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Training a "helper" dog

October 10th, 2005, 06:52 PM
This isn`t something I really talk about here, but I have several really serious medical problems going on to the point that right now I have to spend most of my time on bedrest & being really careful about what I do physicly. In the next month or so I should be recovering back to at least normal for me, but its likely these episodes are going to occur more frequently as my medical problems progress.

This weekend I was pretty much on my own (I do have mid-size kids & a DH but they were out of town) and spending lots of quality naptime with our 10 month old pup. This got me wondering if there were any sort of things we could work on that could eventually get her to be a real help. We`re pretty sure she`s a chow/BC mix, she`s very smart, but still has the looking out for #1 attitude- she`s very teachable & will do anything for a treat, but so far is only reliable for a sit/stay & usually for a drop it. She`s not a natural
fetcher, but that`s something the kids are working on with her. So far we`ve only done puppy class with her, but plan to do at least basic obediance soon.

I`ve only done basic 'good pet' obediance training on our previous dogs & like I said this was just a thought I had; I know some of you have extensive experience with all sorts of training. So I was wondering if this is something best left to a professional to work on if we decide to pursue the idea, or if there might begames we could work on "bring .... to mama", things like that. I`m not looking to get her certified as a service dog but it would be neat if she were able to learn a few things to help me out.(she`s only about 40lb so I wouldn`t be expecting her to pull a wheelchair around or be able to lift me)

I`d love to hear some feedback, mostly at this stage to get an idea if it sounds at all practical or if I should just forget about it for now.

October 10th, 2005, 09:20 PM
I would figure out all the skills you would like your dog to have and then find a trainer who can help you out with teaching them. Once you have a few of them under your belt you should be able to teach more on your own.
Before you get into this I would suggest taking him through more advanced traiining classes so he has a solid base to begin with.

October 10th, 2005, 09:41 PM
There is no reason you could not teach your dog certain tricks to help you around the house. It's not as if you could ruin your dog by teaching her yourself rather than getting a professional to.

What you need to do is to figure out exactly what it is you want her to do, then break it down into many small steps. You will start with the first step and add on each one after that until she knows the whole trick.]

For intance, I though my dog to open doors this way. I gave him the end of a rope and told him to 'pull' it. When he grabbed it, I pulled back slightly (causing him to also pull back) and praised him. A few times of this and he understood that 'pull' meant to grab the rope and tug then release quickly.

Then I attached the rope to the door and told him to 'pull' the rope and praising when he tugged the rope and then only when he opened the door a little ways. Then I began telling him to 'pull' the rope and 'open' the door and praising when the door was wide enough to walk through. Then I started only saying 'open'.

And now when I tell him to open the door, he runs over to it and pulls the door wide open, and holds it until I walk through ('cause if he lets go early, he knows I'll just tell him to open it again.).

Almost any dog can find objects (many different types by name) and bring them to you, turn light switches on/off, open/close doors, pull things, carry things, and so on. The internet is full of pet tricks you could teach and modify for your own needs.

You can teach these commands right along side the obedience commands. And the dog will be happy as it now has a job to do. And border collies, especially, need to have a job.

October 10th, 2005, 09:58 PM
A friend of my Mum's is deaf and she trained her miniature poodle to be a hearing dog - without any outside help. She told us that once Dodger was a year old she would show us how to begin training him but NOT before.

I agree that making a list of things is great but be careful not to rush anything in your excitement (I tend to do that which has resulted in half-learned tricks :o )

Being that your dog is not a natural retriever may prove to be a large obstacle to overcome. Retrieving is often used as an indicator of a service dog's potential; as a puppy, they are shown/teased with an object and then its thrown. If the dog retrieves it (at least partially), they will be trained to be a service dog. The theory is that a dog who retrieves naturally can be taught to do just about anything. You'll have to take small steps with lots of praise - try getting her used to running after and bringing back things that she likes - while also getting her used to having different things in her mouth...

But don't worry, my dog isn't a natural born retriever either, he's a hound but loves to retrieve. It can take longer to master but its entirely possible!

October 10th, 2005, 10:07 PM
Check out the thread, how to catch a frisbee. I have posted the steps for fetch and catch.
If you have the skills for training, breaking down steps, putting them together, etc then go ahead and do it yourself. Experienced trainers tend to have lots of ideas on the easiest and less complicated ways to teach. For example, say you were teaching fetch, throwing something across the room or yard and trying to get them to bring it back is not the best way to start. It can get frustrating if you are making steps more difficult for yourself.
Having a solid background in training makes it much easier to teach more complicated skills.

October 11th, 2005, 04:46 PM
I'd have to agree with Stacey, if you don't have a good background in dog training (and most of us who aren't professionals don't), there's probably someone out there who can help you learn, so you can then teach the dog better... In the mean time, though, keep up the basics, those are the most important anyway :thumbs up

October 11th, 2005, 09:52 PM
Thanks for the ideas. I think we`re going to start with teaching her to open the front door- our older dog taught herself this long ago so it shouldn`t be too hard & will save me a bit of work letting her in & out except for when we need to keep the door latched of course. Anything more is probably going to have to wait until we (I) can actually do more physical work with her & hopefuly get some guidence. I am thinking though of rigging something for her collar so she can carry notes or maybe even a fanny pack thingy if she`ll tolerate it to save me some trips up & downstairs- we *really* need a more accessable house.

I do appreciate the feedback & hopefully we`ll be able to work on somethings eventually- like I`m always reminding my kids, a busy tired doggie is a good doggie so they are at least being good helpers exercising Lola & working on her bits of things she already knows.

October 11th, 2005, 10:07 PM
I have the pack made by neopaws I believe. It is very light weight and easy for the dog to wear. I put it on Montana when we go on long walks so he can carry everything I need to bring.
Check out the thread with the title neopaws for the link to their site.