Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Camp: Training Service Dogs

SSD Meade shakes paws
The dogs in advanced training are getting a different type of training than they usually do. In fact, they even have different trainers. Last week and this week, the dogs are being trained by the kids in our summer camp!

Each summer, 12 kids ages 10-14 come to the SSD kennel to learn about service dogs, basic dog care, and clicker training. The campers are matched with a dog similarly to the way we match service dogs with their partners. Each camper meets the dogs, and then we match them based on how the campers and dogs interact, as well as camper and dog preference. These dogs then become theirs for the week. 

SSD Dyson loves having his chin scratched
At the beginning of the week, campers select a task to teach their dog. They work on this task throughout the week, and then demonstrate it at camp graduation.

By the end of the week, campers need to be ready to take the camp version of the public access test. Throughout the week, we worked on basic obedience and the behaviors the dogs will need when they go out in public. For example, the dogs practiced giving their campers their attention, sit, down, stay, go on through (going through a doorway or tight space and turning around to look at their handler), come, and leave it.  They also practiced loose leash walking, leave it, entering and exiting the elevator, under (going under tables, chairs, benches), up (two paws on an object), and all the way up (all four paws on an object). 

SSD Samee Mae gets to know her camper
SSD Julia demonstrates "Puppy in a Box"
Throughout the week, we also played games to reinforce the campers’ clicker skills and dog handling. We set up an obstacle course for the campers to go through with their dogs. Dogs had to sit and down while their camper sat in a wheelchair, go under a chair, knock a bowling pin off a box, put two feet on a box, weave through cones, ignore a swimming pool full of treats, and go through a hula hoop. The dogs and campers did great!

SSD Cassie starts the obstacle course

Other games included the Dress ‘Em Up Relay, where campers have to dress their dogs in tshirts, scarves, and socks and race to the finish line. Some of the games have to do with basic dog care, such as the Scoop the Poop game. We put Play-Doh “poop” in the field, and campers have to race to scoop it up in doggie bags. It’s a fun way to remind people to clean up after their dog. Other games include Musical Hoops, a favorite that we also play at PawsAbilities.

(L to R) SSD Gideon, Meade and Dyson hurry to get dressed in the Dress 'Em Up relay

Besides learning about dog training, campers learned about dog care. When we place a dog with a partner, we always equip them with everything they'll need to care for their dog themselves. Campers learned how to brush their dog's teeth, clean ears, give the dog a bath, and of course, groom them.

SSD Atari gets her teeth brushed
SSD Opal gets her ears cleaned

SSD Winter seems to be enjoying her grooming sesion

SSD Julia loves having her belly scratched

SSD Cassie gets a bath

These are two great groups of campers. They handled their dogs with ease, and did great on their public access tests. Watch the videos of some of our campers taking the test. 

SSD Atari goes under a bench.

SSD Samee Mae enters the elevator.

SSD Dyson exits the elevator.

SSD Meade puts his paws on the checkout counter on cue.

 SSD Julia comes when called.

 SSD Cassie trots over to her camper on cue. She even picks up her leash!

SSD Shamrock, Samee Mae, Dee and Sonora hang out in Bass Pro

Dogs and campers got to sit on the merry-go-round at Bass Pro

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