icon-newspaperA Message to Our Readers

Our new website is online!  The FSDS has gotten a face lift, and we hope that our readers will find the new site more user friendly and informative.  We wish to express our sincere thanks to our Webmaster, Andy Boughton PhD, for his tireless efforts in designing and launching the new site.  Dr. Boughton has been a member of the FSDS since 2008, and has volunteered countless hours over the years to build our public site, as well as our “behind-the-scenes” administrative site and databases.  We are forever grateful for his dedication and service.

We are pleased to announce that we have recently signed a contract with Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center (AAEC) High Schools to begin two additional youth-based service dog training programs for the 2-13-2014 academic year.  These new programs will be held on the campuses of Red Mountain (Mesa) and Paradise Valley.  If you are interested in having your son/daughter participate in our program, please visit the AAEC website for enrollment information.

Classroom News

January was back to school, and back to work for our teams.  The second semester of our current class has started, and this semester will focus on mastering obedience tasks, and successful completion of the American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test.  This is the first of three tests that the dogs are required to pass on the road to becoming certified service dogs.

In the video below, Whitney Pulsipher and her SDIT “Addie” weave in and out of the other students and dogs, in a classroom exercise designed to teach the dogs to work with distractions.  Students and dogs have worked hard on this exercise and are now able to complete this without even one dog breaking their “down”.   Whitney does an excellent job of helping Addie to maintain a good “heel” as she passes by other dogs.  Four paws up to the entire class!

This semester, our teams will also travel to the AAEC campuses of Red Mountain and Paradise Valley High School to serve as peer mentors for the upcoming classes.  They will give demonstrations and provide information to students on those campuses who are interested in enrolling in the class for the fall of 2013.  Preliminary plans are also in place for our students to assist in providing some education on service dogs to medical professionals at local hospitals.  Stay tuned for more info regarding this excellent leadership opportunity.

Kudos to Meagan Carr and her SDIT “Maggie”, who have been selected as our February Team of the Month for their outstanding work.  This team has worked hard on their ‘leave it” command, and thanks to the hard work of Meagan, Maggie can now sit quietly with a doggie biscuit in front of her and resist temptation.

A special Paws Up to Whitney Pulsipher.  This past month, when her SDIT “Addie” was frightened by a loud noise, Whitney was right there to support her.  She was within two feet of her dog, had the dog on a short lead and was cued in to body language.  Whitney was able to keep Addie under good control and reassure her.  This was a textbook example of good handler behavior, and we are so proud of Whitney.

Ask the Trainer – by Terri Hardison, PhD

Q: My dog always comes to me in the house, but whenever there are any distractions, he acts like he doesn’t even hear me! How can I get my dog to be more reliable at the “Come” command?

A: The “Come” command is perhaps the most important command you can teach your dog. It may even save his life if he accidentally gets out of your home or off his leash. Unfortunately, many people don’t set a proper foundation for the exercise.

With our Service Dogs in Training, we start with two foundation exercises to build a reliable Come command. With lots of practice, your dog can learn to respond almost automatically to the word “Come.”

Exercise 1: Positive Association. This step helps your dog form a positive association with the “come” command. During the day, precede anything your dog perceives as positive (e.g., dinner, leash, toys, treats) with the word “come.” (For example, say “Fido, Come!” as you put his dinner down.) Using several pieces of your dog’s meals, sit with your dog right in front of you and say your dog’s name and “come.” Then hand him one piece of food. Repeat 5-10 times per meal. You cannot overdo this step. It is the most important part of the entire sequence!

Exercise 2: Ignore Distractions. This step helps your dog that “Come” means all other choices besides returning to you are unavailable to him. With your dog on a leash or long line, allow him to approach a distraction. As he does, say “Fido, Come” and immediately begin backing away from the distraction. The MOMENT he disengages from the distraction, mark the behavior (with YES or a clicker) and praise/reward him. When possible, the reward might simply be the opportunity to approach the distraction.

Make sure during training that you don’t issue the cue when you are not able to enforce it, or your dog may learn to obey only when on leash. Happy Training!

Safety / Wellness Tip

If you live in a cold area or will travel to an area where there is snow, make certain to take steps to protect your dog from hypothermia and/or frostbite.  Provide them with protective booties will keep their paws warm.  FSDS certified teams are eligible for a discount on purchase of booties at Ruffwear.  Contact us for more information on how to take advantage of their Pro Purchase Program.

Valentine’s day is just around the corner, and we remind all of our readers to keep candy, nuts and other treats out of the reach of your dog.  Remember that chocolate, macadamia nuts, raisins and other treats are toxic to dogs.

Join our Teaching Staff

We are currently seeking individuals who are interested in becoming part of our teaching staff.  If you are an experienced trainer and willing to acquire teacher certification through the Arizona Department of Education, or a Special Education teacher who is interested in acquiring service dog training skills, we would like to speak with you about growth opportunities with the FSDS.  Students who are currently working towards their Special Education teacher certification will also be considered.  We anticipate a need in the Central Phoenix and Prescott areas.  Contact our Executive Director CJ Betancourt MD for more information.

Have a safe and happy month.