Monday, June 1, 2009

Part 3: SSD Good Manners - Jumping on Furniture and People

It has been a busy few weeks for SSD! We recently held our 16th Annual Celebration and Graduation for our service dog teams. Twelve dogs graduated! Seven of those dogs are now paired with their partners, working as service dogs. One dog became a facility dog with the Hill Top Academy, one is an in-home service dog, another is a companion dog, and two are demo, therapy and interview dogs!

Graduation highlights exactly why we exist. As we officially paired service dogs with their partners, we could see how these dogs changed lives. Our work and the work of other service dogs organizations is so important because it allows people to live full, rich and independent lives.

We had promised to post some of our guidelines for the good manners we expect from our service dogs, so here are just a few of them. Over the next few weeks, we'll post more of them.

Jumping on Furniture
All of our SSD puppies are trained to stay off the furniture unless they are invited up. Whether a service dog is allowed on the furniture is ultimately the decision of the service dog's partner, but until dogs are placed, we train them to stay off furniture.

We begin teaching puppies to stay off furniture as soon as they're tall enough to jump up. With their natural curiosity, most puppies will try to jump up, and we stay vigilant and simply remove them from the furniture. We use the same procedure with older dogs, though we must watch them more closely since jumping on furniture may already be a learned behavior.

We then use clicker training to teach our dogs when it is okay to jump up on the furniture, adding an "okay" or "all the way up" cue and patting the furniture. We also use clicker training to teach "off." When teaching "off," dogs must get off the furniture and stay off.

Because teaching dogs to stay off furniture requires you to watch the dogs closely, you may have to crate your dog when you're not home. If you're leaving your dog uncrated, make sure you block access to furniture so your dog doesn't jump up when you're not there. If you make it impossible or at least very difficult for dogs to jump on furniture when you aren't home, they'll learn that they shouldn't jump on the furniture at any time. Otherwise, they may learn that it's okay to jump on the furniture when you're not around, even through they may stay off it when you're home.

Jumping on People
We want our service dogs to have wonderful manners when greeting people, and that means no jumping on people. Service dogs must keep all four paws on the floor when greeting people, regardless of the environment. Furthermore they should do this without any special cues, restraints or treats from their partner.

To teach dogs to keep all four feet on the floor, we never reinforce jumping, even with puppies. It may be cute when a little puppy greets you by putting his front feet on your legs, but if you reinforce this action as a puppy, you'll soon have a full grown dog jumping up and putting his feet on your shoulders. This means that when your puppy jumps on you, you should not lean down to pet him, talk to him, or reinforce the action in any other way.

If our puppies or dogs jump up on us, we ignore them and walk right through them. Walking through them means that when they jump up, we walk forward, giving the dog two options to regain his balance:

1. fall backwards
2. get off and put all four feet on the floor

Neither of these options harms the dog and they soon learn to keep all four feet on the floor.

Our next post will share our guidelines for service dogs and food.

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