I love teaching my service dog, Chase new things regularly. He’s so eager to learn and loves to work for me. In fact, if I don’t have him work enough, he’s been known to get a bit mischievous 😂 It’s important as he learns new tasks, to regularly practice other recently learned skills to help it become a pattern. Lifting my footplates on my wheelchair has always been very difficult for me as it requires me to bend down, which increases pain in my back and shoulders.
When I initially started the process to train this task, I experimented with different terms to use (footplate up, footplate down etc..), however after a few short minutes, I realized I didn’t need to be so specific. Chase is extremely smart and he realized on his own that if I said the word “footplate”, it meant to change the footplate position. So he knows if it’s up, it needs to go down and vice versa. If he gets confused, a simple, “Try again” puts him on the right track of which way to move it.
When we’re learning a new task, I treat heavily, especially once he accomplishes it for the first time. Some people use clickers for their service dogs, however, Chase and I were both trained to use the word, “Tip” which means we made a contract. If I say “Tip”, no matter what, he gets a treat. The follow through on that contract is so important and establishes trust. Chase does know and respond to a clicker, but I’ve reserved that for times when I need him to do something extremely important immediately. For instance, if he sees a rabbit in the yard next door and barks, I first try the “Chase come” command – if he ignores me, I click repeatedly and he comes bounding up the stairs of our deck, knowing he will get a good reward. We have a large backyard and he hears it from inside our house with the door slightly cracked. I use the clicker very rarely and judiciously since I want it to remain my “emergency” response tool.
I’m so proud of Chase and love the bond that we have grown between us. He is full of love, loyalty and willingness to work.
Stay tune for more posts, photos & videos on my life with Chase.