Tag Archives: dog training

A Spotlight on Service Dogs

A service dog is a dog trained specifically to assist people with disabilities such as visual impairment, hearing loss, mobility impairment, mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or health conditions such as diabetes.

It may not be that surprising to many dog lovers that on top of the all the amazing benefits the average pet dog provides, certain dogs have the capability to provide life-changing services for owners in need. More than just pets, service dogs are technically “working dogs.” To honor these incredible animals, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about service dogs, including which breeds are most suitable for service training, the process for a dog to become certified, and how you can get involved in service animal organizations.

Common Service Breeds
service-thumbnailThe breeds that tend to take well to service-based training are German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Border Collies. Yet, there are also other breeds that are best for specific disabilities. For instance, smaller breeds such as Setters and Shiba Inus are often used for seizure assistance. In general, small breeds are better suited for conditions that require medical alerts; but for mobility or balance issues, larger, stronger breeds are necessary.

Physical Assessment
The first step in evaluating whether a dog is a good candidate for service, is to schedule a nose-to-tail examination by a licensed veterinarian. If a dog has a condition like arthritis for example, he would not be considered a good candidate as the condition could inhibit him from performing his duties and add unnecessary strain to his body. Service dogs should all be neutered or spayed so they are not in heat while working. Age is also a factor as dogs should be at least 6 months old and past the puppy stage.

Personality Evaluation
Disposition and temperament are crucial factors in determining whether a dog is capable of becoming an effective service dog. A neutral personality that isn’t too active or too passive is the easiest personality type to train for service duties. A dog who is pretty even-tempered, rather than aggressive or overly submissive, is likely to be a great fit.

Sourcing A Reputable Trainer
Training a service animal requires a lot of expertise, patience and of course a tailored program customized to the illness or condition the dog is being trained to assist. While there is no required certification in the United States, the service dog training community has created self-regulated, minimum standards of which all trainers should meet. While anyone can learn to train their pet, it’s highly recommended to seek out a professional when it comes to service-based training. A professional trainer will put in the time (often hundreds of hours over 6 months to a year) and focus on “proofing,” which is the art of tuning out distractions and always being on command.

Public Testing
Intermittently throughout and certainly towards the end of the service-training program, professional trainers will take the soon-to-be service dogs into public environments and essentially test the dogs’ skills. Often equipped with a video camera, the trainers will test the dogs’ public conduct, including expectations such as only urinating and defecating on command, curbed excitement, no display of aggression and reduced hyperactivity.

Graduation and Registration
Once a dog successfully completes a service-dog training course, it’s the responsibility of the owner or trainer to register the dog with a reputable service organization such as the United States Service Dog Registry. Because service dogs are self-regulated in the U.S., it’s imperative that owners are diligent in completing the paperwork and registering their animal. A public record of a dog’s service training is helpful for any situation where the dog may be questioned or as evidence in the case of any sort of altercation. Remember, the dog just graduated an intensive program; it’s the least us humans can do!

Finding a Human Match In Need
Similar to trainer resources, there are plenty of places to find people in need of service animals. Remember, public accommodations for service dogs are only made if they’re accompanying a disabled individual.

Whether you have a dog you’re interested in training and donating to become a service animal, or you or someone you know is in need of a service dog, we hope you’ve found this information helpful. It truly is incredible that in addition to providing unconditional love, dogs can provide humans life-saving care.


5 Impressive Tricks to Teach Your Dog

When tackling the art of training a puppy, the average dog owner will likely first focus on house training, followed by simple commands such as Sit, Stay, Come and Heel. However, once your pup has mastered the basics, depending on how ambitious you are (and how willing she is), it may be time to teach her some “party tricks” that will really impress friends, family and of course, the other pooches. To get an idea for the training opportunities at your disposal, we’ve outlined a few dog-friendly talents and how to achieve success. Train away (and make sure to capture these on video)!

The Army Crawl
Training your pup for the armed forces may seem like an impossible feat, but you might be surprised to learn that mastering the army crawl is completely doable. Not only an impressive trick, but also a good exercise to improve joint flexibility, have your dog lie down and drag a treat in front of her nose across the ground, which should spur the desire to scoot on her belly. Once she shows progress, add a command of choice such as “Crawl!” along with the gesture and treat. She’ll soon associate the behavior with the reward and perform upon request.

The Salute
Another military-themed trick, the salute, is quite easy for a dog to pick up if coached properly. Simply post a sticky note above your pup’s brow, which will cause a natural reflex to paw it off. Each you’re your pup reaches above his eye to remove the sticky, say “Salute” and hand him a treat to praise the behavior. After enough repetition, your dog will associate only the verbal command with the action and you can remove the note.

The Baller
Teaching your pup to “shoot hoops” on the court is not only great exercise for him, but for you too! Start slowly by using a lightweight ball, throwing it around, dribbling and allowing your pup to chase and play with the ball. Whenever he interacts with the ball, praise and reward him with a treat. Once he’s relaxed and playing happily and consistently, put the ball on his nose, reward and give treat and then bounce the ball off his nose, followed by rewarding with a treat. Repeat these steps and he’ll quickly start to understand that playing ball not only means treats, but also lots of fun!

The Dance
Take care with teaching your pup to dance, especially if they’re a larger breed, overweight, prone to conditions like hip dysplasia, or on the older side. A most effective and easy-to-learn skill for smaller dogs, dancing is a really fun trick to teach. Simply have your dog sit and then dangle a treat above her head (you may even need to move the treat a bit behind the head). Once your dog is standing up on her hind legs, move the treat in a circle above her head until she spins. Accompany this with the command “Dance!” and provide a treat. Once she gets the hang of it, she’ll do it without a treat upon command.

The Kiss
tricks-thumbnailCan’t get enough of those puppy kisses? Teach your pup to kiss on command for that perfect smooch. Take a little peanut butter or cream cheese and dab it on your cheek (or lips, no judgement). Then give the cue “Kiss,” lean in towards your dog and let him finish the job. Remember, practice makes perfect and with enough repetition, be prepared to get lots of unsolicited slobbery, wet kisses!