Special Task Dog Training

Step 1

Make a list of activities you can no longer do yourself because of your disability.

Step 2

Choose one activity you would like your dog to help with.

Step 3

Break down the activity into steps. For example, if you want your dog to open a cupboard, the steps would be: 1. Grab cloth handle/ strap with mouth. 2. Pull handle while walking backward. 3. Stop pulling and let go of cloth handle/strap when cupboard door is open.Write down each step.

Step 4

Look at each step, and break it down further. From Step 3 above, “Grab cloth handle/strap with mouth” might become:1. Take cloth or strap from owner’s hand with mouth.2. Take and hold cloth or strap in mouth for a set period of time.3. Take and hold cloth or strap that is attached to cupboard.

Step 5

Take an honest look at your dog’s ability, fears and maturity to decide if tasks should be broken down further.

Teaching the Task

Step 1

Start with the first task on your list. For our example, we’ll use “Take cloth in mouth, from owner’s hand.” Get your dog’s attention and say your cue word for “Take the object.” Use something simple, like TAKE, TAKE IT or GET. Offer the cloth to your dog.

Step 2

If your dog takes the cloth, give her a treat and make a huge fuss over her. You want your dog to absolutely sure she did what you wanted.If your dog does not take the cloth, put a small piece of his favorite treat on the cloth, or smear a bit of peanut butter on the cloth. When your dog leans down to take the treat, praise him.

Step 3

Continue Step 2 until your dog has mastered, and is comfortable with, taking the cloth in her mouth. As your dog gains confidence and reliability with this task, decrease the treat from every time to every other time, then every third time she completes the task. Finally, treat randomly. As you decrease the treats, remember to tell your dog she did what you wanted by saying “Good dog,” or whatever your phrase is.

Step 4

Begin shaping the behavior of taking the cloth or handle by now asking your dog to TAKE and HOLD the cloth. When your dog TAKES the cloth, don’t offer a treat or praise right away. Wait for several seconds, give a release command, and then treat and praise your dog.

Step 5

Continue adding steps to further shape the behavior until your dog is preforming the desired task

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