Service Dog Training

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Policy Enforcement
I have a dog that I am going to work towards making a service dog. I’m saving up for formal training, but while I’m waiting I want to start doing some basic training on my own.

I know getting him fixed will go a long way to calming him, I hope anyway. He will definitely be getting fixed soon. But for now, he is an awesome learner except for one area-he’s very protective/possessive.

He doesn’t do it over toys or food or anything like that. It’s over me and my niece. If I move anywhere in the house he’s automatically heeling and pretty much pressed against me. Out of the house it’s worse- he makes sure everyone stays at a distance by barking or growling. He’s never bitten anyone and I’ve actually had multiple people walk up to him while he’s doing this and all he does is stay between us and kisses them. But obviously that’s not acceptable behavior in a service dog. But I don’t want to lose it completely either, just calm it.

Another example, my niece and her family were over on Mother’s Day. My niece and her stepdad were sitting on the couch and he started tickling her. She shrieked of course, but laughing. She definitely wasn’t being hurt. Yet Thor bolted over there, got in between and growled at the stepdad. Didn’t bite or nip, but I have a feeling if pushed he would have. Again, not exactly acceptable. But I’m not sure how to correct this.

He doesn’t hate people, loves people actually. Any tips?

*** edited to add: I posted quite awhile ago about him being really anxious about me leaving, particularly after my hospital stay. I want to report, he’s been doing fantastic ?. He’s gotten a ton calmer about leaving/coming home. I can’t remember now who it was that suggested giving him extra attention/treats when leaving and ignoring for a bit when coming home-but I wanted to say THANK YOU!!!!


I can’t imagine him naturally heeling is a problem?

We always start with training Focus, because it’s a great tool to use for multiple problem areas like these. The idea is that you aren’t ‘correcting’ your dog’s problem behaviour, so much as training them what to do instead.

Focus is simple. Small treat between your finger and thumb, raise it up to your eyes, and say “Focus”. Teaches your dog to hold eye contact with you. Gradually increase the time you’re getting them to focus, then start practicing in places where there are distractions.

It’s super simple, and most dogs get it pretty quick. Once trained? You can problem solve a whole heap of issues. Like someone walking towards you in the street, and you know doggo is gonna bark? You do a focus exercise. Done enough times? Doggo learns to focus instead of growling.


Dogs have a pretty awesome innate sense of time. If the same exciting thing happens every day at the same time? They’ll very quickly learn to remind you when Awesome O’Clock is approaching.

For my morning meds, it was a simple case of setting an alarm to wake up. I take doggo out to toilet, and when we get back it’s high value treat from where my meds are kept. So when we get back from our walk now, he rushes over to my meds for his treat.

In the evenings? Same deal. Come 5pm? It’s high-value treat from where my meds are. He starts bugging me for his treat at 5pm now.

Remember that rewards for tasks like this? You’ll train doggo quicker if you work out what is high-value for your dog. Something they don’t otherwise get that they looooove. Dogs are complete individuals when it comes to taste - my dog loves kangaroo in almost any form. Other dogs love sardines, or a piece of sausage, experiment with a few things.

Treats don’t need to be big. My pup is only 5kg, so when he gets a treat as a reward, it’s often smaller than the nail on my little pinky. It matters far more what it is than how much he gets;)


Focus is super useful. Once trained, you can use it to keep dog calm, with attention on you, in any situation. Like when trolleys are crashing around them at the grocery store, or there’s a bunch of roudy school kids walking past - any situation at all:)

ETA most resource-guarding behaviours get socialised out of service dogs through the tonne of exposure work they do. Each day, spending time lying around being, well, essentially bored, in as many different settings as possible. For your neice? It sounds like getting doggo to spend time lying at your feet near childrens playgrounds (for example) where doggo will get exposure to those types of squeals and sounds that kids make
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You may find some useful info at service dog training institute. It's founded by Donna Hill and uses positive reinforcements. Their purpose is to offer training classes for owner handlers.
I enrolled in a class about a year and half ago, but couldn't get on track. I have access to the ressources for another half year, but am not doing better, so sadly I don't expect to get started.

Best of luck


Here's the public access test --- this is what he should be able to do successfully every time as a service dog....
Public Access Test
and an example of how you can document self training
and the whole rundown of tasks
he doesn't have to be able to do all of these! Just examples you can use for what you want to teach him
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