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Tips for training first SD

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Onyx

What ever runs- must be chased!
 
 
Barked: Sun Jun 23, '13 3:57pm PST 
Hi, was wondering if anyone here had any tips on training ones own SD. I will be picking up my German Shepard puppy in three weeks and could use advice from people who have knowledge in training a SD.

Some background on me. I have PTSD due to childhood trauma and have been also diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. I am hoping to teach the dog to help me with severe social anxiety and dissociation problems.

Thanks for reading any tips will help.
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Polly

Lolly girl
 
 
Barked: Sun Jun 23, '13 8:24pm PST 
Hi...first if this is your first service dog I would get a trainer, one that offers an owner trainer for service dog program. Not all dogs have the right temperament to do service dog work. I don't know a lot about training psychiatric service dogs, my SD is for mobility. Happy and Iris have a lot of good advice, Good luck smile
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Sun

1258882
 
 
Barked: Sun Jun 23, '13 9:48pm PST 
I am training my own psych dog. If there are certain tasks that you are looking to train I can maybe help since I've been having success with that part. Public access is still quite a big of headache for me. That won't be a big concern with a puppy though. You'll want to just train basic obedience and manners along with lots of socialization for the first few months.
I recommend looking up the guide dog puppy raising manual (just google it) and following many of the steps they suggest.
Also start searching for a trainer that has experience with service or working dogs so you can get some help along the way.
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Happy

The Boy Wonder
 
 
Barked: Mon Jun 24, '13 12:45am PST 
I am more than willing to help you out with whatever information you need. I have lots of experience and resources. Feel free to PM me, I'll try to get back to this thread in the next few days but I generally remember to answer PM's better/faster than I can get to the forums themselves. I can also give you my email if you'd like.

~Jeanene
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Nova

1184372
 
 
Barked: Mon Jun 24, '13 8:18pm PST 
Sun, there is no one "guide dog puppy training manual." Each guide dog school has different training philosophies and techniques that are promoted at one school will literally get the dog removed from the raiser if they are performed on a dog from another school. Use the guide dog training manual as a resource, but recognize that training is so much more dynamic than what can be fit into a pdf manual. Those specific techniques will only work if the rest of the training philosophy is consistent with them. And remember that the pdf manual is supplemented by weekly guide dog school classes and evaluations by professionals.

OP, you should be very well-versed in service dog training if you will be attempting to train your own service dog. Perhaps you are unaware of the statistics, but the vast majority of dogs are unsuitable service dogs even if trained by the best trainer in the world. Coming on here asking for vague "tips" suggests that you do not have the background necessary to take this gargantuan project on by yourself; please find a trainer experienced in service dog training whose training philosophy is consistent with yours. Service dog training is not like training a family pet.
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Onyx

What ever runs- must be chased!
 
 
Barked: Tue Jun 25, '13 3:05pm PST 
Thanks for your posts everyone

Sun-Polly-Nova: I have consider contacting a professional trainers nearby though the cost and having to explaining why I want to train the dog to a complete stranger is holding me back. I also have a friend who is not a professional dog trainer but knows a lot about dog behavior and training. So if I really need some help I can always give her a call.

Happy: I thank you so much for you wiliness to help. I am not sure how to PM you since this is only my second post. Perhaps email would be better but that is up to you.

Nova: I used the word tip because I could not come up with any specific questions to ask. So I was looking for advice from others that have already trained a service dog. Like something they would have wanted to know before they started. I am sorry I did not communicate that but sometimes for me it is write a short post or never post at all.

I do understand that there is a difference between training a pet and a service dog. I have been reading training books and any reference material I can find on the internet. I have also done several obedience class with other dogs in the past and have a good understand of how to teach the basic commands. The puppy also has a very good chance of having the needed temperament for the task I need him for. The puppies parents both have really good temperaments and the breeder has raised dogs that have been successfully trained to be both service and search and rescue dogs. Hope this settles some of your concerns.
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Luna

Future Service- Dog
 
 
Barked: Tue Jun 25, '13 6:16pm PST 
I don't have much advice, but good luck with all of this! I am looking into GSDs for psych work, too.
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Nova

1184372
 
 
Barked: Tue Jun 25, '13 7:59pm PST 
Onyx, I don't mean to be discouraging, but even guide dog schools that have been doing entirely their own breeding for literally over 50 years using latest genetic screens and international collaborations with guide dog schools around the world have success rates of less than 50%. So 50 years of breeding dogs specifically to be guide dogs, and less then half of them actually make it.

If the best of the best have a success rate of less than 50%, you need to understand that your dog (which is no doubt from a good line, but is not from a line that has been dedicated to producing service dogs for half a century), being trained by you (no doubt a good trainer, but not a full-time professional service dog trainer with years of apprenticeship under your belt) is going to have a less than 50% chance of making it.

ANYBODY here will tell you that you need to go into this with the knowledge that you will likely have to "wash your dog out," meaning determine that s/he is not suitable for service work. Which is really, really difficult to do when you've worked with him/her for a year and are incredibly attached. Most people who OT (owner train) have to go through several dogs before they train the appropriate service dog, and each dog is usually trained for upwards of a year before being washed out.

Service dog training takes 1.5 to 2 years anyway, so are you prepared to be spending the next 2-5 years of your life solely devoted to training a dog that may or may not eventually be your service dog?

THAT is what we're talking about here. Lots of people don't realize what they're getting into and think they can replicate professional programs on their own -- it takes a really extraordinary situation to be able to do so. The majority of people are not qualified to train their own SDs.

Look at it this way: Training a SD on your own through just reading materials is like saying you can read law books and be prepared to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court. Guide dog schools and several other SD programs (CCI, NEADS, KSDS, etc.) are like going to an Ivy League law school, which should prepare you. Lots of programs out there are like your average law school, which can prepare you if you work hard. Doing it on your own by reading a book and talking to a friend is like having a high school diploma and thinking you can read your way to Supreme Court competence after consulting a friend who is currently studying law.
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Link

Hero of Hyrule
 
 
Barked: Tue Jun 25, '13 8:10pm PST 
Hi Onyx! wave I have a service dog for PTSD from childhood trauma (among other things), he is my first service dog and I trained him myself with occasional consults with a professional trainer. I also take regular classes with him such as agility and obedience. Since you're getting a puppy there's a lot you can do, but also in some ways nothing you can do as you wait for your puppy to mature and develop the mental stamina needed for work. I got Link as a puppy, he underwent a very regimented socialization program to maximize our potential for success. I highly recommend Ian Dunbar's Before and After Getting Your Puppy. You can download Before GYP for free here: http://www.dogstardaily.com/free-downloads (copy/paste the link and remove any spaces) I think you can also get After GYP for free if you have an account. you can get them both for $10 on an eReader.

I think the most prudent advice I can give is don't push your dog too hard, especially as a puppy. You've done well and researched lines for proper temperament, but puppies are still a gamble so you want to do everything you can to help them. If you use positive training methods you can do quite a bit of training when they're still young, but correction heavy training can burn out a young dog quickly. Keep training sessions short, and don't expect a lot, but be happy with what you get.

for continuing education and support, I really like online communities. Psychiatric Service Dog Partners has a good e-mail listserv. There are a lot of facebook groups as well, Link even has his own group smile

I hope that helped!
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Link

Hero of Hyrule
 
 
Barked: Tue Jun 25, '13 8:28pm PST 
Nova, I think there are a lot of other factors going into guide dog breeding programs having a 50% wash out rate. Even if with the most detailed and well thought out breeding program you are always at the mercy of genetics. Show dog litters regularly pump our "average" looking dogs, why should other genetics be any different? Yes SDs need to have a good temperament, but that type of temperament is not exclusive or even arguably more attainable to service dog breeding programs. Puppy raisers are also a factor, I've seen some people who shouldn't even own a pet dog raising SD prospects. Training methods are another factor, there are many studies that show when positive training methods were implemented certain guide dog schools success rates rose substantially.

I'm not trying to argue, but I do think you are being a little heavy-handed with your keyboard. Training a dog isn't rocket science, and I don't think there is any reason to scare people away from owner training as long as they understand the commitment. Maybe I'm being defensive because I had to put up with a lot of flack from people online as well as family when I decided to train my own SD. I'm not a professional dog trainer (yet), but I had trained several of my own dogs to compete in dog sports, as well as all family pets growing up, as well as rehabilitating several rescues. It was certainly a challenge to train Link, but I would not have done it any other way, and I regularly receive compliments on his training. Having a SD has changed my life for the better, I wouldn't even be here if not for Link, so I will never try to scare someone away from training or owning a service dog.
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