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Polishing a Service Dog repertoire

Speaking of training Sid, Saturday afternoon I declared we were going out for dinner. The problem with that was that I was having Enhanced Dizziness with Bonus Wobbling, which meant that my cane would have been a bad idea. Siddy had been at home and bored all day, which at his age is not really the BEST set-up for taking him somewhere like a restaurant, but I like living dangerously, so I stuck some cheddar popcorn in a baggie in my purse and off we went.

Training your own service dog, I find, is a process of constant evaluation — what are we doing right? What needs work? What do I need to scrap entirely? The answers in this case being 1) Sid’s entries and exits from the car are brilliant; he’s responding to the cue “Wait” and politely waiting for me to disentangle myself from his leash and then hopping right in when I tell him OK, even when some huge dork of another driver has parked close to us and I can’t get the back door open as wide as I’d like. 2) What needs work? Placing him in a down to get him out of traffic patterns. He prefers to lie down perpendicular to me so he can stare hopefully at me, both watching for me to wobble and waiting for his cheesy popcorn. This puts him right in traffic paths, most of the time, so we need to work on him lying down where I put him, or at least work on making him prefer lying down parallel to my chair, which in most cases would be effective for getting him out of the way. We achieved it at the restaurant with some repeated luring, eventually. 3) As for scrapping things entirely, well, I need to work with him at home on not popping up to grab my sweatshirt sleeve when I put it on. At home it’s a harmless and charming (if boisterous) expression of excitement that we’re about to go outside. I suspect that people in public would have a less benign interpretation of my dog grabbing my sleeve, though, and at the restaurant as we prepared to leave I barely managed to interrupt his intention to BOING! at me with a quick stern look.

Bonus Tasks I’d Like To Work On With Him: more for his sake than mine, I need to put helping with coat-removal on cue. He loves to play tug so teaching him to pull on sleeve-ends has been no trouble at all, and he really likes active tasks. I think putting it on cue and using it more often would actually function as a reward for him in some circumstances (tuggy is just THAT MUCH FUN).

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