Our trainer, Andrew, has had several training sessions with Amanda, who suffers from epilepsy and anxiety related to her fear of having seizures. Her SDIT is beautiful Diezel! Andrew writes:
At our first session, we began our session by walking around the block. Having Penelope, my little companion dog with me, I handed her to Amanda in trade for the big, beautiful Diezel! I worked on his heel, allowing the dog to correct himself when he pulled and rewarding Diezel for keeping the leash loose. This is also the beginning of teaching Diezel that when he is called, he needs to be in position, but when released he can go anywhere within the reach of the leash without pulling. After we finished our walk, we went inside the house and worked on “stays” and “waits”.
At our next session, Amanda made the trip to my house. At first, Diezel was very distracted all the scents of our horses, donkey, and many dogs, which was to be expected. We worked with Diezel on trying to keep his focus on the task at hand, and we rewarded him handsomely each time he remained focused. We worked on loose-leash walking and heeling with directional changes, trying to make the training firm but fun. By the end of our first session, Diezel was focusing so well on Amanda and was not very distracted at all!
We practiced “accept restraint” – a game used to desensitize a dog to various circumstances like a vet visit, or a grooming, or something simple like accepting training equipment. We also practiced what I call “take it”, where the handler tosses a treat for the dog to retrieve and then commands the dog to return. This game can be used to teach the dog to fetch a toy, then eventually personal items.
At the most recent session, we reinforced heeling maneuvers, focus, loose-leash walking, wait, stay, and take it. I had to remind Amanda a little bit about the importance of stepping off with the correct foot when beginning a walk or commanding the dog to stay/wait. I believe our body language speaks volumes to the dogs we are working with, far more so than our words, so it I absolutely imperative that we are consistent in not only the correct sequence of gestures, but way we hold ourselves with confidence and authority.
We have now reached the end of our obedience behaviors and from now on we will be working out in a real world environment to solidify, generalize, and strengthen our dogs working behavior and our bond with the animal. We will be learning “cover”, and whatever helps to soothe Amanda’s anxiety and stress. Both Amanda and her husband have confessed to me that they are very proud of the state of calm confidence that has been instilled into Diezel as a result of our training. In the beginning he was a big wrecking ball – unable to sit still and keep focus on anything, but at the end of our last session he was sitting calmly and confidently in front of them, fully receiving pets from them.