Perception and Service Dogs

This entry is part 21 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training
An incorrectly-worded service dog sign ("Seeing Eye Dog or ADA certified")

Don’t do this.

I stopped on my way into the shop to take a photo of the sign on their door. Then I went in, did my shopping, and then gently mentioned during checkout that they might want to revise the wording on their no-pets sign to be more accommodating (and legally acceptable). The shop owners, two women behind the counter, were not aware that their wording was exclusive to many users of service dogs and also not even feasible — there is no such thing as “ADA-certified” — and were eager to learn more. One took notes as I answered questions.

The clerk at a convenience store smiled as Mindy and I approached the counter to pay for my drink. “Your dog is cute, ” she said. “What exactly does she do for you?”

I explained that I was training Mindy, that she didn’t assist me or anyone yet, but that in general it was considered unmannerly to ask a user of a service dog about their medical issues. The young woman hadn’t realized the implication of her question and agreed that it could be invasive.

Most violations of service animal law are not intentional, or even from a position against service animals. Many people use “Seeing Eye dog” as a generic term, without realizing that the Seeing Eye is just one specific organization training dogs for just one specific disability. Saying “Seeing Eye dogs only” is like saying only persons with a specific brand of wheelchair may enter — but their intentions were probably friendly. Continue reading

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival – a Call for Posts

This entry is part 20 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival graphic. A square graphic, with a lavender background. A leggy purple dog of unidentifiable breed, with floppy ears and a curly tail, in silhouette, is in the center. Words are in dark blue in a perky typeface. I’ve been given the opportunity to host the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival, a collection of relevant blog posts on the topic of service dogs and their people.

This edition of the ADBC will go live on December 16, 2014. This round’s theme is:

Perceive.

This is an official call for posts! If you’d like to participate, write a post on service dogs, interpreting the theme “perceive” in any way you like. Continue reading

Training & Gaming at Gen Con

This entry is part 19 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

Mindy joined me at Gen Con this year. Because you can’t buy that kind of socialization experience. What is Gen Con, you may ask? Well, “Gen Con, LLC produces the largest consumer hobby, fantasy, science fiction and adventure game convention in North America. Gen Con, The Best Four Days In Gaming!™”

(Actually, I think it’s the world’s largest?)

A girl in a wheelchair is accompanied by a Golden Retriever wearing a service vest and carrying a plushed terrier on his back, dressed as Sir Didymus from the film Labyrinth.

Mindy wasn’t the only service dog at Gen Con. Here’s an assistance dog appearing as Sir Didymus (from Labyrinth).

It’s a gaming (and SFF, miniatures, film, etc.) convention which takes over much of Indianapolis each year. I posted on Facebook that Mindy wasn’t impressed by the 60,000 people, but that was an exaggeration; this year’s actual count was 56, 614 attendees. But of course, most of those people came more than one day, so turnstile attendance was 184,699. The con runs five days, but Mindy attended only three, including the two busiest. And she was a rock star. Rock star, I tell you. Continue reading

The Training Game and What It Teaches: The Rat Is Always Right

Many clicker trainers are familiar with what is almost universally known by the ridiculously simple name of The Training Game. It’s a shaping game played among humans, and most often a learner is sent from the room while the group determines a (physically and socially safe) behavior to shape, and then a trainer shapes the learner with the clicker to perform the chosen behavior.

There are a number of variations on this game, many useful. The trainer (and observers) can learn a great deal by doing this! and it’s a great way to test various training concepts and approaches. There is a variation I have not used in nearly a decade, however, with good reason: It broke the learner.

Continue reading

Fireworks Without the Freak-Out

This entry is part 18 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training
Fireworks on the beach on the Fourth of July. ...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So it was the Fourth of July this past weekend, Independence Day, with all the challenges that brings for pets and their people.

I was traveling with Mindy, the guide dog in training, and we did fireworks. With flying colors (terrible pun intended). Continue reading

Puppy’s First Tornado – Preparedness for Pets

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series Storm Watch
Tornado warning

Tornado warning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Spring came very late to Indiana this year, and I got complacent. With a lot fewer spring storms, I didn’t prep for tornados like I should have. So when the warning sirens went off a few minutes ago and I saw that a tornado had been sighted, I was unprepared.

This is dumb. If you’re lucky, you get up to half an hour of tornado warning, if it’s considerate enough to touch down at a distance and with an observable and predictable path. The average warning time with today’s radar equipment is about 13 minutes, according to NOAA. But you might have just a few minutes, if that.

So I’m writing this post from my basement, waiting for the tornado to pass (it seems to be heading north of us) and making plans to improve my storm preparations. Continue reading

Puppy Goes Hiking

This entry is part 17 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

Just a fun post of a day out with Mindy!

We went hiking at Turkey Run State Park. Mindy wore her Gentle Leader, which we don’t generally use but which she’s supposed to be desensitized to, just in case it’s ever needed in the future. I figured the best way to desensitize her is to put it on just before something really fascinating and fun, so this is her second walk/hike with it. She’s already used to it, because who can fuss about a (properly-fitted) Gentle Leader when we’ve got a whole woods to explore? Continue reading

Puppy Training on a FitPAWS Donut

This entry is part 16 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training

So apparently I forgot to publish this blog post — sorry!

Set the Wayback Machine for a few months ago, when Mindy was small enough to use this size FitPAWS Donut. The weather was too bad (sub-zero Fahrenheit) for puppies to play outdoors for long, and this was not only a great energy burn, but an important skill development for a dog expected to handle lots of surfaces and challenges in her career. Continue reading

Toronto Training – a service dog in training hits the road

This entry is part 15 of 25 in the series Service Dog Training
English: Panorama of Toronto. Français : Image...

Panorama of Toronto. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I just made a short trip to Toronto with Mindy the Guide Dogs for the Blind puppy, and she was amazing. So if you don’t want to hear puppy bragging, you might want to move on — but if you want to hear about new challenges and how we met them (and how we used previous training to better handle these new situations), keep reading. Continue reading