Sunday, 2 April 2017

Service Dog Training: Day 1

Today was the first day of training, where we worked with all six dogs in the graduating class.  All looked to be labs of some variety (easing one of my worries about grooming issues with a long haired retriever).

I was really nervous as we waited for training to start.  I couldn't concentrate to read, so I ended up flipping madly through TV (irritating Dave to no end).  I was certain that I was going to mess everything up to the point where the trainers would decide they could never trust us with a dog.

But then we actually got started and it (of course) went much better than I feared.  They had us practice the sit, stay, down, come and forward commands with all the dogs.

At first we practiced in a small room, with the trainers providing distractions.  Dave and I both did pretty well, if I dare say so myself.  We got a few minor corrections from the trainers but overall seemed to be able to get our dogs to do what was needed.

The trainers reminded us that the dogs know the commands which we are giving them.  The dogs have proved they can do it.  Now it's the parents' turn.  And, in a pattern familiar to those dealing with autism, the dogs will test the boundaries with new handlers to see how strict the rules will be.

After we graduated from the room, we took the dogs outside and then through a mall.  We learned how to correct a persistently lagging or forward-surging dog: by doing unexpected course changes, forcing the dog to pay attention.  We practiced the command structure: dog's name, command, praise (if followed), correction (if not). 

As I write this, we're waiting for the trainers to come and let us know which specific dog we've been assigned.  It's nerve-wracking, but less anxious-upsetting than this morning.  More like waiting for Christmas.

They provided a bag of supplies, including grooming tools, food and water bowls and leash extensions.  They really have thought of everything.

Tomorrow, I'll let you know who's the newest member of the family.

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