by | Feb 19, 2024 | Recipient Posts | 0 comments


So, you have finished handler training and are headed home. Now it’s time to think about your future as a team.

My daughter’s dog is Archer . . .. I am his handler in public and his trainer, along with Lissa at home. Yes, his trainer. Although your service dog has been well-trained to help you, it is up to you to continue the reinforcement of his or her training. I took this as my job to not only maintain his training but to add to his tasks.

Archer is a seizure alert and mobility dog. Lissa has almost daily seizures so his alert is very strong.

I started with signal: he alerts with his paws but I also wanted him to learn to alert by nudging his nose against our legs. When a dog nudges with their nose as an alert, it is called ‘signal’. I also wanted him to be able to dial an assistance dog phone with his nose. At first we taught him to nudge a tap light with yellow tape on it. (The assistance dog phone has a big yellow button, so this would be similar for Archer.) Once he mastered that, I added a hand signal for Lissa to get him to dial. At this point in training, I added a light with yellow tape on it and hung where the phone would go so we could add distance and I would know if he pushed hard enough to dial by seeing the light lit up. After this, I add a sequence for him to do with alert. (A sequence is a series of tasks that happen automatically with a single cue, and in Lissa’s case, the cue would be the scent of her seizures.) Archer’s automatic sequence begins with alert, followed by dialing a phone, retrieving a pouch with rescue medication, and then comes back. This took time.
Beyond any additional task training, it is important to give your dog enrichment. We live in Houston with rainy days, hurricanes and other fun weather. When we can’t go outside for breaks or walks, we use snuffle mat, kongs, the ‘find Lissa’ game, ‘get it’ game, and reinforcement of recalls while using our stairs. Lissa also wanted fun tasks. She taught Archer to spin.

 



Do you have to do all that? No. But working with your dog every day to reinforce training is what will strengthen your bond. Handler training gives you the tools to do this.

by Chris & Lissa & Archer Rezek

 

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