Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Team Training

Team Training is one of our favorite times of the year. It’s the time when people who have been matched with a dog through our Meet the Dogs sessions finally get to start training with their new service dog.

It’s a lot of work for our trainers, it’s a lot of work for the partners, and it’s a lot of work for the dogs. But every little bit of it is worth it. By the end of Team Training, each person and their service dog will be a closely bonded team, and as they continue working together in the next days, months and years, that bond will grow even stronger.

Team Training began on Monday for 6 people who have been matched with dogs. After a morning of learning clicker training and the difference between commands and cues, each person finally got reintroduced to their service dog.

When we first brought out the dogs, each person got time to simply bond with their dog, giving them lots of free treats, meaning the dogs got treats just for being themselves. Once the partners and dogs had a chance to get reacquainted, we started working on some basic cues – come, down, sit, and let’s go with loose leash walking. We took some photos and videos of partners practicing the cues with their dogs.

SSD Natalie and her partner had a joyful reunion.

SSD Sonora (yellow lab) and Lil (black lab) do great recalls for their partners.

SSD Cori and Gnat practice loose leash walking.

SSD Lil and her partner demonstrate pivot. Notice how Lil's back legs move so she's always right by her partner's side.

SSD Mite, an in-home service dog, gets acquainted with one member of his new family.

It’s a learning experience for both the people and the dogs. They need to learn each other’s language and learn how to work together. Throughout the rest of the two weeks of training, partners and their service dogs will work on new cues and behaviors. Next week, they will go on several public outings to practice their teamwork in a public place.

At the end of Team Training, each pair will be ready to begin their new life together.

Team Training is a life-changing experience, for us, the partners, and the dogs. You can read more about SSD and what we do here on our blog. You can also go to Dogs Change Lives and read stories about dogs changing lives that have been submitted by people like you.

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