Roxi "sat in" for a service dog last week. Some new clients were at the facility for team training with their new service dogs. One of the dogs was slightly injured, so Roxi was a stand-in for the day while he rested.
Boy, was I nervous! The result of all my work was right there for everyone to see. Plus, she was in the room with 2 yr. old graduate dogs and she's not yet a year.
I didn't get to stay in the room, as I was just a distraction, but everyone tells me she did a great job. She even picked up her leash and did some of the advanced behaviors. Show off!
Here are some pictures of her picking up her leash, and playing the clicker game, which works like this: the client decides on a new behavior they want to shape using the clicker. Here, Roxi is learning to pick up a bucket. I'm working on a similar behavior called "Trash". When given the command, Roxi is to pick up an item and throw it in the trash. Here's how we've broken down the learning process. Your dog should already be able to retrieve an item.
Start by using a trash can, medium-sized. Use this can for every training session until the command is solid. I made the mistake in the beginning of using too small a can, which made it difficult for her to get an item inside. For those of you new to training, you can learn more about clicker training on Karen Pryor's website. The first step is to get the dog to just put their nose in the trash can. Click and treat for any interest in the can, and work up to deliberate head bobs into the can. Once the dog gets that she is to put her head in the can, start adding the command Trash. Make sure to click and treat when her head is in the can, not as she starts the behavior. We practiced just this step of the chain of the behavior for a good week.
Next, introduce an item into the process. I used a small rubber item. Start with something that your dog likes to pick up. Make sure to use this item for every session until the dog knows the behavior. Throw the item a short distance. If the dog already knows a retrieve behavior, she will probably go get the item. If she doesn't, just throw it again until she shows interest. You may have to click and treat for little steps of progress here. For example, you may have to click and treat for interest, and then click and treat for mouthing the item, and then click and treat for actually picking it up. With Roxi, she picked up the item right away.
When your dog picks up the item, immediately give the command Trash. Hopefully, she will stick her nose in the trash can. When she does, click and treat and celebrate! The sound of the clicker and promise of food will probably cause her to drop the item. Even if she doesn't, don't worry. You can work up to only reinforcing drops later. Take it slow and give lots of praise.