Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Team Training: Closer to Being Working Service Dog Teams

Last Thursday was one of the biggest days in Team Training. Each partner took their dog home for the first time.

It was the longest any of them had spent with their dog. They had a chance to bond and start to learn each other’s habits. For example, SSD Dylan’s partner learned that Dylan snores at night – loudly. But Dylan also stuck by her side throughout the evening and the next morning. He knew exactly where he was supposed to be.

SSD Zappa and his partner went for a long walk together and played in the yard. SSD Jagger’s partner put him to work – Jagger pushed drawers closed on cue. He also picked things up off the floor for her, even when she didn’t ask him to do it. At one point, they were outside, and Jagger saw a bunny. His head came up as he stared at it, but his partner told him to leave it, and he immediately turned and looked at her.

The first night was a happy success!

Today, we went over grooming. We mostly train labs because they need minimal grooming, but that doesn’t mean there’s no care involved. Labs shed, and we give all of our partners three different types of combs and brushes to manage all of that fur. The dogs also need to have their teeth brushed, their ears cleaned and their nails trimmed.

Since each team has different cues they need to work on, we split into small groups so each team could practice their cues.

SSD Dylan and his partner worked on turning on the light switch. In the video, Dylan uses his nose to flip on the light switch and his teeth to turn it off. And he does all of this while standing on his hind legs.

SSD Falcon and his partner practiced getting in and out of the car. Falcon will ride in the back of the family’s van, so he practiced hopping in the trunk on cue. Falcon’s puppy raiser had given his new partner his blanket for the van, so when Falcon hopped in, he felt right at home.

SSD Zappa and his partner spent time working on shaping. Each partner chose a trick they wanted their dog to learn, which is a great way for both dog and partner to practice clicker training and shaping. Zappa’s partner decided that he wanted to teach Zappa to go through a hula hoop. He started by clicking Zappa for looking at the hoop and then for moving closer to the hoop. It’s a longer video, but look at how much progress Zappa has made by the end of the training session! We have no doubt that he’ll be walking right through that hoop by the end of team training.

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