Thursday, January 14, 2010

Watch Service Dogs-in-Training Demonstrate Their Skills

In a previous post, we talked about the basics of our 12-month evaluations for the dogs. During these evaluations, we focus on getting a good sense of the personality of each dog - learning who they are and how they respond to different situtations, including stressful ones. We ask the dogs to perform several tasks, such as basic obedience, recalls and shaping skills.

Our puppy raisers are responsible for teaching the dogs many of these skills and behaviors. We have several videos of dogs-in-training demonstrating the types of skills and behaviors we require in our service dogs.

Shaping Skills
We use shaping to train our dogs to do many of the behaviors they'll use as service dogs. The goal of this particular session was to get SSD Sunshine to put her foot on the upside-down food dish. Her handler starts by clicking her for looking at the food dish, then stepping toward it, touching it with her paw, and finally, placing her foot on the food dish. If you'd like to read more about the basics of shaping, read Clicker Training: Shaping a Behavior.

Take It
Many times, service dogs will need to pick up objects that their partners may have dropped. In this video of the Take It game, the dog receives a click and a treat for going to pick up one of the objects.

Self Control
Self control is extremely important in a service dog. We don't want our service dogs to give in to their every whim, sniffing and chasing after everything they find interesting. If a service dog gets distracted by everything in their environment, they won't be able to assist their partner.

One area where we train self control is at meal time with the food bowl. Watch SSD Thunder demonstrate his self control. His handler waits until he sits calmly before putting the food bowl down. Then Thunder must wait to eat until he receives the "okay" cue. We usually wait until the dogs makes eye contact with us before releasing them to eat. Even though Thunder's head is bent toward his food dish, notice how his eyes flick upward just before he gets the "okay."

These are just a few examples of the skills of a service dog. Coming next week, we'll share a post about balance dogs.


  1. Wow, what a good dog, Thunder! I'm really learning a lot reading this blog.

  2. Thanks so much, Nina! We're glad you enjoy the blog.