Travelling outdoors and in busy areas, teaching assistance dogs to take the lead

Travelling outdoors and in busy areas, teaching assistance dogs to take the lead

The goal of producing an assistance dog is to produce a perfect working dog that is well behaved in all situations, and a loving, obedience, affectionate companion.

We teach skills of daily living to our dogs to make them ready for their future responsibility as an assistance dog to a blind or visually impaired person, an autistic child or a person in a wheelchair.

When training an assistance dog to work in public spaces, we teach the correct way of entering and disembarking from the escalator, lift and staircase (open and closed stairs).

We spend a lot of the time training in the shopping malls where we teach the dog to use escalators, lifts and open and closed stairs. It is challenging work for both the trainer and the dogs because of what the dog’s reaction could be; sometimes fear and refusal to enter the escalator, lift and open stairs.

Not all dogs that come in for their training qualifies as an assistance dog. Eventually learning the right way to execute its responsibilities, the dog requires a supportive handler, full of love, patience, perseverance, and experience.

In the initial stages of assistance dog training, the trainer is doing all the work of showing or guiding the dog in its learning phase. During the guided learning phase, the trainer progresses according to the feedback received from the dog’s behaviour. In assistance dog training, we know that learning has taken place when we see a change in the dog’s behaviour.

Once the dog starts executing the behaviour without the handler having asked for it, then we know that we must increase on the dog’s learning experience.

Our dogs spend a fair amount of time going to various public spaces and to central business districts. The purpose being to expose them to escalators, lifts, open and closed stairs but now in a different environment. With this approach, we want to receive the same outcome for the learnt behaviour to be generalized in all working environments.

In the shopping malls, we will take our assistance dogs to supermarkets to expose them to all sections of the store and assess their behaviour. The dog must not be tempted to help themselves to the produce on the shelves!

Our mission is to provide freedom to our owners. This freedom can only be achieved through superior quality trained assistance dogs that are happy to initiate action. In our training, we apply positive training to encourage dogs to be happy to think independently.

This December when the shops are bustling with hurried shoppers trying to get everything done for Christmas, take a moment to appreciate how difficult this is to navigate as an able-bodied person and how much an assistance dog means to someone with a disability.

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