For me to be a good service dog, I need to know more than just tasks. My tasks mitigate my mom’s disability. So they are important and required. But I need to know much more than just the tasks!
When I first thought about the topic of “training beyond tasks”, I was thinking more along the lines of the sports dog training my mom and I do together. And telling you about some of the fun things we are actively working on right now.
But as I thought more about it, I realized there are many different things I need to know and practice, that are separate from the service dog tasks. But important to our success as a team. So I want to share that part first.
Sometimes I need to lay away from my mom’s chair so the doctor can examine my mom without me being in the way.
And then I will tell you about our current extracurricular training. Because there are some very fun things we are doing! Which indirectly helps to make my service dog work stronger, too.
Do you know some of the things I need to know that make me proficient beyond my tasks? The parts of my training that set me apart from a dog who can do the tricks?
To begin with, my behavior needs to be top-notch. And I need to ignore everything that is going on around me. Because staying focused on my mom and not being distracted is of utmost importance.
I must be aware of when my mom needs help. And able to do my tasks, whether the environment is quiet or distracting. Because if I can’t help her, I am taking away her independence.
I always try to stay focused on my mom!
I also must lay quietly out of the way in a restaurant or at an appointment. And ignore food on the floor. Or people admiring me and talking to me. I don’t want to be obtrusive and in the way of other people.
But there is more. Valuable little details. Things that aren’t necessarily crucial but do make me and my mom a more dynamic service dog team.
Things like walking very close to my mom’s chair. Instead of a leash length away. Or seamlessly moving behind my mom to follow her chair. Or turning in front to face my mom, so I can walk backward through narrow spaces.
Sometimes I have to go through the doorway first and turn to face my mom because we both won’t fit through together!
I know how to maneuver my body so that I can maximize the room my mom has for her wheelchair. This is important because her chair is kind of big! This way, we can fit through tight spaces. Or take up the least amount of space as we go through hallways and aisles.
So these are some of the things I practice, along with my tasks. I want my skills to stay sharp. Which keeps me more efficient as a service dog. And gives my mom the greatest independence.
You are probably wondering if I was ever going to share the fun training things that my mom and I are doing. I guess I did go on a bit longer than I expected while telling you about my regular kind of service dog training.
My mom and I are doing an in-person dog training class! A real live class that we will go to once a week for six weeks. It is so exciting.
My mom cried when she found out we were going to be able to do this. Because she was so happy to have this opportunity.
Sitting up on my pivot bucket!
The bucket is for pivoting. But doing tricks on it seemed like a fun idea!
We are still taking our online classes through Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. But we also get to do this other class. Which I love because it means even more training for me. And lots of new things to learn!
So far, we have had two of our classes. My dad drives us to the facility. And waits for us while we do our class. Then, he listens to my mom all the way home as she excitedly shares everything we did in class!
I have to share a funny story with you! In class, each dog and their person have their own cubical to work in. There is a chair in case the person wants to sit and a few training supplies. This past week, as my mom was getting settled, I jumped right up on the chair and sat. She was quite surprised when she turned and saw me!
I thought the chair was for me!
As I’ve shared before, my mom loves obedience training and competitions. And has big dreams for what we might accomplish. The foundations I am learning through all of this extra training are helping me to be more aware of my body.
And how best to maneuver with my mom’s chair. Which has the bonus of carrying over to my service dog work. And increasing my precision, with both my tasks and the other important parts of my job.
Any training we do, whether service dog or sport dog, strengthens our relationship. And enhances our ability to communicate more effectively with each other.
As we continue on our journey, we are perfecting our ability to “dance as one.” Which makes us both happy!