Kelly and Kane from Largo, FL
Kelly brought her chocolate lab, Kane, to The Doghouse when she was looking to have him trained as a service dog. Her first priority was to achieve a high level of obedience, but she also needed Kane to learn task training so that he could help mitigate her disability. At one of our monthy group classes, we interviewed Kelly to check in and see how things were going with the training and how well things were working out in daily life with Kane.
Our first goal with Kane was to teach him all of his obedience commands, and ensure that he would perform each of these commands in a high distraction environment. This is important for all pet dogs, but it is especially important for service dogs who will be frequently out in public places. We taught Kane loose leash heeling, which is vital for good manners, but is also very important for an owner with balance issues. If Kane pulled on the leash he could potentially upset her balance, which is very counterproductive to his job of helping her with her balance. Furthermore, being close to his owner allows him to be ready at a moment’s notice to provide support through task work, such as balance assist or retrieving dropped objects. He also learned how to perform stationary commands, including the place command, sit stay, and down stay. These are versatile commands that can come in handy in both the home and out in public while Kane is on the job.
In addition to learning these obedience commands, Kane learned a reliable off-leash recall. During his recall training, we incorporated an electric collar to ensure a very high level of consistency in his performance. Recalls are an obedience behavior that are very important for the safety of the dog throughout their life. If you will be having your dog off leash, your dog should be able to perform a recall command whether they are in a low key environment or if a cat runs by. The electric collar is a very useful tool for accomplishing this level of reliability, and we were also able to incorporate it to transfer the rest of Kane’s commands from on leash to off leash.
Once we knew that Kane was reliable around the kennel environment, we were able to start incorporating more advanced training with him. The first part of this was taking the obedience on the road and bringing Kane out into public to generalize everything that he learned. Local parks, festivals, stores, and other locations were all incorporated into the public access segment of the training program. This stage of training is critical, because Kane is responsible for taking care of his owner, and if distractions throw him off he would have a hard time keeping his mind on his job. By the time that Kane graduated from training, the dogs, bicycles, and other distractions that he encountered in town were almost boring to him because he had so much exposure to them and had practiced his obedience in so many different contexts.
The next step in the process was to teach Kane more specifics of the tasks and behaviors that he would need to be able to perform as a service dog. His heeling had to be very consistent in order for him to provide balance support for his owner, and he has to maintain perfect position even during changes of pace or when walking up and down stairs. This level of consistency takes more repetition than the typical heeling for a pet dog, and also requires that the dog be thinking and trying even harder for the entire walk. Kane also needed to learn to heel just as well off leash as he does when on the leash. Rather than holding onto a leash when walking, Kane’s mom holds on to a handle on a harness that is specially designed for mobility dogs. This harness is very comfortable for the dog, is comfortable for the owner, and also shows the general public that the dog is working and should not be distracted.
Another big task that Kane needed to learn was how to retrieve objects that his owner drops. Lots of dogs like to play retrieve with their owners, but a working retrieve is a different type of exercise. The dog needs to bite down hard enough that the object does not fall out of their mouths, but not so hard that they cause damage to the object. The dog needs to bring the object all the way back to their owner, and they need to release the object immediately when asked to do so. These dogs also need to be able to perform he retrieve with a wide range of objects, not just things that they want to pick up. Many large service dog organizations end up “washing out” some of their dogs due to the dog’s reluctance to pick up items that are bulky or metal. Kane had no such issues, and took very well to the retrieve training. We also took his retrieve work a step farther by changing it to other behaviors. In addition to bringing items to his owner, he can carry them while out walking with her, thus chaining together the “hold” and the “heel” commands.
As you can see by Kelly’s video testimonial, all of the training that Kane received while at The Doghouse transferred beautifully. He is now working as her service dog, and is providing a life altering service every day. All this was possible through consistent training, proven methods, and properly motivating Kane for the job at hand. If you want your dog to be as well trained as Kane, please contact us at (727)201-9790 to learn more about our programs.