Service Dog In Training

I've been looking for a service dog for ages, to help me with balance, getting some exercise and being a companion, now that Bracken is 13 years old, and well past the age of doing much more than sleeping.

Sable, Service Dog in Training

Enter Sable; Italian Mastiff x Rottweiler x Bouvier. Not a typical breed for a support or service dog, but in my case, I need a dog with some height so I can use her for balance, getting up if I fall, and also for jouring.

What's that, you ask?

Jouring is the sport of using a dog for the power when skiing, scootering or biking - in my vision, because of my lack of balance, I plan on using a tricycle, preferably one with fat tires to be able to go on all kinds of terrain and surface. 

The dog wears a harness and a bungee cord arrangement to take the pressure off during fast starts, and has to learn several crucial commands; gee (turn right), haw (turn left), hike (forward) and the most important, whoa. There are others, but those are the four most used.

What's different about the way you train a service dog and a regular pet?  In this case, a lot. 

First of all, Sable has been crate trained.  I've never used a crate for a dog to sleep in, but it's better in lots of ways.  They get used to the command 'kennel up' and go in their crate willingly for a sleep or quiet time. It makes it so much easier to indicate that it's time for a nap, or just get out from underfoot. 

It also helps with house breaking - we've never had an accident in the three weeks that Sable has been with us.  She's now 12 13 weeks old, so that's remarkable.

Service dogs need to be well socialized, with people, other dogs, cats and any other animal they may come across. The worst thing would be when I'm depending on her to be steady and reliable, and we come across a llama.

Socializing any dog is dependent on getting them exposed to as many different experiences and people, while keeping them safe, in the early weeks. 

They are most adaptable between seven and sixteen weeks, which is also when they're most susceptible to diseases, as their immune systems are weak at this age, and when they are currently getting immunizations to protect them.  Once they have their second set of shots, and allowed a week to get their immune system up to snuff, they're safe to go where other dogs have been and they won't get sick.

Rules for meeting Sable

Because Sable is not just your ordinary run of the mill pet, it's important to make sure you greet her properly. 

  • No talk, no touch, no eye contact, please. 
  • No baby talk, getting her excited or scared. 

She will be held to a higher standard than a pet, so let's get her started off right.

Sables Training

We got Sable at 9 weeks old, from her litter of several siblings, so she wasn't too enthralled with us (geriatric dog, two cranky sixtyish boomers) as playmates.  She's getting over that now.  That was June 8.

July 1 - Canada Day!  12 weeks - three months old.

Since Robin (our trainer) came up on June 24 we've been working on 'mugging', bite inhibition using marking, and now we're onto loose leash walking, especially a pack walk with old Bracken, me using my walker with Sable firmly attached to the handle, Mike walking beside dispensing treats when she's in zone (right beside my leg with the leash (sort of) loose. 

Work in progress - and a good nap right after. Try to end on a good note.

Update mid August 2019; Sable is now 5 months old, and it's obvious that she's not going to make the grade - not because of any kind of behavioural issue, but because she won't be physically big enough for the bracing and balance assistance I need her to do.  Her ultimate size will be around 55-60lbs - I need a dog that will be around 90 lbs, so that's a huge shortfall.

So, sadly, I'll be rehoming her - I have the perfect home for her if it works out and she gets along with their two year old male dog (who wouldn't love this little sprite?) and the elderly mother who lives with her and helps in the farming.

More to follow on this sad turn of events.

September 2019; Sable just turned six months old, and is still under 40lbs, so won't be big enough for bracing. 

Her nature and character, apart from puppy nipping and jumping, will be calm and responsive.  But it's best for her to be rehomed.  I can't do it all from the seat of a walker, so she's going to live with a retired school principal on Vancouver Island.  She'll be able to go to the beach!

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