Tru here. Best time to begin training for a Service Dog candidate is 7 weeks of age (altho that is younger age than many reputable breeders are willing to separate mother and puppy). Husband and I drove to pick up “Partner” Labra-Doodle at 8-weeks-old, and this photo was taken on his first day with us. Had him one week now, so he is currently 9 weeks of age.
At seven weeks, it is said that the single best “test” of Service Dog trainability, is voluntary retrieve. At eight weeks, Partner brought the item back four times out of four, for first try at the command. You might say I was encouraged and excited !! If puppy does not retrieve item, that does not mean he will not be good candidate, but if he DOES retrieve item, then chances are very high that puppy is highly motivated to partnership thinking with a human.
In one week, Partner’s single most important response is that he has learned importance of voice words. Like most species, dogs have an intricate
language, but voice is not primary language — body language is primary communication. So learning that voice with words are primary communication is a very VERY big deal. After one week of work, Partner now responds pretty well to his name and the command “potty”. Not completely reliable on them, but I do not expect total reliability at this age or stage of training. Began new command of “sit” a few days ago, and he is learning that well also. Since he sits so often now, newest command is “RELEASE”, saying that most recent command has now finished. My hand signal for “RELEASE” is a hand sweeping from myself outward in an arc.
At this age, command of “Potty” and name are just simply the easiest to teach. Any time he is in process of pottying, we repeat “Good POTTY” in a high, up-beat happy tone. To start with, I only used the POTTY word while he was in process of executing the command (or the term becomes meaningless). Now that he is beginning to understand, have added “Lets go POTTY” when leaving the doorway, and the encouragement/reinforcement of stating “Good POTTY” while he is going.
For hand signal, I usually snap my fingers or pat my hip when giving name command (depending on circumstances and how well sound will carry). Have yet to add hand sign for command of “Potty”, but it will be American Sign Language symbol for “restroom” (since that is what our family has used for many years, and I can remember it easily).
Since my husband was counselor at school for the deaf, and family has used small bits thru the years when communicating with full mouth or across a busy room, hand commands for our family dogs have traditionally been a mix of “standard” dog-training commands, and American Sign Language.
One of the next commands introduced will be “LOOK” with two of my fingers pressing immediately below my eyes. This is an important command for training time. The other will be “STAY” (which I first introduced a few minutes ago).
Choosing a Dementia Service-Assistance Dog at https://truthfulkindness.com/2016/08/16/choosing-a-dementia-service-assistance-dog/
Joan Froling’s notes for Temperament Testing at http://www.iaadp.org/temperament.html ;
Tracey Martin’s suggestions re puppy prospects at http://www.psychdogpartners.org/resources/getting-a-dog/pick-puppy-service-dog-prospect ;
For past 20yrs, I have used basic ideas from Teamwork “Top Dog” series for training at http://www.activedogs.com/product/89/teamwork-service-dog-training-dvd/ ;
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Found this so interesting. Our older dog is 14 so have been thinking about the future in dog terms and think we will go this route. Thanks for the info
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Warning: it IS a tremendous amount of work. Currently not much sleep and whenever he is awake it requires almost all my concentration. At this stage, training a Service Dog is every bit as much work as human infant ! — Tru