Sunday, September 14, 2008

Round One:Team Training

Summit is experiencing a unique round of placements this fall two therapy dogs and two successor service dogs. Since therapy dogs teams do not require full public access, nor are the handlers of therapy dogs entitled to full public access, the placement training required is shorter. As for the two of us getting matched with successor dogs, team training for successor placements is usually shorter than for those being matched with a service dog.

This trip covered all the lecture material and some of the group training that is usually covered in the traditional two week training camp. Prior to the day of training Summit sent each person being matched with a dog a binder containing the lecture texts, relevant articles, and a list of commands. By my count Summit service dogs know around 70 commands when they are placed with their new partners. Lecture topics for the day included:

  • The basics of tenets of training
  • A discussion on the merits of classical conditioning
  • The basics of operant conditioning (the primary training approach utilized by Summit trainers)
  • Reading you dog's body language
  • Stress signals in dogs
  • Care and feeding of your new service dog

Since I had to go such a long way for the day's training I resolved to spend as much time getting to know Shilo. The trainers and staff at Summit we kind enough to oblige me. I was even allowed to take shilo for a walk off campus alone! Shilo listens to me quite well when her trainer Sue is either not around or has been off doing other things before I worked with Shilo. Our relationship is still very new and a shepherd's loyalties run deep. If Sue has been working with her or leaves and comes back Shilo still only has eyes for Sue at this point, but there is a glimmer of a relationship already. She is happy to see me, works willingly, and after a bit of time can focus completely on me. I look forward to the second part of our training in October!

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