Training a service dog

SONY DSCI had my first session with a private dog trainer to explore what Gryffin could do to be of help to me. I have my work cut out for me! Here’s what we discussed:

  • Retrieving things: Gryffin could help pick things up and bring them to me when I need them. One of the most important: Getting my cane if I realize I need it and don’t have it handy (since I am often just fine, and sometimes have very rapid onset problems, getting a cane and/or a jacket for me could be quite valuable). To help him learn this, I have two first steps: For things that have names, begin teaching the name by putting a treat on it and saying “find name” (for now). For things that don’t have names, he has to learn to pick up first. So I need to give teach him to “take” “hold” and “give” a variety of items with treats. Eventually I’ll be able to point at something or name it and tell him to pick it up and carry it back to me, and maybe even send him down the hall to my office for my cane or jacket if I need it.
  • Finding people: This is useful when I am tired and want to ask one of the kids to bring me a drink of water (for example). Teaching it relates to the find part of the last thing. I’ll teach him the name of each family member, and to go to them on command. Eventually we’ll teach him hide and seek and other fun games so he can get someone if I need him to.
  • Closing and opening a door: This is useful because I often need to close my door (for private conversations or a nap) and open it (when someone knocks). When I’m feeling tired, it would be nice not to have to get up to do this. To learn closing a door, he first need to learn “touch” which is to push agains something with his nose. Eventually I transfer this to a door by literally taping the thing to the door and letting him practice touching that. Opening a door: This will build on “take” and “hold” by attaching a rope to the door, and teaching him to back up while holding it. Eventually I’d also like to add turning on and off the office light to this.
  • Carrying things: He can carry about 1/8th of his body weight, which translates into one laptop and cord on the way to class if I’m having a bad day. Right now we will work on wearing a backpack, and eventually add water bottles for weight.
  • Behaving in public: Lots of effort needs to go into this. He still isn’t a great heeler, and he tries to nose new people. He needs a down stay that is totally reliable. And he needs to learn “quiet” which I will probably teach him partly by teaching him “speak” on command :).
  • Equipment: My trainer feels it’s important for him to wear a cape to limit attention when he’s “working” at the workplace. I am going to probably transfer some badges I have (“In Training”) and (“Working Dog”) to his backpack so I can use that as his cape. Eventually she recommended getting a handle for balance in those moments when I need it.

I don’t expect to need his help most of the time, but at the moments when I do, it will be a relief to have his help with all of this. And so far he loves every minute of the training, especially when it involves treats!

1 thought on “Training a service dog”

  1. I created a video to help kids with LYME prevention. Please take a look at it. If you like it, please add the link to your site. My goal is to send it viral so the news media will finally open up and begin asking questions about Lyme.
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