver knows where to go. Some dogs do these alerts naturally and their technique (alert behavior) can be refined.

*Push or nudge the person with Alzheimer's away from doors. If alarms are on the doors, go get the Caregiver.

*Remind the caregiver to help person with Alzheimer's take their medication.

*They can be trained to guide the person home if they become disoriented. (Walking is a key way to decrease the need to wander). The "Home" cue has the dog lead the person safely home, navigating obstacles etc.

The temperament of a Alzheimer Support/Alert Dog is key as they must be very social, high play drive, yet calm enough to lay for hours by the side of the Alzheimer's person. They must also be resiliant to the rapid changes of mood displayed by some people with Alzheimer's.

53. Seizure Response (and Alert) Dogs- How are they trained?

While scientists do not yet understand the trigger that dogs recognize to know a seizure is coming, they do know that the foundation of response training is simple: reward a behavior the dog does (pawing, grabbing sleeve, getting agitated in any way, barking, licking etc) while the owner is having a seizure. This is called a conditioned response. A dog trained this way is called a seizure response dog, one that responds to the seizure as it is happening.

A seizure alert dog is able to predict that the seizure is coming. Some dogs appear to have this as a an innate ability while others can develop it. This is not something that can be trained so far as we know today. What may happen over time is the seizure response dog learns to look for smaller and smaller clues (whatever they are) to predict the seizure will happen so they can get rewarded sooner. (An example is a dog that is fed on a regular schedule that starts 'asking' for supper earlier and earlier.) Some dogs can predict seizures up to 45 minutes in advance.
(Source: European Journal of Epilepsy Seizure Brown, Steven W, Dr. & Val Strong 1999)

BC Epilepsy Society defines the difference between the two dogs:

"Alert Dogs – are dogs that sense their owners about to have a seizure and by exhibiting strange behaviour (e.g. running in circles) let the owner know this so they may prepare themselves. They will stay with their owner and perform seizure assist duties as well. They can be trained to go for help as well....


Assist Dogs aka Seizure Response Dogs – gives a sense of security to their owner while having a seizure and perform medical assist duties if necessary..."


from: http://www.bcepilepsy.com/files/PDF/Information_Sheets/Seizure_Response_Dogs.pdf

Of course, training a seizure response dog is more complicated than simple behaviour conditioning. In order to be a valid service dog in BC, the dog need also needs to have all the foundation behaviors, such as basic obedience behaviors, being calm in public, ignoring distractions like food, kids, other dogs, cats, and people plus it is recommended to have at least 3 specially-trained behaviours such as responding to the seizure by providing comfort, getting help, pressing an emergency alarm, dragging harmful objects away from the person as they are having a seizure, carrying information about the handler's medical condition, rolling them over to prevent airway blockages, blocking the person from falling down stairs, helping to re-orient the person as they come out of their seizure, helping the person to stand after a seizure (called bracing), guiding their disoriented person to a predetermined location for help, or reminding their person to take their medication regularly.

Not all dogs seem to be able to predict seizures. Some studies suggest only 10%-15 of dogs can alert to seizures before they occur. Success may depend on the type of seizures the owner  is having. Psychological seizures are induced by stress and epileptic seizures cause a change in the chemistry in the brain. For some seizure suffers, having an alert dog can lead to less frequent seizures. Further research still needs to be done in all these areas.

Even if a service dog does not learn to alert to a seizures, their handler can still benefit from the dog as s/he can stay with the person and comfort them as they recover (by laying beside them), lick them as they re-orient or go get help as the seizure is happening (or the other tasks listed above). Of course, seizure response dogs offer constant emotional support as well.

Is it possible to train your own seizure response dog? Yes, if you have frequent seizures (I.e. your seizures are not being well-controlled by medication, some studies suggest once a month or more) and you have help from a person who can reward the dog while you are having a seizure (or you have regular access to a person who has seizures frequently.)





52. Service Dog Paid as Care Giver.

This may not be occurring on Vancouver island or anywhere in BC, but it IS interesting that a service dog is considered a valuable care giver in other places in the world and are actually paid. The fee covered food and toys for the dog and saves the health system upto 29,000 pounds a year for a human caregiver.

51A. Travelling with your Service Dog: Food Considerations

If you are travelling with your service dog, there are some things you need to consider:


1. Availability of your dog's regular food in the location you are visiting. Check ahead to see if the same suppliers are located where you intend to travel. If not, who does supply your brand and where are they located in relation to where you are staying? If you feed raw, find out where pet stores, butcher shops and grocery stores that supply your type of meat are at your destination. Use your regular treats as  treats your dog has not eaten before may cause digestive upset.


2. Keep the food (and treats) in it's original bag so you have an ingredients list to refer to if you find you have to do an emergency food switch due to no supply. Try to match the list as closely as possible.


3. Crossing Borders: if you are crossing international borders, be aware that different countries have different laws regarding what pet and human foods they will allow in. And find out what Canada will allow back in as well. Do your research before you travel. If going into the US from Canada, for example, kibble and treats that are not in their original bag will most likely be confiscated and thrown out. Anything with beef in it that is made in Canada (or any country other than Canada) will be confiscated. US brands that have been imported into Canada are usually exempt. (i.e. if they recognize it as a product originating in the US, they are more lenient.) In any case, it's a good idea to check into 1 above in case they take it from you.


4. Train your dog to eat a variety of foods at home so he can eat them if you run out while away from home. For example, if you run out of food at your destination and it will be longer than the dog missing one meal, it may safer as well as more convenient to cook up some ground beef or chicken breast with rice or oatmeal and feed that for a few meals to tide the dog over. Working dogs should not be skipping meals as they rely on the energy to keep working both mentally and physically. If the dog has eaten these foods before, he shouldn't suffer digestive upset. Staying in a hotel with a dog who has diarrhea is no fun and can cost you money for clean-up. And you may not be able to tell if he's picked up a bug or eaten something he shouldn't have.


5. If you feed raw, and are crossing an international border, consider switching back to kibble or canned for convenience. Fresh meat, fruits and veggies in any form are not allowed to be taken across most borders. Some forms may be allowed but look into the details (dehydrated, canned, processed, etc). The quality and safeness of raw meat (additives such as salt, dyes, hormones, antibiotics and parasites) in another country may come into question, depending on where you travel.


Keep these tips in mind and you will enjoy your trip, knowing your dog can eat safe, familiar food.

51. Preparing for Airline Travel with Your SD

Specific Basic Skills Dog needs:
-allowing self to be patted down by security staff which may include use of the wand. (Alternatively, taking off all harnesses etc that may contain metal and pass through the metal detector on her own)
-pee and potty promptly on cue (ideally on a variety of surfaces)
-curl up in tight spaces for long periods of time (start shaping the dog to go into a box then round space such as laundry basket)
-ignore other people eating off trays in close proximity
-recognize that a familiar mat means calm relaxed behaviour
-be comfortable with the sound of pop cans being opened nearby


Here are some tips:
Practice a variety of modes of transport that mimic different aspects of plane travel (elevator for air pockets, laying on bus floors for vibrations, train travel for tight spaces etc)
Do shorter practice runs if you plan on traveling for long trips esp with layovers.
Don't count on having enough time to potty your dog outdoors between plane changes (training the dog to pee on pee pads or in floor grates is handy at airports)
Take toys and treats for long trips so you can break up long stationary periods.
Carry a familiar mat with you so the dog has a place all his own.
Practice staying in small spaces for increasingly longer time periods (Place a couch or chair facing a wall to mimic the space under and in front of an airline chair.)
Learn to read your dog to watch for signs of stress and knowledge of low key ways of relieving that stress (such as chewing a bone or toy on take off, playing a gentle tug game, using a massage etc)


Have other ideas? We'd love to hear them!

Haley Mauldin shared her first experience flying with her SD. Here is what she wrote!

I thought I would share some of my experiences from flying for the first time with my SD, other people’s posts about this had really helped me so I thought I would add!

Things I did to Prepare:
• Played youtube videos of planes taking off through the speakers in the car (good way to get them used to how loud the plane is especially during take-off and landing).
• Did a lot of tuck practice in small spaces.
• Practiced putting Morgan in a sit wait (I use a wait command and a stay command depending on the situation) walked away from him then stopped turned around and called him to me immediately into a sit stay. We did this with a lot of distractions.
• Use the bathroom on command.

Our Experience:
• I flew Southwest, when I bought the ticket I said I was flying with a trained assistance animal, I had no trouble at the counter and didn’t get asked for anything (I was, however, using Morgan’s pull strap due to a recent dizzy spell so I think they assumed he was a SD not an ESA).
• Went on Morgan’s first shuttle thing through the airport, something we hadn’t really prepared for but he did fine.
• When we got to security we went through a different line a little ahead of everyone because they had a working bomb sniffing dog and didn’t want him to get distracted by Morgan.
• We went through the metal detector separately. Really glad we practiced in highly stimulating environments because there were two ESAs losing their minds over Morgan just on the other side of the metal detector.
• I went through and they swabbed my hands then had me call Morgan through but I couldn’t take his leash until they had the results from the swabbing so it was good that we had practiced him coming to me and immediately sitting.
• I didn’t take his vest off when we went through but wish we had because Morgan carries two sets of medications of mine in his vest and they had to pull them out of his vest and examine them, in the future I will just take his vest off and send it through the scanner.
• On the other side of security we ran into the two ESAs on flexi leashes that were barking and running up to Morgan and one started snapping at Morgan so I switched sides with Morgan and body blocked them from Morgan (he did great ignoring them).
• My flight ended up getting delayed an extra hour because of a storm over the airport. All in all Morgan ended up going nine and a half hours without a bathroom break. The morning we flew I only gave him his breakfast and let him drink water until about noon (we got to the airport at 4:00pm). I’m really glad I didn’t feed him after that. On the plane I gave him a little water and some of his kibble to tide him over.
• We loaded onto the plane after those in wheelchairs and were given bulkhead seating. Thinking back on it I’m really glad we took the bulkhead seating as it allowed Morgan to do paws up dpt while we were flying which I don’t think he would have been able to do in a regular seat. He, however, wasn’t too fond of not being able to tuck under but it ended up working!
• I brought his small dog bed that rolls up for him to lay on (I use it when we go to class so he knows exactly where to go).
• When it came time for takeoff Morgan checked in with me a few times and I gave him a little kibble to get his jaw moving to try to help with the pressure changes in his ears just to be safe.
• He checked in a few times with me at first but then relaxed.
• When it came time to get drinks I got ice water and gave Morgan a couple of ice cubes (he loves them) which I felt he deserved and was a good way to give him water without having to worry about spilling.
• The one thing I wish I had done a little more exposure with was the opening of soda cans. I don’t drink much soda so Morgan wasn’t really familiar with the sound and they were opening all of the cans on the other side of the thin wall right in front of where he was laying. He was fine but a bit confused at first so something we are going to work on.
• Morgan did a few alerts and dpt during the flight and then really just slept the rest of the time. I brought his sweater but didn’t end up using it.
• All in all the flight ended up being almost six hours with around nine and a half hours between the plane and airport.
• Got the usual comments about “what’s wrong with you?” “Who trains pitbulls to be service dogs?” “Are you blind?” “Who are you training him for?” But I have my canned responses so I just used those and moved on."

Thanks for sharing Haley!

50. At What Age Should I Spay/Neuter My Service Dog?


Spay or Not and At What Age?
You'll hear many things about whether or not and what age to alter a dog. You need to do your research before you decide what is appropriate for you, your dog and your situation. This is an especially important consideration for service dogs since certification depends the behavioral and physical abilities of the dog. Spaying and neutering too early results in health and behavioral issues in many dogs.

Why & When Is Altering Done?
Spaying and neutering is typically done as a prevention for population explosion/unwanted dogs and to prevent health issues such as cancers (experts are now question the validity of this belief.). A common practice in some regions has been to alter the puppies as young as 8 weeks before they go to their new homes (This is seen most commonly in dogs from shelters and rescue organizations and some breeders) Recent long-term studies have shown juvenile altering is not a good idea.

What is Done to the Dogs?
Spaying and Neutering a dog removes the sex organs and hormones associated with them. In females the uterus is removed (as in human hysterectomy) and the ovaries. In neutering (also known as castration) the male's testicles are removed. 

Long term Effects of Spaying Too Early
Dogs spayed or neutered as juveniles (less than 6 mos old) show many undesirable long-term effects. What occurs is that the hormones normally emitted by the sex glands are not present and this affects both the temperament and physical development of the dogs in question. In females, fearfulness, overly long leg bones, low bone density issues, hip dysplasia, ACL tears and increased risks of cancer have been identified. In males, all of the above except fearful nature is replaced by aggression.

Two long-term studies of a large number of dogs show behavioral and physical effects are a real possibility. 
*In 1998 and 1999, 1444 Golden Retrievers by the Golden Retriever Club of America
*German Shepherd Dogs
Overall Summary of Studies done on animals altered at a juvenile age.  http://www.caninesports.com/SpayNeuter.html

What Age Is ideal?
If you are going to spay/neuter you service dog, a minimum age is just at the time the dog reaches physical maturity. At least 1 year for small breeds, 18 mos for middle size dogs and about 2 years for giant breeds. This way, physical development (especially the bone plates which is among the last to mature) has been completed. The ideal age may also be affected by sex. (Im HH, Yeon SC, Houpt KA, et al. Effects of ovariohysterectomy on reactivity in German shepherd dogs. Vet J 2006;172(1):154-159.)

Guide Dog programs typically spay females after their first heat and males at about 8 months of age. Could this partly explain the high failure rate of dogs due to behavioural issues (some as high as 50%)?

Is Spaying/Neutering Necessary?
Do you need to alter your animal at all? That depends on the laws of the your region, the breeder, the program you belong to and the individual dog in question. 

Does altering males actually decrease or prevent aggression issues? Studies show that if the altering is done at the time of puberty, it decreases the hormonal levels and usually results in calmer behaviour. If the altering is done after puberty, there may be no behavioral improvement.
Here is a link to a summary of studies on spaying and neutering risks and benefits of dogs at all ages.
http://www.naiaonline.org/pdfs/longtermhealtheffectsofspayneuterindogs.pdf

Alternative Approaches
If your situation allows you to choose not to spay or neuter you dog, be a responsible owner and do not allow your animal to reproduce, unless you are knowledgeable and experienced in the area of breeding.

One way to do this without spaying or neutering is ask your vet to do a vasectomy on your male dog or perform a tubal ligation in your female dog. This stops all possibility of reproducing without altering the natural hormone levels in the dog. Do be warned, though, these operations, while actually easier to perform are not common and the vets may not want to do them. You may need to educate your vet or find one who is willing to do it. Only you can decide if the benefits are worth the extra effort.

Of course the common sense method of preventing your female from breeding is to protect her from male dogs (with solid fences etc) when in heat and keep your male dog with you at all times.
http://www.caninesports.com/SNBehaviorBoneDataSnapShot.pdf

Saturday, January 24, 2009

49. Marker-based Training without food

We recently received this question! Thought we would post the answer in case it was useful to anyone else.


"I cannot train using treats, and I cannot find any information on using other rewards with clicker training, specifically with loading the clicker. I do plan on using praise as the reward since my boy responds well to that. Any in site (sic) you could provide would be most appreciated."


Primary Reinforcer
The reason food is used, then later faded or switched to other types of reinforcers, is that it is a primary reinforcer (therefore has intrinsic meaning to dogs-food, sex, air, water, chasing, barking, digging etc and the dog does not have to learn to love it), is an easy choice for most people, can be tossed from a distance and allows for quick delivery and therefore many repetitions in short order (key to marker-based training). This allows for faster learning. Treats used are small (we are rewarding the dog, not feeding him), soft so it can get eaten quickly with no crumbs and the dog must value them. To avoid weight gain, simply remove the same amount of food from his feed dish as you use for treating each day. Some people use the kibble itself if their dog will work for it (and if they feed kibble).


Timing (of the marker),
Rate of reinforcement and
keeping training Criteria small enough for the learner to succeed are the three fundamentals of marker-based training.


A Few Considerations of using Secondary Reinforcer for Training New Behaviors
You could use toys (a secondary or learned reinforcer) but that can slow the process down significantly. For example, if you throw a ball, it takes more time for the dog to chase and catch the ball and bring it back (assuming he already knows how to do that or you must go get the ball). Using a bean bag limits how far it can move and would be a better choice. Similarly, using a toy often teaches the dog to be ready to move, which may not be the best choice in early learning stages of a stationary or relaxed behavior such as down, sit or stay.


When using praise, it is usually paired with stroking/physical affection and this may limit you to how far away the dog can work or the position where you are in relation to the dog as you always have to either go to the dog to deliver it, or have the dog move to you. Doable, but again, slows the process down. Most people can quickly throw treats for long distances from any position once he learns to catch them so the dog can stay at and work at a distance.


Once a behavior is understood well by a dog (i.e. is on cue and dog is able to perform it in a variety of environments) that is typically when secondary reinforcers are brought in.


Training Secondary Reinforcers
You can train a secondary reinforcer (pretty much anything else the dog learns to love), but that will likely involved using food for at least part of the training as you have to pair the new reinforcer with a primary one many times so it now has a new meaning for the dog. Periodically, you may have recharge it as well as sometimes they lose meaning/value to the learner. Some examples: a high-pitched voice, a scratch on the back end, a neck massage -anything that becomes meaningful to the dog. Having said that, some secondary reinforcers can come to be more reinforcing than primary ones, if you find the right one! Think of a ball crazy dog, for example.


How to Pair them:
Introduce the Secondary Reinforcer (click or other sound, toy, affection)
Follow it quickly with a Primary Reinforcer x50 to 100


Do this many times until the secondary reinforcer clearly has meaning. The dog should be looking for the primary reinforcer when the secondary is presented.


Now you can use the secondary reinforcer  after your click but will probably have to go back and re-charge it periodically if it loses it's appeal.
Can You Pair the new Secondary Reinforcer with a Click?
(using a secondary reinforcer with a secondary reinforcer).
The short answer: Yes, if it works for the animal. Remember that the animal defines what is reinforcing so they are the factor that makes the decision if it works or not.
 
If you say "Good dog" and pair it with a belly rub, these are both secondary reinforcers. If your dog will work for them, then it works. If not, try something else. If you can remember to say "Good" in a short quick way, you should maintain the benefits of using a precise behavior marker. Studies have shown that the metallic click does speed learning by 45% or more.

If you don't care that you might dilute the effect of the clicker sound, then you can try pairing your new secondary reinforcer with the click.


There is actually a discussion on a facebook page where the horse trainers are experimenting with secondary reinforcers only but conditioning a different marker sound so they don't muddy it in case it doesn't work.

Here's a link for those that are on facebook.
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clicker-Training-Horses/205152254918?v=wall#!/topic.php?uid=205152254918&topic=16107


You will have to 'Like' the page before you can comment but you should be able to read it without. I also bookmark it on my Internet Explorer Favorites so I can find it again.


Other Reinforcers:
For less formal behaviors such as waiting to go through the door, going through the door becomes the reward. Going for a car ride (if the dog likes doing this) greeting a human friend, another dog, sniffing, chasing squirrels (often called "life rewards" in case you want to Google it) etc can all be creatively used as rewards and reinforcers. Even things and events in the environment can become reinforcers if you take the time to train (the pairing is called conditioning) them.


It is interesting to note that having to train this process means praise means nothing to a dog unless it is first paired with something else of great primary value to the dog-usually food. We train this inadvertently when we feed from the table or pair our voice with food after the dog performs a trick etc.


If you train without food, you will have to be more observant than the average trainer to see what the dog is showing you what is meaningful to him and use your creativity to build on that. Normal reactions are around food preparation-the sound of the fridge opening, the can opener, the tinkle of a spoon on the bottom of a bowl are all learned (or conditioned) like Pavlov's dogs.


Many people think dogs should and want to work for us. In reality, most dogs have no interest in pleasing us, they work for themselves and have to learn that working with us is rewarding in some way (or work to avoid correction or aversive stimuli like our unapproving voices. That is why people who train using traditional correction-based methods have to resort to punishment-they believe the dogs should want to work for us , then correct them when they choose not to.


My previous dog loved to perform agility because of the reaction he got from the crowd-he loved their laughing, clapping and 'oohing and awing' as he performed. He learned this inadvertently. I was not something I taught. However, I did notice that for him in dog class, if someone laughed at something goofy he did, he would repeat it. He was an incredibly sensitive dog to human emotion. He would often stop at the top of the A-frame to make sure everyone was watching. He was quite sensitive yet confident-in short a showman. He was a rare dog though as most aren't that self-aware, clown-like and eager to please. This is a really rare combination.


Exploring New Ground
So far everyone I know has started their animals with food as the reward for the secondary reinforcer, before changing to secondary reinforcer with secondary reinforcer so you will be exploring new ground if you try this. I'd love to hear how it works for you! Even better would be if you could video your progress and show us! This would be great for people who refuse to use the clicker on the basis they don't like to use food. Would love to have an alternative to tell them so they and their animal can benefit from this approach!

48. Interview with A Service Dog Trainer who Uses the Clicker

Here is an interview with Debi Davis, a long time dog trainer who has used the clicker to train her own service dogs (and many other animals).


http://www.clickersolutions.com/interviews/davis.htm

47. Hard-mouthed Dogs and Sharky Teeth: Teaching Bite Inhibition

I recently added a new canine member to my family who is 21 mos. While she appears to be a gentle soul, she has never been taught to be gentle with her teeth (called bite inhibition or control), especially when she is highly aroused around toys and desirable food.

It was a fairly quick process to teach her how to handle her mouth, but then she's very responsive and wants to please. I think in the past, she didn't know how to communicate with her people (preteens, teens and adults) but now that she does, she's happy to oblige.

I believe it helped as I was explaining to her many different ways that she needed to learn how to use her mouth and control how much pressure and when it was not appropriate to put teeth on the human flesh. If the item is linked, there is more information or a video available.


If you dog takes food hard while training, it may help to offer food on a flat palm, like you do to feed a horse, while you are in the training process.

Here are some ideas I tried:
1.
Teach her to nose target my hand. (Read Level 1)
2.
Teach her to nose target the end of a stick. (Read Level 2)
3.
Teach her to nose to target several different objects (not dog toys). (Read Level 3)
4. Use a metal spoon for delivering treats (to protect my fingers but it seemed to make her more careful)
5. Taught her how to follow a food lure (she used to just bite at it). (Hide food between your fingers and shape her only getting it when she progressively takes it more and more gently. )
6.
Worked on food zen. (I plan to apply it to toy zen as well). (Read Level 1 & 2)
7. Used a clicker to get her to release toy and either rewarded with low level food (cheerio) or a throw of same toy as reward.
8.
I taught her to do a finger retrieve to show how much pressure she uses.
9.
We will be working on fine-tuning her object delivery as in dropping a coin into a bottle or penny bank. This will help her to learn to use her tongue and front teeth and help her realize she can control her mouth to a very fine degree.
10. Teach her how to take and give objects, including a 'pick' or 'nibble' cue that uses only her front teeth.

11. Keep arousal levels low so she is not grabbing because of excitement. (Short training sessions that stop before she gets aroused help).

Do have other ideas of how to train a softer mouth/greater teeth awareness? Please pass them along and I will add them.

46. Stress and the Assistance Dog

One topic rarely discussed among Assistance Dog Handlers is the level of stress that a dog (and person) lives with. Chronic stress in dogs, as in humans, leads to health problems and can trigger problem behaviors and even cause the need to retire your dog early.

Examine the Big Picture:
Your Home & Work Environments, Exercise and Food

Home Environment

It is important that dog guardians carefully manage their dog's home environment as this is where she recharges her batteries.

How can you do this?
Look hard at your life and determine what stresses you out the most. Make a list. Prioritize. What choices can you make that will lower or ideally remove that stress. There are always choices. You may have to do some research (or have a helper do it for you) and be creative, but there are ALWAYS options! If it's complicated, it's probably not the right choice.

Some ideas:
* Have a regular routine where possible
* Eat meals at the same time, at the same place
* Go to sleep and rise at the same time every day
* Schedule ongoing medical-related appointments etc for the same time and day each week. Same for recreation outings.
* Post a schedule where everyone in the home can see what is happening each day and in the future
* Avoid 'switching things up to keep it interesting' at home) Moving furniture from room to room, switching contents of cupboards and drawers for no reason creates chaos where none needs to be
* Set up your living areas so they make efficient use of space
* Ensure pathways to hallways and doorways are clear
* Get regular exercise even if it measn sitting in your wheelchair and lifting your arms to some music. If you are in better shape, you can handle stress better.
* Manage your own health thoughtfully- quality food, exercise, sufficient sleep etc are all important factors.
* Limit excessive activity level in your home (people coming and going)
* Be Efficient in your day-to-day errands etc (do several on one outing instead of going out several times)
* Consider bulk deliveries for groceries (canned or frozen items) or regular weekly deliveries for fresh (eat lots of fruit and veggies)
* Turn background noise (such as TV's or radios down or off)
* Choose colors & patterns for your walls, drapes, bedspreads etc that you feel good around or calm you. (Avoid light green as it is stressful for most people.) Light blue is calming.
* Use natural lighting where possible instead of overhead flourescent tubes. (Installing skylights or the 'tube lights' that poke through the ceiling or wall in dark corners might be solutions.)

Emotionally:
* Discontinue harmful relationships
* Carefully examine the medications you are on to see how they affect your mood. (Remember that how you feel affects your dog!)
* If you are a perfectionist, lower your expectations of yourself
* If you are a pessimist, try to think of positive outcomes
* Mark and reward positive things that you do, see or say. Looking for the positive in life shapes how you view what is happening to you. (You use this approach with training your dog and see how great it works! It is successful with people too!)
* Have some fun on a regular basis (laugh, read or watch funny movies etc)
* Learn to meditate
* Set aside time each week just for you!

At Work & Play
Managing stress away from home can be more difficult but still doable.
Think about the set up in your work place. What changes can be made to decrease stress for you and your dog? Enlist the help of a empathetic co-worker or boss.
* Use natural lighting where possible instead of overhead flourescent tubes. (Locating your desk near a window, installing skylights or the 'tube lights' that poke through the ceiling or wall in dark corners might be solutions.)

* Choose desk space closest to a door for easy access
*Bring a fan to keep your dog cool on hot days
*Take a toy to play with or chew on while you are otherwise engaged
* Choose one person as your work contact that you can depend on in case you need help with your dog


Regular Exercise
*Make sure your dog gets daily heart-raising exercise to an appropriate level for your dog and what else she will be doing that day (chasing a ball, playing with a dog buddy or jogging with your wheelchair are all great ways to get exercise). Off leash exercise where possible is best as it is less stressful on dogs. They, not you, then determine how much and what intensity they need.
*Consider reducing the length or intensity of training (often less training is actually more)

Feeding Your Dog
Since the body is built on what you feed your dog, deciding what to feed your dog is key to helping the dog manage stress. Choose a good quality food that matches your dog's physical activity and mental needs. Some dogs do well on a good quality kibble (do not asssume that cost is an indicator of quality). Look at the ingredient labels. Make sure the protein, fat and calcium levels are within moderation. Too much fat gives extra unneeded energy to a calm dog. Think of it as using jet fuel for a commuter car. Lots of wasted energy! Too high protein is not neccessarily better. Raw animal meats, for example, only contain between 15 to 20% protein. Why pay for waht you don't need?

Homecooked or raw feeding might be an option. If you have access to reasonably-cost protein, it could actually be cheaper than feeding commercially-made foods. Raw meat and bone foods are also available in packages as complete meals.

Whichever you choose for your dog, adding antioxidants to the diet are known to help remove the free radicals that result from stress. Any of the bright intensely-colored veggies and fruits have lots of antioxidants naturally (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, kale, spinach etc) Do an internet search for ' antioxidants'. Avoid feeding any that might be toxic to your dog-such as raw garlic, soy, grapes, cruciferous veggies.
Here's one link

Here is an article with another approach to stress reduction in your dog:

Also, you can use the tools in "Control Unleashed" to help your dog focus and stay calm.
Check out blog #40.

Ultimately, decreasing stress levels for your dog will decrease your own stress level since you know that your dog can do her job unimpeded.

45. Generalizing Behaviors and Tasks to Many Locations

Generalizing a behavior is a very important skill for every owner-trained assistance dog, and in dog training generally. Yet, it's not often discussed!

It is also a characteristic that humans are usually quite good at and most dogs do not do easily. This often creates mis-understandings and disharmony in the human-dog team. The human believes the dog "should" be able to do the behavior as he already "knows" it. In fact, the dog only "knows" a behavior in the settings where he has been already trained with that behavior and been successful. Other factors such as anxiety, fear or distractions in that new environment can also make it harder for the dog to successfully complete tasks.

What is Generalizing?
It is the process of teaching the dog to be able to successfully complete a cued behavior or task in many different locations, with a variety of distractions, and may even be with a variety of handlers.

For most dogs, the process involves teaching each behavior from the very beginning at each new location. Pretend that your dog does not know that behavior or task at all and start teaching at each new location. Make a point of scheduling practice at specific new locations. It helps to schedule it on a calendar. With enough training at enough different locations, and enough other distractions, the dog eventually is able to remember what the cue(s) mean without having to be re-taught in a new location.

Humans actually do not have good generalization skills in some situations either. Take test taking for example. Students do better when they are tested in the same location where they previously learned the material. Studies show their success rate is much less when the test is located in a new environment.

Ever heard of the expression "having it down cold"? This simply means that you have practiced the material or skill so much that you can reproduce it anywhere, at any time when presented in any order. This is the comfort level with each task you want to get to with your dog, without boring your dog so he refuses to perform.

How long Does it Take?
It really depends on the dog and the trainer. If your dog has any anxiety or reactivity issues or is easily distracted, it may take much longer. Some dogs seem to have a natural talent for it, while others take much longer. If you are taking your dog to new locations once or twice a week, it will take longer than someone who take their dog to a new location or two each day.

Here are two excellent videos showing how to generalize the behavior of Loose Leash Walking (by placing a small amount of tension on the leash in a sitting, then standing postion), making it into game at each new location. It is a variation of level 1 of Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels 'Leash Manners' behavior. (see blog post 15)

This dog is able to ignore distractions such as other animals, bikes, people etc.

Day 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zukbNKclQjc

Day 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mSSAUvR2x8

Build in generalizing training into your day. Make a point of taking the time to retrain and practice behaviors when you are away from home.

44 C Helpful Leash Tip for Wheelchair Users with Assistance Dogs

We have had several questions about the best leashes to use with wheelchairs so here is our response!

44B Using Powerchairs Assistance with Service Dogs

Tips for a Service Dog Owner

"As a power wheelchair user, I’d like to add some things (to your videos) that might be helpful, especially to people who are raising and training their own service
dogs from puppyhood.

Personally, I can’t imagine trying to train and use a
dog that was afraid of the chair. One of the things we tested for and paid
a lot of attention to was a puppy’s ability to recognize and react to
discomfort/pain; quickly recover and then “forgive” whoever or whatever
caused it. By itself, my chair weighs over 350 lbs and although my service
dog, Laurel and I work hard for me to not run her over (it’s only happened
about 5-6 times), as active as we are and the close quarters we are often
in, I believe it is inevitable that I will occasionally do so. It is pretty
traumatic when it does occur and if Laurel couldn’t recover and be willing
to come right back next to my chair, it would severely limit what she could
do for me and what we could do together. At least for someone in a power
chair, the dog must have the ability to get run over and still not be afraid
of the chair.

My service dog is a Labrador Retriever and we got her when she was about 8 ½
weeks old. From that time until she was about 4 months old, when we went out
with her she either sat on my lap or I used a manual chair and she could
walk or sit in my lap. When she got too big to sit in my lap but was still
small enough that if I ran her over in the power chair, I risked breaking
something, I only took her out with my manual chair.

From the time we got her, I used my power chair around the house and she
learned to stay out of its way. When I started working with Laurel, I found
the wheelchair to be a barrier between us which really annoyed me (and there
are still times I feel that way). I think that is because when I could still
walk, I trained and competed in AKC obedience so I know how much easier it
is to train on your feet than in a wheelchair. Early on with Laurel, there
would be times I would get on my feet to train something but since I am a
disaster at walking and I realized that things she learned that way didn’t
necessary translate when I was using my chair, I quickly determined that
regardless of the frustration involved, I needed to stay in my chair to
train everything. On a side note, we have been doing agility for a couple
years now and being in a chair never bothers me but I never did agility on
my feet so I have nothing to compare.

When we started working with Laurel walking next to my power chair, we did
so in a large enclosed training room. We had her off leash and used her
ability to target to come up into heel position. We taught her “left” and
“right” and when we turned left, I would throw a treat in that direction so
that she would move there before my chair did. I still use the directional
commands when heeling, in agility and for all sorts of things.

I realized early on that Laurel’s “heel position” when doing rally and
obedience versus when we were out in public had to be two different things.
When we were out in public, Laurel naturally wanted to walk further forward
than she did when we were in the ring training or competing. I realized that
when we were out, she wanted to be able to see around the chair to the other
side. Since I thought that was pretty reasonable, we trained the two
different positions depending on the situation and she does them
consistently and reliably.

When we started doing rally, obedience and agility, I looked to see if there
were any videos out with people in wheelchairs doing those sports. I think I
found one video of someone in a chair doing rally and that was it. As a
result, I have put a number of videos of us doing those things out on
youtube so that others who want to compete can see that it’s very doable and
a great way to have fun with your service dog."

Linda

I found leash weights, types, and lengths to be an added concern for
me when working my dogs from my chair. To heavy and I could not hold on to them,
wrong material and they caused pain, to long and they became wrapped up in the
wheels, if I could not gather the leash up fast enough. I have tried many
leashes over the years and found a simple six foot cotton web training leash
with a second handle I tie in the middle to be the perfect set up for me.I can
loop the main handle over my handle bar if needed, and grab the second one to
quickly take up slack and avoid entanglement. The leash setup also serves as a
very versatile ever ready door pull.

Melissa and SD Shiloh

44A Wheelchair Tasks for Assistance Dogs

List of Tasks for Wheelchair

It is usually easiest to teach the following tasks with the handler either sitting on the ground or in a chair first, then train sitting on the wheelchair. Experiment to see what works for you and your dog.

*Nudge fallen arm or foot back on chair
*Retrieve dropped item to hand
*Step up to deliver object to lap
*Delivering and retrieving objects to store counter/clerk
*Retrieve wheelchair from storage
*Retrieve objects from backpack attached to wheelchair

Other Useful Behaviors:
*Pulling the chair up inclines (manual chair only)
(This is reserved for dogs that have the build, stamina and sufficient size to handle the occasional or daily stresses of pulling a manual wheelchair with handler on flat surfaces or up minor inclines such as ramps. Use a properly-fitted harness and condition your dog first. Consult your veterinarian.)
*Small dogs can learn to sit on foot rest or lap
*Negotiate electric wheelchair lifts
*Avoid curbs and stairs
*Locate wheelchair ramps

See our video part 2 Tasks (coming soon)

Training Tips with the Wheelchair:

1. Each time you add a new criteria ( such as a chair or leash) to training, expect your dog to need to relearn the behavior from the beginning (reshape the behavior as if your dog does not know it). Each time, the process will go much more quickly. If your timing is off or if you are distracted by things such as handling the wheelchair, your dog’s learning will slow down. Ideally, you can practice with the new objects without the dog first to increase your skill with them.

2. Working your dog on a leash with a wheelchair may take some practice to learn how to coordinate it, the chair, the treats and clicker. An 8 foot adjustable to 4 foot leash (is easily shortened or lengthened) may give needed distance for going through some heavy doors or in narrow hallways before doors.

3. It is easiest to start training stationary skills and tasks, then as your dog becomes more comfortable with the chair, progress to the skills and tasks that require the wheelchair to move. By that time, your coordination around the chair will likely have improved.

4. Training should begin in a familiar environment, then as dog is successful, taken to other less familiar locations, then with increasing distractions.

5. If the person with the disability is unable to train the basic skills (due to physical disability), an assistant can train the dog first to verbal or eye cue as appropriate for the person’s disabilities) before transitioning the dog over to the handler.




If you have other ideas for useful tasks with the wheelchair, please let us know!

44. Wheelchair Skills

Preparation for Training:

There are several basic skills that are need for an assistance dog that helps the handler when in a wheelchair.

All begin with foundation behaviors of
*nose targeting
*loose leash walking and
*30 seconds of eye contact
See
Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels for details on how to train these behaviors.


Desensitizing your dog to the sight, sound and proximity of bicycles, scooters, skateboards etc before training with the wheelchair, will help your dog to become comfortable with the wheelchair much more quickly and be able to focus on learning the tasks.

The basic skills and tasks can be taught with the trainer in a standing position. They can also be sitting in a swivel chair. This is the easiest way to train the eye contact-based behaviors such as swinging to right of left side, backing and gets the dog accustomed to working with the person in a seated position and a chair that has movement. This is a very different perspective for many dogs who are accustomed to seeing their trainer stand up.

When the dog is successful training near the swivel chair, transition to a stationary chair with arms (such as an armchair) or actual wheelchair to retrain the behaviors.

Training with the Wheelchair:

Desensitize Your Dog to The Wheelchair
It is important that your dog feel comfortable with the wheelchair as he will come in close contact with it at times and need to know how it moves, the sounds it makes and that it is not something to be fearful of.

Treat the chair as a novel object and spend several sessions playing “101 Things to do with a Wheelchair”. Make sure to lock the brakes so it cannot move. Shape your dog to sniff all parts of it, nose pouch, paw touch, rest chin, place front paws up on it, climb on it, jump off it, retrieve objects from near, then under it etc. until he is very comfortable with it.

Next walk the dog beside the wheelchair over a variety of surfaces with you pushing from behind (or walking behind if it is an electric wheelchair). Pavement, gravel, bark mulch, over small bumps, ramps, up and down inclines etc.

If your dog shows any fearfulness or startles easily, counter condition him by playing with him near it, feeding him near it, using really yummy treats anytime he works near it etc. Progress to calling him past it, doing behaviors near it etc. Always make sure you can control the movement of the chair (by locking or blocking the wheels if necessary) to prevent scaring your dog unexpectedly. When you start training with movement, keep all changes small and build on previous successes. Ensure that the environment you are training in will not have any unexpected noises etc that he may attribute to the chair.

Skills With the Wheelchair
Your Dog needs a variety of skills when working with you near the wheelchair. All of these are helpful to position your dog for the tasks as well as moving around in tight spaces in stores, buses etc. Start by shaping these into the finished behaviors, then adding a cue as in normal training. What will happen with practice is that your dog will start to anticipate your needs and the cue in many situations will not be necessary.

For example, as you start moving forward, your dog will start moving with you uncued, turn uncued, as you start making a turn the dog will watch the front wheels for clues he needs to turn etc. The cues, however, will still be useful when you want to get your dog to move when he is sleeping (Jessie, Let’s Go!) or to prevent him from being startled if you need him to get into or out of a position quickly (for his or your safety etc.). (Jessie, Back!)

*Walking on a loose leash on both sides of the chair
*Following behind you on a loose leash
*Switching from one side to the other
*Moving with the chair around objects
*Passing though doors, gates etc either before or after chair
*Circling around the chair
*Moving to stand in front of the chair facing handler
*Backing up while facing handler
*Walking forward while facing handler
*Backing up at the side of the wheelchair
*Swinging around into heel position to right and left sides
*Getting front paws off your lap (after delivering an object to hand for example)
*Being comfortable being sandwiched between the chair and other objects or people (for tight spaces such as elevators and in corners of stores etc)

See our video Part 1 Wheelchair Skills



42F. New Book on Training Diabetic Alert Dogs!

New Book on Training Diabetic Alert Dogs!

I've heard excellent reviews and the author is an excellent trainer. 
All positive reinforcement approach as well, so it's a 
win, win, win!

Click here to see more about the book and author.

42 E Training a 4lb Diabetic Alert Dog Saves a Life-Many Times over!

The following is a letter we received from a person who emailed us asking for help. It is a glowing report that owner-trained dogs (using positive methods) can be every bit as useful as a program dogs, even if the handler doesn't know how to train when they start!

Dear VIAD,
"It's almost been 3 mos since I asked you about helping train my chihuahua, Clarice, to scent my blood sugars. Again, I couldn't go wrong watching your wonderful videos and following your advice. It only took me all of 3 days of teaching her to scent my blood sugars. She's already saved my life 4 x's by waking me up in the middle of the night w/my sugars being dangerously low. I had enough time to grab my granola bar on my nightstand before possibly slipping into a diabetic coma.

She goes everywhere I go, including sleeping w/my husband and I, Now, my dog behavioral trainer (who does cost me a fortune) suggests that no dog should be allowed to sleep in the same bed as their owner, but when I told him my story...he now included an exception to his rule.

I cannot thank you enough for all of the wonderful videos that are helping me train her. In fact, today I purchased one of your training CD's.

Again, I cannot thank you enough for a new-found freedom I've found w/my dog. As I had promised before...I will continue to keep you updated w/Clarice's progress. I never had so much fun & confidence in knowing that I could train ANY dog. You & your videos have changed my life completely. I plan, in the future, getting a golden retriever to train in servicing my physical needs, but that's way ahead in time, as I have to perfect Clarice's skills first.

Also...by all means...feel free to post this email on your site for others to read. I give you complete permission to allow others to know that even those people who think/believe they could never accomplish this...actually CAN!!! I never had any formal training for any types of pets. Your website, blogs, and videos have given me so much confidence and the pride to say that I did it all by myself!!!

Diana & Clarice" (4 lb Chihuahua)

42D. Special Considerations for Training a Diabetic Alert

Question:
"I'm wanting to train my dog as a diabetic alert dog being that I'm insulin dependent. My question to you is what training tools do you use to teach the dog how to detect low blood sugar & high blood sugar (sensing)? I've asked numerous trainers on youtube this question, but no one has responded. My dog already does the targeting exercise with flying colors thanks to you and your video. Can you help me? TY :)"

Answer:
Most people use a Tshirt or other clothing that has sweat on it from when they had a low blood sugar reading as the training object and store it in a sealed plastic bag like a ziplock when not using it.


Others breathe on a pad when their blood levels are low or high and seal it in a ziplock type bag or small vial.

Still others prefer to soak a small cotton pad in their saliva as they are having a low. These probably store the best for training purposes and are more accurate for the dogs than using sweat.


If you can get a blood sample, that works well, especially if you can test and know how high or low it is. Blood samples, however, break down quickly so are not as accurate. 


Dogs can be trained to alert to any sugar level you choose. You don't want the sample reading too low when the dog alerts, as you want to be alert enough to be able to still help yourself. Most people use a reading of 70-80 to train their dog asthey are still functioning and able to help themselves. 


In our training videos, replace the sound with the scent. Let the dog smell a small sample of the blood ( in a vial or other quick opening and sealing container) before cuing the alert behavior during training. Most dogs catch on to this quickly since they are so scent-oriented.


Please refer to our 4 blog postings (42, 42A, 42B, 42C) and embedded videos on training a one and two way alert.
http://viassistancedogs.blogspot.com/2009/05/training-one-and-two-way-hearing.html


Good luck!


How to Train a One Way Diabetic Alert


Ideally start by training with the actual diabetic person or you will have to retrain the dog to alert to the other person later.


1. Train and practice the alert behavior separately


For example: use targeting to teach a nose touch on your leg. Shape it into a hard nose nudge just above your knee. An easy position to start training this behavior is with you in a sit. Then when your dog is successful, change your position to a stand, squat, sit on the floor, face the dog, turn to your side, turn your back etc until your dog can nose nudge you in any position. Add distance.


2. Present the smell of the sweat or blood sample. Click and treat your dog for any interest in the smell (sniff, lick etc). Do not c/t a bark or other noise! Place the smell on your lap, on the ground and other places and see if the dog seeks it out to sniff. When your dog is consistently indicating that she smelled the smell, go to next step.


3. Present the smell and immediately cue nose nudge. (sniff, cue 'touch', dog nose touches, click as nose makes contact, then reward)


4. When your dog is offering nose nudges consistently, fade the cue (touch). Present the smell alternating using the touch cue and not and see if you get the behavior. After several repetitions, the smell alone will trigger the alerting behavior (nose nudge). If not, keep practicing with the cue. Now the smell has become the cue to do the alert behavior. Practice this until your dog nose touches after sound 8/10 times before moving on.


5. Change positions from sitting to standing to facing towards dog and away. Practice crouching, sitting on the couch, sitting at the table, laying down on your bed and other places you might normally be when a low or high blood sugar might occur. When your dog is successful at this level, try doing other behaviors such as pretending to do the dishes, talk on the phone, watch TV etc. while presenting the smell.


6. Next add distance in one foot intervals. You can throw a treat away from you to get the dog away from you. Present the smell beside you.


7. Change positions where the dog is in relation to you (the source of the smell). For example, throw a treat down a hallway, around a corner etc. Then present the smell.


8. Adding distractions such as one, two and more people in the room, TV or radio on, a person standing between you and the dog, person engaging you in conversation etc.


9. Ask a helper to be nearby as a distraction when you present the smell on your body. Decrease distance at first, increase it as your dog is successful (to say where the dog is laying on her dogbed and alerts you from there).

Your dog may want to go to them to alert first. Ask your helper(s) to ignore the dog by avoiding eye contact, not responding to the alert, not petting or otherwise distracting the dog etc. You then give your alert cue "touch" and your dog will come to you to alert. C/t.

You will need to practice this several times before the dog understands that it is only when she alerts you that she gets rewarded. Adding other helpers in the room and training the same way with all of them (prepare them as to what you want them to do if they dog alerts to them). With many repetitions, your dog will learn to search only you out in a crowd.


10. Use a timer to cue you to present the smell on you at unpredictable times during the day. Ideally, try not to let your dog see you set the alarm or she will anticipate that you are doing it. For example have it set to go off when she is relaxing next to you, or on her bed, when she is playing quietly with a toy, when she is sleeping lightly, when she is sleeping soundly. Ideally, she should jump up from a sound sleep and run to you to give the alert. If she is sound asleep, she may hesitate and she may be disoriented, but give her up to to 6 seconds the first few times (count one one thousand, two one thousand in your head) to assess what is going on and to start moving towards you before helping her by cueing the 'touch' cue. Do not say the cue if she starts moving towards you before that time. As she gets more practice, allow her less time decreasing in one second intervals (but always allowing at least 3 seconds to orient on her own).


11. Generalize the behavior by training at different locations, starting from the beginning at each location.