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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-10-2010, 01:40 PM Thread Starter
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Training new sdit prospect

Hi. My name is Tammy, and I am new here. I have multiple disabilities affecting my strength, balance, mobility, and vision. I have a current sd named Summer who is a lab mix. She is 2 years old. Because I did not get her out for socializing much until she was about 4-6 months old, and because she was trained with negative methods, and because of things I did with her that I now know where the wrong things to do, she is too reactive in public and does not do well working full time in public. She can do part time in public no problem. And, she always helps at home.

I am now training her replacement for public work. His name is Major. Right now he is just a baby. He is 8 weeks old, and a black and tan german shepherd. Right now are plans are to start him at the local obedience club in classes at 16 weeks old (their next session), go for his AKC Star puppy, then for his CGC, then for a title on him. After he has his CGC we will start working on his task training. I need him to retrieve for me, do a tension pull for me on a bridge handle, alert to my low blood sugars if possible, wake me up and ground me from night terrors that I have from PTSD, do some guide work, alert to elevation changes, help me to get into/out of the tub and up/down stairs and curbs, help me to maintain my space in public due to mental illness, and help to facilitate social interactions.

I know I qualify for a service dog, and I know that I am covered under the ADA.

I would like some help on knowing when to start socializing him however. I have heard from doing it not to not until he completes all of his puppy shots. I would also like any other tips you all have for me.

Thank you.
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-10-2010, 01:59 PM
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Completion of puppy shots is a definite need before taking him out ON THE GROUND to socialize. There's nothing stopping you from carrying him through pet stores or the park though, or even putting him in a wagon and pulling that.

On that note, I'm sure you have a good idea about training, but make sure you're getting started on it ASAP so that he's ready for his puppy classes(:

And make sure you have him on a good puppy food.

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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-10-2010, 02:41 PM
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I don't know what your physical limitations are in terms of taking him out and working on socializing and training, but if it is possible for you to carry him, I would carry him to as many places with people as possible. When I was working on socializing my Abby (she was a rescue), we would walk down to 7-11 and just hang out on the bench in front. Lots of people would want to come and pet the dog, or walk past with carts and such. We've also gone in front of the local grocery store and the local little shopping mall, and just walked, worked on basic obedience (sit/down/etc.)

Some stores will let you bring dogs inside if they are SDITs or if they are small enough to be carried or put in a cart. A lot of outdoor stores (like Gander Mountain) allow dogs, some home improvement stores (like Lowe's) allow them in the garden section, and I believe Tractor Supply also welcomes dogs.

I would also work with him at home, getting him used to various things - walking on different surfaces (like a tarp, for example, or linoleum or tile), getting started on luring him for basic behaviors like heeling, sit, down, maybe putting front paws up on a stoop, and that sort of thing. It's never too early to get started on that, even before you get into that basic puppy class.

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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-10-2010, 06:18 PM Thread Starter
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Major

Right now we have him on Prarie dog food. It should be a good food. It costs about $50 for a 30 lb bag. It is an all life stages food. We had to go with an all stages food because my current sd is an adult and he of course is a puppy. I will definitely start taking him all the places that I can carrying him. My husband did make a kind of pet carrier that sits on the top of my rollator that I can put him in as well. It is basically the bottom half of an airplane safe kennel. That should work pretty well for now. He is currently up to date on vaccinations and gets his second set this coming up weekend. He is currently 8 weeks old. Should I be taking him for walks right now, or no? Thanks so much for all the help.

I also am working on him with the training levels program. Right now about 3 minutes a day. Is that enough? Right now we are working on sit, down (which he really struggles with), and touch, and responding to his name, and come. He is doing great with all of it except for the down. I try to lure like it says to, but he won't lure for a down. So, I end up putting him in the position, telling him "good down" and then treating him. How should I be doing this?

Last edited by tgolike; 05-10-2010 at 06:20 PM. Reason: forgot to put some stuff in.
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-10-2010, 07:04 PM
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No walks at this point, and none until all the puppy shots are done to be safe. Same risks as socialization in public.

3 minute periods are great time frames, but I would probably throw in at least two 3 minute training sessions a day.

Have you considered clicker training for your training him?

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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-10-2010, 07:32 PM
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Welcome! I have a mobility assistance owner trained SD.

For the down, I would not put the dog into the down but keep trying with the luring. Let the dog get a good sniff or even a taste of the treat in your hand and slowly lure to the ground. Once you have your hand on the ground and the puppy's nose is right at your hand its ok if they haven't actually laid down yet. Keep the puppy's interest and just wait until the puppy lays down on the ground then immediately release. A clicker is great for this, to mark exact moments. If the puppy is really having a hard time you can break it up and start releasing the treat when the puppy is halfway down etc. Use a VERY yummy treat to keep his attention in case it takes him a few minutes to figure it out. Its much better with SD training to let the dog figure out what you want and will help down the line. With my SD Tessa I first used a lot of trainers that put the dog into the position wanted and then gave the treat. This has caused some problems in teaching service tasks, because she will get frustrated and just shut down if she doesn't know what I'm asking. She doesn't want to experiment until she finds what I'm looking for, but wants me to show her exactly what I want. It makes complicated tasks like turning a light switch on and off more difficult to teach, I work in very short sessions and still battle her tendency to shut down if she gets confused. I've helped this problem a lot with clicker training, I highly recommend it and have videos and such saved with how to teach specific SD tasks if you're interested.

Socialize, socialize, socialize!!! Definitely wait to put your puppy on the ground in places until fully vaccinated though. I socialized Tessa so much in places dogs are allowed that it was a breeze to start her public access training; she can focus much better when other dogs aren't around.

Make sure to continue working with your current SD though, especially since its going to take your pup a couple years to complete training. You can use clicker training to build up confidence in your current dog. Is your plan to use the new dog for public work and the old dog for in house work? That would be a good plan, since mobility assistance tasks are so hard on the dog.

Do you know the state laws for SDITs in your area? Some states give SDITs the same public access rights as SDs, some don't give them any, and some give them the rights if accompanied by their trainer. Indiana is one that the laws are written that SDITs have the same public access rights as SDs when accompanied by a trainer but does not define trainer and so owner trained SDITs fall under this.

I'm currently training my SDs replacement, Tessa is 6 years old now and Emma is about 1 year (adopted in December.) I expect it to take me around 3 years to finish Emma since its difficult for me to work both dogs with pain and fatigue levels. I'm unsure if Emma will make it to be a SD temperament wise, she is not a confident dog but she is still a pup and was right in the middle of fear stage when I adopted her. As time goes on I will see if she can do it and if not will probably apply for a SD.
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-10-2010, 10:59 PM Thread Starter
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Summer (my current service dog) has show that she would much rather be a pet than a service dog. She will continue to work for me when I have no other help until Major is 2 and is fully trained and vet cleared. Then she will transition to being an at home service dog only. She will soon become a competition dog as well, in rally, obedience, and agility (my son is going to do the agility with her, I will do the rest).

For socialization, I am going to get him out as much as I can, but it will be with him in a pet carrier sitting on my rollator. That way he feels safe, and he isn't in contact with all the germs.
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-13-2010, 04:17 PM
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[quote=DJEtzel;1819498] No walks at this point, and none until all the puppy shots are done to be safe. Same risks as socialization in public.

3 minute periods are great time frames, but I would probably throw in at least two 3 minute training sessions a day.

Have you considered clicker training for your training him? [/quote]


I completely disagree that you need to wait until ALL puppy shots are done. By then your pup will be approx 4 mos old and the critical period for socialization will be closing. As you learned from your last dog, that's entirely too late. Check out the puppy section for info on vaccination or ask questions in the health section regarding vaccinations. You should have a frank discussion with your vet.

There are SAFE places to take puppies and not safe places to take puppies. Petsmart, dog parks, any local park where lots of dogs congregate -- not safe. Places where dogs don't go en masse, where surfaces are hard and are cleaned frequently are generally safe. Use your best judgement. My pup was out and in public when he was 9 weeks old. I was very careful about where I took him, but I took him all sorts of places. The point wasn't simply to take him out, but to take him to a variety of places where he could get a vast range of experiences and meet a great variety of people.

As Chris says, you can carry him places, then plop him down to "work" (hang out and socialize) if that makes you more comfortable.


I don't take the risks of these diseases lightly. I had a pet dog years ago that I adopted from the pound that had parvo, distemper and other contagious disease. She was given a less than 20% chance of surviving and cost me an absolute fortune to hospitalize for over a month. (She survived and lived a long healthy life after that.) I know these diseases personally. They scare me. But a puppy that isn't well socialized becomes a dog that may become reactive. A service dog HAS to be able to roll with things. A pup is going to be an adolescent soon enough, and as one of my trainers says, "German Shepherds live adolescence more fully."

So we have to give your pup the strongest, deepest, broadest foundation that we can.

Puppy classes are great. I actually took my pup to several different classes at several different training facilities. They all taught basically the same skills. But this allowed me to bring him to safe places where he could have experiences at different locations with different dogs, different people, at different times (some classes were in the morning, some at night). Some schools offer supervised puppy play sessions. I STRONGLY recommend that you utilize these as much as possible. These help your pup continue to learn bite inhibition, canine body language, and develop confidence -- all of these are important as he finds his way in the world.

If you can work with a couple of different different schools (not everyone has this option, I realize), it will help you to see what sort of training approach you prefer. Puppy classes tend to be similar. But then training methods tend to diverge.

My SDIT and I take classes for socializiation but I work with trainers in private lessons mostly. I don't worry so much about task training at this point. Tasks are easy to train once you have a dog that understands obedience and frankly, once he's settled in as a young adult. One of the trainers in my service dog club says that she prefers not to work pups and adolescents this way. As she says, when you're three years old or 12 years old, do you want to be working? Nah, we should concern ourselves with obedience and managing behavioral issues as they arrive. Can you train simple tasks like touch/target that are fun (that train like tricks)? Sure. But complicated tasks that require numerous steps (that you would train via back-chaining), let's save those for a dog who really has a grasp of what we want.

Is a young GSD capable of learning complex tasks? Sure. But I don't want to muck things up too much. I train obedience and tricks... lots of tricks. Tricks are fun. My pup likes doing them. He gets lots of attention (and treats!) when he does them. And most importantly, he's learning how to learn. Also, the tricks are often the first or intermediate steps in a complex task that I'll train him later.

Does that make sense? We let our kids be kids for now. Puppies need to learn basic obedience and need to be socialized. Once your little guy gets a bit older, you can incorporate more advanced obedience. Once he's an adolescent, you'll work on maintaining the obedience and managing behavioral issues. THEN you work on tasks.

Trying to do it all at once can cause your brain to explode! And, it can backfire on you. If you teach a puppy to Target (with his paw), you can end up with a pup that whacks at you every time he wants something. Best that we hold off doing that until he understands the concept of offering and withholding behaviors. I'll train tasks that are useful now (a touch -- with his nose-- for potty bells). But other tasks, especially those that require my dog to be physically mature (like most mobility work does)? Nah. Those can wait.

When it's time to train tasks, "Teamwork I & II" (available in both book & DVD) are pretty darn useful. I found "Working like Dogs" not at all useful and not worth the money.

International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) International Association of Assistance Dog Partners has a great website and a handy newsletter. You can join as a "friend" right now, and once your SD is 18 months old and trained, then you can become a member. They have conferences you may be interested in attending.


Delta Society's website lists trainers who are supposed to be service dog trainers. You should ask specific questions. People claim to be SD trainers, but that doesn't mean they are. I would ask to speak with or meet a client or two. You don't HAVE to have an SD trainer. Most of mine aren't, but they're very experience obedience trainers and we work together as a team. Just know with whom you're working, and don't pay for something that you're not getting.

I always tell people that I don't "self-train" my service dogs. I don't have agency dogs, and I do most of the training myself. But I work with a great team of professional trainers. If you can find even one or two people that can guide you through the difficult patches, then work with them -- your medical alert work, especially, is going to require some additional assistance most likely. And, as Lin points out, there can be temperament issues that pop up. Sometimes, it's hard to evaluate those when we live with a dog day in and day out. Is it a fear stage, adolescence, something we can train through, or...is it the dog and she's not EVER going to be suitable or HAPPY as an SD? For me, that second or third set of eyes is priceless. Your vet can provide that, maybe. Family can, maybe. A very dog-savvy friend can, maybe. A competent trainer can, most likely

Self-training an SD is a very rewarding experience. But it's not easy. Is it worth it? I wouldn't' be doing this -- again -- if I didn't think so.
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-13-2010, 04:30 PM
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3K9Mom you always have such great posts

I also recommend the teamwork DVDs or books. I have the DVDs. And like I mentioned before I have a bunch of short videos (the urls) saved for teaching tasks. I believe all of them use clicker training, it really seems to be the best for teaching complicated tasks.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 05-13-2010, 04:38 PM
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One more thing -- you spoke of having training sessions. Certainly, short training sessions are great. But get in the habit of doing training all day long.Before you put Major's dinner bowl down, he should sit. You don't even need to say "sit," just hold his bowl at your waist and wait. He'll offer the behavior. If Major wants to go outside, he needs to sit before you'll open the door. You can prompt him at first, but after a while, just stand there and wait til he offers the behavior.

When you're playing, hold the ball and wait for a sit; then toss it.

This is called "saying Please." It's a gentle non-confrontational way to teach your pup basic manners. Obviously, if he has to go potty NOW, we don't make him wait. We just open the door (because manners work both ways, right? )

Then, as he learns more behaviors, you can add those to his list and encourage those. I have short training sessions with both my dogs. But honestly, they're in training all day long. And they don't even know it. It's just how their lives are, and always have been...they've never known anything else!

If you're not using a clicker, you may want to look into doing clicker training. I've found it works much better than luring behaviors. Clicker training where you watch and wait for a behavior, like a down, then mark it (with a click or a verbal marker like "yes!") then reinforce it with something the pup loves, like a tiny treat. So Major learns that "Mom loves it when I lie down." So he starts to offer that behavior.

I really like clicker training for service dogs because it teaches them to THINK. They don't wait for someone to tell them what to do (I'll sit here until Mom puts some food in front of me and leads me to the next position). They try new behaviors on their own. They consider the options and offer a behavior. Thinking dogs. Love it!

On the right column of this page, there's info to get you started. Karen Pryor Clickertraining

Last edited by 3K9Mom; 05-13-2010 at 04:44 PM.
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