Friday, October 31, 2008

Trainings Offer Insight into Service Dog Teams Accessing Public Transit

Many people partnered with service dogs depend on public transportation to participate in the activities of daily life; however, taking buses, door-to-door transit, taxis, subways, and trains requires careful and deliberate training of both the human and canine portions of the team. Easter Seals Project Action training Service Animals and Transit: How to Develop a Working Relationship includes great insights for service dog teams looking to develop a good relationship with their local transportation.

Even if it is not part of a person's regular routine, a service dog should be exposed to as many forms of transportation possible, since it is impossible to know what situations people will encounter while partnered with their service dog. Cars break down, unexpected trips, and changes in schedules can create the need to take a train, plan, bus or other form of transport;therefore it is only fair to prepare your service dog for these eventualities through training of proper behavior for these situation and prior exposure. During my eight year partnership with Bastien we traveled by local bus, long distance bus, subways, commuter trains, Amtrak, ferries, taxi, shuttle buses, rental cars, friends cars, my personal van and airplanes.

Though many of the experiences and behaviors your service dog needs to function during travel are a standard part of a well trained service dog's education there are some circumstances in travel that may require specific behaviors and experiences that generally fall outside this training.

  • Metal detectors
  • Being hand searched
  • Travelling for long distances on the floor in sometimes very small spaces
  • Following a person (not the handler)
  • Obeying basic obedience commands from the person who has their leash
  • Relieving themselves in strange places and surfaces on cue
  • Calm in the presence of unusual/high pitched noises such as the hiss of hydraulics, train whistles, and airplane engines
  • Ramps and wheelchair lifts
  • Feet resting on and/or near them
  • Ability to go under a variety of seats and chairs
  • Ability to follow handlers cues to a specific location
  • Ability to work (on a least basic cues ) on either the left or right side
  • Ability to work in extremely tight spaces

Easter Seals Project Action will host Traveling with Service Animals on November 5, 2008. While the event itself has reached its maximum participants, interested visitors will find some interesting resources on the training page including:

I encourage people unfamiliar with taking public transportation or who need to introduce their service dogs to public transportation to take advantage of the travel training programs offered by many transit authorities.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

News: Small dog dies after attack on Portland, Ore. Transit

Yesterday a Pomeranian emotional support animal was killed by a Rottie Shar-pei mix "with no warning". The owner of the Rottie mix admitted his dog was not a service dog. While Tri-met is investigating the incident the owner of the Rottie Shar-pei mix has been banned from riding the system for 30 days. The problem of people claiming their pets are service animals in order to have them in locations that typically don't allow animals is a growing concern for people with partnered with service dogs and places of public accommodation. Several people in this article complained that is is impossible for businesses to determined what is and isn't a service animal. The keys to defining what is and is not a service animal depend on the person having a disability recognized and covered by the ADA along with the requirements that the animal be individually training to perform tasks that mitigate the person's disability making service animals' purpose a straight forward, what seems to cause the most confusion is the ever-expanding types of disabilities service animals are now being trained to mitigate.

On September 25, 2008 the ADA Amendments Act became law. The amendments include these clarifications on service animals:
"Expressly incorporate the Department’s policy interpretations as outlined in published technical assistance Commonly Asked Questions about Service Animals (1996) ( and ADA Business Brief: Service Animals (2002) ( and add that a public accommodation may ask an individual with a disability to remove a service animal from the premises if: (1) The animal is out of control and the animal’s owner does not take effective action to control it; (2) the animal is not housebroken or the animal’s presence or behavior fundamentally alters the nature of the service the public accommodation provides (e.g., repeated barking during a live performance); or (3) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by reasonable modifications;

  • Add that if a place of public accommodation properly excludes a service animal, the public accommodation must give the individual with a disability the opportunity to obtain goods, services, or accommodations without having the service animal on the premises;
  • Add requirements that the work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler’s disability; that a service animal that accompanies an individual with a disability into a place of public accommodation must be individually trained to do work or perform a task, be housebroken, and be under the control of its owner; and that a service animal must have a harness, leash, or other tether;
    Modify the language in § 36.302(c)(2), which currently states, "[n]othing in this part requires a public accommodation to supervise or care for a service animal," to read, "[a] public accommodation is not responsible for caring for or supervising a service animal," and relocate this provision to proposed § 36.302(c)(5). (This proposed language does not require that the person with a disability care for his or her service animal if care can be provided by a family member, friend, attendant, volunteer, or anyone acting on behalf of the person with a disability.)
  • Expressly incorporate the Department’s policy interpretations as outlined in published technical assistance Commonly Asked Questions about Service Animals (1996) ( and ADA Business Brief: Service Animals (2002) ( that a public accommodation must not ask about the nature or extent of a person’s disability, nor require proof of service animal certification or licensing, but that a public accommodation may ask: (i) If the animal is required because of a disability; and (ii) what work or tasks the animal has been trained to perform;
    Add that individuals with disabilities who are accompanied by service animals may access all areas of a public accommodation where members of the public are allowed to go; and
    Expressly incorporate the Department’s policy interpretations as outlined in published technical assistance Commonly Asked Questions about Service Animals (1996) ( and ADA Business Brief: Service Animals (2002) ( and add that a public accommodation must not require an individual with a disability to pay a fee or surcharge, post a deposit, or comply with requirements not generally applicable to other patrons as a condition of permitting a service animal to accompany its handler in a place of public accommodation, even if such deposits are required for pets, and that if a public accommodation normally charges its clients or customers for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.
  • While the Department does not plan to change the current policy of no formal training or certification requirements, some of the behavioral standards that it has proposed actually relate to suitability for public access, such as being housebroken and under the control of its handler.
  • Hospital and healthcare settings. Public accommodations, including hospitals, must modify policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability. 28 CFR 36.302(c)(1). The exception to this requirement is if making the modification would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations. Id. at 36.302(a). The Department generally follows the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the use of service animals in a hospital setting.
    As required by the ADA, a healthcare facility must permit a person with a disability to be accompanied by his or her service animal in all areas of the facility in which that person would otherwise be allowed, with some exceptions. Zoonotic diseases can be transmitted to humans through trauma (bites, scratches, direct contact, arthropod vectors, or aerosols). Although there is no evidence that most service animals pose a significant risk of transmitting infectious agents to humans, animals can serve as a reservoir for a significant number of diseases that could potentially be transmitted to humans in the healthcare setting. A service animal may accompany its owner to such areas as admissions and discharge offices, the emergency room, inpatient and outpatient rooms, examining and diagnostic rooms, clinics, rehabilitation therapy areas, the cafeteria and vending areas, the pharmacy, rest rooms, and all other areas of the facility where visitors are permitted, except those listed below.
    Under the ADA, the only circumstances under which a person with a disability may not be entitled to be accompanied by his or her service animal are those rare circumstances in which it has been determined that the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. A direct threat is defined as a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated or mitigated by a modification of polices, practices, or procedures. Based on CDC guidance, it is generally appropriate to exclude a service animal from areas that require a protected environment, including operating rooms, holding and recovery areas, labor and delivery suites, newborn intensive care nurseries, and sterile processing departments. See Centers for Disease Control, Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities: Recommendations of CDC and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (June 2003), available at"

There are many public places (i.e pet stores, outdoor cafes, and parks) that may allow people to bring their well-behaved pets with them. People taking their pets with them are responsible for ensuring their pets are appropriately behaved, healthy, under their control at all times. Not every animal can handle the pace of public life and the stress caused by the limits it imposes on their behavior. Just because a person wants their pet with them, doesn't mean it is the right thing for their pet. If having your pet with you in public places that permit them is important to you, ensure they have the skills and experiences to fully enjoy and behave appropriately (creating no interference and posing no theat to other people or animals) during these outings before beginning to take them along by working with a skilled trainer (

Service Dog Schools where the handler is the Trainer

In the service dog community it is commonly believed that there are only two ways people get service dogs:

1) Apply to a service dog training organization
2) Train the dog yourself- referred to as owner training

There is actually a third option, tandem training, wherein the person and their dog enter in to training together under the guidance, structure, and experience of the professional program trainers. Both the people and the dogs must apply to the programs and meet the standards for acceptance. People must demonstrate disability related need for a service dog, commitment to the process, and ability to care for the dog. The dogs must pass temperament, health and structure standards set by the program. Tandem training is an excellent option for those wanting to be intimately involved in the training and selection of their service, but may not know exactly how to go about training a service dog. People who participate in a tandem training program also benefit from a well established program, program name recognition, support for any future training and addition tasks, support in selecting candidates, and support in the retirement/successor dog processes.

To Learn more about Tandem Training Programs visit the following organizations:

People who choose this approach avoid many of the pitfalls that can plague well meaning owner trainers such as:

  1. Not knowing what a finished well trained service dog should behave like. Many people who want service dogs may never seen one up close and personal. This makes it impossible to know if what your dog is doing at any given moment is appropriate for a future service dog or not.
  2. The difficulty of proving your dog is trained. By going through an established program you will have the documentation of and your dogs training.
  3. The challenge of choosing the right dog and know when the dog you have may not be suited for the work.
  4. Assistance learning how to teach your dogs the assistance tasks you need.
  5. Finding a training who can work with the limitations imposed by your disability.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Halloween is a great opportunity for Training Potential Service Dogs

Halloween is just around the corner. The costumes, constant flow of new people, and unique objects represent great training opportunities for a potential service dog and their handler. That is if the handler is prepared!

Ideas for Training around Halloween:

Basic Behaviors:

  • Remaining quiet when someone knocks on the door or rings the door bell
  • Not rushing the door when it is opened (otherwise known as the Wait cue)
  • Greeting a friendly stranger appropriately such as maintaining a sit or down to be petted. Note: the petting must stop the instant the dog breaks the desired position.
  • Reward calm behavior around strange things i.e. costumes, decorations, noises
  • Calmly walking through crowds
  • Check it out- a wonderfully helpful cue that encourages dogs to investigate new and strange things thereby building confidence.
  • Go to bed- send the dog to a predetermined spot before you open the door
  • Stay
  • Loose Leash walking

Advanced Service Dog Training

Choose behavior that are relevant to your disability related needs. Below are a few ideas.

  • Tug the door open upon request (have you dog on leash in case they open the door while you are distracted)
  • Close the door when asked
  • Carry a basket of candy around to guests
  • Alert you to people knocking on the door
  • Leave it (for those really tempting dropped goodies)
  • Counter retrieves (if you trick or treat in malls)
  • Retrieving requested items
  • Finding the car
  • Finding a specific person for you in a crowd

Remember quality learning only takes place when all parties are engaged and patient. When either party become overwhelmed, frustrated or tired it is best to stop the session. If all you and or your potential service dog can manage is minute bursts, that's fine. In between those bursts you can place you dog in a safe place where it can rest (and so can you) like its crate, another room, the car, a tie down within your site, an ex-pen or behind another barrier. When you both are ready again go for it! Try to end each burst, however long, on a moment of success. As they say, "Always leave them wanting more."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Patricia McConnell's Blog- a wealth of information for all who live and work with dogs

Patricia McConnell, PhD and renowned animal behaviorist recently began keeping a blog The Other End of the Leash. Her blog is bursting with information on living with, loving and learning about dogs. She often poses questions to her readers to get them further thing about the topics of the post. Some of the topics she regularly posts on include:
  • Border Collies
  • Dogs and Sound
  • Food and Dogs
  • Positive Reinforcement
  • Playing with dogs

I for one will be reading this blog! I hope it makes it onto your Internet favorites too!

Friday, October 24, 2008

News: Robots inspired by Service Dogs

In a world dominated by machines it comes as no surprise that the Georgia Institute of Technology has come up with a robot capable of performing some of the skills regularly performed by a service dog for their partner. This concept of machines and gadgets to assist people with disabilities is nothing new. Choosing how a person will negotiate the world with a disability is a second by second decision of how best to accomplish the task at hand. Should the person attempt to open the door by themselves (even if doing so may mean they used vast amounts of energy, or risk falling), wait for a person to open the door for them, install an expensive door opener, or rely on their ever-ready service dog to open the door with them. Should a person with balance and strength related issues with their disability use crutches, canes, walkers, a manual wheelchair, a power wheelchair, walk with the assistance of a trusted friend or family member, or use a well-trained and ever ready balance service dog. These are only two examples of the choices people with disabilities make every second of everyday.

Service dogs are living, sentient beings that provide more than a means of accomplishing the task at hand. Recently, at the Summit Assistance Dogs annual graduation one of the recipients of a service dog summed up some of the reasons people choose to partner with service dogs, "All my life I have had to depend on other people and tools to accomplish the things I want. All of these people and things have meant that people my own age often stay away and I have felt dependant. Now with my service dog I have someone who can not only help me do thing, but who needs me as well. My dog also helps people have something that does not make them worried about saying something wrong to talk to me about."

These robots are simply another option for people with disabilities living a world built for people who don't yet know what it is like to want to go into their neighborhood hangout out only to be confronts by an impossibly steep flight of stairs, or to decide whether to spend their limited energy on taking a shower or fixing breakfast. A robot may be able to open the door, bring you things, turn on the light, and other tasks, however a robot cannot change the way it does these tasks on a moment by moment basis to respond to a change in level of disability or provide joy and comfort.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Team Training: Round Two Day Six

Today Shilo and I went out just the two of us for the first time! I can't believe how much I have missed having options for how to interact with the world! Shilo and I went out to brunch and she impressed everyone with how quietly she rested under the table with her head on my feet. After brunch we went to the used bookstore where we hit the dog section and got a chance to work a counter retrieve. Next we hit this fabulous little candy shop where I stocked up on their great dark chocolate and Shilo had the opportunity to retrieve my bank card and open a door. Shilo's ability to do all these tasks increased the distance I was able to wheel by allowing me to use my energy elusively on that rather than straining to pull open heavy glass doors, maintain my shaky balance when reaching for things and allowing me to feel more secure because while she is retrieving things I am able to keep an eye on my surroundings. I am excited to continue to work with Shilo and see our partnership.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Team Training: Round Two Day Five

Thursday we took Shilo to the store in the morning and did, indeed, get a much better performance from her on all of the same skills. We then worked on our own in the afternoon. The transition has been very draining physically and emotionally on us all. Shilo and I napped for quite some time after our return from the Safeway outing. I decided after we had both rested not to go out on our own as I had planned with Sue. Instead, I worked all of our skills in and around the hotel. We worked on light switches, pushing drawers and things closed, retrieving items, holding and carry items, counter retrieves, and opening doors.

She impressed the hotel staff by taking the spare key from me and with it in her more doing a paws up on the counter and gently delivering the key with out so much as a tooth mark. She then took a bag of cookies from the staff, got down and handed them to me. My girl is coming along!

Team Training: Round Two Day Five

Today Shilo and I went to the local mall with trainer, Wendy, to take our Public Access Test. Yesterday Sue and I spoke about this and whether or not Wendy would include the task performance portion that Summit adds to the test. I was so impressed by what Shilo and I had already accomplished during our time together, I lobbied to have the task portion included. I am pleased to report we passed and Shilo handled to mall environment for two hours giving no signs of shutting down.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Team Training: Round Two Day Four

Yesterday afternoon Shilo, Sue and I took our training on the road to the local Safeway store. While they do train with the dogs in public this store is not a part of Sue's regular stomping grounds as she lives outside of Anacortes making the environment new for everyone. Well new and unfamiliar does bring out new and unfamiliar situations. Sue wanted to get some photos of Shilo and I working in public so she had also invited a volunteer, Jan, who is a puppy raiser and photographer for Summit. Shilo knows her training and wants to do her best, but the combination of being in a new environment and being torn between listening to her trainer or her new handler pushed her to the verge of a shutdown-- not doing anything at all. She began to exhibit sign of stress and displacement behaviors (her defaults are scratching, looking anywhere but to the trainer,and freezing). I quickly asked her for some simple behaviors that I could reward her for and redirect her from the stress of being unsure about picking up the keys that had fallen near the base of the freezer case. After a few quick sits and downs with reward I was able to redirect Shilo to the keys and she got them! We were then able to get her to perform some more difficult behaviors such as a counter retrieve, carrying an item for a distance while walking with me, and opening a freezer door. We were in the store for about a half an hour but it was clear Shilo had given all she had on this outing. I talked to Sue about going to the store in morning tomorrow as Shilo is definitely a morning girl.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Team Training: Round Two Day Three

Shilo and I are giving team training all we both have. The trainers at Summit are challenging us both with the expectation that we, as a team, will rise to every task put before us. Over the last two days we have succeed, stumbled, celebrated, learned, and been somewhat overwhelmed. Sue has been systematically introducing me to each of Shilo's cues followed by numerous opportunities for me to have her perform each one. While it's obvious Shilo and I have a connection, the process of acquiring the shared language and routines that will allow us to become a service dog team is complicated and slow. This eight day team training is just jump start of a process that we will be engaged in for the life of our partnership. Service dogs are sentient beings that give back what we as partners are willing and able to put in. I have to work hard to be realistic with my expectations of Shilo in check. These expectations cannot be low or high. I must meet her where she is and together we have to move forward. A couple of good examples have occurred over the last three days:

  • Shilo is a shepherd mix (probably shepherd cattle dog, but being a stray and rescue, it's anyone's guess). She is also not a natural retriever. Retrieving (or the ability of a dog to take things in their mouth and not shred it) is at the base of many of the tasks service dogs do. She has gone from having no idea why she should pick things up for me to seeking opportunities to retrieve items for me.
  • When I came the beginning of the week I came armed with two toys to help me bond with her through play. Again being a rescue, Shilo has always demonstrated little interest in toys. I introduced her to the stuffed terry cloth piggy by Boda and she immediately began playing with it and loves it. She loves to run around the training center playing with it and me.
  • I mentioned before that Shilo is a soft dog. Today we were out training in a store and it was nearing the end of the day and the trainer and I both noticed Shilo was beginning to shut down. I quickly rewarded her for doing something simple correctly sand was able to get her to happily complete the task of pulling open the freezer door.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Team Training: Round Two Day One

Today Shilo and I started on road to becoming a team. This was a new experience for everyone involved myself, Shilo, and the Summit trainings, because they have truncated the team training since I have had a service dog before. The Summit training are giving me all the information and dog working time they normally have two full weeks to impart. Shilo rememer me from our previous two meetings and came running as soon as she heard my voice in the training center. All of the training repeated remarked that they had never seen a dog bond with someone as fast as Shilo has taken to me. That does not mean she automatically does everything I ask, however. We may be meant to be, as in love at first sight, but we still have to learn to speak each other's language. What makes each other tick. Not to mention the things each of us love. We spent the day learning to do the basics together such as sit, down, come, stay and stand. We also learned a couple of new things like how I push my chair and Shilo moving in tandem. Sue, Shilo's Trainer, was impressed at how well Shilo responded to me even though we still are just getting acquainted.

I find Shilo, who is a Shepherd mix, to be a sweet, sensitive, extremely bright girl. She wants to work and do well. She doesn't respond well to frustration on my part, which is there because it is hard to go from a partner of eight years with whom you barely remember when it wasn't fluid to a new, young partner. Shilo needs time, patience, love and care to become the wonderful partner I know she can be.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Update on Fundraising for Shilo

I continue to contact friends and familiy to raise money for my next service dog. I am happy to report some have already come through! Both for my travel to team training and Summit Assistance Dogs.
For Donating to my Fund to attend team training in October, I wish to thank:
-My cousin April for her $100 Donation
-My longtime friend Wayne Terry for his donation of a Large Dog Crate ($100 value)
-Shelley Maynard,Owner of Pewter Rabbit Antiques for her $25 Donation
-Kathleen Ison for her $10 donation
-Olivia Emilia and Rob Harden for their $50 donation
-My longtime friend Anne Hensley for her $50 donation in memeroy of her first SD Andrew
-My longtime friends Pam and Loc Reader for their $100 donation
-My former co-workers at Pierce County Deparment of Emergency Management for their $155 donation.
-My Aunt and Uncle, Steven and Marie McDonald for their $100
-My college internship supervisor Mr. Jim Stevenson and family for their $100
-My Unce Dale McDonald for his $300 donation
-My Grandmother Mary Ellen for her $200
I have saved $100 towards my Team Training costs in October! That brings my total so far to $1390!
To see the break down of the costs associated with team training, please see "Contribute to My Service Dog Fund" on the righthand side of this blog.

Even though Summit Assistance Dogs does not charge for the dog itself, each recipient must be able to attend a team training with their new dog in Anacortes, WA for 8 days days.I am working to save money myself, but I work for a non-profit and I have to take 10 days from work to train and bond with Shilo.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bonding, Playing, and Keeping Training Interesting

As I continue to prepare for Shilo's emminent arrival. I have been going though my books for ideas on how to bond with her. Dogs bond with the people who provide for their basic needs such as:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Limits
  • Safety
  • Play
  • Education
  • Health
  • Grooming

As part of my team training for my new service dog Shilo I will learn all about how to take care of her basic needs; however, it will be up to her and I to define what we enjoy in our downtime. These downtime activities in my experiences often truly cement the bond. These can be simple things like walks, bedtime routines, quiet time together, and grooming. Bonding can occur during games like tug, fetch, hide and seek, and othe activities. Shilo is a rescue and like many strays she seems to have had little experience with toys, yet she loves walks, training and playing with other dogs. I plan to capitalize on her loves by enrolling us in team activities like Rally O (Rally Obedience), taking her to explore the neighborhood in my powerchair, teaching her new games from book I have Beyond Fetch, and building her a group of doggy friends made up of other area service dog teams. No one's life can be all work and no play and that includes service dogs. Many people with disabilities partnered with service dogs struggle to find leisure activites to participate in with their dogs that they are physically able to do. By being able work and play together a service dog and their human partners truly become a team. For more ideas on activies to do with a dog visit

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Preparing for Shilo: 10 Days and Counting

The anticipation is driving me to prepare. I have now been 10 months without a service dog. In that time, I have had to the opportunity to reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of being partnered with a service dog. In my case, I definitly feel the pros outweigh the cons. I am ecstatic about having a partner again. Knowing there will always be someone to help when I fall, drop something, need help with a door, who can help me carry things, and more allows me to live my life much more freely and not depend on other people as much. Right now, I am working feverishly to prepare mentally, emotionally, physically, and materially for Shilo's impending arrival into our household and pack. I am also cramming new cues and definitions (what the dog understands each one to mean) that I need to be able to use them in a clear and consist manner. Many of the cues are the same words I used with my retired service dog, Bastien, but the cues are being used for different behaviors and tasks. Therefore, I struggle with keeping straight what the dog should do with a given cues based on her definitions and the contradictions with my old, tried, and habitual ones. I know once I start working with Shilo and her trainers at Summit new habits and definitions with slowly sink in. Karen Pryor says in her article Clicking is Really for the Birds, "Often dogs fail to respond to a cue not because they are being stubborn, or because they don't know the cue, but because we gave the cue carelessly. With the wrong hand, with another word or two mixed into it, or in a new environment where some aspect of the cue that the dog relied on is changed or missing. If you've been inconsistent, and the dog doesn't always respond even though the behavior itself is well-trained, transferring the cue you've been using to a new cue can help." This type of misunderstanding can be quite common when someone is just getting to know a dog who already has training (as I will be with Shilo). She knows her stuff. During team training I will cement my knowledge of what she has been trained to do based on how my disability, cerebral palsy, affects me and what a dog is capable of doing to assist me physically. For example, when I went for team training round one I had a hard time of it because Bastien worked with many types of cues including voice, hand, body and in some instance environment cues. I found hand, body, and environmental cues to be quite useful in our day to day working mode because some of my cues were so small most people never noticed, which allowed my to stay in better connection with my dog (an he with me) when giving presentations, working in environments that were extremely loud like fairs, airports and train platforms, and conversely extremely quiet environments like movies, shows, and libraries. An example of a example of hand cue he knew was holding my hand flat to receive something retrieved meant "give". An example of a body cue he knew was holding my coat sleeve towards him meant for him to help me tug it off (this is useful when people half limited range of motion as a part of a disability in my experience). Even though Shilo has been trained on vioce cues only, because many people with disabilities could have a difficult time correctly giving hand and/or body signals becuase of the disability; I found myself using these cues out of an eight year habit. I had to keep reminding myself that she didn't know these things. Many experience trainers talk about people using unintentional cues or small movements and/or changes in behavior when asking for a behavior that they are unaware they are doing, a famous example is Clever Hans. Sometimes trainers when working together will ask the other if they were aware they were also doing X thing at the same time or just before they cue a behavior. Dogs have proven to be keen observers of human behavior according to studies like Social learning in dogs: the effect of a human demonstrator on the performance of dogs in a detour task. For some people, like myself, who tend to talk with their hands and bodies this unintentional cuing can be both helpful and an annoyance. The helpful part comes from feeling as though your dog can read your mind and getting things done more quickly. The annoyance comes when you can't figure out why your dog is doing something even though you didn't "ask" for it and you are trying to get them to do a totally different thing. The other annoying part comes in if other cues for the behavior that are still necessary, like a voice cues, start to deteriorate. Knowing all this, I continue to study Shilo's commands and accept that I will make mistakes that may make her think "Geez this human is confusing."