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Special Needs Dogs: How Are Service Dogs Trained?

By    |   Tuesday, 06 Jan 2015 06:33 PM

Special-needs service dogs require special training all the way from their puppy socializing days to their placement with a disabled owner.

Many organizations across the country make every effort to provide the most suitable breeds of well-trained dogs to the people whose lives will be greatly enhanced by their new companions.

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Canine Companions for Independence has five regional training centers and provides assistance dogs to "children and adults with physical, cognitive, and developmental disabilities," as well as the deaf and hard of hearing. Candidate puppies are fostered until they are 14 to 16 months old, then they attend a six-nine month training course.

The first semester of training includes basic obedience commands, working around wheelchairs, and learning to retrieve. The second semester the dogs learn more than 40 commands and certain special skills such as "pull" and "light-switch."

They also learn to work in a variety of environments. The final semester involves team training in which the dog and its new owner train together on the "proper handling and care of the Canine Companion." A graduation ceremony celebrates the achievement of both the special-needs service dog and its new owner.

Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) has developed unique techniques to train their special-needs dogs. After the puppies return from their foster homes, they are not only trained in basic commands, they are also trained in "intelligence disobedience."

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This means "if they are given an unsafe command, they are taught to not obey it — for example: refusing to step out into the street when there is oncoming traffic."

GDB service dogs learn to lead a person in a straight line, to stop when there are changes in elevation such as curbs, to stop if there is an overhead obstacle, and to avoid any obstacles in their path. An important note is that special-needs service dogs cannot determine a route to a new destination and cannot, of course, read traffic signals. It is up to their person to know where they are and what route they are taking.

Various training methods are used by GDB to teach their special-needs dogs how to best assist their owners, such as clicker training and food rewards.

Once the dogs are deemed ready, they enter "class training," which is when they are matched with a potential new owner who must learn how to communicate with the dog in real-life situations.

Graduation is "a special day filled with a lot of love, as puppy raisers, graduates, and Guide Dogs all take the stage to celebrate their achievements," according to GDB.

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Special-needs service dogs require special training all the way from their puppy socializing days to their placement with a disabled owner. Many organizations across the country make every effort to provide the most suitable breeds of well-trained dogs to their new owners.
special needs dog, service, trained, disabled, owner
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2015-33-06
Tuesday, 06 Jan 2015 06:33 PM
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