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"I am starting to take my dog into stores and other public places. How do I handle him having a bowel movement on the floor? He is house trained. He is small breed and 1 year old." 

Good for you for asking before you start! It can prevent headaches for you, your dog and the places you visit! 

The key thing is to remember that dogs don't generalize well. That means that even if he's housetrained at your house, he may not understand that he's not supposed to go in other buildings. He may also go due to stress (excitement or worry). Urine production increases when a dog is stressed.  It's the same as us humans. Ever needed to "go" more often when you are excited, stressed or cold?  

The key is to put potty on cue and teach him to go just before you take him in. Find a spot in the parking lot just outside the door. That way you are pretty sure he isn't likely to go inside.
Keep training sessions short inside businesses until you know he is comfortable and he learns to potty only outdoors. Take frequent breaks outdoors. 

Then, if he does go, it will most likely be due to stress (excitement or worry). That's good information to slow down on your public training and give him more acclimation time and keep sessions shorter. Other reasons are he might have eaten something that didn't agree with him. That's a good reason to keep working on leave it and make sure other people at home aren't feeding him junk treats. 

Be prepared for it by carrying plastic bags, paper towels and wet wipes so you can clean it up. Just be matter of fact and try not to be embarrassed. It happens to everyone at some point! It also helps to alert a staff member so they can disinfect the floor afterward.

Keep an eye on boys to make sure they don't lift their leg on merchandise. Simply interrupt the behaviour with a Kissy sound and keep him moving to the outdoors. Cue the potty cue once you get to an appropriate spot. 

 

Here are some common errors we see with owner-trainers and how to solve them. How many of these do you do?

Spending more time focussing on training behaviours and tasks than doing gradual exposure and acclimation to new stimuli, environments, people and animals especially with puppies up to 16 weeks and dogs in a fear period. In this early period, it is more important to spent time creating positive social experiences and environmental exposures for your pup to build from. 

Asking a dog to figure out too many steps in training.
This is called "lumping". Breaking down behaviours into smaller parts actually speeds the dogs understanding and how fast he learns the behaviour. This is called splitting. Often the dog needs us to split the behaviors into much smaller pieces than we ever dreamed. Also it helps if our dog has been taught the foundation behaviors needed for harder behaviors (that are often a combination of several skills).

Expecting the dog to perform a behaviour in distraction level that is much too high for what he has been trained to do (jumping from elementary school to university level distractions). Break down the distractions and take time to specifically to controlled set ups to desensitize your dog to the ones that are the hardest for him (often people, other dogs, animals etc).

Expecting a dog to do a newly learned behaviour in a new location without taking the time to reteach him from the start that he can do it.  This is a concept called  "generalizing". A dog needs to be taught how to generalize as they don't do it naturally. It's a step by step process of training each behavior in each new location until your dog really understands what you are asking and can do it on the first try in each new location.

Training their dog do tasks at too young of an age and expecting them to carry them out as needed. This puts too much pressure on the pup and may lead to early burnout. You can teach the foundations and have some fun with it, but let your pup be a pup until he's mature enough to handle the responsibility and cognitively figure out what help is needed under what circumstances. For many tasks (mobility, psychiatric, diabetic and seizure response) that is 18 months or more. 12 months of age is reasonable for other tasks as long as the dog isn't required to do them on a regular basis.

Focusing training mostly movement behaviours when away from home.
Settle/relax is a key behaviour pup need to learn to do everywhere. Spend about half your time away from home practicing settle/relax.  It allows your dog time to acclimate as well. 

Teaching the dog a cued "watch me" behaviour and insisting the dog look at them in the presence of scary things and distractions.
It's actually better to have a default attention (the environment becomes the cue for the dog to look at you) as it gives the dog a chance to check out his environment and let you know he is ready and able to focus on you. If he's not, he's not ready for that level of distraction or situation.

Taking dog out to public places and events to train but not paying attention to him.
They expect him to behave with little or no training. Pay 100% attention to your dog when out with him at first. Outings are training sessions, not socializing sessions for the handler.

Attending to only unwanted "bad" behaviour and ignoring good behaviour.
Reinforce desired behaviours like loose leash walking, settle/relax and ignoring distractions! You get more of what what you reinforce!

Using training collars before having properly taught the dog to do a behavior. Also using those training collars as a crutch for the life of the dog. Dogs need to be taught what to do in many different situations. A training collar just masks the issue and may cause new ones (if the wrong tool is chosen or its used incorrectly).

Using only one type of reinforcer.
There are so many things that can be used to reinforce a dog and variety within each type. Food, low key toys, gentle massage, greeting people and other dogs on cue, sniffing, watching etc. 

Training sessions are too long, especially at first.
Start with short sessions and increase as your dog is able to handle it. 

Training the dog where they think the dog should be able to do, rather than what he's actually able to do in that moment. Go back to the step your dog can do. That might be as basic as capturing behaviors. Nothing wrong with that as you are rebuilding a positive association.

Handlers doing too much coaxing rather than training to get behaviours.
They often use too many words, loud voices, or move their bodies too much. This can cause sensitive dogs to shut down (move slowly) and boisterous dogs to amp up (bark, bite, jump up). Try using calmer language and quieter voices. Your dog will notice and will become more attuned to your subtle communication.

Handlers not being able to read their dog's body language and stress levels. Dogs communicate all the time. If they move slowly or refuse to do a behavior, the dog is usually trying to communicate that he either doesn't understand what you are asking or is feeling pressured. A jumping, mouthy dog might be frustrated with your lack of ability to communicate effectively with him. 

If you are interested in learning more detail about any of these, book a web cam session. They are only CA$65 or ~ US$50.

 

Our website is moving. Please find this blog post at this new link and bookmark it for future reference.

 

Our website is moving. Please find this blog post at this new link and bookmark it for future reference.

Our website is moving. Please find this blog post at this new link and bookmark it for future reference.

 

A vest for cue working mode is added the same way all other cues are added.

When you can reliably predict your dog will be in working mode in a public place (and are willing to be $100 that he will go into work mode), then you add the cue of the vest or bandana or special harness. Put the vest or harness on just before going into a public place where the team will be working. 

Then, your dog will start to associate putting on the vest or special harness as the cue to work. It's based on classical conditioning or pairing of the new cue with the behavior the dog already does. The fact that the equipment feels different than what the dog usually wears will help her understand this job is different. 


You can certainly help him to be comfortable in the vest at home but if you want it to mean something, then wait to add it to 'work' situations.

Read this post on vests

Many parents struggle whether to get dog for their child who is on the autism spectrum. Should that dog be a family pet (acting as a personal therapy dog) or an actual service dog that can go into public places? Here are some points on both sides of the decision from research, parents and our trainers' experience. Parents/guardians must consider both the child and the dog's needs as the parent is legally responsible for the welfare of any pet cared for by children 16 years and under.

"Benefits (of autism service dogs) were found in 88% of families, and were overwhelmingly social and cognitive, with additional physical and medical benefits for the paediatric client. However, risks, including behavioral, financial, and time/cost issues were significant, becoming a burden in 53% of families." source

In all cases, consult a professional trainer who uses positive methods to help you evaluate a potential dog and help guide you in the training process if you think this might be what you want to do. Better yet, sign up for a web cam session to talk to a service dog trainer who has worked with families with autism and dogs before you start the process! It's the best investment you can make and will save you time, money, effort and heart ache in long run no matter which option you choose!

Pros

Cons

Pet Dog

 
If your child is high functioning, a puppy could be a good learning and bonding experience. Starting with a puppy is a lot of work. It's like having a baby in the house for upto 2 years. Caring and commitment required. 
Getting an adult dog might be the best choice so you know what you are getting and you skip the puppy and adolescent stage. Both pups and adults can bond to new families. Finding a dog can be a lot of work. Choice of individual dog is critical. Healthy, calm temperament with low to medium exercise needs. Resilient temperament is critical. Larger breeds to consider are labrador retrievers, golden retrievers. Smaller breeds are bichon frises or beagle. All from show (conformation) lines with thicker bone structure. Home-raised litter or dog with kids and parents health-tested. Avoid dogs who show anxiety, or fear. Must appeal to your child. 
  If the parents have not cared for a dog before, there is often welfare issues for the dog. The dog's physical, cognitive, social and emotional needs must be met.
Higher functioning and older children/teens may be able to train their own dog. They learn the skills and knowledge of training they can apply to life. Find a positive trainer who has dealt with autism.  Hiring a good trainer to guide you to a good family pet costs money. Group classes may present a challenge. Private sessions or family tutoring cost more.
An experienced positive trainer can break down the training into bite-sized pieces so you, your child and your dog all succeed.  Poor choice of trainer, such as one who uses punishment, correction or social pressure can teach a child unwanted  habits and social skills. 
Dog may become a social lubricant promoting interaction between your child and other people. Child may feel he's in competition with dog. And parent may feel that way at times too! 
Child focusses on dog and has a topic to discuss with others. May improve your child's communication skills and social awareness. If the child is not bonded the dog, may ignore the dog.
Potential decrease in behaviour problems from your child. Less aggression to self or others. More compliance with parent requests/direction. Potential increase in behaviour problems or different behaviour problems especially in younger, lower functioning children.
Child may smile more often.  
Presence of dog may facilitate motor development as he is motivated to move with the dog.  Smaller dogs are at risk of injury. 
  If child is too physical during meltdowns, a dog may not be an option as it puts the dog's safety at risk.
  Parent may have more conflict management to do.
If child is higher functioning and able to care for dog, dog typically bonds with child. Ideal age to add a dog to a family is 8 years or older, depending on level on autism spectrum. If child is younger or lower functioning, dog typically bonds with primary caregiver (parent).
  Child may show higher level of interest in dog at first, then interest declines.
Child may improve communication at first, then drop back, though to a level higher than before he had the dog. Child may look at dog and talk to dog about his day.  
  More hand flapping another excitement-related behaviours may be seen at first. 
Dog needs a daily schedule (feed, train, exercise, play etc.). This can help to regulate a higher-functioning teen or child's day.  
Improved adaptability of child.  
Child learns about emotions through the dog's point of view. Train can help teach family how to read dog body language.  
There are more benefits if the child has previous or concurrently done horse therapy.   
  Travelling is more challenging with a dog in tow.
  Parent may try to force the situation (make it work) when it isn't. Whether they be lack of bonding, behaviour issues by the child or the dog, time, money or emotional energy, sometimes a dog isn't a good option for each situation.
   
 Service Dog  
Same benefits as pet dog above. Finding the right dog with a resilient temperament can be a challenge as for pet dog. Large dogs cost more to feed.
  Attracts more attention than you want at times. Because you have a dog with you in places where dogs are not allowed, they are interesting. Some people love them, others hate them. 
Dog can perform tasks that help to mitigate autism such as deep pressure therapy to ground the child, interrupting anxiety tasks, interrupting self-harm, retrieving weighted blanket, etc.  
Learning how to train your own tasks can be empowering.  Learning the theory and application of training a service dog to the point of public access is time-consuming and challenging. Needs the ability to commit to the dog while caring for your child.
 You can train new tasks as they are needed. Hiring a trainer and classes can be costly. Plan on $3000-$6000 from puppy to working adult. Add on about $1000 per year to feed, vet and other supplies. More if the dog needs to be professionally groomed.
  Buying a trained dog can be risky. You need to make sure you know what you are getting before you put any money down. Only place a deposit on the dog. Visit the location. See other dogs produced and meet your dog before paying the final deposit. Look for signs of stress from the dogs and find out is aversive equipment has been used on them. Do not accept a dog under 18 months of age as they are not mature enough to do the job (physically, social or emotionally).
  Getting a trained dog from a non-profit program can take 2 years or more, if they are accepting applications and your family qualifies. They may require you to do some fundraising and ideally will do regular follow up maintenance training for the lifetime of the dog.
  Time/focus issues.
Public may be more respectful/understanding of a child with a service dog.  
Parent often feels more competent about managing a child with a dog.  
  Family may be confronted by retailers, schools, restaurants, transportation providers, hotels etc if or not dog can accompany family.  
Service dogs are allowed anywhere a member of the public can go-if they do not cause a disturbance and are house-trained. Service Dogs may not be allowed in private establishments like private homes and schools, private churches, food preparation areas, operating theatres, some sections of zoos etc. They may be asked to be removed if they cause a disturbance (bark or bother other people) or pee or poop.
  There will be places you want to avoid taking your serviced to protect him or her such as fenced off leash dog parks.
  Common welfare issues for the dog are: Lack of recovery time for dog, unintentional maltreatment. Lack of predictable daily schedule for the dog. Not enough recreation time for the dog. These can lead to serious negative impacts on the dog's behaviour, performance, and welfare and parental satisfaction of the dog.
  Dogs behaviour and tasks tend to decline over time if not maintained. You will need to do monthly then bi-yearly refresher training and/or courses to keep your dog up to date.
  Some regions require yearly or every 1-3 year certification renewals for public access. (BC, Alberta and Nova Scotia in Canada for example)

Test how familiar you are with service dog terms.  Enjoy our crossword puzzle! 
An extra hint: 29 down is an UNdesirable behavior in a service dog.

Scroll down for the clues and further down for the answer key. 

Feel free to print off the puzzle for personal use.

 



Clues

 Answer Key

For anyone who uses websites to get information, one of the key skills they can have is learning how to read them quickly and efficiently.

Scan Headings and Bolded Hyper Links

Most websites contain answers to commonly asked questions about the organization, it's products and services.
The first thing to do on any webpage is to look at the headings across the top, then do a quick scan for hyper linked headings on the page itself.

Choose a link that looks like it might be what you looking for, click on it and scroll down to read only the headings.

Read FAQ
This is particularly important for any frequently asked questions (FAQ) page.

When something of interest catches your eye, you can quickly read groups of three words to get the main idea of the content.

Use the Search Function
If there is a search function on the website, use it! Type in specific key words that describe what you are looking for. Some sites have a search for the entire site while others only function on that page. If not, use the Google search function on the specific webpage. First type your keywords then site:and the website name you want to search.

So if you want to search all of our site for the keyword "stress"  you would type this in the Google search bar:

stress site: servicedogtraininginstitute.ca

Any page on our site that has that word on it will show up in the list. Note the spacing is important. There needs to be a space between your keyword and the word "site" and a a space between the colon and the website address.

To do a search on a site on Yahoo, simply fill out the Yahoo Advanced search form. 
Note: there are ads above and below the list. Look for the thin line separating the two.

Use Search Function that Comes with Your Computer 
Most computers have a simple function you can use to search a specific page for specific words, sometimes called "find and replace". For example, in Apple computers, you can hit "Command" and "f" at the same time, fill in your key word in the search box that pops up and it will find all samples of the word on that page. 

Found it!
If that is the information you want, then you can reread it in detail.

If it is not the information you want, then you can continue reading headings or search other words to find for what you're looking for.

Read Before You Email for More Information

Make sure you have done the above process before contacting an organization or business for more information. You will get the information much faster finding it yourself than asking them to reply.

If the information is available on their website, they may ignore your email or refer you back to the FAQ as it takes time and resources to answer every email. Or if the information is not on the site, they may add it. 

How to Ask for Information
While it is great to request more detail about their services, you need to do your part too. Be very specific with your question and be sure to provide relevant information about yourself (such as your location, experience with the product etc) to prevent the need for back and forth emails which slow the process.

Anticipate what they may ask you but keep it brief. Short sentences work best.

Separate paragraphs with spaces to make it easier to quickly read. 

Consider What Information You are Asking 
If the company provides information as part of their service, consider what you are asking. Is it something that they typically charge for? You may need to book a webcam, or phone session with them or pay for a book, online class or webinar that contains the information you want.

Follow Up
If they do answer your email, etiquette suggests that you send them a simple thank you. Too many requests with no acknowledgement may get your email ignored.

When self-training a service dog, does my dog need to wear a vest to identify him as a service dog (in training)?

Maybe! It depends on the age and training level of your dog, your local laws, where you live, your comfort level interacting with people and where you train with him in public. 

Unfortunately, vests may attract attention rather than keep people at a distance. People are curious when they see a dog wearing a vest and may come over to ask questions or pet the dog. A vest may not solve solve the very problem you are hoping to prevent.

Putting a vest on a young pup means you will have to purchase others as the pup grows, and most pups will chew on them until they are past the chewing stage at about a year of age.

A vest is only needed when your dog is ready to do formal pubic access. Click here to read a list of behaviours your dog needs to be able to do in public places where pet dogs are allowed before stating formal "public access."

Check your local laws to see if Service Dogs in training (SDit) are protected for public access or not. If they are, and you feel comfortable, then you may want to have your dog wear a vest for public access training. In areas where SDit have no legal protection, only dogs with accredited service dog programs are allowed in public places with their trainer (where pet dogs are not allowed). Most of these typically will wear a vest that identifies the training organization.

If owner-trained dogs are not protected by law in your area, then stick to training your dog in places where pet dogs are allowed. There are many big box stores such as Rona, Home Depot, Michael's, Chapters, Canadian Tire etc who allow pets. Check at the entry for signs or ask a staff member if pets are allowed. If you use locations that allow dogs, this will decrease the number of questions you receive as your dog will just be another dog. If SDit are not granted public access in your local region and your dog is ready for formal pubic access training, then talk to management of retail businesses and ask for written permission on their letterhead before you go in. This will help on days the manager is off or if new staff approach you to ask if your dog is a SD and if you have permission to be there.

Tip: Stay away from big box pet stores though as they tend to be chaotic (with dogs and children) or save them for the very last training as they are the most distracting (and most risky) place to train a SDit.

Does the vest need to be a specific colour? 

It depends what the locals are accustomed to. If there is a Service Dog (SD) organization in your area that has many dogs that are visible in the community with standard-colored vests (blue or red) then you may be facing a struggle to educate them why your vest is a different colour. If there aren't many dogs or the vests vary, then it may not be an issue. Keep the vest looking professional to avoid questions about it's legitimacy.

What wording should the vest have on it? 

As few as possible. Keep the lettering large and easy to read. We recommend "Working Dog" rather than "Service Dog in training". Many people don't know what a service dog is and this brings up questions. Everyone knows what 'working' means. In states where SDit are not protected by law, then you are not breaking a law by labelling your dog an SD or SDit (which in these states is not a legal standing.)

How big should the lettering be? 

Letters need to be about an inch high with spacing between. Black on white background is easiest thread from a distance. This allows it to be read from 30 feet away. Smaller letters or more words cause people to come closer to your dog thread them. 

When my dog wears his/her vest, she is on her best behaviour! That's great right? 

If your dog shows significantly different behavior the first few times you put a vest on without doing any training or conditioning, your dog is probably not being well-behaved. He is more likely uncomfortable in it. Uncomfortable dogs appear calmer, may not eat, will move more slowly, respond more slowly to cues, may not want to sit or lay down, may not want to get up once they are down etc. In reality, they are stressed (some to the point of shutting down). I can't tell you how many service dogs in training I've seen where people say their dog is great when vested, then when I see the dog in person, the dog is scared of the harness, vest or head halter. The key thing is to watch the body language. A suddenly stiff or still dog is not a good thing.

How do I make putting on the vest a cue that the dog is working? 

You add the vest like adding any other cue: Train the dog to the behaviour level you want, then add the new cue (the vest) just before you do a training session. Start with very short sessions at first so it is obvious that you need his attention when the vest is on. At the end of each session, take the vest off and encourage your dog to be a dog (tell him to go sniff, potty, or play with him). Pairing the vest cue with the working behaviour many times, will teach your dog that when it is on, he is working. When it is taken off, he can be a dog. 

Can I introduce my dog to the vest if I am not going to use it until he is ready for pubic access?

Yes, it is important that your dog feels comfortable in the vest before he starts wearing it in public. Put it on for very very short periods before and during training sessions at home. Take it off as soon as the session is finished. If your dog is fearful of wearing a vest or harness, then consider taking our harness and vest class that addresses how to carefully introduce it to a fearful dog.


Lastly:
Be prepared for people approaching by using a standard answer that your dog is working, please do not disturb. Or that your dog is in training and not ready to greet people yet. Holding your hand up in front of you like a stop sign can help. Non-verbal body language such as stepping between your dog and the person can be very effective to deter people from interacting with your dog.

 

 

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