Saturday, June 21, 2008

No one owner trains in a vacuum

Successful Owner Trainers of their service dogs do not train in a vacuum. I, for one, had a lot of support each and every bit of which I am eternally grateful. When I got Bastien, as I had mentioned in previous posts, I had had dogs as family pets but my parents did much of the work. The house training, the leash training, and the setting of the rules relating to the dogs and children.

With Bastien I learned, tried, made mistakes, had successes and many frustrations. We tried out many training tools, but I steadfastly stuck to operant conditioning training and as much as I could positive reinforcement. I will admit to using a training collar for my safety and his during those dunderhead teenage months. Training collars include things like choke chains, pronged collars, no pull harnesses, head collars (i.e. Gentle Leader, Haltis, and Snoot Loops). Training collars are often used on fully trained service dogs to assist the handler, to assist the dog in focusing, or a combination of both. Head collars should not ever be confused for muzzles they are not built to limit a dog's ability to drink, eat, bark or bite. They do work on a on the theory of where the head goes the body will follow. Same idea a horse halters. It also takes less strength to control a dog wearing a head halter, since it is difficult for dogs to use their full body strength like they can on regular collars and body harnesses.

My Support and Learning Circle included:

  • My Family
  • My Friends
  • The Members and Trainers of the Puget Sound Assistance Dog Club Club
  • The About Face K9 Academy in Olympia, WA for puppy class, basic and intermediate obedience.
  • The Good Citizen Canine in Tacoma, WA for advanced obedience, remedial recall work (screwed it up in my rookiness), rehab for the incidents with the automatic doors (will post more on this later), Prep course for the Canine Good Citizen Test
  • Jeanne Hampl- Hampl's Dog Obedience, Former Head trainer for the Purdy Prison Pet Program for task training, Public Access Testing
  • Books tons of them

I wanted to ensure that both my dog and I met the industry and legal standard for service dogs. Only in the U.S. are owner trained service dogs recognized and given access the same as school/program trained dogs, and I wanted to ensure my dog was as well trained as a program dog. Bastien over his career passed the Canine good Citizen and Public Access Test twice and the Therapy Dogs International Therapy Dog Test. If we as an owner training community do not maintain high standards of training owner training may very well become a thing of the past.

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