Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Training Goals for Isaac

When you have a service dog, even when you get a fully trained dog from a program that trains service dogs, you have to do regular training with your dog.  Dogs need to practice things or their skills get rusty.  In addition, there are always new tasks or new takes on existing tasks that dogs can learn.  Plus, many service dogs, like Isaac, love to learn.  He enjoys training.  To him, it's a fun game in which he gets lots of praise, pets, and yummy treats.

Isaac and I have a list of things to work on in the near future.  My plan is to spend about 20 minutes a day on training, in five to ten  minute increments.
  • Longer down stays.  When we are at a restaurant, or if we go to a movie, or something like that, Isaac needs to lie down and be still and quiet, sometimes for a long period of time.  He gets restless after 30 minutes or so, though.  We've been practicing down stays at home, with periodic rewards for doing them well.  But we need to work on doing them for longer periods of time.
  • Picking up dropped items in busy, distracting places.  Isaac loves picking up items for me at home.  But in busy, crowded places, like grocery stores on Saturday afternoons, Isaac seems to forget how to do that.  He tends to just look at me like he has no idea what I'm asking him to do.  We  might have to practice that with some high value treats, like hot dogs.
  • Turning on lights when told to do so from a distance.  I don't know why, but when I am standing fairly close to the light switch, Isaac has no trouble turning on the lights.  The further away I am from the light switch, the more likely he is to seem confused about what I am asking him to do or to run over to the switch and poke at it with his nose, but not actually flip it up so the light doesn't actually come on.  I want to be able to be lying on the couch and tell him to get the lights and have him go across the room and turn them on.  Right now, I usually have to get up and walk halfway across the room and give the command from there.
  • Getting my meds and bringing them to me from another room.  I keep my meds in the living room, near the couch, where I am most often sitting.  I've been practicing sitting and standing in other parts of the room and telling him to get my meds, and he does.  But I want him to be able to do it if we are in another room and I give the command.
  • Bringing my phone.  I want him to bring it to me on command, but I also want him to bring it to me when it rings.  For the most part, this is not really a task I need him to do, just an added bonus, if you will.  Although, with my back problems, it is possible I could be in pain and unable to get to my phone and need to call for help, in which case it would be very good if he could bring it to me.  I bought a vinyl case for the phone because I don't want him to slobber all over it.  I just need to get started teaching him the word "phone."
  • Ignoring other dogs.  This is a biggie.  I want him to have some doggie friends to play with, which he does not have at the moment, but I need him to not be distracted by other dogs when he is working.  I need him to not try to run after the neighbor's dog, which is always outside off leash.  I'm going to see about taking an obedience class with him, not so much for the obedience training because he already knows the basics like sit and stay, but for the chance to practice obedience around other dogs.

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