Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Service Dog Etiquette: Human AND Dog Editions


One of the most prominent features of a service dog is, obviously, the fact that they are allowed to go in public! Service dogs are able to do this because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law which protects the handler of the dog by treating the dog as vital medical equipment for mitigating the handler’s disability. This is why service dogs are allowed in public places, while pets, facility dogs, therapy dogs, and ESAs (Emotional Support Animals) are not protected by the same law. 

Dog Edition:

The important part of the Americans with Disabilities Act to remember is that it protects the person, rather than the dog- because the dog is working to mitigate the person's disability. Because a service dog is allowed in public because of his or her job as medical equipment, there are several traits a service dog’s personality should have that makes them an appropriate dog for service work. Each dog training organization thinks differently about what is the most important characteristic, and each has their own behaviors and quirks that they like to look for in a dog. In general though, the core behaviors are:



FOCUS
Emmy knows it is her job to focus on her handler!
A service dog is there to do a job! No matter what is going on around them, the service dog should be consistently focused and attentive on its handler, so it is ready to work whenever needed!

CONFIDENCE
Nora was very confident riding the escalator- on her first try!

For many dogs, public places like restaurants, stores, and schools, are very scary places! New smells, people staring and talking, weird sounds, yelling, people running up to pet them without permission. Because service dogs have to deal with this on a daily basis, they need to be very, VERY confident! If a dog is fearful, they might not be able to handle themselves in public in a way that will truly mitigate the disability they were trained for. Throwing a dog who lacks confidence into a public situation is also an incredible disservice to the dog. Fear, aggression, and inability to work are only a few responses some dogs can have to situations in which they are scared, and it isn’t fair to the dog or the handler to constantly live in fear.  And always remember not to confuse confidence with dominance! Confidence is awesome to find in a dog, while dominance can make a dog hard to train and generally difficult to work with.


CALM
While some dogs respond to public places with fear, others get… well….

Emmy is most definitely off duty here!

 A bit overly happy. Exciting things happen all the time in public- other dogs, children running, yummy food getting spilled, finding other people the dog knows, and running across small animals they REALLY want to chase. Add these exciting things to the mix of scary things, and the human world can be a bit…. bewildering to dogs. All of these are normal things for a dog to react to. But when a service dog is working, they have to be able to maintain their composure through thick and thin, whether somebody is running at them wearing a scary mask:


Or a throwing a squeaky toy across an aisle to try to get them to play. If a dog barks, bristles, growls, bolts, bites, chases their tail, chases a squirrel, or tries to steal some yummies that have fallen on the floor (I’m looking at you, Nora, we’re well acquainted with the lab tummy) they simply are not doing their job properly.

Carver showing off just how calm he is in public!

While all of these characteristics have wiggle room, there are absolutely rules in place to make sure that only top notch, well trained service dogs are allowed in public- service dogs have an etiquette they have to follow as well! There are a few important ones to remember, like:

Service Dogs are all trained to do tasks! In Emmy’s case, it will be guidework, retrievals, and deep pressure therapy for her client. Nora will pull a wheelchair, complete retrievals, and brace for her little girl. Other dogs might be trained to alert to low blood sugar, to respond to a person’s name in case that person is deaf or hard of hearing, to respond to seizures, to carry an oxygen tank, and a lot more! If a dog does not do a task to mitigate a disability, the dog is not legally recognized as a service dog. 

Emmy demonstrating the task 'Pressure'


Additionally, a service dog is only allowed in public as long as it is not causing a disturbance. All service dogs are given the benefit of the doubt under the ADA, but if a dog barks, growls, bites, or goes to the bathroom inside a public place without the handler taking an appropriate action to end that behavior, that place then has the legal right to remove the dog from the premises.  



The People Edition!!!

Now, while we have expressed our feelings about petting service dogs before, we haven’t said what the proper way to approach service dogs is! So….

A Short Guide On How to Handle Yourself When You See A Puppy In Public:


Remember there is a person attached to the dog! This is one even the Viking Pups handlers have experienced. We get a lot of hellos walking across campus- but most of these are directed at the dogs! It can be hurtful, and yes, even a little bit irritating to be made a spectacle of or be made completely invisible because you have a fluffy creature standing with you. Most service dog handlers try very hard to be understanding, polite, and responsive (we have a LOT of practice) but it is equally important that you are understanding of the person with the dog. They may be in a hurry and unable to answer questions, they may have had a really crappy day at work, they may be shy, they may have a disability that makes it hard to interact with strangers, or they may just not be in the mood to answer questions! They are only human, and while the dogs can give freedom and health and happiness, they can’t give their handler patience or make them more outgoing.


Carver doesn't seem to have a problem with being outgoing, though!

Remember the dog is doing a job! You cannot always tell at first glance what that service dog’s job is, and it’s possible that even with the best intentions you can make the dog’s job harder by attempting to interact. This means talking, kissy noises, tossing toys and balls, and ESPECIALLY calling their name.

It's hard to a dog to stay calm and out of the way, like Emmy is here, when they're being distracted!

When in doubt, ask: If you have questions about the dog, many service dog handlers will be very happy to answer your questions, and some handlers are even ok with you petting their dogs (Viking Pups / QCCAN is not one of these). Remember once again that they are a person who has a life outside of your interaction with them. Approach them politely, and respect that person’s boundaries and the boundaries they have set for their dog.
                                       Even though playing in a helicopter doesn't seem like work, Carver is still on                             duty in this picture, so he should not be distracted!

If still in doubt or given an answer you do not like, do not get angry, and do not proceed with what you wanted to do:

Many people believe that they are doing no harm even if they go against the handler’s wishes, and so they continue on with exactly what they wanted to do. This can be super duper very incredibly unbelievably terrible awfully ridiculously bad for the dog, and the human. For example, once while I was handling the now-exited Oden, we were in a cafeteria setting and some other students begged to give him a treat. I refused, and afterwards they dropped a bunch of french fries on the floor for him to eat. Luckily I caught it soon enough that Oden did not get any of the french fries, but if he had, this would have been disastrous because A.) it is teaching the dog that if people drop food in public, it is ok to go for it  (which could potentially be seen as a reason for removal, given that it violates health regulations)  and B.) Oden is allergic to some of the ingredients in french fries. See what I mean about listening to the handlers, now?

Oden's belly if he'd gotten that french fry.


And please, do NOT get angry! While the service dog handler IS entitled to a normal life, you are not entitled to interfere with that person’s day to day life because they have a dog. If a person turns you down for petting, giving treats, or saying hi, those are their personal boundaries and everybody should respect them. It is very stressful for just the TRAINERS to get chewed out for saying no when people ask to pet the dog, let alone a possible client! 

Moral of this story: please be nice to service dog handlers!!! :]


Nora says, "Please be nice to my handlers! They're good people!"
PUPDATES!

EMMY's exits, retrievals, and deep pressure therapy are doing phenomenal! She’s a real genius dog, and is set on proving it to us handlers!

Emmy retrieving her handler's wallet


Emmy practicing a double door exit!


CARVER is moving on to his next stage of training, and is learning to respond to seizures- mimic ones, that is! 



Now that Carver’s 'paw' command is solid, he’s learning to pair that command with his handler’s pretend seizures (that mimic his clients'!). Eventually, the verbal ‘paw’ will be phased out- and voĆ­la, the ‘response’ part of seizure response dog is born!!! Carver is also starting to learn retrievals, so that when his little girl has a seizure, her parents can worry about helping her while Carver goes and gets her medications. He's pretty amazing, no?


NORA is now an official master of her name! Woo! In addition to this, her basics are improving dramatically! We’re so proud of this lil lady!




We would also like to welcome some new breeders to our program! Dusty Roads Labradors, who we will be purchasing a lab from to become a service dog in the fall, Formaro Labradors and Breezewood Kennel Golden Retrievers, who we will potentially be buying puppies from, all to be trained as facility dogs- three schools and the Child Advocacy Center! QCCAN is clearly growing the reputation it deserves!!!



I would also like to say a BIG congrats to Juls, QCCAN client and Iowa’s New Miss Amazing! And of course you can’t forget the Royal Dog Bobo!















A special thanks to:

QCCAN

The Quad Cities Canine Assistant Network is the non-profit organization that makes our program possible. As sister organizations, QCCAN is an integral part of the Viking Pups mission, helping us with training, putting us in contact with clients, and most importantly, training service dogs and reaching more people who need the dogs to live better lives.


To learn more / keep up to date about Viking Pups:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

First Blog Post of 2014!

And a couple months late celebration of Viking Pups Two Year Anniversary!



And sorry for the late post date. I admit it, I'm a bad blogger. Hooray! 

So, unsurprisingly, in the months I have been neglecting my responsibilities, a LOT has happened. As in, a lot. So, a quick overhaul:

Carver and Westie have both hit 7 months! 
Handsome fellows!

And looking might handsome too! 



        Westie is moving along quite well- his basics are pretty darn near mastered and is enjoying life with his new foster mama Kayla, who's taken in the little spaz and is working him extra hard- Westie's placement is coming way too soon (for us at least!), and since his placement is such an important one, he's being watched over by head trainers Mary and Allie to make sure he's right on course.  

Westie practicing 'Pressure' with Kayla

       Kayla's doing a phenomenal job with this little guy, and Westie is planning on proving just how great he is by starting work one of his clients very soon! If you remember, Westie is going to be a facility dog for a Child Advocacy Center, helping children to testify, and being fluffy and cuddly support during situations where it would otherwise be very difficult for them to cope. Westie's job is going to incredibly important and will touch a ton of lives- we're really excited to watch him help kids who need him!

Speaking of important jobs with kids…




       Carver is doing absolutely phenomenal! Carver is the seizure response dog in training, and if I understated it at all before, I definitely won't now- Carver's job is crazy tough and one of the most difficult to train for. But holy cow is he taking to it! 




video
                                'Paw' will be used to wake up his client's parents in the case of a seizure!

         This 7-month old pup is well on his way to being a phenomenal service dog for his little girl. Carver's job will involve him sleeping with his client, and actually responding to her seizures- if his little girl has one in the middle of the night, Carver is trained to wake up in response, set off an alarm, and  then wake up her parents to take care of her. Although all service dogs do important jobs, Carver's is a very special one and he's going to bring peace of mind and potentially a longer life to his little girl. WE love watching him make so much progress towards such an important goal!

Carver walking with handler Allie and client Ann!

And speaking of progress….

Miss Emmy might just be the embodiment of that word!


Emmy has grown into a spectacular looking and incredibly smart young lady- at almost 10 months old, we expect nothing less!
We're even teaching her to do our homework for us!


Emmy's basics are nailed down and good to go. Her tasks are doing incredible- right now she's working on retrievals (which she's already doing from the floor, a huge step for this kind of task!), cover me (HERE is a video of Bobo, a Viking Pups alum demonstrating),  and a brand new task we've decided to call PRESSURE (which is used to perform deep pressure therapy, which offers tons of benefits side of the obvious prime position for cuddles - but I'll let the experts tell you about that!).



Emmy's most impressive step up is that she has now started working on guidework!!!! All of Team Emmy has been looking forward to doing this for a very long time, because it's such an interesting and unusual task (for us at least!). Emmy's guidework is similar in concept to what a guide dog would do for someone who is blind, though Emmy will be trained in a much more limited fashion. Emmy will be told what to find, specifically a car, or a door, and Emmy is going to learn to bring her handler to that object!! Once Emmy's mastered finding a door, we'll build on that skill, until she not only will be able to guide her handler to a door, but outside through several doors. This is a pretty complicated skill, and we're all excited to get in on training for it!

                                                  Here's Emmy practicing a retrieval!

And in some final, more depressing news, our prodigy pup Zorn had to be exited from the program. While he was super smart and loved learning, Zorn didn't quite meet our standards, and so we had to let him go. He's been adopted by his handler Kat (Hi, that's me!) and her family, and is living it up in his new home. Everybody in the club misses him terribly!
Kat and Zorn playing at his new home!


Thankfully, Zorn's client has decided to stick with our program, and to fill in Zorn's shoes,  in Ferbruary we got our newest addition, cutie-pants nugget Nora!!



Nora is a chocolate lab hitting 12 weeks soon, and was, as usual, donated by Christina Clark of Iron Hill Retrievers! Thanks Christina, this feisty pants is going to do great things with us!

Nora working on 'Sit' with handler Kori


Nora is just starting in on her basics, and enjoying life with her foster Kris while she does. 

video
                               Trust me, it took a lot longer than what you see here to get her into that position!

We can't wait to see how well this lil girl takes to her life as a service dog!


See you next time guys!


A special thanks to:

QCCAN




The Quad Cities Canine Assistant Network is the non-profit organization that makes our program possible. As sister organizations QCCAN is an integral part of the Viking Pups mission, helping us with training, putting us in contact with clients, and most importantly, training service dogs and reaching more people who need the dogs to live better lives.





A huge thank you to the Huerta Hof family for donating our German Shepherd girl Emmy! Team Huerta Hof breeds gorgeous German Shepherds, and their dogs are found everywhere, from family homes to the Schutzhund field. We're sure Emmy will be a huge success!




Christina Clark, our fabulous breeder and owner of Iron Hill Retrievers. All of our Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers have been donated by Christina and they are all spectacular, with wonderful temperaments and absolutely GREAT looks.

And last but not least: 

Lisa Francescon and Francescon Portraiture!!!



Thanks for taking all of your beautiful pictures, Lisa! They're amazing, and you show off our pups so much better than our grainy phone pictures! You're incredibly talented and deserve every bit of business you get!


To learn more / keep up to date about Viking Pups:

Monday, October 21, 2013

Training Adventures

So not much has happened in Viking Pups world.

            You guys know I’m joking, right?

Emmy 'waiting' for a treat

            Emmy has kept up her baby genius and showed that she is truly a German Shepherd from the best German Shepherd breeders around. In the past two weeks, Emmy has been to her first college class, gained her public access, graduated from basic training to advanced, and has started some of her task training, including ‘heel’ ‘settle’ ‘stand’ and most exciting, ‘take it’!


video


          Emmy’s take it is easily the most impressive retrieve we have ever seen in one of our dogs- much less four month old puppy! She’s completely skipped over the first three or four stages of shaping and has gone straight to taking the object into her mouth and holding it for a few seconds before giving it back on command. This girl is just unbelievable, considering this task usually takes two to three months to train, and she did it all the first time we asked her!

Emmy at her first public outing!
            Take its usually requires a TON of shaping for a dog to even open their mouths- the first stage is just touching the object, the second is open their mouths, and so on. Only when they’ve completely mastered one step do they move on to the next- which can take a long time! Eventually they are able to do advanced, complicated take its, like Zorn’s command ‘medicine’ which requires the dog to understand that they are being asked to retrieve, to differentiate the item from other objects, to add in other commands like ‘rise up’ without forgetting the task, ALL with just the command word medicine!

            

            Speaking of the Lil Man, he is doing just spectacular!  Zorn is working on holds with his handlers and is showing so much progress, we’re ALL excited here on Team Zorn! Zorn has started to get so good at his holds he’s actually moving around with the objects we ask him to hold- this will eventually get so permanent that he’ll be able to carry shopping bags or other bits and bobs for his handler. This is a really difficult task for the dogs to learn so we’re all very excited at how much he’s progressing!




           In other Zorn news, he has officially and completely recovered from his neuter and is looking just as handsome as ever back on campus with his class schedule back to normal! Also, apartment life didn't quite agree with Zorn's big old moose head (His size is absolutely perfect for bracework, but not for shoebox apartments), so he's been moved to a foster home with Kris, the newest member of Team Zorn! 



            And… last, but not least:

Westie!


            



INTRODUCING WESTIE AND                                   CARVER! 
Carver!
            













          The long awaited Golden Retriever puppies from the fabulous Iron Hill Retrievers have been temperament tested and have been chosen for two very special jobs, and both with kids- a tough and amazing job indeed! They’re adorable, right?






            Westie is very comfortable settling in with his foster Lauren and is quickly snuggling himself into his team coordinator Trevor’s heart, and is already prepping to start his facility dog job! Hopefully this fluffy lil guy will help his kids to open up and to lower their stress levels, because really, what’s better for that than puppy time?
That face!!!

Westie and his foster mom Lauren!


Westie working his magic on Team Coordinator, Trevor!

      




















Allie and baby Carver!
      





Carver, as we’ve said before, is on a very special track to be a seizure response dog. Unlike the other dogs we train, Carver will be holding his person’s life in his paws- once they get a little bigger, of course! Carver is happily settling in with his foster Allie and looking mighty adorable as he does.
No pictures et of Carver and other Team Carver member Mary, so here's some cuteness!











           


















            Both of these fluffbuckets are just settling in- getting confident in their new homes, potty training, and getting spoiled rotten is all these guys have to look forward to for a little while. Then the hard work is going to start- and after teaching a whip smart German Shepherd like Emmy, you can bet we’re going to have some great expectations for these babies!



As always, thanks to:

QCCAN




The Quad Cities Canine Assistant Network is the non-profit organization that makes our program possible. As sister organizations QCCAN is an integral part of the Viking Pups mission, helping us with training, putting us in contact with clients, and most importantly, training service dogs and reaching more people who need the dogs to live better lives.




Christina Clark, our fabulous breeder and owner of Iron Hill Retrievers. All of our Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers have been donated by Christina and they are all spectacular, with wonderful temperaments and absolutely GREAT looks.



A huge thank you to the Huerta Hof family for donating our German Shepherd girl Emmy! Team Huerta Hof breeds gorgeous German Shepherds, and their dogs are found everywhere, from family homes to the Schutzhund field. We're sure Emmy will be a huge success!


And last but not least: 

Lisa Francescon and Francescon Portraiture!!!




Thanks for taking all of your beautiful pictures, Lisa! They're amazing, and you show off our pups so much better than our grainy phone pictures! You're incredibly talented and deserve every bit of business you get!


To learn more / keep up to date about Viking Pups:

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