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Wow! It's been a while!! Some of you know Cosmo and I moved in January and it's been a busy busy year since so I haven't had much time to be online. I hope everyone is doing well!

Anyway, on to the title purpose! I am officially beginning service dog training for Cosmo (SDiT = service dog in training for those who didn't know). He will be a psychiatric service dog for myself. The details are personal and I am absolutely not comfortable talking about them online, however I do want to post Cosmo's progress with updates and videos of his training.

If you are interested in training a service dog for yourself I would be happy to help answer questions as I learn and my own are answered along the way, however please know I do not support "companion" service animals. I support animals who work for a disabled person whether it be a visible disability or internal / psychological disability. With that being said I'm also not a professional and all of our experiences are our own. You and your service dog would face different challenges than me and Cosmo.

I will start a tumblr blog tonight which you can follow for extra pics and general everyday life!

OK! So today marked day one. I made an order for a vest and some "do not pet" patches. Cosmo is a dog that needs a lot of desensitization so I want to keep distractions to the lowest possible while training. I will ask people not to engage with him. Engage means the following: touch, speak to, eye contact, cooing, bending down to, and doing any deliberate action which would place his focus off of me and onto them.

While we're waiting for his vest, we will keep out of public stores where dogs are not allowed as he is still in the training process and I am both uncomfortable with this and want to respect the companies however I obtained overnight shipping so hopefully for my sake it gets here soon.

In the meantime we will work on grounding, where he gains and keeps my attention on him while I'm freaking out, as well as deep pressure therapy, where he will lay his body over mine. Some other small things include tucking, which teaches him to lie under chairs benches and tables I'm sitting at so he's out of the way in places like restaurants and doctors offices.

Thanks for the support !! I'm excited to meet other people with service dogs and learn from you :)
 

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It's 4am and neither of us can sleep so we both did some light training on holding objects in mouth to prepare him for bringing me objects. he got a bit frustrated but did a really good job ! im trying to use as little words as possible because he is confused by a lot of verbal commands and it's amazing how well he picks up on eye contact alone. I just looked at him and then looked at the bag and he started interacting with the bag. Wish I had filmed it!!

He likes to use his paws to stomp on things when he gets frustrated and can't figure out what I want so the cardboard bag we used was a bit trampled by the end. at the end of the session he was lifting the bag very briefly in his mouth with no verbal cues, just eye contact and hand gestures. will be adding a cue once he begins to reliably pick up the bag.

But now we're ready for bed! Night!
 

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Day two!

Today we went to petco to try and work on distractions and eyes on me. We covered two points which are really big triggers for Cosmo - children and small animals which he did very well with! He didn't attempt to go towards the children that passed while we were sitting or even sniff at them when they literally almost brushed us and maintained focus on me all while sitting in front of the bird cages so I'm very proud of him for that! (I'm also glad the kids and parents ignored him completely) There were a couple slip ups, he made a soft bark at someone that approached after we had been sitting alone for a while but I corrected it by getting his attention and treating for watching me.

Every person that passed I treated him with an eyes on me command in hopes he will eventually habitually look to me any time someone passes instead of engaging. He did pretty well with a small yapping dog that was lunging towards him though he seemed slightly nervous about it (I don't blame him). Still, he sat quietly and just stared at the dog like it was insane.

The largest frustrations this afternoon came from the people who would pass and shout "good boy!" or coo "what a good dog!" and the like. It was incredibly distracting for Cosmo and he wasn't his best when that happened. If you see a dog being trained for goodness sake just ignore them!!!

Anyway all n all it was a good session! We came home and worked on door knocking which he did well with (didn't bark at door) as well as go to your mat and some desensitizing to large noises (like me dropping a large bottle of water or a backpack / boot on the ground) and he did well with all of that.

I'm very proud of him! He's already progressing so much!
 

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If you go to Petco you are going to get the cooers. You went there so that you could have distractions, they gave you distractions. You don't get custom distractions at Petco.
Sounds like he did a good job.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I don't distract trainers regardless of location. It's rude. When training a SD direct distractions are not the kind you want to train your dog with. He needs people and dogs passing by while I try to keep his focus, not some other owner. Once he has that down we can work on ignoring owners who are cooing.

Petco and other dog friendly locations is where I'll be going until his vest arrives for my own comfort.

Thanks! He really did I'm proud of him
 

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QUESTION! Does anyone have any tips on getting him to turn on and off lights? He uses his paws everytime we've tried that but it scratches up the wall and I want him to use his mouth. Thanks!

Last night we practiced nudging to get him ready for interrupting one of my anxious self mutilating behaviors which involves picking at the inside of my lip. He did really well! It took him a while to pick up on actually touching me with his nose, and I ended up holding a book to my leg so he would target the book and then every once in a while I would remove the book. For a while he would place his head under my leg or on my lap but now he's bopping me with his nose which is what I want and he picked up on it very quickly.

After he learns the action pretty well I'll teach him the cue, which is picking at my lip.

Today we're going to do some more distraction training before I have to go to work. I don't believe his vest is here yet so unfortunately petco it will be.
 

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How exciting! It sounds like he's doing well!

I've long been planning to do task training with my own pup- the Boston in my profile picture. I'll also be doing mostly psychiatric tasks- interrupting self mutilating behaviors I often don't realize I'm doing (lip biting, terribly painful nail biting) as well as alerts tied to the various things I do when my anxiety is rising or I'm disassociating (leg shaking, finger tapping, breathing changes, etc). Now that I finally have time off work and more free time I'm planning to work on task training more; we've been working mostly on a good default heel and default sit while out walking as well as good default attention/eye contact, ignoring other people and other dogs, experiencing new environments and proofing general obedience commands, since I haven't had time for task training and because I was still deciding whether I felt she had the potential to do service work. I also have been doing well lately and felt I could cope without a task trained dog, but recently had a little bit of a back slide and am again aware of how helpful it could be. Having an invisible disability, though, makes it seem like a bigger leap, IMO.

In terms of teaching turning on/off lights and protecting walls, I've heard of people putting some kind of pad over the switch- my first instinct would be to try cutting a swatch out of that foam/felt stuff kids use in crafts all the time and see if that works, if not maybe try fixing a piece of cardboard covered in fabric or something like that. Also, for a more reliable cue and for ease of training by shaping, the Program/School I'm about to go learn from (Bergin University) will attach light switches to a wooden board and shape the cue that way before transferring to a wall mounted switch. I think that might be a good way to teach a more gentle target, versus him just trying to jump up and swat with his paws on the wall.

I've actually found that petco/petsmart tends to be one the hardest places to proof against distractions, because people think any dog that is there is there for them to pet, IME, and also because there are so many other animal smells. For less distracting proofing, I've had good luck using dog friendly stores that don't actually sell animals/dog stuff. There's an American Apparel near my house where the people who work there know me and my dog and we'll often train there. There's also a few other clothing/boutique type stores near me that are OK with dogs inside but usually don't have any other dogs inside and don't sell dog toys/food and don't tend to smell as interesting as the big chain pet stores. Also, I find people are more understanding when I ask them not to distract her, as opposed to pet stores where I've had some slightly rude responses.

Also, I've heard really good things about the book "Training Your Own Service Dog: Step by Step Instructions" be Lelah Sullivan. There's also a FB group that offers support which seems like a nice, drama free place. There are also some other good Owner Training FB groups, though some can be a little dramatic/jump down your throat. I'd suggest joining a few and then weeding out the ones you don't like. I personally have had bad luck on Service Dog-specific forums; people in the SD community can often feel like they're just waiting to call you out for training "wrong", not really needing a SD, being a faker, or using "unprofessional" equipment (for example some handlers, especially with large mobility dogs, will use prongs or head collars because they like the improved control, and some die-hards claim this is a sure sign of a "faker").

Good luck in this journey and if you ever need some moral support feel free to PM me!
 

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How exciting! It sounds like he's doing well!

I've long been planning to do task training with my own pup- the Boston in my profile picture. I'll also be doing mostly psychiatric tasks- interrupting self mutilating behaviors I often don't realize I'm doing (lip biting, terribly painful nail biting) as well as alerts tied to the various things I do when my anxiety is rising or I'm disassociating (leg shaking, finger tapping, breathing changes, etc). Now that I finally have time off work and more free time I'm planning to work on task training more; we've been working mostly on a good default heel and default sit while out walking as well as good default attention/eye contact, ignoring other people and other dogs, experiencing new environments and proofing general obedience commands, since I haven't had time for task training and because I was still deciding whether I felt she had the potential to do service work. I also have been doing well lately and felt I could cope without a task trained dog, but recently had a little bit of a back slide and am again aware of how helpful it could be. Having an invisible disability, though, makes it seem like a bigger leap, IMO.

In terms of teaching turning on/off lights and protecting walls, I've heard of people putting some kind of pad over the switch- my first instinct would be to try cutting a swatch out of that foam/felt stuff kids use in crafts all the time and see if that works, if not maybe try fixing a piece of cardboard covered in fabric or something like that. Also, for a more reliable cue and for ease of training by shaping, the Program/School I'm about to go learn from (Bergin University) will attach light switches to a wooden board and shape the cue that way before transferring to a wall mounted switch. I think that might be a good way to teach a more gentle target, versus him just trying to jump up and swat with his paws on the wall.

I've actually found that petco/petsmart tends to be one the hardest places to proof against distractions, because people think any dog that is there is there for them to pet, IME, and also because there are so many other animal smells. For less distracting proofing, I've had good luck using dog friendly stores that don't actually sell animals/dog stuff. There's an American Apparel near my house where the people who work there know me and my dog and we'll often train there. There's also a few other clothing/boutique type stores near me that are OK with dogs inside but usually don't have any other dogs inside and don't sell dog toys/food and don't tend to smell as interesting as the big chain pet stores. Also, I find people are more understanding when I ask them not to distract her, as opposed to pet stores where I've had some slightly rude responses.

Also, I've heard really good things about the book "Training Your Own Service Dog: Step by Step Instructions" be Lelah Sullivan. There's also a FB group that offers support which seems like a nice, drama free place. There are also some other good Owner Training FB groups, though some can be a little dramatic/jump down your throat. I'd suggest joining a few and then weeding out the ones you don't like. I personally have had bad luck on Service Dog-specific forums; people in the SD community can often feel like they're just waiting to call you out for training "wrong", not really needing a SD, being a faker, or using "unprofessional" equipment (for example some handlers, especially with large mobility dogs, will use prongs or head collars because they like the improved control, and some die-hards claim this is a sure sign of a "faker").

Good luck in this journey and if you ever need some moral support feel free to PM me!
Hello, thanks for the response!

I definitely feel that having an invisible disability is a lot more tricky to do as far as public access is concerned, made harder by people with horribly untrained dogs that they claim to be service and bring into stores. I understand people being wary, though I hope that they go easy on us. I think it's usually fairly obvious when someone is being dishonest about their dog.

I'm sure she at least has the potential to give it a shot !! You never know, and with consistent training I'm sure she could do what you needed her to do in order to help you with your disability :) Even if she couldn't overcome some PA things, she could at least help you at home.

Thanks for the suggestion on the wall deal, I think I'm going to stick with trying to specifically train him to use his mouth as I would prefer that over his paws but if that doesn't work I'll definitely consider getting something to put around the switch

As far as the petco thing, I'm beginning to find you're absolutely right and that makes a lot of sense ! We're going to go ahead and stick with a grassy field near my house by the dog park where people and their dogs come. the field is huge so we can stand at a distance and dogs are usually on leash :) I think the food smells and multitude of animal smells make it hard for him. And the people are very annoying :/

I tend to steer clear from forums anyway, I feel that happens a lot (I see it here too from time to time unfortunately) which is why I am using tumblr as my other platform as it's a website I'm familiar with, and it's proved to be extremely supportive and kind. i've gotten a lot of tips and have already talked to people, even someone who lives in my state!

It's funny you mention head halters because I just got Cosmo one today lol. It has nothing to do with walking, and more to do with giving him a very light tug to pull his focus back onto me as he tends to not hear me when he's focused on something interesting like a dog or small animal and someone suggested trying that. it's like a little tap on the shoulder saying "hey pay attention to me"

But yeah thank you so much, you too !!!
 

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Day three!

Today was a bit of a frustrating day for both of us. Cosmo wasn't focusing too well on me for much of our distraction training, and the both of us began getting tired and frustrated with the session so it ended on a bit of a bad note. Due to the suggestions of a couple people I've decided that I will no longer train Cosmo in areas with high volume animal distractions (like petco). Instead, we are going to practice tomorrow in a big field near the park where he will still get distractions but not so many strong condensed distractions confined to a building. At the end of the day I've decided that Cosmo is doing great, and I'm simply not making it easy for him to succeed so we're takng it slower.

Another frustrating thing, and the reason his vest didn't arrive in the one day I purchased, was because a purchase I made in a different town was thought to be fraudulent and my bank froze my account which stopped the transaction. I repurchased the vest and the one day shipping still went through, though since it's a weekend it won't be here until monday anyway so I could have just gotten two day shipping and not paid the extra. I emailed the people and asked if it would at all be possible to get it here before sunday (which I doubt) or have the one day cost refunded. It won't be a big deal if it doesn't happen, but it's a bit frustrating because I really wanted it here before next week and I don't exactly have money to just throw away.

We haven't done our night time indoor training yet, which will include practicing his nudging, holding items, and some grounding. I'll probably update once that is over and might try to upload some pictures ( or maybe even a video ? )

So yeah! Bit frustrating but all in all today was fine.
 

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Day four!

Today we went to the transit station to get him used to the new environment with some positive reinforcement. It was a Saturday so buses weren't actually running, so it was a very good first time visit for him! It wasn't too overwhelming and since we were literally the only people there we practiced his sit stay, his tuck, and some focusing skills. There were buses parked on the tracks and they made random loud hissing noises (not sure why) and he did really well and wasn't phased at all. We practiced him sitting calmly at the edge of the curb before it falls into the rails, and i had him sit on the side as if we would if we were waiting for the bus to arrive. I also had him sit for a fair while underneath the bench under me to practice his tuck which he would need to do on the bus as he cant sit in the aisle.

Last night we also practiced picking up objects and nudging, which he progressed a lot with and he can now hold items a bit longer before he drops them, and he's also pushing me harder with his nose when he nudges so all good progress!

Tonight we will work on the things he's been working on some more as well as trying to get him to turn the lights on with his mouth and not his paw.

Oh, and the one day shipping was kindly refunded and it will be here Monday :)
 

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Day Five!

Today was a pretty 'lax day and a bit of a day off for Cosmo. We visited Mount Hood near Portland and played in the snow. He had a blast! He really enjoys the snow a lot. He found the deep spots and leapt into them, then he would jump out and twist in a circle and jump back in. I was really worried about his pads getting ice blisters so I limited his time in the snow because it was freezing, but the weather was surprisingly not bad. It was 58 degrees when I checked, just a bit windy considering we were on a mountain.

We did practice some training last night, though not much and didn't practice lights which we will definitely do tonight. We practiced some distraction training outside of goodwill, and cosmo did really well even when people were whistling at him and reaching out their hands as they passed which is very frustrating though hopefully having his vest on will help. (It comes in the mail tomorrow, whoo!!!)

I figured out how to do pictures and not make them larger than the state of texas, so I attached some of those as well! We also went on an early morning walk at 6am today. We practiced eyes on me, leash walking, and staying focused with distracting smells of other dogs pee around our complex.

Tonight we will focus on lights, more nudging, and picking up items. Tomorrow I'm banking on his vest being here fairly early so we can go to the transit station and practice with people around and buses moving ( and maybe get on the commuter rail briefly to introduce that aspect ).

Below are some mountain pictures and the bonus sit stay at the transit station the other day!







 

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HOLY COW!

So Cosmo caught on to lights INCREDIBLY fast! We just finished our session and he can now turn off the light with no problem at all using his mouth and not his paws. He did it reliably multiple times and I'm SO FREAKING PROUD OF HIM! I'm honestly amazed at how quickly he learned that. Turning them on is a bit trickier as instead of pulling the light down he has to learn and remember it has to be pushed up to turn on, however I think he also got frustrated towards the end because his back legs were getting tired so I put this little square table in front of the switch and had him sit on it so he was eye level with the switch and he had a much easier time learning to pull it up and not down. We ended on a good note despite his frustration! We just need to build the muscles in his legs because I think being in a standing position made him tired and is the main reason he began to not engage before I let him use the table as a tool.

Anyway I'm very very proud of him and super excited for his vest to come tomorrow!!!
 

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Day six!

Yesterday was day six but we had an extremely busy day so I didn't get the chance to post but WOW! I'm so excited about cosmo's progress and how well he's handling the service dog life.

Having practiced introducing the buses and being able to get used to their strange loud noises and crowds of people they brought, we decided to move onto actually getting him into the rail. He really shocked me with how good he did! The very first time he was obviously spooked, and tried to put a paw up onto the seat but I told him to sit and did some very simple basic training to keep his focus (with the help of some ground beef) and he did so beautifully ! we rode the rail twice and the bus twice, and by the end of the day he would hop on the rail and sleep!

He performed his tuck beautifully and laid politely under the seats of the bus and rail every time (except once when we didn't have the option because the seat didn't have an "underneath" part in which he laid under my legs).

So all in all yesterday was an incredibly huge leap for cosmo and he handled it so well! I'm very proud of him and proud to call him my service dog!







Our next step is practicing on focusing around enticing scents so we can train for restaurants and things.
 

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I've lost count of the days so from now on I'll just be posting when there's an update to be had

This morning we practiced nudge, lights, and handing things to me. All three he has showed me he's greatly improving! He can now turn the lights on/off on command with little issue (sometimes on is still tricky but now he doesn't give up, and he gets it within a couple of seconds). his nudge is getting really good, he's now adding some extra force behind it and will nudge me multiple times if I don't respond which is what I'm looking for - persistence!

I think we're ready to add a cue, which will be picking at my skin (particularly my lip and scalp) as well as leg shaking.

The only issue we ran into was tonight, when I tried to have him move from picking up a pack of tissues to my keys. we've been practicing with the soft tissue pack, and I think having metal on his teeth is weird for him. I have a couple ideas though, one of which involves me getting a temporary lanyard that he can grab onto while he gets used to the weight of the keys and gets familiar with picking them up.

Anyway, all in all it's been good progress! Tonight we will work on grounding and DPT, which we haven't touched on in a while but it's important for him to know these things. We will also be proofing nudging with distractions, and eventually with picking things up as well once he gets reliable with more than just the tissues.

Anyway! Here's some goofy pictures of him rolling around in a field some place





 
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