Getting Creative With Training

In these wonky times, many teams find that they have had to get very creative in order to continue to provide a robust training experience for their dog.  While the weekly sessions continue via Facetime, teams do need to think outside of the box in order to be able to train and maintain some routine during the week.  This month we present some practical tips on things you can do to ensure that your SDIT is up to snuff on their skills.

  1. Engage family cooperation – this is a great time to remember that SD training is a team sport.  You can encourage participation of family members in tasks such as “go find” (other family members in times of crisis) and working on carrying items from one person to another.
  2. Work with distractions – get creative about how to train tasks around distractions.  Have your dog learn to retrieve dropped items with the distractions of noises such as the vacuum or electric mixer.   You can practice scent training for diabetic tasks while in the kitchen and around other smells.  Think outside of the box.
  3. Get creative with mental stimulation games – use household items to create new games for you and your SDIT to play.
  4. Seek out new environments – if you live near a park, try to go walking when it is quiet and less populated.  Seek out areas such as water or other animals such as ducks so that your dog can practice commands with these new distractions.
  5. Practice grocery shopping – open up the pantry, and use the pantry shelves as store shelves.  Point to items and name them, and have your SDIT pick them up from the shelf and hand them to you.  If you plan to use shelving units in  your home, make certain that they are secured to the wall to prevent items from tipping over and injuring both of you.
  6. Item recognition – locate new items in your home that are unfamiliar to your dog, and practice naming and retrieving them.  Once a dog learns the name of one item, then place the item on the floor next to other items and see if your dog can retrieve the item you name.  Remember that as a part of training, your dog is learning a new language.
  7. Work with phones – there is a difference between retrieving a phone, and retrieving a phone when it is ringing.  This will take some work.  Having family or friends who live outside of the home participate in this exercise serves two purposes.  First, it allows your dog to get comfortable carrying a ringing phone in their mouth.  Next, it improves your socialization and provides opportunities for you to talk to others.  If your home phone sits face down in the cradle, try attaching a quilters handle to the back so that your dog can pick it up with ease.  Quilters handles can be purchased online, or in most craft stores.
  8. Practice testing stations – if you are like most, you are experiencing a “new normal”.  It is important for you to normalize things as much as you can for your dog.  Practice those skills that will show up on your certification test, such as “under” and food leave its”.  What better time than meal time.  Make it a point to have your dog go under the table during all meals and remain there until you release them.
  9. Greeting other dogs – if you have family or neighbors you are seeing regularly and they have a dog, set up times for your dog to be around other dogs.  Practice walking past each other, and do not let your dog cut in front of you to greet the other dog.  Practice having your dog remain in a sit while you shake hands and greet another person.

Above all, take time to cuddle and let your dog know you are here for them.  While you may have other friends you can call to talk to, you are everything to your dog.  They can not simply pick up the phone and call the neighbor dog down the block to say “Hey Sparky, got a minute?  I am having a ruff day!”  Your dog’s world revolves around you, and you are their best friend.

Keep up with your training and remember to call your trainer anytime you need some help.  For those of you who are FSDS teams, additional lessons are always available.  We will get through this together.

Classroom News

Despite the myriad challenges we face due to the Covid 19 pandemic, our training has continued, and our students continue to thrive.  We are proud of the accomplishments of all.

Beginner Class

DeAnna & Scooby: While practicing social distancing this team made their first outing together to Lowes to help start generalizing commands in different places as this next step was needed to take. Scooby did great with staying at heel side and responded well to “leave it” if people were trying to get his attention. The team worked on “sit” & “down stay” , along with adding noise distractions and off lead work.
Keeta & Dani: Dani is getting much better at being greeted nicely for petting while she remains in her sit. She also has been making great progress in responding to commands from a distance along with generalizing her ability to retrieve items while outside of the home.
Henry & Solomon: This team is ready to start taking their skills to different places. Henry has been at work taking Solomon to parks nearby his home to work on generalizing commands. He is now consistent with retrieving different items such as wallets and medications and is currently working on retrieving or picking up his leash if dropped
Lindsey & Willow: while practicing social distancing and remaining 6 ft away from people this team made their first trip to Cabela’s together, while being around lots of distractions and taxidermy exhibits.  Willow did a good job following commands and focusing on Lindsey.  The team also made great strides this past month at working on mastering off lead at heel side. Willow has also improved in the area of situational awareness such as people watching and not reacting to people wearing masks
Celia & Caroline:  Caroline is getting better at retrieving different items such as medications while they are at distance. She is also doing great with coming when called around distractions
Brian & Mando:  Mando has made dramatic improvement in his ability to retrieve items for Brian when out of sight and bring them back on command.  They are now working on item retrieval around distractions.  Mando is working on understanding cues to bring back a targeted items.
Tina & Socorro: Socorro is making progress in learning her “closer” command, and has also made great gains in her ability to  retrieve items successfully for Tina.   She is now able to maintain a sit with a 1 minute leave it
Yamill & Bailey: Bailey is doing awesome with picking up dropped items and also doing recalls while there are treats on the ground.  She is also making great improvement with loose leash walking and being rewarded for staying at heel side.  Yamill is a local high school student who is training Bailey for someone in need, and continues to impress us with his excellent work ethic and his kind heart and desire to serve his community.
Soyini & Coco: Coco is making great progress with delivering items to other people at a 5 ft distance,  such as pill bottles when being cued to do so. She is also doing well at retrieving targeted items around other distractions such as other toys, shoes, leash etc.   Soyini has done a great job at setting and enforcing boundaries for Coco.
John & Simari: Simari took her first trip to a park in their neighborhood and worked on generalizing commands such as “down/sit proofing” and doing the “it’s your choice” game.  They are now focusing more on heel work and cueing commands from a distance.   This team continues to impress.
Advanced Class
Irmaire & Bruno: Irmarie has been doing a great job generalizing service skills with Bruno.   He is now able to reliably retrieve items in stores and is currently working on blocking and covering when someone is approaching her son.
David & Samson: Samson continues to work on scent training for medical alerting.  This is a difficult task, and the team continues to work towards achieving their goals.  Samson is doing amazing with helping David off the couch with “brace” and also helps him off the floor.   He is also able to retrieve medications from different places when cued to do so.

Welcome to our Newest Evaluator

We wish to extend a warm welcome to the newest member of our Outreach Evaluator network.  Pamela Molina is a qualified trainer in San Antonio, TX and a U.S.Marine Corps. veteran.  She is the owner / operator of Molina K9 training and provides both pet and service dog training in her area.  We are proud to welcome Pamela to the FSDS family.

Wellness Tip

At this time of year, we are reminded that venomous critters such as scorpions abound.  They are particularly noted to hide in rock piles, cracks in masonry (such as block walls that surround our homes) and in the bark of trees.  Scorpion stings are toxic for dogs, and it is important for every handler to be vigilant for signs of a sting and understand the appropriate action to take in the event that a sting does occur.
Signs and Symptoms
  • pain at the site of the sting
  • drooling and trouble swallowing
  • difficulty breathing
  • changes in heart rhythm and blood pressure

First Aid for Scorpion Stings

  • remove yourself and your dog from further danger
  • call your veterinarian immediately
  • if a stinger is present, attempt to gently remove the stinger using the edge of a credit card – DO NOT use tweezers
  • gently cleanse the affected area with a mild soap and warm water and pat the area dry with a clean towel
  • keep the dog quiet and reassured
  • transport the dog to your veterinarian or local animal emergency clinic for treatment

Thank You

We wish to express our sincere thanks to those who have supported our mission during the past month.

  • Valerie Schluter
  • Frances and John Wahl Foundation

Photo Gallery

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