Monday, March 2, 2009

Thoughts on Keeping Stress Low in Service Dogs While Working

Everyone knows the "All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy." This also applies to service dogs. Even if a dog truly delights in working, many handlers will tell you the dog has a favorite aspect, or pace that may not happen as much as the dog would like. Some examples from my pack include:
  • Cammy- loves to guide her mom at a very speedy pace through campus and around town. She finds slow tasks like shopping extremely boring. To alleviate some of her boredom her mom will often use the time in the aisles/ racks to ask for and reward precise obedience behaviors.
  • Bastien- Bastien loves to play tug, fetch small stuffed toys, chew on nylabones, perform fast paced obedience drills, and making new friends dog or human. In our life together we often had very long days from the time we left the house until we made it home. Between bus time and actual work hours a ten hour day was average when working out of the office. When we traveled and worked conference a sixteen hour day was not unheard of. I always kept water bowls, treats and small toys in our pack, so that Bastien could let off some steam while working. It never ceased to amazed me what a difference a couple of face paced/rewarded drills, a minute out two of good tugging, a quiet five to ten minute nyla chew under the table, or a chance to meet someone new made in Bastien's ability to hang with me during even the longest days.
  • Shiloh-loves chew toys, treats, sniffing, and meeting new people.
  • Einstein lives for tennis balls. Between classes his mom has identified out of the way spots on campus where they can toss the ball a few times on a long line.
  • Finally all of our dogs love the dog park!
Learning to keep tabs on their dogs stress levels has helped many people I know become more aware and in control of their own stress levels. Being prepared to meet your partners needs, will help the team to always function at top levels!

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