Thursday, April 30, 2009

Re-naming...(and introducing "Denver")

Mom has a new SDiT (Service Dog in Training)...named Denver. He's part of Fidos For Freedom...the organization where Mom volunteers as a trainer. (We also volunteer our time for Therapy Dog, Ripley, Xander and John too) Denver is a great dog...he's gonna go far. He's a lot like me, Mom says. She is very impressed by his ability to stay calm no matter what's going on around him. A lot like me. So far nothing has ruffled his feathers when Mom's been working him in public...he even works next to her when she borrows John's second scooter.

But there is one problem...he doesn't retrieve on cue. Now you all know...that Service Dogs have to retrieve on cue...that's a LOT of what we do for a living.

When Mom puts an object on the floor and says "Fetch" or "Pick it up"...Denver ducks his head and looks away. Even if she says this in a happy voice...he still does the same thing. If the object is handed to him, he will take it (sometimes)...but still looks away.

Now on the other hand, he will pick stuff up off the floor of his own volition...and carry them around happily. He carries his metal dinner bowl upstairs from his crate every morning, and will carry around shoes, clothing, and of course toys. But when you go to take that object, he ducks his head and often will drop it on the floor.

Mom has her work cut out for he obviously enjoys carrying matter what it's made of: metal, plastic, material, etc. So she's started a new campaign of re-naming these tasks. From now on...there is no F-E-T-C-H...there is "Get It!" (along with a big party). She's still thinking of a cue to replace T-A-K-E for things being handed to him. She says she'd call it P-I-C-K-L-E or W-O-M-B-A-T for all she cares, but since he's going to someone needs to be something that makes sense to the average person. She says maybe she'll use that would be cute. (whatever, Mom!)

When she's used "Get it" the past few days, Denver has happily been going for the object. She's also using clicker training to get him back on track...starting with just touching objects with his nose and then progressing to actually picking them up. The pressure of training though often shuts him down...too intense for him to work one-on-one with Mom when she's seriously training. Part of what she's been doing to work on this is to make his training part of his day. I mentioned that he carries his bowl upstairs each morning. (isn't he a goof?) Now she's been handing him other objects as he comes out of his crate all happy and silly. The past few days, he's carried shoes and leather leashes upstairs in the morning...all with a big happy grin on his face...and he easily turns them over to Mom (to hand!) in return for going out the back door for potty/playtime. Ya gotta do what works!

Mom's a big fan of re-naming...she's re-named all of us dogs (except for Ripley who had no name...) Xander was "Boomer", Inara was "Daphne" (seriously? I'm gonna tease her now!), Score was "Deeogee" and I was "Maverick" (Service Dog Maverick...nah, can't see it). She says that there is a lot of meaning to names...whether it's a cue word or a name for another living creature. So she puts a lot of thought into each name.

If there is a bad thing associated with a name...that word has to go. Some trainers call a cue with a bad meaning a "Poisoned Cue". For whatever reason the subject (dog, human, cat, etc) associates that word to mean something bad. Mom changes our names just in case...get rid of any unpleasant memories that we might name, new life. A fresh start. That's what she's doing with Denver. He stresses about certain she's starting over with new names...instead of forcing him to work through the task.

She says it's often more simple and easy to just change the word. I just hope she finds something better than Wombat.

~SDS (not Service Dog Maverick)


Melissa Mitchell said...

Oh, oh. I have a replacement cue for taking something from hand--Yours!
Do you like it Sawyer?

Service Dog Sawyer said...

I like "Yours"! Great idea! Thanks Melissa! That's perfect! :)

Anonymous said...

Great! Thanks for sharing the idea. Have you read this article on Zootoo and Randy Grim of Stray Rescue St. Louis? Promises.. Promises..

bbes tribe said...

Thanks for sharing. This was very interesting. Especially the part about the "poisoned cue". Maybe that was the problem we had with our Sasha when she was rescued. Never thought of that.
Ernie & Sasha

monsqueek said...

My command for taking things is "Here" (as in "here you go" as opposed to the tonal diffrence of "come here") and to release it back is mum says "Give".

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