The story of a boy living with Type 1 and his family's journey to raise and train a diabetic alert dog.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

It Takes Work Handling a Service Dog

I've said it before and I'll say it again: 

"Taking a service dog to school is a big responsibility for a child; working with a child at school is challenging for a service dog." 

Given this, I wasn't surprised when Austin told me he wanted to take Bo to school less often.

"Why," I asked. 

"It's a lot of work handling him in the cafeteria, Austin said. "He goes for the food on the floor and he doesn't always respond to my command to leave."  

In honesty, I noticed this problem a couple of weeks ago when I took Bo to school to watch Austin play in a basketball game. Bo seemed to go for every wrapper and food crumb on the floor and bleachers. Previously, Austin had mentioned Bo was eating food off the floor but I didn't understand the extent of the behavior until I was on the other end of the leash.

I've never considered Bo to have a strong leave command but he had never demonstrated the blatant disregard for the command that I witnessed at the game. It was clear to me Bo had been practicing 'floor surfing' at school. Austin had allowed him to get away with this behavior enough times at school that it became a default behavior  one that is not only inappropriate for a service dog, but also potentially life threatening.

So, in light of this situation we are putting a plan in place to work on re-training Bo on the leave command. I have a few ideas of how to tackle this problem but because I want expert guidance, I called our trainer Helen. We are going to train in the cafeteria of a local college to simulate the environment Austin is finding challenging. The session will involve Austin handling Bo and and me observing, while Helen works to re-teach boy and pup on how to achieve a strong leave.

Austin's really excited to meet with Helen. It's been two years since our last training session. As for me, I'm looking forward to watching boy and pup work under her direction. She is a gifted teacher and Austin is an eager learner. In fact, this morning he shared with me his intent to refine his handling skills and to really work with Bo on keeping a tight heel and a strong leave.

It takes work to handle a service dog. Training never ends for the pup or the human. I'm pleased Austin is mature enough to realize he and Bo have more work to do in order to make them the best team they can be. In fact, when I mentioned I'd send a note to his guidance counselor to let her know this new plan, Austin told me he already spoke to her. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Listening Dog

The other day I was reminded that Bo is a listening dog. Austin had just finished checking his blood sugar after a low alert from Bo. I asked Austin if he wanted to take glucose tablets or if he wanted me to get a juice. I was already on my way to the kitchen when Austin replied he wanted juice. I turned around to see Bo was behind me carrying a juice box. He had retrieved it from Austin’s nightstand where we always keep a juice box.

Bo has the 'get juice' command under good stimulus control  only retrieving a juice from the nightstand when given the command. When I had asked Austin if he wanted me to get a juice, Bo heard his command 'get juice' and responded as he has been trained. 

Related Video Posts: Retrieving a Juice Box on Command (from 10-19-2014)