Service dog q&a

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lostforgottensoul

MyPTSD Pro
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.

Yes, this! We did this first. We hung out outside of my apartment complex first with a ton of kids and lots of stuff going on. I got a mat for him to lay on and I put a chair out there for me and we did a downstay starting at 5 mins and worked on duration up to an hour before anything else.

While I did that, I also built engagement into our life at every turn. Anything he wanted, he only got by engaging with me or focusing on me first. And not the thing he wanted. We built this up during exercise when he was super excised about his toy. He got it by stopping focusing on it and focusing on me instead. Thats the only time I threw it. We still do that but we do off leash commands now.

Turn them into fun engagement games. Many videos out there about that.

And then we worked in parking lots, further way from the busy areas and worked our way into those busy areas slowly.

Usually, a bark is when the dog is over stimulated like what @Sideways said. It is too much. Back up. Before the bark, before even too much distraction.


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.

Yep. And would do a lot of focus and engagement activities. Rest, go back to it. So say ten 5 min sessions back to back with rest time in between is better then one 1 hr long session.

Reward fast and do jackpot reward when you have great focus. Reward back to back.

Learn great marker training and use a clicker if you can.


I need higher value treats,

Real meat. I use lunchmeat. Not the best idea but easier for me to get my hands on. Try cut up real small pieces of turkey or chicken. Boiled chicken is best but just harder for me to get.
 

siniang

MyPTSD Pro
So, high stimulus environments lots of the time

That, too, as it is - as you mentioned - extremely important for SD to be calm and focused, even in distracting environments, to catch subtle changes of the handler.

In addition, what I was trying to get at, is that many (pet) dogs are overstimulated at home by their owners. They're constantly getting attention, are being talked to, being played and interacted with. I know dogs who are being walked like 5 times a day for 1-3 hrs each time - way way way too much. Those dogs never learn to just "be".

And taking the next step, making a pet dog a SD, those dogs then lack the required focus because they're preoccupied with seeking attention and needing entertainment.
 

Sideways

Sponsor
In addition, what I was trying to get at, is that many (pet) dogs are overstimulated at home by their owners.
Whilst this may be true for some dogs, the experience for most canine pets is long boring days.

Really only working breeds need 5 hours of walk a day, but many breeds would enjoy that.

The right kinds of stimulation are fantastic for dogs. Like any animal, they get bored when they’re in the same environment all day, with little to do but lie around, oftentimes with no company. So, when it’s pets rather than SD’s, what you’re referring to as ‘over-stimulated’, is potentially better referred to as stimulated, happy, interested.

We know that dogs that spend long days alone with no stimulation often develop anxiety, as well as physical conditions.

There are some breeds, of course, that have been bred for lying around not doing much. Lap dogs actually love lying around, but even then, with someone or another pet. Not alone.

Dogs are social animals, and their health (mental and physical) demonstrably benefits from lots of changing stimulation, and plenty of company.

What you’re finding as ‘over-stimulated’ dogs, may rather be dogs that have not been adequately socialised, or taught healthy boundaries for the home. Pet dogs can very easily be taught when and how to be chill (for example, when the humans are eating). That doesn’t mean stimulating them less, it means training them better.

Inactive, unattentives dogs that spend long periods lying around doing nothing? Seeming ‘calm’, are usually depressed. It’s not the natural state for a dog to do that.
 

siniang

MyPTSD Pro
Uhh...I did not mean to imply that the dog should be laying around alone most of the day. It breaks my heart when I see the kenneled or chained dogs here where I live being left alone all day with no stimulation at all.

As you said, dogs are pack animals, they >need< social interactions (with their humans in lieu of an actual pack). I didn't mean to imply that a dog needs to be fine with being left alone long days. I absolutely agree with you that those dogs develop depression etc.

But like most animals, they also need "down time". Their ancestors didn't hunt, walk, play, ... 24/7. They spend a lot of time resting, grooming, ...being. With company. But without actual physical or even (active/focused) mental activity. When it comes to animal caretaking, the key is enrichment and variability of enrichment. Most dogs would enjoy 5h walks. But it doesn't have to be the 5h walk every day. Many dogs do very well with short, but intensive, mental work, for example. With stimulating your dog 24/7 you get hyper, nagging animals.

I do think we're actually on the same page on this! I'm really just speaking from my European experience within a small range of breeds and my observations what their owners "do" with them day in and day out. Often it feels exhausting just reading this. And then they wonder why those dogs develop all kinds of psychological problems like being hyper, extreme separation anxiety even for short periods of times, destructiveness out of boredom when they're not stimulated, ...

What I was getting at: both extremes are harmful :) It gotta be a balance

But we're getting OT - sorry ??
 

lostforgottensoul

MyPTSD Pro
I know dogs who are being walked like 5 times a day for 1-3 hrs each time - way way way too much. Those dogs never learn to just "be".

Many breeds are high energy breeds and need to get their energy out. Those are good owners in my opinion! If they cannot run their dogs they take them on walks for a few hours a few times a day! Awesome!

Their are 24 hrs in a day. Those dogs get enough "down time". The typical service dog works 6 - 10 hrs a day. Let's see. Five 3 hour walks are 15 hrs a day. Not too much different. Though, I doubt people are walking their dogs 15 hrs everyday! But, many working dogs work that much and still get down time.
 

siniang

MyPTSD Pro
Many breeds are high energy breeds and need to get their energy out. Those are good owners in my opinion! If they cannot run their dogs they take them on walks for a few hours a few times a day! Awesome!

Their are 24 hrs in a day. Those dogs get enough "down time". The typical service dog works 6 - 10 hrs a day. Let's see. Five 3 hour walks are 15 hrs a day. Not too much different. Though, I doubt people are walking their dogs 15 hrs everyday! But, many working dogs work that much and still get down time.

Of course they need to get their energy out, I didn't deny that :) But with dogs there's still trained hyperactivity because they're always "on" as a result of always getting attention from the owner in one form or another - it's a self-reinforced process. Many owners over-stimulate their dogs, resulting in hyper, nagging/begging, barking dogs that "can't sit still". Just as the socially neglected depressive dogs mentioned by Sideways that are being left alone most of the day with no stimulation, this is the other end of the extreme.
And that was my sole point :)

And, not every means of "getting their energy out" is good for every breed. While a husky needs to run run run run and definitely needs those 15+ hours a day of walking, other breeds are tired out by long walks or bike rides or similar and definitely enjoy the occasional day hike, but that doesn't mean that it's actually really positive stimulation on a regular basis. Of course it can be used for those, but it shouldn't be the sole means. As I mentioned, many dogs need actual mental stimulation. For many dogs, mere "walks" are actually kinda boring. Yes, it gets the energy out, but that's about it. It really comes down to variety of stimulation and enrichment - without overdoing it.

A service dog is "on" for 6-10 hrs a day, but he's not walking for 6-10 hrs a day, is he? For example, if you bring your SD to school or work, they spend a lot of time "waiting", obviously monitoring you and hence mentally working, but with not much happening otherwise.

But really, obviously it's very different for service dogs and I really didn't mean to go this much off-topic (as it also touches on very different training philosophies that have nothing to do with SDs :) )
 
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Sideways

Sponsor
@siniang - what you’re describing sounds like a multitude of very different issues rolled into one “hyper” problem that is extremely rare (struggling to think of any occasions I’ve come across this in my work). The behavioural issues you’ve described are super familiar, but I haven’t come across any instances where the cause the dog being over-stimulated, over-occupied, or given too much company or too much to do.

Some breeds can’t physically withstand over-exercise. That’s a physiological issue. ‘Squishy nosed’ breeds are an obvious example. They can’t breathe properly or cool themselves down. Toy breeds would do damage if over-exercised, much like the average human trying to run 40km a day. Our bodies aren’t physically capable of that.

There are some circumstances where the amount of stimulation a dog gets does need moderating: puppies (like toddlers and babies), senior dogs, and injured dogs, all need time out during the day.

Separation anxiety is a different thing, and not from over-stimulation. It can occur in dogs with active lifestyles and loads of people/dog contact, as well as dogs that are used to spending long periods alone. Managing it isn’t about less stimulation at all. It’s about training the human how to make coming and going less traumatic for doggo (which is counterintuitive to the way most people leave and welcome their dogs), and having a safe, predictable space with things for doggo to do while they’re alone.

Pestering and begging for attention endlessly? Are a whole bunch of unrelated issues rolled into one. To figure out what’s going on for an individual dog, you actually need to spend time with them and their owner, because they’re complex behaviours that can be signs of a range of anti-social issues. Most? Are remedied by training the owner how to communicate with their dog, not by teaching dog how to be bored.

As for service dogs and other working dogs (police dogs, customs dogs, whatever)? Most breeds are capable of active work most of the day, so long as they’re given adequate lifestyle, diet, exercise, and training. I’ve never come across a dog that was unable to last all day long that didn’t have a physical issue or inadequate diet/training.

What you’re describing sounds a lot like people that have little understanding about how to train good behaviours in their dog. Like I said, unless it’s an age or physiology issue, over-stimulating a dog would be really hard to do, so long as we’re talking a healthy mature dog with good diet and good sleep.

All dogs (not most) benefit from mental stimulation. The only thing that makes stimulation a bad thing? Is usually the handler not having adequate knowledge if the difference between ‘stimulation’ and ‘stressful’ from a dog’s perspective.

For someone looking for a service dog? This is really important. We know that even with service dogs, mental stimulation and enrichment activities? Make happier, healthier dogs, that tend towards longer working lives. Learning how to mentally stimulate a dog? Is a really good idea.

In terms of “could my dog be a SD if my job is active all day long?” Most mature, healthy breeds? The answer is yes. But, check that there are no physiological issues with your individual dog. They can have bad hips, bad knees, bad backs, just like humans. Are they going to get hyperactive if they’re active all day? Not if you train them!

Not a case of over-stimulation. A case of owners not understanding their dog’s behaviour, or what has caused problematic behaviour.
 
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lostforgottensoul

MyPTSD Pro
But with dogs there's still trained hyperactivity because they're always "on" as a result of always getting attention from the owner in one form or another - it's a self-reinforced process. Many owners over-stimulate their dogs, resulting in hyper, nagging/begging, barking dogs that "can't sit still"

I think what you maybe thinking of is reinforcing anxiety or reinforcing the "go" but never the "still" and that is where training impulse control comes into play. Dogs have drive and you need drive in training. Don't deaden the drive. Enforce that drive. Then train an off switch.

Chopper can be hyper, going after a ball, all in and I say "leave it" and "settle" and he will tuck into bed and go to sleep. That fast.

You have to teach impulse control. But the way you are wording this sounds like you are wanting people to deaden their dog's drive and that's worse thing to do in dog training!

I also think you mean to stop rewarding bad behavior. Attention is a reward. You reward what you want. Not what you don't want. You reward what you want and you get more of that. Reward what you don't want and get more of that. It's that simple.


A service dog is "on" for 6-10 hrs a day, but he's not walking for 6-10 hrs a day, is he?

Can be. The SD would have break in the middle just like we do, to run, stretch the legs and rest a bit and then back to work but otherwise, they are on duty the entire time. If the dog is walking a lot, several breaks would be in order but there are many people that need their service dog talk walk while on duty. Depends on what the person is doing. But, I would expect a few breaks in there for water and a slight rest. Dogs go om hours long hikes and just need a few mins of a rest but mostly the dog is still "lets go", the human is the one resting.


For example, if you bring your SD to school or work, they spend a lot of time "waiting", obviously monitoring you and hence mentally working, but with not much happening otherwise.

Service dogs are always on alert and remember, lot of kinds of service dogs. Mobility assistance dogs would be doing a lot more physically. And there are many service dogs are with their handler at physically demanding jobs. Where the service dog would also be moving around with the handler.

Edited to add:

For someone looking for a service dog? This is really important. We know that even with service dogs, mental stimulation and enrichment activities? Make happier, healthier dogs, that tend towards longer working lives. Learning how to mentally stimulate a dog? Is a really good idea.

This!

Not only do we play engagement games daily, which are games and fun but enforce the focus on me, but we play nose work games just to keep his mind busy. Hide treats around the room when your dog is out of the room then release the dog in the room to find them all. You can get real technical and buy the nose work scent things but we use treats.

We also have boredum breaker games I have bought where he has to pull out a disc, hit a button, pull a chess piece off to get to the treat and you can make those with a cupcake pan and some tennis balls or other things that will fit into it. I shove alot of mental exercise into his days.
 
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siniang

MyPTSD Pro
I think what you maybe thinking of is reinforcing anxiety or reinforcing the "go" but never the "still" and that is where training impulse control comes into play. Dogs have drive and you need drive in training. Don't deaden the drive. Enforce that drive. Then train an off switch.

IYou have to teach impulse control.

I also think you mean to stop rewarding bad behavior. Attention is a reward. You reward what you want. Not what you don't want.

This. I'm just having a really terrible time explaining myself ???

But the way you are wording this sounds like you are wanting people to deaden their dog's drive and that's worse thing to do in dog training!

God no, of course not! Never meant to imply that ?


Can be. The SD would have break in the middle just like we do, to run, stretch the legs and rest a bit and then back to work but otherwise, they are on duty the entire time. If the dog is walking a lot, several breaks would be in order but there are many people that need their service dog talk walk while on duty. Depends on what the person is doing. But, I would expect a few breaks in there for water and a slight rest. Dogs go om hours long hikes and just need a few mins of a rest but mostly the dog is still "lets go", the human is the one resting.




IService dogs are always on alert and remember, lot of kinds of service dogs. Mobility assistance dogs would be doing a lot more physically. And there are many service dogs are with their handler at physically demanding jobs. Where the service dog would also be moving around with the handler.

True :) But since we're in a PTSD forum I was kinda implying we're talking >more< (but not exclusively) about psychiatric SDs. Also, it was just one example :)

I still think we're actually talking about the same or at least very similar things, just coming from very different angles and me being terrible at explaining what I mean.
 
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