Training Boi - Mobility Service Dog

tortoise

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I decided to make a separate thread about training my service dog so it doesnt get buried on my journal.

I have disabling chronic illnesses that cause me to
fall (with or without warning),
faint when standing or walking (no warning, blessedly infrequently)
Lose vision when standing
Lose balance
Reduced blood flow to my brain which makes brains cause fatigue and muscle weakness, sometimes that comes on so suddenly I'm stuck in a dangerous situation - like beginning to lose consciousness in a bathtub 😨
Reocurring tendon injuries, particulary in my shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands, so that I'm not able to use a manual wheelchair as much as I need
Unstable joints that subluxate frequently and without warning in feet, knee, hip
Blood pooling in my legs - which causes all the cerebral hypoperfusion and syncope effects above

This is definitely an extremely abbreviated list for the purpose of readers having context for my dog's task training.

I have trained and handled service dogs since 2004. At one time, when I was more mobile, I was a professional dog trainer teaching disabled people to owner-train their own service dogs.

I purchased an 11 month old Great Dane puppy from a wonderful couple early October 2020.

He is unsuitable as a housepet for all the reasons that make him the perfect working dog for me! When he has one day off from training/working, he's okay-ish if closely supervised. Two days off and he turns into ... like Tigger from Winnie-the-Poo, except 130# and flailing in circles while bouncing. 🤣 Put his harness on, have him work for 15 minutes and he transforms to calm, steady working dog and takes a nap when he gets a chance. 😍

I will post training updates here.
 

tortoise

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I decided to no go back over the last month of training details but I'll list some of what he has learned.

Back up. We need some personal space.

Not to bump my leg when heeling. He had been bruising my leg. I have abnormal fat on my legs that is painful to pressure and bruises easily. (Google lipedema if youre curious, its one of those common but rarely diagnosed conditions.)

Left turns were a challenge. His tendency is to crab and cross in front. His left turn is not automatic yet, but tolerable.

Go lie down - my cue to go to his bed and wait, indefinitely. This isnt automatic either and he doesnt like to stay put.

Loose leash walking - he didnt have any leash manners a month ago but he learned incredibly fast!

He already knew sit and down.

He is learning cues for walking faster, slower, turns, halt, and various ways to get in and out of heel position.
 

tortoise

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Today we worked on these skills.

Taking a glass item (beer bottle) from my hand and holding it in his mouth.

Taking a small cardboard box from my hand and holding in his mouth.

Picking up my shoes and delivering to my hand.

Picking up dropped leash handle and delivering to my hand.

Pushing the couch footrest down with his nose.

Compressing my thighs while I'm standing at the kitchen counter - without sniffing or resting his chin on the counter!

Walking with me everywhere I go when his harness is on.

Elevating my legs after a fall.

Thigh and abdomen compression after elevating legs.

Non-weightbearing brace assist to stand. He wont do weightbearing bracing until his bones are fully developed, but he can learn the behaviors now.

Leash tug assist to stand - this one is getting pretty good!
 

tortoise

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I'm also teaching him to respond to a specific alarm tone and go to a kitchen cabinet (where I keep meds) to get a treat. I'm only using imprinting / classical conditioning, so this will be a slow process. When he gets the association, he will start reminding me to take medication. This is very effective task, but intensely annoying to live with a dog that insists you do the things. 😂
 

baymule

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I am so impressed. I know service dogs do a multitude of tasks for their owners, but I didn't really know until you started this thread. Boi is awesome, you are awesome, the two of you can do anything!
 

tortoise

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@baymule , we can group tasks by dog behaviors. Boi's tasks all fall into tugging, pawing, nose nudging, retrieve and carry and deposit, pulling into a harness, and bracing.

I think of it as training those 6 behaviors + obedience skills (sit, down, come, stay, heel, etc).

Elevating my legs after a fall is the sequence
Come-down-come-stand-brace-stay

Tugging assist to stand is the sequence
Come-take-hold-tug-tug-tug-release

The hardest part of service dog training is finding a dog that has all the skills + the right temperament.
 

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