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Monday, 03 December 2018 10:28

Does Your Dog Jump on Visitors?

Is your dog overly friendly to everyone? A great way to teach your dog to stop jumping on visitors in general is to start teaching him at home. 

Doorways are exciting places for dogs since people come and go. New scents, motion, sound and lots of love and attention happens near the door.

There are several different strategies you can use to teach your dog to keep his feet and mouth off visitors.

 

1. Prevent the Dog from Practicing Jumping on People


While we desensitize your dog to the excitement of the doorway and train a different behaviour, we need to prevent him from practicing the unwanted uncued jumping. The more practice he gets, the better he gets at jumping and the more he associates it with the doorway location. 

a. Cue the dog to go into a crate, keep him behind a barrier or tether him to a heavy piece of furniture. 
With the crate, he needs to know how to go to crate first on cue. 
Next, teach him to go from a distance. 
Next, add some planned distractions.
Then try the process at the door with a helper posing as the visitor.
Start with placing the crate near the door and gradually move it further away to where you want it to be placed. 

b. If you have an indoor doorway close to the outside door, then a barrier might make more sense. Place the dog behind the barrier and let your visitor come in. Wait until your dog has calmed down before letting them interact. You might have to be creative with an X pen if you don't have an indoor doorway nearby. Set the pen up as a U-shape around the outside door to create an 'airlock' and have your dog on the house side of the barrier. Your visitor comes into the airlock and waits until the dog calms down. 

c. If you have a heavy piece of furniture and a dog that is small enough not to pull it, tethering your dog by a leash and harness might work. This option is not an ideal one for enthusiastic jumpers or dogs with low tolerance to frustration though, since being held back may trigger oppositional behaviours (opposition reflex). 



2. Desensitize Dog to Arrivals


a. Drop treats on the floor at the visitor's feet to direct your dog's attention downward. 
Start with delivering them one at a time fast and furious and then slow the rate down as your dog calms down. Mark and treat your dog for keeping himself on the ground (4 feet on the floor).

b. Block eye contact with your hand.
If your dog has already been taught how to nose target, he should catch on quickly to what you are doing. Practice this before your visitor comes over.
Start by walking with your dog toward the visitor and cover your dog's eyes with one hand as he moves around. 
Teach your visitors to present their hand in front of them to block the dog's eyes.
Fade that once the dog calms down. This also has the benefit of teaching the dog that hand contact is better than eye contact. If your dog enjoys back or hip rubs, then direct them to do that. This is calming to most dogs. 

c. Use Premack's Principle to recall your dog away from the person.
You must have a reliable recall with distractions for this to work.
You can start with your dog on leash if you need to help your dog turn back to you. 

Practice sending your dog to the door and recalling before a visitor comes. 
Send your dog to the door when the visitor is still outside and call him away.
Then send your dog to the visitor once she comes in. At first let your dog just get to the person, then call him away.
Each time you send your dog, his excitement should decline. If that happens, let him interact a little longer each time. Try to call before he has a chance to jump.
By pairing the greeting visitor with the recall, you strengthen the recall. Sending multiple times with each person also desensitizes your dog to the people. This calms the dog down as well.

d. Have the visitor come further into the house. 
Moving the visitor away from the doorway reduces the excitement for everyone. This calms the situation down.
Have the visitor avoid eye contact. It's best if everyone has something else to look at, like an object of interest (computer or book). That takes the focus off the dog. 



3. Train an Incompatible behaviour.


This means think of something you want the dog to do that interferes with the jumping. 

a. Some examples are to ask the dog to run to her bed and lay down. She can't lay down and jump at the same time. 
Like before, the dog needs to know the behaviour well and with distractions before starting to use this near the doorway. 
Practice sending your dog to his bed when you knock or ring the bell. 
Have a helper practice knowing or ringing the bell. Send him to his bed. 
Then practice opening the door. 
The first few times with a real helper visitor, you may need another helper to stay with the dog and reward frequently until he is released from the mat (or you can do that too if the visitor outside can hear your instructions to come in when you are ready). 

b. For dogs that get mouthy, like golden retrievers and labradors, put a toy in their mouth. This fills the need to grab and hold something. That way, they won't ned to jump up and grab visitors hands or wrists. 
Keep a few toys near the door for this purpose. After several practices of this, most dogs will start looking for their toy when they hear the knock to doorbell. They will learn to greet people with a toy in their mouth.

c. Teach your dog to "Go Say Hi".
Ask your visitor to put out his hand palm forward and cue your dog to nose target it and come back to you. Reward when he comes back to you. This keep meetings brief while the dog calms down. (similar to Premark Recalls above) Your dog can't nose target a lowered hand and jump at the same time. 

4. Put the Jumping on Cue

Teach your dog to jump up on cue. Whether he jumps all 4 feet in the air or leans front paws on the visitor, this can work. 
It gives the dog an outlet to do the behaviour, then you can phase out when you cue it. Combining this with the person moving into the house works well to calm the dog quickly. 
The jumping behaviour needs to be under good stimulus control before you start using it with visitors so it is considered an advanced approach. 
Check out my two 'stimulus control' videos.



5. Elevate Your Dog

Near the doorway but far enough away that your dog cannot touch the visitor, place your dog on a raised platform like the top of a crate or grooming table, or even a stable stool.
This fills the need to be closer to the visitor's face for greeting. Because the distance is so far, he will naturally stop jumping. 
Once your dog is focussed on you, he may also start to offer other behaviours like a sit or down.
At the beginning, feed a high rate of reinforcement to focus your dog on you. Once the person is in the house, cue your dog to jump off and 'go say hi', calling away as necessary.

Here is a video that shows you the 5 strategies. 

I don't tend to cue a dog to sit or down near a visitor unless he is facing the handler. I find that most dogs while facing the visitor will use the sit or down to launch themselves at the visitor. 

How to Stay Motivated while Training Your Service Dog Part 2

It is important to try to identify the parts of the training that you aren't enjoying.
What exactly is slowing you down, tiring you out or turning you off?

Once you have done that, you can tackle each part, change what you need to make it work for you and move beyond each. Talk to others to get ideas. Ask on Facebook or dog trainers. Even ask a friend. We all go through it and have different ways to cope that you can try.

What I don't like:

How I can change it:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Here are some other ideas to stay motivated: 

  1. Take regular days off. Just like us and other work, we need to take 2 days off each week to give ourselves time down to recharge. Training every day takes the fun out of it. Training doesn't have to be done every day and in fact, giving our dogs time off between lets them think about a behavior and progress faster. They and we are eager to get back to training. Burn out is huge among owner-trained service dogs.

  2. Find a friend to train with once a week. Working together with someone else helps keeps you committed to scheduled days at different locations.
  3. Vary the behaviors you train. Come back a month later and retrain from the beginning but progress further than before.

  4. Randomly draw from a list of behaviors you need to train and train that behavior for several sessions. Draw a new one and train that. Work your way through all of those and repeat until you get to your progress goal for each behavior. When you finish one, add another in to take it's place. The somewhat unpredictable nature of the process keeps you interested.

  5. Teach someone else (whether by explaining or writing it down or making a video) how to train a behavior you aren't enjoying or are having a challenge with. This will help you think form another's perspective and you may even come up with a solution or a new way to teach it.

  6. Train one aspect of the behavior that you enjoy then leave it for a bit. Come back to it later.

  7. Break behaviors or tasks into smaller steps. Identify your specific challenges and break those down into 4 steps, the again another 2 each.

  8. Research other ways to teach a behavior or generalize or proof it. Do those as they may be more fun! 

  9. Make a training plan and tick off or fill in the steps you have accomplished. This gives you a quick visual reinforcer that you are making progress!

  10. Add what you are training to your computer calendar for the next week or month. Then you get reminders the day before and you can mull it over in your mind. This allows you to adjust it as you go along. 

  11. Do a simple version of the task. Come back at later date and teach more complex version.

  12. Use a 'snakes and ladders' approach on ourselves. Train to your goal for a few days, then do a shorter training day. Go back to a longer day. This way you get mini breaks but still move towards your goals.

  13. Work on concepts rather than behaviors. It's a bigger picture approach. Once your dog understands the concept, she can learn new applications of it much faster.
    For example: teaching distance as a concept
    If you teach the distance aspect of several different behaviors all at once, the dog will understand it faster. Each of these behaviors have a distance element: nose target, paw, sit, down, crate, mat, jump, retrieve. If you train each behavior to 10 feet, your dog will solidly be able to do a behavior at that distance. Train each one to 15 feet. etc.

  14. For public access training, start with what is doable for you. 
    Maybe one day a week is fine. Even when you are doing mostly public access training, do only a maximum of 3 days each week. Adding transportation to and from the pubic site adds stress. You need to account for that. You will be more relaxed and so will your dog if you give yourself time to recharge between by staying closer to home. Plan the further location like field trips. Pack a lunch.

  15. For public access training, invite a friend to be a helper. They can run interference from people and dogs, taking the focus off you so you can focus on training.
  1. Collect and store all equipment as close as possible to where you train at home or stored in a trunk when you do public access training. Have to carry and set up equipment every time can be very demotivating. You may need to be creative and store some equipment in unusual places. Get permission and focus on training those behaviors in a short period, then remove the equipment and go on to other behaviors.
  2. Prepare treats in bulk once a week. Bake, cut up and freeze them into training session sized portion. Sandwich bags work well. If treat preparation gets you down, splurge and purchase good quality pre-cut treats once in awhile. Search out easy to make recipes. Or easy to make treats. My dogs works for cut up vegetables like cooked carrots and yam, raw cucumbers and zuchini, frozen peas. Partly thawed slow-cooked kidney beans. They also enjoy Cheerios, squares of beef fat (instead of cheese), yogurt, thick pea soup and gravy placed in tubes. 

What other things do you do to keep yourself motivated to train?  

How to Stay Motivated while Training Your Service Dog Part 1

Many people embark on a dream to train their own service dog. Along the way they get bogged down, tired, life happens or their medical issues flare up and all contribute to them taking a longer than planned break from training.

What can you do to stay motivated?

Reinforce and Reward Yourself!

Before you scoff at this idea...
When you go to work, you get paid, right? Why shouldn't you get paid to train your dog as well? If your boss offered you the opportunity to do your job without getting paid, you would do it right? Wrong! So why are you asking yourself to do another job without payment? Payment comes in many forms. We'll get into external motivation versus internal motivation in a minute, so bear with me.

The first thing we need to address is that we humans need both reinforcement and rewards to start and keep up behaviors just like our dogs do. Training is one such behavior that can be reinforced and rewarded. Explained simply, reinforcers occur immediately after a specific behavior has occurred. They increase the possibility of the behavior happening again. Rewards occur after a series of behaviors have been completed and reward the whole process, rather than one specific act. A hug given immediately after someone is assertive on behalf of someone else, is a reinforcer. A $200 bonus received at Christmas time is a reward.

What is Reinforcing and Rewarding to You?
Just like we would for our dog, we need to make a list of what foods, things, activities, people and events are reinforcing to you. Make sure to include some from each group. Include some of small value, medium value and high value. The low and medium items are used as reinforcers. The high value ones will be reserved as rewards for bigger accomplishments. Prioritize them least to greatest value to you in their separate groups.

Next, make an overall training plan for your dog. Start with today's date and end with your goal date in the future when your dog will be ready to help you as a service dog. If your area needs the dog to be certified, that would be your end date. If you want to use the public access test as your end date, use that!  Click here to see a more detailed post on creating a training plan.

Go ahead and reinforce your self for taking the first step of making the plan! Have a special coffee, eat a piece of chocolate. There, doesn't that feel better? Reinforcement is delivered as soon as the desired behavior is done. Finish writing down the first step of your plan, eat your chocolate.

Take the Next Step
Identify the foundation skills your dog needs to be able to do both at home then in public no matter the distraction? List those.

Here's a few:

behavior

at home

in public

sit

 

 

down

 

 

recall

 

 

leave it

 

 

nose target

 

 

loose leash walking

 

 

settle/relax

 

 

be handled by a stranger

 

 

ignore other dogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now assign a variety of rewards in each column.

What tasks does your dog need to do to mitigate your disability? List those.

task

at home

in public

alert you to a doorbell ringing

 

 

pick up a dropped item

 

 

 

do deep pressure therapy to you

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now assign a variety of rewards in each column.

What tasks or behaviors are not needed but you think might be fun to train? List those.

task or behavior

at home

in public

pivoting from in front of you

 

 

backing up

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now assign a variety of rewards in each column.

There's a good start on a reward plan for yourself!

 

To incorporate reinforcement into the plan, break down each of those behaviors into their smaller training steps and choose reinforcers for each one. Even if your dog isn't as successful as you like, reinforce yourself for doing the training that day! Be kind to yourself (use a higher rate of reinforcement on yourself when you start losing motivation for a specific behavior) and motivation will come!

Behavior: settle/relax

relaxes on dog bed or mat voluntarily

 

relaxes on bed voluntarily in new location

 

relaxes on bed voluntarily in new location

 

settles on mat until released by cue

 

relaxes on mat on cue

 

settles on mat on cue near chair in new room

 

settles on mat near chair in yard

 

 

 

 

Another way you can apply Premack principle is to do a training session of one behavior you enjoy less to train, and alternate that with a behavior you enjoy training. It works! 

What other creative ways can use use Premack Principle on yourself?

External Motivation vs Internal Motivation

Back to this. The difference between these two is interesting. They have a relationship. External reinforcers and rewards can be things, objects, games, activities, travel, interaction with people, another person's approval etc. Internal motivators are feelings that you get from inside yourself when a step, task, job is completed or your dog figures something out on his own.


When you start out using external motivators, then apply them to yourself intermittently (ask for more of the same behavior to earn a reinforcement (called two-fers and three-fers in dog training) , the activity that you are being reinforced for becomes reinforcing with application of the external reinforcers. When you start to see a change in your dog's behaviors in specific situations, you feel good about it. Those feelings, caused by your dog's change of behavior, lead you to be more motivated to train your dog as you want to see more behavior change and feel better about the fact that "Yes! you CAN do this! "

This process is explained by the application of the Premack Principle that is the most powerful tool in a trainer's toolbox. Premack Principle says that if you pair a lower likelihood behavior with a higher likelihood behavior, over time the lower level behavior will increase in value to the learner. Sometimes becoming equal in value to the higher value behavior.  So pairing a lower likelihood activity (training in public) with a higher value activity (going out for coffee with a friend afterward), you increase your enjoyment of training.

 

 

Ultimately, the process of doing the activity becomes internally reinforcing. Internal reinforcement is when we do specific activities for the satisfaction or pleasure of doing them. No external rewards are necessary to do them. Over time, little things become internal reinforcers. The fast that your dog CAN do a specific behavior that he was having trouble figuring out. That your dog CAN do the same behavior in a pubic place! Voluntary eye contact from your dog. that makes you feel good! The feeling of pride when your dog helps you for the first time in public as a service dog in training learning public access. Many, many such things will become reinforcers to keep you motivated if you start incorporating external reinforcers into your training plan. 

 

For me, in writing these posts, I am reinforced by the feeling of satisfaction that I get when I hit the "Post" button on the blog. It is one step in being able to help others. I then Premack myself by having lunch of something I enjoy eating.  I get rewarded when someone lets me know that the post was helpful to them!

Watch for Part 2 for more ways to keep yourself motivated to train your service dog.

Sunday, 02 December 2018 13:48

Never Have a Night Crying Puppy Again!

As a person training your own service dogs, the last thing you need a is a puppy that cries all night. It stresses you out and it stresses the pup out. And it's not a great start on bonding. So…read this article!

I have slept with all my puppies, then phase them out by transitioning them to a crate. Crates are handy for travelling. A tip for small breeds is to roll up a towel or fleece and make a ring. That will prevent you from laying on your pup while you sleep. You can also use it to help your pup learn to sleep in the crate as it smells familiar.

The bond that is created when you sleep with your pup is very strong and that is needed for service dogs. A bonus is that you wake up when the pup starts moving around and this makes night-time house training so easy.

Thanks to Jill Breitner of www.dogdecoder.com for the article.
http://www.dogdecoder.com/theres-puppy-pile-cute/

T
his TedX Talk by Jaak Panksepp reveals some important information about physical connection and emotion and the importance of this connection in mammals and birds.

Spay or Not and At What Age?

You'll hear many things about whether or not and what age to alter a dog. You need to do your research before you decide what is appropriate for you, your dog and your situation. This is an especially important consideration for service dogs since certification depends the behavioral and physical abilities of the dog. Spaying and neutering too early results in health and behavioral issues in many dogs.

Why & When Is Altering Done?

Spaying and neutering is typically done as a prevention for population explosion/unwanted dogs and to prevent health issues such as cancers (experts are now question the validity of this belief.). A common practice in some regions has been to alter the puppies as young as 8 weeks before they go to their new homes (This is seen most commonly in dogs from shelters and rescue organizations and some breeders) Recent long-term studies have shown juvenile altering is not a good idea.

What is Done to the Dogs?

Spaying and Neutering a dog removes the sex organs and hormones associated with them. In females the uterus is removed (as in human hysterectomy) and the ovaries. In neutering (also known as castration) the male's testicles are removed. 

Long term Effects of Spaying Too Early

Dogs spayed or neutered as juveniles (less than 6 mos old) show many undesirable long-term effects. What occurs is that the hormones normally emitted by the sex glands are not present and this affects both the temperament and physical development of the dogs in question. In females, fearfulness, overly long leg bones, low bone density issues, hip dysplasia, ACL tears and increased risks of cancer have been identified. In males, all of the above except fearful nature is replaced by aggression.

Two long-term studies of a large number of dogs show behavioral and physical effects are a real possibility. 

*In 1998 and 1999, 1444 Golden Retrievers by the Golden Retriever Club of America

*German Shepherd Dogs

Overall Summary of Studies done on animals altered at a juvenile age. http://www.caninesports.com/SpayNeuter.html

What Age Is ideal?

If you are going to spay/neuter you service dog, a minimum age is just at the time the dog reaches physical maturity. At least 1 year for small breeds, 18 mos for middle size dogs and about 2 years for giant breeds. This way, physical development (especially the bone plates which is among the last to mature) has been completed. The ideal age may also be affected by sex. (Im HH, Yeon SC, Houpt KA, et al. Effects of ovariohysterectomy on reactivity in German shepherd dogs. Vet J 2006;172(1):154-159.)

Guide Dog programs typically spay females after their first heat and males at about 8 months of age. Could this partly explain the high failure rate of dogs due to behavioural issues (some as high as 50%)?

Is Spaying/Neutering Necessary?

Do you need to alter your animal at all? That depends on the laws of the your region, the breeder, the program you belong to and the individual dog in question. 

Does altering males actually decrease or prevent aggression issues? Studies show that if the altering is done at the time of puberty, it decreases the hormonal levels and usually results in calmer behaviour such as less wandering. If the altering is done after puberty, there may be no behavioral improvement.

Here is a link to a summary of studies on spaying and neutering risks and benefits of dogs at all ages.

http://www.naiaonline.org/pdfs/longtermhealtheffectsofspayneuterindogs.pdf

Alternative Approaches

If your situation allows you to choose not to spay or neuter you dog, be a responsible owner and do not allow your animal to reproduce, unless you are knowledgeable and experienced in the area of breeding.

One way to do this without spaying or neutering is ask your vet to do a vasectomy on your male dog or perform a tubal ligation in your female dog. This stops all possibility of reproducing without altering the natural hormone levels in the dog. Do be warned, though, these operations, while actually easier to perform are not common and the vets may not want to do them. You may need to educate your vet or find one who is willing to do it. Only you can decide if the benefits are worth the extra effort.

Of course the common sense method of preventing your female from breeding is to protect her from male dogs (with solid fences etc) when in heat and keep your male dog with you at all times.

http://www.caninesports.com/SNBehaviorBoneDataSnapShot.pdf

There are many resources that you will need to access if you are considering adding training service dogs and their handlers to your business offerings. 

Teaching People

One of the most important things is that you need to be great working with people and knowledgeable about disabilities and how they affect your client’s life. To date, there is little, if any, resources to specifically train the human part of the service dog training team. Since that is who you will actually be training, that makes it more challenging!

Obtaining some sort of teaching certificate or degree: (6 months to 4 year programs available)

  • provincial or state instructor’s diploma
  • adult education
  • general education

Volunteering with people with disabilities is another. There are physical disabilities (paraplegia, arthritis, hearing impaired, blindness), mental disabilities (memory issues, learning, dizziness), emotional disabilities (anxiety, PTSD, autism) and medical disabilities (allergies, chemical sensitivities, diabetes, seizures) and many others.
Counselling experience would be an asset since we spend much of our time counselling the people as well as teaching about dog training.

Teaching Resources (books)

Dr. Rise Van Fleet

Human Half of Dog Training Collaborating with Clients to get Results

Terri Ryan

Coaching People to Train Their Dogs

Gamify Your Training

Service Dog Associations 

Note: There is no official government body that oversees dog training and who offers certification or classes.

There are however, two key organizations that are internationally recognized for service dogs.

Assistance Dogs International ADI
Offers to accreditation to non-profit service dog organizations

International Association for Assistance Dogs  Partners IAADP
Offer Affiliate memberships 

Service Dog Laws

It is important to learn about the laws related to service and assistance dogs.

In general, most countries have human rights laws and disability laws that protect the rights of the individual who has the service dog.

For the USA,
The Americans with Disabilities Act ADA

ADA FAQ

In Canada, each province has their own laws regarding guide and service dogs.
British Columbia, Alberta and Nova Scotia now have a certification process for owner-trained teams.

Learn More About the Training Process
and Becoming a Training Coach for Service Dogs and Assistance Dogs:


Here are some resources I trust to help start you off.

Check out Service Dog Training Institute SDTI’s classes:
These online self-paced classes help you to work though the process of training owners to train their own service dog. Not only training behaviors and tasks, but lectures and tips on the specifics for service dogs are woven throughout.

A General Introduction to Training Service Dog Teams:
Sharon Washer offers a series of webinars.
Webinar 1  
Webinar 2
Webinar 3 

Online Classes:
Barbara Handelman has a 3 Tier Service Dog Course that she offers online.

Veronica Sanchez has an overview class as well as a 12 week coaching certificate

In-person Classes:
West Virginia University offers classes about training service dogs and uses positive reinforcement.
Hearts of Gold

Bergin University in California offers a service dog degree program.

Web-based Consults
If you want more detail about the ins and outs of teaching people to teach their dog and teaching dogs, please contact me for a private 1 hour webcam session.  

Are you a dog trainer? Have you considered becoming a service dog training coach?  It's great that you want to help others! Consider carefully if this lifestyle is for you, and if you have or can get the training and skills needed to do this successfully.

Here are some questions to get you started:

Do you want to work for an organization?
Or do you want to work in your own business?

Do you enjoy working with groups of people and dogs?
Or do you prefer working one on one?
Would you prefer to training the dogs, then spend a short time with the people to transition the dog to the new handler who has the disability?
Do you have your own training facility? Have local facilities that can be rented locally? Or do you work in client’s homes?
Does your state or country require you to be certified?
Do you want to be an accredited organization?
Do you want to create a non-profit business?

Here is a basic list of training, skills, knowledge and characteristics you will need to start adding service dog training to your list of services: 

Training in:

Teaching Humans (of different ages)
Specialized training in the disabilities you are specifically interested in
Teaching Dogs (to a high level of performance in public)


Recommended Skills:
Counselling
Fundraising
Ability to Assess people for suitability of owner-training.
Ability to assess dogs for suitability as a service dog candidate.
Observation skills (for humans and dogs)

Knowledge
Regional/State Disability laws
National Disability Laws
Learning theory and practice how it applies to humans and dogs
Psychology of humans
Ethology of dogs (behavior)


Personal Characteristics:
Mentally and emotionally stable
Ability to set clear work vs personal boundaries
Lifelong learner
Creative
Resourceful
Empathetic
Strong self-care skills (ability to detach)
Ability to define what are your own reinforcers for doing a job are.
Resilience to bounce back between punishing situations
Have or can create a support system for yourself
A Sense of Volunteerism
Have a support system

If you want more detail about what I have learned about teaching people to teach their service dog candidates, please contact me for a private webcam session



Thursday, 28 December 2017 10:04

Do I Need to Certify my Dog?

Do I Need to Certify my Dog?
The answer is, it depends in what environments you want to use your dog's skills and where you live.

If you are only going to use your dog at home, and take him only to places that any pet dog can go, the answer is no certification is needed.

At Work
In some circumstances where your work environment is suitable and safe, the employer and other employees are okay with it, you may also not need to be certified to take your assistance dog to work with you. Some places of work welcome dogs generally, and others may be open to your assistance dog if it is proposed to them. If there is a dog or pet policy in writing, get a copy of it. Otherwise, we suggest asking for permission in writing to protect yourself and your dog. Of course, it is your responsibility to ensure that your dog is well-behaved and welcomed in the place of work.

It will also depend where you work if your dog has access at all. In food preparation areas or operating theatres or other places where the public is not allowed, even a certified dog may not be allowed. Check your local laws and talk to your employer. An employer cannot discriminate against you for having a service dog but they may be able to limit access where you can take the dog. Talk to a disability laywer for the exact details of your situation.

In Public Places
If you are planning on having your dog assist you in public places such as restaurants, stores, and on public transportation etc, the answer varies. 
If you need to take your dog in public places where pet dogs are not allowed, yes, certification by the provincial body in some provinces of Canada (BC, Alberta and Nova Scotia (soon) is recommended and will make your life easier if challenged by a retailer or accommodation provider. In the UK, Yes. In the USA, no as residents are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or Here. Each country has its own laws.

Note: Even if your dog is certified, anytime your service dog causes a disturbance (barking, whining etc), shows aggression or fear, or has a housetraining mistake, you can be asked to leave the premises if you have been asked to remedy the situation and do not or cannot. 

Are "Service Dogs in Training' (SDit)  Protected for public access? 
It depends on where you live. Some states protect them it, some do not. For example, in BC, the handler must work or volunteer for an Assistance Dog International (ADI) accredited organization. Owner-trainers are not protected. 

What Does The Certification Process Look Like?
Before you apply to a certifying body (government or ADI accredited organization) for certification to use your dog as an Assistance dog or service dog, you will need to collect proof of your dog’s training and use.

Any documentation you can provide helps the certifying body to evaluate your dog as a service dog such as:
*Proof of the vet visits, vaccinations, etc. needed to keep the dog in good health, recovery from injury or illness etc.
*Proof of spay or neuter.
*Canine Good Neighbor Certificate
*Public Access Test completed and passed
*A prescription for a service/assistance dog from your doctor, nurse practitioner, or other health care provider (varies depending on the certifying body)
*A list of the tasks (suggest at least 3 that specifically address your disability in public places- providing comfort does not qualify as a task)
*Documentation of the amount of time in specific training your dog has had for each task. (Keeping a journal that you can summarize is a key point)
*Outside or supervised training that has been done  A written letter documenting what training they have overseen and your success rate as a team. Make sure to provide the name of the training company Or companies you worked with.
*Employer’s letter of how your dog operates in your workplace (if your dog has been allowed to work with you).
*Letters from friends and family documenting the past dog’s behavior in their homes, in public etc.
*A concise letter detailing the difference your service dog makes in your life.
*Other documentation that may support your application.

The government or organization will then refer you to a person who is authorized to test your dog in person and submit the results to them.  Note: If someone claims they will certify you and your dog without seeing you work together in public, then they are a scam and a waste of your money. There are thousands of these online so buyer beware.

How Long Does it Take to get a Dog Ready for Certification?
It depends. Some dogs started as puppies and trained professionally can be ready by 18 months to 2 years. Dogs trained by owners usually take longer as they have lives to lead and they are not professional trainers who are training every day. How old the dog is and how much previous training s/he has had before you start also affects the duration. It depends on the dog and how willing and interested s/he is to learn, how dedicated you are as a trainer, how good your training skills are, your specific tasks and many other factors like your health while you train.
Remember that not all dogs that start training will be suitable in the end to be certified to assist you in public places. Be prepared to remove your dog from training and find another. Plan what will happen to the dog. Will you rehome him? Will you keep him?

Education is an Important Role of the Handler
Much of having an assistance dog is about taking the time to educate the public about the laws. 

Having your service dog in training identified with a training vest is one way to show you are serious about training, but is not required by law. 


What Identification Does my Dog Need Once s/he is certified?
Once your dog is certified, s/he will wear the identification provided issued by the certifying body. In BC and Alberta, retailers can only ask if your dog is a certified service dog and to ask to see that collar tag/certification. Make sure you can produce it at all times in public. If the dog is not wearing a certification tag or you do not have it, the establishment may choose to prevent access. They can also ask for the certification number from the tag and call to verify that your dog is registered with the province. If you or your dog create a disturbance, they can ask for your dog's tag number and make a complaint to the Ministry of Justice.
In the US, retailers, transportation and accommodation providers can only ask if the dog is a service dog and what tasks the dog performs for you. 

What about Fakers?
If your dog is not certified and you claim s/he is, that is fraudulent representation and you may be subject up to a $3000-$6000  fine depending where you are located. If you live where your dog does not need to be certified, s/he does need to have specific training both for public access (120 hours) and for tasks that specifically mitigate your disability to qualify for public access as a service dog. This is where the documentation and proof of training can help you prove your dog is legitimate.

Can We Get Certified Online?

No. Going online to get your dog certified is a waste of money as none of them are legitimate. 


A couple of simple criteria to rule out bogus tests:

1. All legitimate assessment/certification tests for owner-trained teams are done in person. The testers need to see you and your dog working together in person and they will make sure you know how to take care of your dog and know your rights and responsibilities. Public safety is the number on concern for certifying bodies. The application process may be online, but there will always be an in-person part of the test.

2. The organizations doing the certification in North America will be accredited by either Assistance Dogs International or International Guide Dog Federation or a state or provincial body or an organization that has been contracted by the state or province to assess the team in person.

If the certifyer doesn't meet these two criterion, then it will not be a legitimate one in North America.

Goal Setting:
Here is an example of a fictional Training Plan so you can create your own.

Create it however you feel comfortable whether it's in a spiral notebook, on an excel spreadsheet or on your phone! AirTable or Evernote are great programs for this!

The simple plan below is for a young dog with little basic obedience behaviors. Adapt it to your own dog and situation as needed. You can add in as much detail as you want. You can include other tasks and paperwork needed to be done for formal certification as well (see blog post on Certification).

We recommend that you review this plan each month and record where you are at, and adjust the plan to reflect this.

Each month, assess areas of weakness (in dog, human and team) and add it to your training plan. This might include specific fears, reactivity, over-excitability or over-interest you need to work on. Your plan will change and evolve as you work through it. 
My Long Term Assistance Dog Training Plan
Date: Oct 16, 2009

1. Set up a journal for recording training data Oct 2009. Use video to record key sessions for self-evaluation as well as documentation.
Identify tasks dog will do for the handler.

2. Set Preliminary Goal: 
Complete Foundation Skills Class Level 1, 2 and 3 by the end of Feb 2010
Behaviors are taught in: family room, bedroom, garage, backyard, front yard, local park.

Eye Contact
Leave it (Zen) 
Nose Target
Chin target
Paw target 
Recall 
Working at a Distance
Go around objects
Adding duration 
Sit
Down
Go mat/Bed
Paws on Target
Back end Pivot
Take and Tug
Handling
Potty on cue
Wait
Beginning of loose leash walking
Switch sides

On the Road (pass previous level in strange location)

3. Loose Leash Walking Level 1 & 2 and Settle/Relax Level 1 online Classes complete April 2010 

4. APDT C.L.A.S.S. Bachelor Evaluation training (generalize behaviours)
(doorway, leave it, greet a stranger, recall from 10 feet, wait for food bowl, stay, settle, give and take)
 
OR 

Canine Good Citizen (US) or Canine Good Neighbor (Canada) Training Preparation June 2010

(doorways, separation from handler, ignoring crowds, greeting stranger, ignoring other dogs, recall, loose leash walking, stay, sit, down)
Begin training for in-home service tasks.


5. Loose Leash Walking Level 3 and Settle Level 2


6. C.L.A.S.S. Bachelor level test or Canine Good Neighbor test Aug 2010

7. Get written prescription for service dog from Doctor or Nurse Practitioner (or other health care provider as appropriate)
Sept 2010

8. Practice general behaviors in different retail locations for Sept 2010
C.L.A.S.S. Master's Level training
(wait in car, pass other dog, wait at the door, come and leash up, sit down, stand,handling, loose leash, stay)
 
9.  CLASS Master's level test for Nov. 2010
C.L.A.S.S. PhD Level training
OR

CKC Urban Dog training

10. CLASS PhD testing  or Urban Dog testing Jan. 2011

11. Begin formal work on training and consolidating Assistance Tasks Jan. 2011  
Online task training classes available.


Out of Home Assistance Tasks:
A. Retrieve objects when in chair
B . Use target stick to retrieve an indicated item off low shelves in stores
C. Open and close doors while in chair
D. Put forepaws in lap of wheelchair user, hold that upright position so wheelchair user can access medication or cell phone or other items in the backpack
E . Bring Emergency phone during crisis
F. Go get a family member/neighbor/workmate on command in a crisis.
G. Nudge handler during freezing behavior to rouse handler from a disassociation state or fear paralysis.

12. Take all of the behaviors and tasks "On the Road" to generalize them to many different locations and environments.
Identify at least 10 different public places near home to train that are accessible to my dog. 


13. Begin training for Public Access Test Dec 2010

14. If formal certification is desired (if you live in the U.S., it is optional) search out organizations that will test and certify you and your dog as a service dog. In BC, Alberta and Nova Scotia, certification is recommended to use your dog as a service/assistance animal. May 2011

15. Do a Practice Access test with an independent person. Video it so you can watch back.
Get dog spayed or neutered if required by your state or province prior to certification. Get a letter or fill out a form from vet certifying dog has been spayed or neutered. June, 2011

16. Practice Tasks in Public, Fine tune any holes (distractions, minor fears etc)


17. Take Public Access test or make video recording of entire final test Sept. 2011
Graduate dog to "Service Dog" patches (remove "in training" patch). 


18. Ongoing maintenance training for tasks, public access and adding new tasks as needed.



*This plan is for example purposes only. You and your dog will progress more quickly or more slowly than what the plan indicates. Most owner-trained dogs take 2 to 3 years in training from puppy to adult. Most common Service Dog breeds to not mature socially, emotionally or physically until 2.5 to 3 years. ADI suggests a minimum of 120 hours training for public access. Much more is usually needed.

Then take the challenge of taking corrections (punishment) off the table!

It's a simple as that!

Why would you do that? Because the vast majority of mistakes your dog makes are actually handler training errors.

Reread that last sentence and digest it.


"The vast majority of mistakes your dog makes are actually handler training errors."  
This is sad but true. If you videotape yourself training, you will find that anytime your dog makes a mistake (assuming he has actually learned the behavior) it is because of a mistake you made or something you overlooked in the environment. Rather than correct the dog's behavior, look at it as a way to improve your own training. What is it that you have missed in his training that set him up for failure?

Here is a list of the 11 most common parts of training that are missed by handlers training their own service dogs:

Handler's lack of ability to read their dog's communication. 
A stressed dog cannot think about his behavior. Happily, there are a series of early behaviors that give the handler an idea of the stress level of their dog. Learn what those are and change the training environment so your dog's stress level is reduced. Stress can be both good (excitement) and bad (worry) as well as emotional (scared) and physical (tired). Join the Facebook Observations Skills group to learn more. 

Not explaining the behavior in enough different ways so your dog can understand what you want.
Like humans, dogs learn in different ways. Some learn by watching another dog do a behavior. Some learn by watching their human do a behavior. Some dogs love shaping. Almost all can learn by capturing a behavior as he does it naturally. Luring works too but fade the lure as quickly as you can or the dog can become reliant on it as part of the cue.

Using the wrong motivator.
We all need some sort of motivation to learn and perform a behavior. Would you still go to work if your boss didn't pay you? Find out what it is that your dog loves and use that! Food, toys, playing with you can all work well. Just make sure it is something your dog really wants. Also, adjust the motivator for the level of difficulty of the behavior and the environment you are training in. Lower value for easier behaviors, known behavior or training in low distraction locations. Medium for middle of the road challenges and higher value for the more difficult/distracting locations.


Failure to teach the behavior at a distance.
While most dogs learn to do a behavior close to you, they have no idea they can do a behavior at a distance. That must be trained incrementally. If you haven't done that, then your dog's failure is your mistake, not his.

Failure to teach the behavior with duration.
How long the dog can do a behavior also takes specific training. Duration can be hard for puppies, adolescents and for impulsive dogs. When you play games, think of the ones you give up on. Those are the ones where the game just gets longer (boring) and does not allow you many successes. So vary the length of what you ask, always making sure to do some easier ones so the behavior isn't always getting harder. It also helps to pair stationary activities with active ones.

Increasing the level of distractions too quickly. 
Dogs can learn to ignore distractions quickly, but you do need to vary their level too. Be creative with the type of distractions  Do you know the days you crawl out of bed and are sensitive to sounds? Perhaps you are feeling a little "off" today? Dogs have those days too! Particularly in adolescence when hormonal changes vary day to day. If he have had too many stressors the day before, he might need a day of lower distractions to recover. Realize that there will be some situations when your dog is distracted from the start and won't be able to succeed. On those days, lower the distraction level or change your training location. It might mean moving just a few feet to one side or going somewhere else altogether. 


Failure to teach cue discrimination.
Dogs as social learners typically learn physical cue (like body and hand signals) very easily. However, they may find verbal cues much harder. Take the time to teach your dog that different hand signals and different words mean different behaviors. Be aware that many words share the same starting consonant or the same vowel sounds. That is very confusing. "Slow" and "Go" can be hard to tell apart. "Sit" and "Stand" may as well.
Plan what verbal cues you will use. It helps to keep a running list of both hand and verbal cues so you can see where movement and sounds might overlap. It happens much more often than people think, especially once your dog has learned many behaviors! Additionally, handlers often use a hand signal at the same time as a verbal cue. If the hand signal and verbal cue differ, almost all dogs will choose to follow the hand signal.


Insufficient change of position.
Dogs are discriminators by nature, which means they look for the small details, not the larger patterns. So you must proof behaviors for position changes (both the dog and you). Can your dog do a cued behavior with you sitting on the ground? Laying on a bed?  Can the dog do the behavior (say holding an object) when sitting, standing, laying down, turning around, changing from one position to another etc? If you haven't already taught him that he can do a behavior with each of these changes, then you are punishing him for your lack of training. No fair!

Not giving your dog a chance to acclimate to a new environment.
Acclimation is giving your dog a chance to assess the environment he is in. When you go to a party (or any new location), do you march right in and start talking? Probably not. Think of the first few times you went a party. You felt awkward and worried. You probably stopped near the entrance and looked around, noting where the bathroom was, where the food was, the music and chairs and if there was another exit. That allowed you to know where you could move to depending on how you are feeling. Dogs need to do the same. Give your dog a chance to look (and sniff if appropriate) in a limited area (such as the length of the leash) before starting to focus on you. Capture any focus he chooses to give you and you will find you will get more. Giving him time to acclimate will build his confidence in new places and he can focus on you.

Not enough generalization.
Since dogs are discriminators, they do look for the details. So if your dog learned to nose nudge your leg beside the refrigerator, the refrigerator might be something he looks for a clue to what behavior you want. If it is not present, he has to then start guessing. Your dog needs you to give him enough practice in many different environments so he can learn what the key points to watch for (environmental, hand signal, verbal cue?) to tell him what behavior you want from him. Start teaching each behavior from the beginning in each new environment and you will find he relearns the behavior faster and faster in each new location. Eventually, he will be able to walk in and perform that behavior with just the cue, no retraining.

No maintenance of trained behaviors.
Just like humans, if they don't use behaviors, they forget them. Maintenance involves reviewing and even retraining a behavior periodically to put and keep it in long-term memory. Plan to practice new behaviors at least once every two weeks to a month in the beginning, then once every couple of months after that.

If you take correction (punishment) off the table, then you will learn so much more about how to best teach your dog.

Want to learn more? Check out our Foundation Skills classes. The classes are for the handler are much as they are for the dog!

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