Tuesday, November 30, 2010

International Day of People with Disabilities This Friday

 So, this Friday is International Day of People with Disabilities and as a part of my day job we are encouraging everyone to show their pride and support of people with disabilities by wearing purple. This a day to be seen and heard around the world letting people see through a sea of purple how many of us live and support people with disabilities  enjoying all basic human rights. How about it, will you wear purple?

The annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December was established by the International Year for Disabled Persons (1981). The Day aims to promote a better understanding of disability issues with a focus on the rights of persons with disabilities and gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of the political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities. The goal of full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in society and development was established by the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1982. Read More about International Day of People with Disabilities.

Monday, November 22, 2010

From the Archives: Thanksgiving with a service dog

Thanksgiving: A Time for Family, Friends, Training, and Caution

As many of us prepare to reunited with family and friends this Thanksgiving, it important to prepare our service dogs (and ourselves) for all the temptations, changes in schedule, new people and situations that come with family gatherings. The ASPCA offers these basic safety tips for Thanksgiving. Service dogs and their handlers must think beyond these basics, since these dogs provide valuable service and companionship to their handlers. Read More

Our Thanksgiving Adventure

Shiloh and I chose to spend Thanksgiving (for my International readers who may or may not be familiar with this American Holiday) with my parents and some friends. I decided to take the train instead of driving, because the last time I drove up for Thanksgiving I got stuck halfway back because they closed the freeway due to incredibly heavy snows! Due the busy holiday Amtrak added buses to get people to Portland, so Shiloh and I took a bus partway and were supposed to be on an actual train (See Tails of Trains for details on taking a train for the first time with a service dog or service dog in training) for the rest of the journey. Read More

Sunday, November 21, 2010

News: College Bound Canines

POLAND — Poland Regional High School has seven newcomers who will attend classes full time, join after-school activities and, eventually, go off to college.
As long as they sit, stay and don't bark.
Starting this fall, the high school will host seven service-dogs-in-training. The six puppies and one adult dog will be the constant companions of seven students who will care for and train them for more than a year. At the end of training, the service dogs will be given to disabled college students.   Read More

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Say What? Maintaince Training for Service Dogs

Anniversaries and follow-up visits have a way of showing you how far you have come along with anything you may have let side;however, inadvertently.   We received high praise from Wendy at Summit for how well our public access manners and tasks have been maintained, though, I admitted that the emergency phone retrieve has gotten dropped since we no longer have a land line. I really must work on getting the cue back in use with my cell phone since it is my life and safety on the line. As  teams move through life it is common for things to slip or for things to get dropped because handlers and dogs begin to engage in anticipatory learning where in they put together strings of actions/cues and will perform behaviors without waiting to be asked. Many human partners think this predictive behavior is wonderful, and in some instances it is. However, I have come the conclusion that these short cuts if allowed to develop freely and without thought to possible hazards are very dangerous to our canine partners.

Example1: You and your dog are riding the lift transport service and  your service dog cannot ride the lift with you, so they must wait in the van until you can collect them at the front door. The dog anticipating you to call them begins to come out the door before being called and before you are there to collect them. I will leave the horrid possibilities to your own imagination.

Example 2: Your service dog faithfully retrieves everything you drop and has done this for you so often that the dog comes running whenever it see or hears anything hit the floor in your vicinity.  While this may not seem like a big deal and even helpful, what if you drop something glass and it shatters or the lid goes flying off your med bottle since you where trying to get the lid on when you dropped it.

Now, anticipatory learning does have a place in a service dog partnership, but we humans must be careful about the behavior chains that develop and nip ones that could be dangerous to us and/or our canine partners in the bud before they become habits that are exceeding difficult to break. This is where maintenance training takes center stage. If you regularly practice all your dogs behaviors from basic obedience to elaborate chained behaviors such as tugging open a door or get help, you are much more likely to prevent these short cuts from developing in the first place. You will also want to correct your dog for "blowing" cues (as I and many others call it) straight off by sending them back to the start and having them do it correctly. For dogs having a no reward marker or a cue reminder can help them know when they are about to make a mistake and give them a chance to change their mind before making the mistake.

How do you know if a Behavior needs brushing up?
  • You (or someone in your circle) can't remember the last time you used a particular cue
  • The dog's response to a cue has become slow or sloppy
  • The cue is essential for you/your dogs safety (i.e. come, emergency down, get help, waiting at open doors)
  • The dog seems to have stopped paying attention to a given cue altogether (Tip: did you inadvertently change the cue. It happens all the time. It is really easy to change a cue in just a few repetitions of the pattern New Cue + Old Cue= Behavior for the dog to go "oh this =that" and the old cue is no longer needed. Unfortunately, it can take us humans a bit to figure out what is the cue the dog is now responding to)
  • You need a particular cue to be reinforced so that you can build a new behavior with it.

Finding Time for Maintenance Training

People often claim they don't do something because they think that it needs a lot of time. The amount of time needed to maintain given depends on several factors: how often it is used and actively reinforced/rewarded, if the dog finds to behavior itself rewarding, and how complicated/difficult the behavior is, and the tendency of the dog in question to assume that a behavior that hasn't been used/reinforced in a certain period of time is just taking up memory needlessly. The more simple, easy to perform and frequently used behaviors can be easily maintained in a few short repetitions,the more complicated the behavior the more you may need to make a specific effort to practice it, especially if it is not something you need the dog to do on a regular basis (say at least a couple of times a week) like getting help or dialing 9-1-1 on speed dial.
  • Before you give your dog anything or answer a request as for a behavior any behavior the dog knows or is working on will due
  • While waiting in line, for the bus or whatever
  • When your dog seems bored to you
  • During your lunch, coffee or other breaks in the day
  • When you need a distraction
  • During the course of normal day, give cues as you go along to keep your dog engaged
  • As a new section to your daily fitness routine. Spice it up for both you and your dog.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Book Review: MAKING THE MOVE TO MANAGING YOUR OWN PERSONAL ASSISTANCE SERVICES (PAS): A Toolkit for Youth With Disabilities Transitioning to Adulthood

MAKING THE MOVE TO MANAGING YOUR OWN PERSONAL ASSISTANCE SERVICES (PAS): A Toolkit for Youth With Disabilities Transitioning to Adulthood
This in-depth 69 page guide covers this ins and outs of personal assistants for youth with disabilities utilizing the stories of youth with disabilities to illustrate topics related to utilizing, hiring, and selecting personal assistants. Pages 10-12 talk about Service Dogs and an option for meeting personal care and assistant needs. The section is clear, honest and bringsup many good points people who are new to dogs often don't realize.
"While it is perfectly okay to have assistance in caring for a service dog, the human partner should take an active and primary role in making sure the dog’s needs are met. For the bonding of a team to take place, the human partner needs to be the most important person in the dog’s life. This means making time to exercise, groom, and even play with the dog. "

"Given the dog’s responsibilities, this means the dog will likely sleep next to you, pick up things with its mouth, and need to be walked regularly. It also means that your clothes and your living space will regularly be covered in dog hair. So, if dog slobber and animal fur are anywhere on your list of pet peeves, you may want to rethink the idea of getting a service dog. "

Source:The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth, HeiTech Services, Inc., Concepts, Inc., 2010, Making the Move to Managing Your Own Personal Assistance Service (PAS): A Toolkit for Youth With Disabilities Transitioning to Adulthood, Washington DC

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween: Little Red Riding Hood and The not so Big Bad Wolf

I hope everyone had a great Halloween! We had a wonderful time! My roommate and I are both very beginning machine sewers and we decided it would be fun to make costumes this years using things we already had combined with things made from fabric pieces brought in a huge bag from Goodwill. I think the costumes turned out splendidly. Cammy and Leslie went as Hansel and Greddel and Shiloh and I went as Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf pretending to be grandma!
These pictures illustrate two points of temperament very important to a successful and happy service dog willingness to trust the handler and accept change whether it be in gear or really strange environments like Halloween parties. Both Dogs "danced" with their handlers and recognized the fun vibe enven the people were showing up in all kinds of strange outfits.

Anniversary: Two Year Follow-Up

Shiloh and I have been a team for two years now and as a part of maintaining the health, safety, and working standards that I agreed to when Summit matched Shiloh and I I traveled to Anacortes, WA to complete a two year follow up and Public Access Test. Having owner trained Bastien, my first service dog, I wasn't sure what  to expect and I tend to be overly perfectionist about things really important to me with my dogs being beyond description a lot of the time with concern to their importance in my life. Also, since it is my job to maintain Shiloh in every manner at least to the level she was when Summit agreed that we were a team, if not better in my view; so I was very nervous to see what questions they would have and what they would think of us 18 months after they last saw us!
Wendy asked question about Shiloh health, responsiveness, what I thought of her training, if she had any behavior or training problem I was concerned about/needed help with, and anything I thought Summit could do to improve the training of future dogs based on my experiences with Shiloh. Then we were of to town to strut our stuff in the public access test. Besides the general test Shiloh also demonstrated two of her tasks wheelchair pulling and retrieving dropped items. We passed with flying colors!