Service dogs offer great help to people with disabilities. But, to get the most out of them, these loyal companions must go through extensive training.
In addition to earning a service animal certification, a canine should be able to perform disability-related tasks. Here are some of the basic skills guide dogs need to be taught.
Before teaching a service animal various assistance tasks, they must know first the basic obedience commands, like come, sit, stay, heel, and down. They should recognize, understand, and respond to these orders. This training is crucial in the prevention of disruptive behaviors.
Since there’s no room for error when it comes to people’s safety, service animals need to execute these commands correctly. This drill includes:
- Name recognition
- Clicker training
- Other basic commands (retrieve, under, leave it, etc.)
Settling Quietly for Long Periods
Service dogs usually perform specific tasks, but they also spend many hours sitting or lying beside their owners. Having the ability to settle quietly for long periods is therefore vital, especially in public, which is loaded with stimuli. For instance, in a crowded restaurant or on an airplane, they would have to be still as people pass by them. Remaining calm can be difficult in these situations, but it’s necessary.
Canines that can’t walk properly on a leash shouldn’t be taken to public places. It’s an animal companion’s job to guide their handler while doing errands or accompany them when they travel. They must stay by their handler’s side, stop when they do, start when they walk, and not wander.
Those who already have a guide dog can still teach their canine this skill by walking with them around their house on a leash. Their handler should praise them exaggeratedly, so the pet knows they’re doing well. If they need to run, they should encourage their canine companion to catch up with them by saying “hurry” excitedly and repeatedly.
Gradually, handlers can take this activity outdoors. When in public, owners should walk the other way until their pet moves back to their side. Always remember to reward them when they execute commands given to them.
Once all the other skills are mastered, canines can be trained for more specific tasks their handler requires assistance with. Here are some examples:
- Alerting of danger
- Assisting during a seizure
- Getting help
- Guiding movement
- Determining allergens
- Retrieving medicine
- Stopping self-destructive actions
These are just some skills every guide dog must know. Before they’re given to their handler, their requirements should be completed, including their service animal registry.