Disabilities Service Dog Spinal Cord Injuries

Chase Begins to Learn Foot Manipulation for Me

Since moving my legs very far on their own is a problem for me, I’ve had to lift or slide them with my upper arms, damaged from overuse. My goal for Chase is to be able to take my feet off my footplate, and place it back on the footplate from a variety of positions, for instance, from front and side position. I started with teaching him to put my foot back on my footplate from the front first. Since I use this position when I have Chase tug socks and pant legs off, it would be nice if upon completion, he could replace my foot, if I desired. Emphasis on, “if desired.” I’m separating out the commands of helping undress versus moving my feet and footplates since each situation may be different. Once we’re all done with training, although it might be comical, I don’t want him associating moving my foot off the footplate with pulling off my shoes, socks and pants legs 😂

When I trained this, I would say, the command “foot” and have him touch the bottom of my foot.  If he touched, I tipped him (gave him a treat). Next I gave the push command on my foot and again rewarded for success. A word on my method of treating; if he has shown me he can get at a specific point consistently, then I continue to expect that. I keep encouraging and don’t treat until he completes the minimum skill level. If he continues to not reach that minimum, we either go back or take a break. I always try to end on a good note by giving him a command he knows well so I can treat him. Once he performs the sequence to a certain level multiple times, we move on to the next step.

As far as having him apply the correct amount of lift and angle to my foot, Chase sort of figured that on his own. He swiftly realized that a level push would not do it so he used his whole snout to apply a forward motion with a toss up force. I have to say his ingenuity is impressive!

We’re still practicing footplate manipulation separate from foot manipulation.  He loves to push up and down my footplates.  Next foot task will be teaching him to place my foot back on the plate when my leg is hanging down on the side of the footplate.  I know between our team effort, we’ll figure it out.

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