Monday, January 19, 2015

So Proud of all of our achievements these last two weeks.

Sometimes I find it hard to balance everything going on between being a mom, wife and training Luke it seems like there is never enough time some days. I have made a new schedule and so far it has really helped with that balance. As you will see below we are asking more of Luke and Ara. I am so proud of how well they work together and of the effort that Ara puts in to help with his training.

Skills (At Home Training):

Open/Close Fridge - Ok this has to be his favorite fun thing to do. I learned quickly to only treat him after he closes the fridge door, because he was randomly opening the door through out the day and I would walk into the kitchen finding it wide

Harness Conditioning - putting on his new working gear, making sure it fits and he is comfortable. He seems to really like the new gear. Luke does wear the new harness on outings now, but is not doing any weight bearing, Ara is using it just like she did his vest. He will not start any weight bearing training until he is two years old.

Nose Touch - Clik Stik and hand. With the clik stik I am now using it to get better range of motion and build up his confidence in going under things and also standing on his hind legs to reach higher.

Retrieve -  we used small bottle, leash, cardboard tube and the dumb bell. He is getting really good at this so now I will be adding in some real world items for him to start bringing.

Nail Biting/Behavior Interruption -  Ara has started helping with this task. She will hold the treat in her hand, I will then tell Luke "Watch Ara", and then give her a nod as the go ahead to bite her nails. Luke will go to her and nudge her hand away from her mouth and she will give him the treat.  "Watch Ara" is one of those cues that I have trained with out really noting it....but it is a very important cue and we will be working more with it.

Block - Ara is now working with us on this one as well. We ran into an issue on how he is suppose to go back into a heel when we are not moving forward after a "block". So we are doing two things. We are teaching "around" were Ara takes her hands off his vest and he circles around to the heel position and "back up heel" where he backs up in the heel position and Ara does not take her hands off his vest. "Around" can also be used as another way of creating space for her as well.

Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT)  and distress response - I am loving that Ara wants everyday to help with Luke's training. Here is a video of one of those sessions. Luke is in a sit off camera.

Obedience - Of course every week we work on obedience place, long down stays, off leash skills, watch me, leave it ect.


Walmart -  our last trip to walmart I had on the new hands free leash, we worked on guide tasks, directions right/left, stop, block, behind (yep another of those cues I really have not noted but he knows) find out and find car. Luke did everything with out me having to touch the leash, he followed all vocal commands and is now doing some things all on his own. Like stopping when he gets outside the building, before going into the road, stopping at the intersections at the store ect.  Being hands free is not only awesome for me when we are out but is also for Ara and Luke. I am training him for her not for me. It also means he is understanding his job more and has the confidence and ability to do it.

Hospital - Ara had a blood draw and Luke did great. He wore his new BLD harness and we ran into a problem. The waiting room was full and he could not get under the bench with the BLD on, so we had figure out what to do. We ended up putting him in front of us laying down on my feet. I will need to teach him to back under things instead of going in head first. He had no problem with the nurses (took three of them :( to do it) prepping for the blood draw or during, his focus was on Ara and helping to distract her with nose touch and kisses on her free hand. He also was able to operate the elevator up/down button.

We also went to the Dollar Store, Hobby Lobby, Michaels and got Hair cuts this week. Most of those trips were short and we worked on PAT, guide tasks and distractions.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

How to find a Good Service Dog Program

As most of you know our family was scammed by a service dog program. I was so new to the service dog world that I had no idea how to spot a bad program. I have been receiving some messages and emails asking how to find a good programs, so I thought I would write a post about it.

The big thing to remember is "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is". If someone is promising you Lassie reincarnate with under 18mo of training time, turn and walk away. Lassie was a TV character and does not exist, that being said Service Dogs are a tremendous help and can be life changers but they are still dogs and can still make mistakes.

Red Flags of programs/organizations to stay away from: (this is not all inclusive)

*If a program claims to be a non-profit but can not give you paper work or proof to show that they are a 501(c)3 company.

*Does not help with fundraising or give you a fundraising packet. Even before you sign a contract I would have them show you examples of fundraisers they have helped with and find out what happens if you don't hit your goal. Also is their a time limit to your fundraising. Also what happens to the money if you don't hit your fundraising goal in time.

*Do not follow their States laws for service dogs in training. For example many states have laws that you must be a licensed trainer or be on a list in order to have public access with a service dog in training.

*Refuse to allow you to see a contract before putting a deposit down. 

*Refuse to show you vet records and training records of the dog they match you with.

* Does not health test any of their dogs. Does not do OFA (hips, elbows ect) or PennHip testing on mobility dogs. In order to do OFA tests the dog must be 2yrs old or older. Penn Hip testing can be done at a year old. Each breed has a recommended list of health testing that should be done for common problems in that breed. These could effect whether or not that dog becomes a service dog or how long the dog will be able to work as a service dog.

*Refuse to show you any proof of the experience of their trainers. Most professional trainers will have some continuing education certificates, have competed in dog sports and/or be registered with one of the professional dog training associations. Also check to make sure any certificate they do give are real by calling the issuing program/organization and ask them if the trainers are in good standing.

*Claims their dogs have 100% success rate in becoming service dogs. Even the bests programs have dogs that wash out. Not all dogs are cut out to be service dogs and there is nothing wrong with that. Usually the dogs that wash out are placed with their puppy raisers or adopted out to good homes.

* The program places puppies or dogs under the age of 1yr as fully trained Service Dogs. Service Dogs take close to 18mo and sometimes up to 2yrs to fully train.

*Anything express or instant. Training a service dog takes a lot of time and slow is best when training is concerned. 

*Use of prong collars on every dog that they train and/or puppies. If a program has to resort to using prong collars on all their dogs or on puppies. I question their ability to train service dogs.

*Claims their dogs are 100% reliable. Dogs are not machines they are living breathing beings and even the best dogs will have an off day or make a mistake.

*Claim that they can train any dog to predict seizures. You can not train a dog to predict a seizure, however some dogs (a very small percent) have a natural ability to sense a seizure before they happen. 

*Places dogs as fully trained service dogs that are not trained in tasks that mitigate the persons disability. For example dogs that sole purpose are to provide emotional support or comfort.

*Program does not train the dog tasks that you need. If a program will only train a certain amount of tasks or certain types of tasks. Service Dogs should be trained for an individual to mitigate their disability. For example if a dog is trained in seizure response but you do not have seizures then that is not a legitimate task. The program should get to know you and help you figure out what tasks you need.

*Place dogs with small children and promote tethering the dog to the small child, leaving the dog and child unsupervised or to function as a babysitter in place of parental supervision. Service Dogs can do a great deal to help children but they are still dogs, not robots or baby sitters. Also tethering can be very dangerous for both the child and the dog, for example if the dog bolts or quickly moves away from the child it could cause the child to fall. On the other hand a child who is tethered to a dog during a meltdown could accidentally hurt the dog and the dog can not move away.  (this is different than older children using hands free leashes)

* A program does not offer continuing training or team training. Handling a service dog takes some know how, they also need to be trained continually or they can become sloppy in their work. If a program/organization does not offer any team training or continuing training after you take the dog home they probably don't have your best interest in mind.

What You Can Do:
So what can you do to find a good program out side of looking for Red Flags? There are many things.

1) Look for Complaints - You can not please everyone but when it comes to raising a large amount of funds take any complaints you find seriously and talk to everyone possible.  Google search the program, call their states Attorney Generals Office and find out if there are any complaints, call the Better Business Bureau, go on facebook service dog groups and ask around.

2) Make sure they are licensed on the state and federal level to do business and are in fact a non-profit and in good standing.

3) Ask for references - from their vet office, past clients and again service dog groups on facebook can be a huge help in this area.

4) Ask to come and see the facility if you are able to also sit in on a class or two before signing a contract. If you are long distance ask for a video chat, virtual walk through ect.

5) Ask about their training methods. Get the details of they philosophy on the training methods they use. If you feel uncomfortable with any of their methods then walk away.

6) Know where the dogs are coming from. Do they have their own breeding program? if so are they in good standing with the AKC or UKC? Use rescues? Use wash outs from other programs? How they get their prospects can tell you alot about the program.

7) Ask how they temperament test and socialize their dogs. Again how they pick their prospective service dogs for training can tell you alot.

8) Ask what happens if the dog you are matched with washes out or is not a good fit for you? Do they replace the dog with another or refund your money?

9) Do your research on all of the above. Make sure you know how temperament tests and socialization works. Become an expert by knowing what you expect out of a program and a service dog before talking to them. Talk to the service dog community on facebook or in forums other handlers have so much they can teach and share with you.

If a program is not willing to talk to you about any of these things or does not get to know you before signing a contract then I would walk away. Remember this is a big deal you will be raising a large amount of cash for them and a service dog is a huge commitment.  Do not let desperation or fear make the choices for you, you have to be your own advocate.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A New Year and some new Goals plus our week in review

Happy New Year everyone. We are starting the New Year off with some new goals and focus.

This year we will be working on several goals here are a few of them -  Luke's mobility training, Ara and Luke's team work, tasks becoming more solid, automatic responses (fading out cues), and Luke taking his Public Access Test.  I will also be posting new posts that have to do with service dogs in general, programs and such.

Skills (At Home Training)

DPT (Deep Pressure Therapy) - Ara loves helping in this training, She will go and lay down and fake cry and I will cue Luke to go to her and lay his paws across her lap. He is still working on the correct placing of his feet/legs.

Distress Response - DPT is one type of distress response we are working on the other is to nose or lick Ara when she is upset before actually needing DPT or other help. Luke has done this on his own so we are shaping it.

Open/Close Refrigerator -  This is a just for fun trick. Ara at this point does not need Luke to do this for her but I believe in making training fun and always doing new things. This will not be considered a task since Ara does not need it to mitigate her disability. Now with all that said, Luke picked this up with in a few minutes. I have taught him to tug (he has a soft mouth) and then tied the tug to the fridge door, he tugs it to open it. For the close he can either do a nose nudge or paw push to close it.  Here is the video of his second attempt

Paws Up- This is body awareness and conditioning exercise plus has practical uses as well. We have worked on this before on a low stool but this week we also worked on other objects such as a stool, a bench, our coffee table and a box. We will be working on many body awareness type of exercises through the new year.

Retrieval -  Get/Bring and Give it - We have worked with empty juice bottle, rube tube, doggie dumbell, cardboard tube and pvc tube. Luke is getting really good at bringing me what I point at and we are slowly moving to heavier objects such as a full water bottle, cell phone ect. Luke has a soft mouth so we are building up slowly the weight he can carry.

Nose Touch - I found a really small push light so I have added that to our box of tools :) We are working on getting a bit harder of a nose touch, so to get the treat he actually has to turn on the light not just touch his nose to it.

Obedience - As always we worked on Obedience sit, down, stand, stay, leave it, watch me, place ect.


Albertsons- (Ara was not with us) PAT, Directions right/left, guide work. Luke did bark while we were checking out. A worker was sprinting past us and Luke thought it would be a good idea to try and play with he barked excited twice at him. I quickly corrected him by saying "leave it" and he refocused on me. I have now added people running by to the list of things to work on.

Target - Ara was not with us for this trip. We worked on walking by the cart, backing up with the cart down an aisle, , say hi, guide work, PAT, find out and find car.

The weather has been so cold single digits and below 0 with a lot of snow so we have not been doing a lot of outings and our outside training has been very limited. Hopefully this week will be better weather for some outdoor training.