Love to be teaching again 1


Yesterday I taught my service dogs on the town class. I am so so happy to be teaching again! I have always loved teaching, no matter what the subject. That was one of my favorite parts of grad school– especially teaching the Genetics and Society class for non-majors. Now I am teaching people how to train their own service dogs. I have done this informally for years, and attempted to do it formally a few times, but this class is the first time I have been well enough to stick with it, and had students who want to put the effort in.

I didn’t realize I needed to remind Phyllis with Avalanche about class, so at first it was just us (Brad, Hestia, and me) and Barbara with Tripper (and her friend Mick). For some reason, Hestia REALLY likes Tripper and finds it very hard to ignore him. Luckily Barbara was really patient with me as I trained through the temporary loss of Hestia’s brain. We think it might have something to do with the fact that Tripper is an intact male, and Hestia really isn’t around many intact males.

We went into TJ Maxx and we focused on two things: regaining attention lost to distracting people and store displays, and on walking nicely in the store. Barbara and Tripper have been working a lot on the watch command, and I could tell! Tripper did a great job watching when something distracting was nearby, and Barbara and Mick were learning to negotiate backing the wheelchair up when Tripper didn’t respond. Then when Tripper looked at Barbara, even for just a second, she would reward a lot.

Nerd alert! For those of you who are training buffs, we were using both positive reinforcement and negative punishment training. Positive reinforcement training uses the application of something good (treats) to increase the performance of a behavior (looking at Barbara). Negative punishments involves taking away something good (the person/display) to reduce the unwanted behavior (pulling or not paying attention). These are the two out of the four quadrants of learning that I use in dog training. These are casually considered “positive training”. Older training methods involve “positive punishment”, where a punishment (a yank on the collar) is applied to decrease a behavior. The last quadrant is negative reinforcement, where a negative stimulus (a shock) is removed to increase a behavior. That’s just sad.

Anyway, Tripper did a really good job! He had a hard time with the leather purses, but got really good at ignoring people and even Hestia walking by him in favor of getting good treats from Barbara!

Then we worked on walking nicely in the store, which is trained very similarly with rewards for walking nicely, and when he loses focus, backing up until he focuses on Barbara, then rewarding and moving forward again.

By the time 40 minutes had passed, Tripper had had enough! He is just 10 months old, so this was a lot for him! We went outside the store, and just then Phyllis and Avalanche showed up. Tripper and Avalanche have never met before, so we spent a bit of time working on attention while the dogs got closer to each other. Both Tripper and Avalanche were very good even though they were both hot and tired.

Barbara, Tripper, and Mick drove over to Panera after that, while the rest of us walked over. When we arrived at Panera, Barbara demonstrated some of the training she’d been doing with Tripper, and Phyllis with Avalanche got to practice with an interesting garbage can!

When we went inside, Brad got me a green passion smoothie and it was SO tasty! Wow! Mango and spinach and some other stuff, yum.

The rest of the class we spent talking about service dog related laws and how to deal with access challenges. It was really great to help educate Barbara and Phyllis, and it’s always good to have Brad around for law discussions! I remember when I first started how confusing all the laws were, and how unsure I was of myself when handling access challenges. After 45 min of discussing service dog related stuff, our class ended, but we hung around longer to talk more about both service dogs and general stuff. It was a lot of fun!

Tripper and Avalanche did great in Panera! This was only Tripper’s second time in a restaurant ever, and I was so impressed! He was very nearly perfect, aside from one moment of interest in the ground. But that was quickly retrained! Hestia was happy to take a break, too.

We talked a bit about my restaurant philosophy. Some people with service dogs are extremely strict about what position their dog is in at all times. For example, if they are sitting they only want their dog to be in a down next to them. Personally, if I am feeling well when I am sitting and taking a break, I want my dog to be able to take a bit of a break too. Service work is hard! So I allow my dog to shift positions, to stand, lie down, or sit as they feel comfortable– so long as they are not in an aisle, disturbing people, eating food, etc. I think letting the dog take breaks is important in keeping their stamina and working life longer.

After class, we had to run to Walmart to get Ollie more chicken, and Hestia was PERFECT!

Brad got some excellent pictures of the class, and they are posted below. Enjoy!

Veronica, a woman with long brown hair wearing a light blue lacey dress, has her back to the camera.  Hestia, a small black and white dog wearing her purple mesh vest, sits next to Veronica, looking up at her.  About 10 feet away Mick, a man with long white hair and a grey shirt, stands behind Barbara's wheelchair.  Barbara, a woman with short grayish-blond hair and a pink shirt, is looking at her Golden Retriever puppy Tripper, who has a blue vest on.
Veronica, a woman with long brown hair wearing a light blue lacey dress, has her back to the camera. Hestia, a small black and white dog wearing her purple mesh vest, sits next to Veronica, looking up at her. About 10 feet away Mick, a man with long white hair and a grey shirt, stands behind Barbara’s wheelchair. Barbara, a woman with short grayish-blond hair and a pink shirt, is looking at her Golden Retriever puppy Tripper, who has a blue vest on.
Tripper is lying down next to Mick and Barbara outside T J Maxx, while Veronica and Hestia are about 5 feet away next to the door.  Hestia looks at the camera with her tongue out.
Tripper is lying down next to Mick and Barbara outside T J Maxx, while Veronica and Hestia are about 5 feet away next to the door. Hestia looks at the camera with her tongue out.
Everyone is in the same position, except Tripper is looking to the left, and Hestia is lying down and looking to the right.
Everyone is in the same position, except Tripper is looking to the left, and Hestia is lying down and looking to the right.
Inside TJ Maxx Barbara treats Tripper as he lies down ignoring a woman passing him with a shopping cart.
Inside TJ Maxx Barbara treats Tripper as he lies down ignoring a woman passing him with a shopping cart.
Tripper stays with Barbara, but does steal a glance at Mick walking past.  Veronica and Hestia provide another distraction about 8 feet behind Tripper.
Tripper stays with Barbara, but does steal a glance at Mick walking past. Veronica and Hestia provide another distraction about 8 feet behind Tripper.
Distraction testing, this time with the dogs about 4 feet apart.  Both dogs are looking at their handlers.
Distraction testing, this time with the dogs about 4 feet apart. Both dogs are looking at their handlers.
Tripper and Hestia are lying down about 2 feet away from each other.  Hestia is looking at Veronica, and Tripper is getting a treat from Barbara.
Tripper and Hestia are lying down about 2 feet away from each other. Hestia is looking at Veronica, and Tripper is getting a treat from Barbara.
Tripper has a fondness for leather handbags, so he is being tested in this picture where he is looking at Barbara with handbags in the background.
Tripper has a fondness for leather handbags, so he is being tested in this picture where he is looking at Barbara with handbags in the background.
Tripper is lying on the ground next to Barbara's wheelchair, giving a great Golden smile at the camera!
Tripper is lying on the ground next to Barbara’s wheelchair, giving a great Golden smile at the camera!
Hestia lies down on the floor and looks off to the right.  Her purple vest is easy to see in this picture.
Hestia lies down on the floor and looks off to the right. Her purple vest is easy to see in this picture.
Tripper is working on walking with Barbara, and though he started to get out of position, in this picture he is returning his focus to Barbara with a loose leash.
Tripper is working on walking with Barbara, and though he started to get out of position, in this picture he is returning his focus to Barbara with a loose leash.
Tripper walks next to Barbara, and steals a glance over his shoulder at the camera.
Tripper walks next to Barbara, and steals a glance over his shoulder at the camera.
Mick pushes Barbara away from the camera, and Tripper walks alongside.  Veronica and Hestia are about 6 feet behind them giving pointers.
Mick pushes Barbara away from the camera, and Tripper walks alongside. Veronica and Hestia are about 6 feet behind them giving pointers.
Same description as the last picture, except this picture is taken from the front!
Same description as the last picture, except this picture is taken from the front!
More work on walking nicely, this time with Barbara giving a treat and talking in a happy voice!
More work on walking nicely, this time with Barbara giving a treat and talking in a happy voice!
A black and white photo of Avalanche, a giant white Great Pyrenees, approaching.
A black and white photo of Avalanche, a giant white Great Pyrenees, approaching.
Standing outside of TJ Maxx from left to right are Mick with Barbara with Tripper, Veronica with Hestia, and Phyllis with Avalanche.  Phyllis' hair is up in a bun, and she is wearing a pink checked shirt.  Tripper is looking at Avalanche, while Hestia and Avalanche are looking at the camera.
Standing outside of TJ Maxx from left to right are Mick with Barbara with Tripper, Veronica with Hestia, and Phyllis with Avalanche. Phyllis’ hair is up in a bun, and she is wearing a pink checked shirt. Tripper is looking at Avalanche, while Hestia and Avalanche are looking at the camera.
On the walk to Panera, accessibility fail!  This is a marked street crossing.  There is a curb cut from the sidewalk we are walking on to the street.  However, at the other end of the crossing, the curb cut is missing!
On the walk to Panera, accessibility fail! This is a marked street crossing. There is a curb cut from the sidewalk we are walking on to the street. However, at the other end of the crossing, the curb cut is missing!
Phyllis with Avalanche and Veronica with Hestia walk to Panera.  Hestia is doing a perfect hands free heel.
Phyllis with Avalanche and Veronica with Hestia walk to Panera. Hestia is doing a perfect hands free heel.
A shot from above in Panera.  Veronica sits with Hestia on her lap.  Phyllis looks at Veronica's law card, while Avalanche lies on the floor.
A shot from above in Panera. Veronica sits with Hestia on her lap. Phyllis looks at Veronica’s law card, while Avalanche lies on the floor.
Veronica signs Barbara and Tripper's Manners Evaluation, which she forgot to do last month!  Veronica is holding Hestia away from the table.
Veronica signs Barbara and Tripper’s Manners Evaluation, which she forgot to do last month! Veronica is holding Hestia away from the table.
Veronica gives the signed Manners Evaluation to Barbara while smiling at the camera.
Veronica gives the signed Manners Evaluation to Barbara while smiling at the camera.
The illustrious photographer, Brad!  He is a bearded man wearing white linen pants and blazer, a grey shirt, a grey tie with white and pink roses, a white hat, and a black dog pin on his lapel.  He is smiling broadly.
The illustrious photographer, Brad! He is a bearded man wearing white linen pants and blazer, a grey shirt, a grey tie with white and pink roses, a white hat, and a black dog pin on his lapel. He is smiling broadly.

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