Friday, December 30, 2016

5 Tips for a Successful Farm Show Outing with your Service Dog in Training

For a dog, paying attention to their handler can be challenging, especially if there lots of distractions in the environment. The Pennsylvania Farm Show is coming up on January 7-14 (food court opens January 6), and many of our dogs in training will attend. It’s a great training experience! However, between the crowds, the delicious food, and all the animals, it can be hard for puppy raisers to keep their dog’s attention.

Here are five tips to help you set your puppy up for a successful outing.

Awesome Power Treats
One way is to make sure you have power treats, really good power treats. You might even want to go beyond hot dogs, especially if hot dogs are your typical power treat. Think chicken or leftover steak.

Keep the Outing Short
If you’re planning to spend hours at the Farm Show, you may not want to bring your puppy in training with you. Set your dog up for success by planning a short outing. If your dog is doing great, you can consider staying a little longer, but try to leave while your dog is still being successful.

Have a Plan
There’s a lot to see and do at the Farm Show, so having a plan can help you set your dog up for success. Check out the schedule of events and pick out a few things you think your dog will be able to handle. If your dog does well, you can always check out other exhibits. Make sure you also have plan in case your dog is having a challenging time and you need to leave, especially if you’re attending with friends and family.

Know the Stress Signs
Make sure you know your dog’s stress signals. By recognizing the early signs of stress and then removing your dog from the stressor, you can help your dog have a more successful outing. For example, if you’re walking near the cows and your dog starts to yawn, scratch, pant, or shake themselves, they might be telling you they’re stressed. Move your dog away from the cows (or whatever the stressor is) and find a quiet corner where your dog can relax. If you need to, take your dog outside and give them a sniff break. If your dog becomes too stressed, leave the Farm Show entirely.

Don’t forget to pay attention to the other end of the leash, too! If you become stressed, your dog will pick up on it, and it will affect their behavior.

Don’t Expect Perfection
The Farm Show is a difficult outing! Cues that your dog knows perfectly at home will suddenly become very challenging at the Farm Show. For example, your dog may have mastered “go on through” and walk perfectly through doorways at home and out in the general public, but at the Farm Show, you may have to use a lure to get your dog to walk through a doorway correctly. That’s okay!

You may also find that you need to click and treat much more frequently to keep your dog walking with a nice loose leash. That’s okay, too! You’re helping your dog be successful.

If you’re taken a service dog in training to the Farm Show before, what other tips do you have?

Monday, December 12, 2016

7 Holiday Safety Tips for Your Dog

The holidays can be a time of joy and family gatherings, but they can also be filled with danger and anxiety for your dogs. Here are 7 tips to help you make the holidays fun for your dog as well.

Watch your dog around your tree
Live and artificial trees provide wonderful opportunities to practice the cue “leave it” with your dog! Pine needles, ornaments, tinsel, and lights all pose a hazard if chewed or swallowed. You may want to put treasured or delicate ornaments at the top of the tree. Even if your dog ignores the tree and decorations, their tail can still knock ornaments off the tree, potentially breaking them. If your puppy persists in investigating the tree, you may want to consider surrounding your tree with an X-pen to prevent your puppy from getting near it. Set your puppy up for success!

Keep baked goods and other treats out of reach
Tis the season for baking! Many of us bake cookies and other treats during this time of year. All those delicious cookies are tempting for both humans and dogs! This is another good opportunity to practice good house manners and the cue “leave it.” Keep cookies and baked goods away from the edge of the counter or table, especially if they’re made with chocolate, which is toxic for dogs.

This is also a good opportunity to practice the cue “go to bed.” Asking your dog to lay on a dog bed or blanket while you’re baking or decorating cookies will keep them safe and out of the way.

Limit special treats 
We often eat lots of special foods at the holidays that we only enjoy once a year, and it’s tempting to want to include your dog by getting them some special treats, too. However, your dog’s stomach could become upset if they aren’t used to eating those treats. It’s a good idea to limit the number of new treats you give your dog.

Place candles up high
If you’re lighting candles this holiday season, keep them out of reach of your dog. You don’t want your dog to eat the wax or burn themselves. And don’t forget about wagging tails! Lab tails have been known to clear coffee tables. Thanks to a wagging tail, your candle could end up on the floor or worse, your dog or house could catch on fire.

Practice good greetings with guests
It’s exciting when friends and family visit for the holidays! This is a perfect opportunity to practice good greetings with your dog. Don’t wait until the day of your event to practice. Start now. Practice polite behavior—keeping all four paws on the floor, no barking, self-control—when you knock on the door and ring the doorbell. Ask a friend to help you and your dog practice. And if your dog is just going to get too excited, crate them while your guests are arriving. You can let your dog out once the excitement of new people has subsided.

Also, make sure your guests understand proper greeting behavior with your puppy in training. Let your guests know they can help your puppy learn good behavior by completely ignoring them if they jump or bark.

Put a collar and tags on your dog
If you’re entertaining guests, it’s very easy for your dog to slip out the door when people are coming and going. You also never know if a well-meaning guest will let your dog out to potty, not knowing whether your dog needs to be leashed outside. Make sure your dog is wearing their collar and tags so if they do get out, it’s easier to recover them. If you have an SSD dog, it’s a good idea to add a tag with your contact information, too.

Give your dog a place to relax
All the extra activity and excitement of the holidays can be exhausting for your dog. Give them a safe place to relax. This can be their crate or a dog bed set up in a quiet spot. Make sure your guests understand that they need to respect your dog’s need for space.

Happy holidays to you and your dogs!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Service Dogs in Training Visit Harrisburg International Airport

Fifty of our service dogs in training now know how to fly on a plane!

On December 3, we took our puppies in training to HarrisburgInternational Airport for a training outing. After parking in long-term parking, the dogs and their raisers took the shuttle to the terminal. Once in the terminal, the dogs practiced loose leash walking around the other travelers, as well as taking elevators and stairs.

Navigating stairs and elevators are important skills for service dogs. The dogs need to walk right next to their handler on the stairs. The dog should take the stairs one at a time and not charge to the top or bottom. This skill becomes especially important when a service dog is working with a child or someone with mobility issues. If the dog were to charge ahead, they could injure their partner.

Elevators are equally important. To correctly enter an elevator, the dog must wait while their handler blocks the doors with their body to prevent the doors from closing and hitting the dog. The handler then cues the dog to “go on through.” Once the dog is complete inside, the handler follows the dog into the elevator. We usually encourage our puppy raisers to move their puppy in training to one of the back corners of the elevator to keep the dog out of the way and reduce the risk of the puppy trying to dash out of the elevator doors when the open. Getting off the elevator is a similar process, with the handler once again blocking the door.

Each of our puppies in training had the opportunity to go through airport security and practice getting patted down by a TSA agent. By law, service dogs cannot be separated from their partner, nor can any of their equipment (leash, harness, etc.) be removed. The dogs can be patted down, which can be very exciting for the dogs. Our puppies in training practiced staying focused on their raisers while the TSA agent patted them down.

In the past our outings to the airport usually ended after walking through security. But this time, we got to practice boarding a plane! Thanks to American Airlines, our puppies in training learned how to navigate the aisles of the plane and curl up beneath the seat in front of their raisers. This is such an important skill for our puppies to practice because service dogs can travel in the cabin with the partners. However, they are required to ride in small space at their partner’s feet or under the seat in front of them. This can be challenging for a dog who has never done it before.

Other tips for preparing your service dog for traveling by plane:
Avoid giving the dog food or water before traveling
Give them lots of playtime and exercise to tire them out
Bring something for them to chew on, which will keep them occupied if it’s a long flight

Check out this video from HIA about our adventure!

Thank you to Harrisburg International Airport, the TSA agents, and American Airlines for giving our dogs in training this valuable experience! They’ll be ready to fly with their future partners someday!