Talos is in training to be a service dog for Service Dogs of Virginia (SDV) in Charlottesville, VA. While I do a lot of Talos's training here in MD, we need to visit with the folks from SDV from time to time to show them Talos's progress.
Today was one of the days where I show off what Talos has learned since the last time we saw each other, take notes on the new things he should learn, and then have fun and experiment with new things.
It's a three-hour drive one way to Charlottesville, VA, which means I'm up at a ridiculous hour. We got on the road at 6:00a. Talos, the ever-sleepy student, slept the entire ride down. I'm a morning person, though, so it's not so bad, really.
Talos got to visit his brother, Gryphon, again, and they had fun playing and wrestling. Then it was down to business for Talos and I.
We showed SDV Talos's skills so far: he's got a good sit, down, leave it, watch me, and settle. We worked on some new skills: a "go in," which is where Talos will need to go in under the table, for instance, so he can be out of the way. It's important for all service dogs to have this behavior, but because he will be such a big dog, it's particularly important that he find it easy to go into a smaller space (such as under a table or desk) without hesitation or fear.
We also worked on body-awareness (and fun!) things like introducing him to the tunnel. We tossed a few pieces of food into the tunnel, when he stuck his head in I clicked and threw some more food in. Never would we force the dog into the tunnel – it's a fun, confidence-building exercise. Well, not to mention, we don't use force in clicker training anyway, no matter the purpose of the behavior.
Ever the sleepy head, once he'd been through the tunnel a couple of times, he decided it made a good napping spot and took the opportunity to lay down about halfway through! What a slacker!
In addition to the tunnel, we laid a ladder flat on the ground and let him walk over it, stepping over each rung. He went over it as if he'd been doing it since birth, not even looking fazed. Just for fun, as he was walking over the rungs, I asked him to "sit." He looked down at the ladder, took a moment to decide his next action, walked to the end of the ladder and sat right down. What a good boy! It was if you could actually see the wheels turning… "Sit? Here?! On the ladder? I'll sit, lady, but I have to move off this ladder first!"
It was a good time, but tiring (of course) for Talos. He slept the entire drive home. We have some new things to work on, which will keep us busy until our next training get-together with SDV. You can apply a lot of the things we work on with the service dogs to your own dogs. For some fun, get a flat ladder (not a step ladder) out of the garage and lay it flat on the ground. Encourage your dog to experiment and step over the rungs. Use treats and praise to keep it fun for the dogs. It's a fun change of pace!
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