Tasks for Quinn

Joella had a long list of tasks she could do. And it is hard to keep in mind that Quinn is not Joella and I cannot expect her to do the same. Plus, my needs for a service dog have changed and I understand those needs better.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal can only be a dog (and some miniature ponies) and must do at least one trained task that assists the person with the disability. Carrying a backpack is not a trained task since it doesn’t take training for it (unless the dog hates it and you have to work with them but that’s not “training”, that acclimatizing). So simply having a dog carrying your books in a dog backpack is not a trained task even if it helps. Pushing a door button so it opens, yes. Picking up your bag, yes. Handing you something you dropped, yes.

The wonderful thing about breaking down a task into bits is those bits can go into other tasks. TOUCH for example is the basics for a lot of tasks. You teach TOUCH in order for them to understand this is what we are working with. I want you to touch it (over and over). Once Quinn had the basics of TOUCH down, TAKE was easy(ish). So will be pull, push, open, and close. Each task can be broken down into bits. But more on training in another article.

(italics means she knows this!!)
– specific object by name (get my shoe; get the phone; get your leash)
– person (go get Lorna)
dropped object (get it/that)
targeted object (get that thing I am pointing to)
– next object (get the next one; not that one, the next one)

– Get behind (get behind me or my chair)
– Go around (go around from one side to the other)
– Look at me (focus!)
back up (go backwards)

Give (give me what you have)
Take (take what is in my hand)

pull sock (take off my sock; which also teaches “the next one”)
– push button (power entry door button)
– get drink (open cooler, take out container, close cooler, bring container to me)
– carry (keep what you have in your mouth and bring it along)

Regular obedience
sit (butt on the floor)
– wait/stay (when I am training a dog, they are the same thing)
down (lay down)
free (release)
– leave it (don’t touch it, lick it, pick it up, just leave it)
off (get off whatever you are on)
– easy (don’t bite; be gentle)
drop it (whatever you got in there, let it go)
up (jump up onto something)
out/outside (go outdoors; also part of cue to do business)
hurry up (do your business)

May or May Not Teach Her
– Pill alarm or alarm clock? (nudge me? go get water bottle?)
– Help to stand? (she’s up curb, I pull on harness)

As we continue to learn together, I’ll add to the list on the tasks page (to be made but look for it the top or side menu).

Take, Get, and Give

In terms of dog cues (commands, requests, whatever) take and get are a lot alike.

TAKE is that thing I have in my hand, or that person has in their hand, please get it for me
GET is that thing over there, on the floor, table, wherever, please get it for me

And both are rather useless without the GIVE which is that thing you just took/got, please release it.

Quinn is a very excited, energetic, full-on puppy. She is 8 mos now, probably around 65lbs (29.5ish kg). She’s smaller than her brother Ragnar who lives up in Pittsburgh. He is freakin’ huge at around 90lbs (40.8kg). But I’m not worried. Quinn is growing slowly which is good. Her bones and muscles are excellent. She is growing at her rate, Ragnar is growing at his.

Harnessing this energy during training time is…difficult. We worked a long time on TOUCH just to get her bored with it, to keep her from biting everything. She didn’t get treated for mouthing, just touching with her nose. And now I wanted her to take something in her mouth. Yeah, okay. I have an old wooden backscratcher where the “hand” part of it had broken off. The end of it is quite large, perfect as an object to touch, while the rest of it was a thinner dowel. Quinn knew to touch different object already but this was WOOD! Wood was FOOD!

Took us several minutes before she realized she got nothing for grabbing the end with her mouth. But if her nose touched it, she got a good YES and a lot of treats. Soon she was touching it no matter where I held it out. (ensuring the dog will move around to touch an object is a goal to keep in mind) We left it alone for a few days and returned to it. She mouthed it for just a few seconds then was back to touching it. Next day, we started with my hand, the Lollipop, and then the handle. I was asking for 3 touches per treat.

Next I took blue painting tape (dogs can see blue) and wrapped it around the middle of the dowel. We worked on touching my hand, the Lollipop, the handle, and then I turned it sideways, grasping it on either side of the blue tape and held it out. I didn’t say anything. Now this was different. This was not something pointing at her, but was being held out. My hand is like that, but my hand has lots of surface area. She knew we were working on touch but she was really excited about this difference so when she went to touch it, she grabbed it with her open mouth just for a second. JACKPOT! YES! Treat treat treat.

Quinn was confused and for good reason. I’d never allowed her to mouth something before. But now she could? She grabbed it again but harder. I told her to drop and offered it again. No treat. She did grabbed it with her mouth again but quickly. YES! Treat treat treat. We did this several times then stopped. I ended with her following my hand (which she loves to do) as we worked on having her place herself in front of me. She gets treats so she doesn’t care.

Next day, we worked on it again. I built up to it as before, held it out, but again offered no cue word. She took it in her mouth and let go. Treat. Repeated numerous times. Once she was taking it as soon as I offered it, I started adding the cue “take”. I offered it as I said the word, I said the word then offered, etc. She took it in her mouth and got a treat.

A few days later, I added the next step. I didn’t do it until she was calmer and as she took it in her mouth, I let go of it, keeping my hands underneath in case she let go. I then said DROP, which she did. So now I was offering the dowel, saying TAKE, she took, then I said DROP, and she did. Treat treat treat.

Quinn will now take the dowel from one hand and drop it into my other hand. She will also pick it up off the floor should she miss. If she doesn’t drop it in my hand and goes to chew on it instead, I take it away and the training session ends.

The next step is to start using other objects. I need to visit the dollar section of the pharmacy and get some cheap measuring cups, scrub brush, and other such things.

We also need to move her touch from something I am holding to something I am pointing at. I’ve tried but she doesn’t get it. Could be an age thing.

Time to Start!

Time to start training Quinn’s first SD task: the retrieve. This will be the basis for a lot of tasks. Take/Get and Give/Bring. I’m excited, nervous. Joella did anything I asked because she wanted to. Mike did almost anything if he felt like it, if I presented it right and/or asked nicely, and if there was enough food involved. Quinn…I’m not sure. She is quite food motivated but not as much as Mike (thank god!) but her eagerness is both a hindrance and a blessing.

We’ll be using Susan Ailsby’s Training Levels, Donna Hill’s YouTube videos, and Gail Hubbard of A Good Dog’s Life. Yes, we can do this.

The Manner’s II class at A Good Dog’s Life won’t start for a few more weeks so we have some time to firm up what we learned and to start new stuff. Tomorrow (Sunday) we will do more fun stuff then Monday get serious again. Quinn does so much better on days where she gets several training sessions in. She loves learning!

We’ve worked a little on TAKE already. She knows TOUCH solid. She’ll touch anything I hold out. So what I did was not click for simple touch but waited for her to open her mouth on the object. Which did not take long! Once she realized biting the object was acceptable, well, she loved that!

Tomorrow we’ll go to Lowe’s together for the first time. I need a dowel and some hose and probably a small tool box to hold our training stuff. And a lock for it so the little darlin’ doesn’t open it to play with the contents. Yes, she would do that.

Sue Ailsby – website > Training Levels ebook (she also has it in print)
Donna Hill – > listing of videos > YouTube channel re: SD training and general training
Gail Hubbard – A Good Dog’s Life (where Quinn and I go to do regular training)

Breaking a Task Down

In teaching any thing through clicker training (aka positive reinforcement, aka force free training), the key concept is to break the trick, task, whatever down into small bits, teach those bits, then put them together.

There are some foundation bits that are used a lot such as SIT and TOUCH. With TOUCH, I can link it to TAKE then to PULL. And soon we have Quinn taking a rope and pulling the laundry basket.

Gail Hubbard from A Good Dog’s Life made a video with her dog, Tayt. She’s teaching him a trick. She breaks down the trick into small bits and slowly gets him to do the entire thing. I’ve put the video below but go read the post to learn what she is doing and why and how to do it yourself.

In another video, Donna Hill of Service Dog Training Institute teaches a dog to touch then flip a light switch. Watching it is both boring and exciting at the same time. I will be adapting this to teach Quinn to push buttons. I don’t *need* her to do light switches but we may do it just for another notch on the cape belt. Donna Hill, who is legendary for her training, has a bunch of videos on stuff from agility to bird dogs to service dogs.