Service dog q&a

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All things Service Dog!

Whether you have one, have had one, are in the process of acquiring one, considering one, learning about training, have questions for those who do - or find yourself going off topic in another thread and wish to continue the conversation? Bring it on over here!

As a reminder, we also have this thread >>>
Service dog handler lobby for those who already have Service Dogs & wish for some camaraderie amongst peers.

Hi! I am seriously considering getting a psychiatric service dog for my anxiety, and I will be going to college in August. I was wondering if there is anyone in the psychiatric service dog community who would be willing to talk with me about navigating college life with a psychiatric service dogs, the pros and cons, etc. Thanks so much!
 

Alli D87

Learning
I have been training a dog I got a year ago (he's 2 now) to be a service dog. He is really smart and knows a ton of tasks relating to my needs. The only thing that's proving to be a barrier is that he is easily distracted and barks at people because he wants to go play. It's because of this that I haven't taken him out in public at say petsmart or wherever with his in training vest on.

Any tips for working through this barrier?

I've been working on focus, he's great inside the house but as soon as we're outside and there's distractions he barely listens.
 

Eagle3

MyPTSD Pro
I have been training a dog I got a year ago (he's 2 now) to be a service dog. He is really smart and knows a ton of tasks relating to my needs. The only thing that's proving to be a barrier is that he is easily distracted and barks at people because he wants to go play. It's because of this that I haven't taken him out in public at say petsmart or wherever with his in training vest on.

Any tips for working through this barrier?

I've been working on focus, he's great inside the house but as soon as we're outside and there's distractions he barely listens.

Consistency and repetition are your best friends. Start small using friends or even strangers willing to help, and work the dog through his issues one person at a time. Gradually increase the number of people and distractions until you are getting more consistent focus. OR, what I did, was I took my pup to every huge public pet-friendly event in town and just kept working on focus, until he finally got used to the chaos and decided it wasn't interesting anymore. Luckily I had a dog who could do that....I wouldn't recommend that approach for everybody.

The important thing is redirection. Catching him before he vocalizes. Praising the hell out of proper focus. I trained my dog using the "watch me " command, moving a finger to my eyes and having the dog look at me, then hold the gaze, then treat. Start with just a second of eye contact, then increase the time until treating. Works wonders.
 

Sideways

Sponsor
Any tips for working through this barrier?
I agree with @Eagle3 . Start small, practice often.

Are you using high value treats when you’re trying to work outside? and;

Does your dog walk on a loose lead calmly at home?

One exercise that can be helpful, is to start by only going as far as your front gate. Loose lead walking by your side to the gate using a high value treat. Then when you get to the front gate? Simply get doggo to sit there and do focus exercises.

Once he’s nailed that? You go further.

If doggo can already do that and it’s only when distractions approach you when you’re out walking, there’s 2 different strategies people use:
The first is exactly what you’re doing at the front gate. You see a distraction coming, you get doggo to sit, and using high value rewards do focus exercises till the distraction passes, or doggo has lost interest.

The second strategy? When a distraction approaches, turn around and walk the other way. Use your treats to reward doggo for sticking to your left leg.

When doggo learns that focusing on you, rather than distractions, earns small treats? The problem tends to go away!
 

lostforgottensoul

MyPTSD Pro
To add to the replies above, try backing up to where he can focus, reward the focus, then slowly work closer, rewarding the focus. Can't focus? Back up a bit. Keeping doing that. Train in pet stores often. Keep working on it and it will get better!

ETA: Also, do a lot of engagement games. We do this constantly. Anything Chopper wants whether it be a toy, a bone, his dinner, or to poop, he gets it by engaging with me. AKA, focusing on me. Build engagement into your daily life. Do a ton of engagement games. Make looking at you the best thing in the entire world!
 
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Alli D87

Learning
Thanks for the replies, So I'm going somewhat in the right direction here. I need higher value treats, to work distance into training, and preemptively focus and treat before the bark. :)

I think I will start to work more in public places like the pet store so he gets used to the higher traffic environment.

Thanks again :D
 

Sideways

Sponsor
and preemptively focus and treat before the bark.
You probably know your dog’s behaviour better than you’re giving yourself credit for.

Barking sometimes just comes out of the blue. But excited barking is often one of the later behaviours when a dog is getting over-stimulated.

So, if you notice that doggo is starting to have trouble concentrating, but you’ve only done 10 minutes training? Stop for the day, and come back tomorrow. More sessions of short duration are more effective than longer sessions where the dog loses focus, becomes tired, becomes distracted, or becomes over-stimulated.

So, as an example, aim for a 5-10 minute session where doggo finds it easy to totally nail his good behaviour, rather than trying to get doggo to last long sessions.

Also don’t disregard simply “hanging out” with doggo in busy public spaces, to normalise a lot of the things that doggo is getting over-stimulated by. Go to the markets and just sit with a coffee with doggo sitting around beside you. Bus stops, outside grocery stores. Literally just get doggo to hang out calmly in public places.

A lot of the work we do with our dogs in training is simply getting them used to doing a whole lotta nuthin in a whole lotta places. Chair for me, mat for doggo, and just sit and let doggo get bored:)
 

Alli D87

Learning
You probably know your dog’s behaviour better than you’re giving yourself credit for.

Barking sometimes just comes out of the blue. But excited barking is often one of the later behaviours when a dog is getting over-stimulated.

So, if you notice that doggo is starting to have trouble concentrating, but you’ve only done 10 minutes training? Stop for the day, and come back tomorrow. More sessions of short duration are more effective than longer sessions where the dog loses focus, becomes tired, becomes distracted, or becomes over-stimulated.

So, as an example, aim for a 5-10 minute session where doggo finds it easy to totally nail his good behaviour, rather than trying to get doggo to last long sessions.

Also don’t disregard simply “hanging out” with doggo in busy public spaces, to normalise a lot of the things that doggo is getting over-stimulated by. Go to the markets and just sit with a coffee with doggo sitting around beside you. Bus stops, outside grocery stores. Literally just get doggo to hang out calmly in public places.

A lot of the work we do with our dogs in training is simply getting them used to doing a whole lotta nuthin in a whole lotta places. Chair for me, mat for doggo, and just sit and let doggo get bored:)

Thanks so much for the advice. I will bring him out to just hang out hopefully calmly lol. Great idea.
 

siniang

MyPTSD Pro
A lot of the work we do with our dogs in training is simply getting them used to doing a whole lotta nuthin in a whole lotta places. Chair for me, mat for doggo, and just sit and let doggo get bored:)

This is very very very important.

I constantly see dogs (not SDs, dogs in general) to be extremely overstimulated and hyper because of this. They've never learned to be calm, even bored. They constantly get attention and learn very very quickly how to get it. This very quickly becomes a self-enforcing process. Dogs need to learn that 1) they're not always the center of attention and 2) being bored is OK.

(source from having been quite active in the working/hunting dog community)
 

Sideways

Sponsor
They've never learned to be calm, even bored.
It is absolutely a core part of socialising a dog to behave in public places.

For a SD, it’s critical for a different reason. If you have a SD for anxiety or ptsd for example, and you want that dog to indicate when you’re getting distressed, based on mild nuances like a change in how you’re holding your shoulders or hands, or because your blood pressure has gone up, the dog isn’t going to notice that if they’re distracted easily by the things around them.

So, high stimulus environments lots of the time, will help reduce the dog’s distractability, and improve their ability to notice subtle changes in their handler:)
 
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