Thursday, July 10, 2014

Service Dog Tasks in Puppy Play

Recently, I've had comments about how I must be working Elsa too hard.  I must be teaching her too much and she will burn out before the training is over.  My precious little puppy is four and a half months old and I'm pushing too much onto her and making things serious too fast.
At first, the comments frustrated me.  Now, I just choose to appreciate the concern that people have for making sure my puppy's training stays humane.
Anyone who is around is aware that I spend more time playing with her than "training" in an official sense.  However, the playing is carefully constructed to teach her to be comfortable with things that she will encounter as part of her tasks.  Some days are more structured than others based on how much I've worked at my other job, weather, and other weird factors.

Below, I have listed several things that can be used to keep play going in a useful, yet fun, manner. I hope others will comment with their ideas to help me expand!!
- One meal a day is spent going over basic commands.  This way they work for the kibble, practice basic obedience consistently, and don't even notice it happening.
- We have puzzle toys that sometimes come out for different meals.  They help with staying entertained and I've noticed after we bought a couple that had Elsa using her paws, she's become more interested in utilizing them like little hands.
- Hide and Seek: this can be helpful if one has a fear of coming home to intruders.  It's possible to teach them to bark once they've found you.  You can upgrade to friends hiding when you're out for a walk and then you can come home and have them find the person and bark for a treat.  Eventually that becomes habit to check.
- Mini agility toys: certain things like a mini see saw plank or a hula hoop can be useful to teach agility basics without getting serious too fast.
- Fetch: this easily reinforces bring it and drop it.  Here there is also an opportunity for object recognition reinforcement.  Elsa has become really efficient with "bring it" without much formal training because of this game.
- Biking: Really, any activity can be a bonding exercise.  This one is really helpful to teach her to constantly be focused on me.
- Waking up: When the alarm clock goes off in the morning, immediately give your pup a treat.  They will begin to expect the treat at the sound of the alarm and this can be really helpful during a depressive phase if you're not wanting to get out of bed and your puppy is licking your face.  Eventually, we will refine this and it will become one of Elsa's tasks.


  1. Lots of great ideas. When I have to dog sit again. I'll know what to do to keep him busy. Bookmarking this page.

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