Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sit Working Service Dogs and Long Leashes

A trainer told me to approach sit and down in a new way with Coco. Instead of saying sit and stay I just say sit and keep her at that unless I release her or give her another command. And to do this with all of her commands.

I've been doing this in the park. With the 8 foot lead and the 33 foot long leash. She has been doing great and I think it has made a difference in her keeping her focus. She knows she is to wait until I tell her something else. We are working on this almost everytime I let her out and we go back inside. It isn't a dominance thing, it is a reinforcing a word and actions association that we use when she is working.

I still like that she knows stay. When I an outside and I want her to stay inside I tell her, stay or your going to stay home and it is more of a relaxed stay. Which could be why it was more challenging to keep focused on stay. Now that I think about it, could be. Now there is no confusion. When I tell her to wait for me she doesn't bark again to come in the house. And when I praise her for waiting so nicely she gets such a glowing smile on her face. When I tell her to stop, she stops in her tracks now. And when I tell her the other commands she does them and waits until I say something else or release her. It's a lot easier for me too. More clear and less complicated.

Some trainers use a remote collar. But so far, the long leash has been sufficient.

Yesterday we were walking and a dog was barking at her and she looked at it once and then at me and we kept on walking. She wasn't interested. And we were doing long leash training so this was good. The criteria for a service dog is that as long as a dog or a person does not approach aggressively they are to be non-reactive. They are to keep their focus on you. Especially, with being visually impaired and having balance and processing challenges, this is crucial.

Things always take me longer than I think they will. If I could handle more I could have done all of this much faster. But the pace has suited us just fine.

It is interesting having a service dog. She is a working dog and everyday we work on training and then she helps me too. She now consistantly takes me to my car when we are finished with our walk in the park. Pretty cool. And she is always at the ready should I get temporarily blinded by a quick change of lighting or if I get dizzy from the wind. This is really great.

I used to feel so much anxiety about going places and now the only bit of anxiety comes from people and their loose dogs. In the parks around here most of the people are great. Most people who do let their dogs run call them close when another dog's approaching.

But I have found there are a lot of people who walk around, talking on their cell phones, who are oblivious to anyone around them. People with little fluffy dogs tend to be the worst. And these days, with long leashes, there really isn't any excuse for being so careless with someone else's health. A fifteen foot leash is more than most people would ever need to give their dog some freedom and still be able to bring them back, with a command or by pulling the leash in. It's just good manners. I wish they could be in my shoes for twenty seconds and feel that sense of anxiety and deciding to turn around or end my walk because someone else has decided that the center of the universe is wherever they are.

I know that sounds harsh but what they don't understand is that I don't know their dog. Neither does my service dog. If their dog comes running up to us, we don't know what is going to happen. If they are around a bend and 50 feet away I don't know if their dog will come when it is called. So when a person with disabilities is walking with their dog there is a reason why they have a service dog. No-one else needs to know why. They just need to respect that the person with a service dog needs some space. They need to know that they are being responsible dog owners.

I love it when we come across people who enjoy their dogs and leash on or off, bring them in when we need to pass them on the trail. It touches my heart that they are considerate. Consideration these days, maybe always, is highly under-rated it seems. But I always appreciate it.

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