This is my post for The 10th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival where the theme is Perfect 10.
Jory is my fourth guide dog, and we have been a team for almost 10 weeks. When I come home with a dog, there has always been a new skill to teach or an old skill that needs to be polished. Valerie had to learn to come on command, Zorro needed to heal, and Dee needed not to bark every time people came close to us or opened our stairway door leading to our floor in the apartment building.
Jory is an excellent guide dog, and she is 20 months old. She is fast-paced, confident in crowds, and loves to learn new skills. She can find railings for stairs, find rooms after going to them once or twice, and loves traveling. She heals, comes when called even if someone is petting or playing with a toy with her,and can hold a sit-stay for more than 20 minutes. However, the skill we are striving to perfect is the down. I cannot figure out why she doesn’t like to do it half the time. It doesn’t matter if she is in or out of harness, on carpet or tile, or in familiar or unfamiliar places. She especially doesn’t like to do it in small spaces, like on the floor in the front seat of a car or between my feat and the legs of a table. I could physically force her into a down, but I don’t like to train like that.
Clicker is my first method. She can put her nose on my hand and move to follow my fist. I moved my hand first with a treat to get her into position, and that helped some at first. After that, I took away the treat, moved my fist, and c/ted when she started going into the down position. I moved on to moving my fist and c/ted after she was completely down and settled. That works sometimes but not always. I am obviously miscommunicating somehow, or there is some reason why she doesn’t like to down, and I cannot figure out what it is.
It is especially frustrating in public or when I’m working. I go to the houses or schools of blind children and adults to teach braille and technology. I was sitting in someone’s kitchen and asked Jory to go under the table and down/stay. She went under and sat but didn’t lie down. She did the same thing in a restaurant with carpeted floors. If she does eventually lie down, she doesn’t stay. During a lions club meeting, she got up seven times and I couldn’t get her to get back into position.
I always carry a clicker and treat pouch with and c/t every time she immediately lies down on her own or with one command. It’s a high-value meat treat that I don’t give her for any thing else. I also pet/praise along with the treat in hopes that will make her think this is a fun game that she wants to win more often.
I asked her puppy raiser if she had any suggestions, and she said to try a blanket on the floor. Jory likes the blanket, but it doesn’t add to more downs. I asked my trainer and school for suggestions. They looked in her file and it says she had this problem when she was a puppy too. They said try a leash correction or more leash cues. I tried it a couple of times, and it doesn’t help at all. In fact, it makes Jory dig in and refuse even harder.
With each dog, I learn something new. This time, I think it is if one method doesn’t work, try something else till she understands. I don’t expect her to be perfect, but I’ll be happy when she is very good and happily lying on the carpet or tile in and out of harness.