Manners aren’t just a polite way of life for humans, working dogs have to learn these too. Since getting my soon-to-be assistant dog Tinker we have gathered large amounts of information on what it actually means to be an assistant dog.
Most believe the role is purely to help and ease the day to day tasks of the lucky individual who gets to have a big ball of fluff as a carer. However while this is very true it’s only about half of what these trusty animals are taught. Restaurants, shops, trains and pubs all need to know for health and safety that your assistant dog can act more like a polite gentlemen than a bounding play mate.
For a chosen dog to pass it’s assessments it needs to know its please from its thank yous. It may all sound a bit over the top but you can’t have a dog allowed in every public place if it’s not calm, courteous, and unfazed by every weird and wonderful sight. Being able to spend an hour sat under a table with little attention, not stealing the eye level food from supermarkets, and treating cars as cars are all things to be considered when an assistant dog is being trained.
At this moment in time Tinker is a few weeks off the waiting list to becoming fully immersed in the world of the working, but that doesn’t mean she’s been sat on her laurels. Interacting her with people, traffic, loud noises, and other animals are all great ways of easing her into training and getting her used to basic everyday things which she will have to cope with when she’s in charge of the caring.
Obedience is another massive part in the training. From the very beginning Tinker has had rules set which can’t be broken as this could mess up her training in the future — although, as you can probably imagine, she tries every trick in the book to sneak past these rules from unleashing the big brown yellow eyes, to laying her head on your lap. Her favourite trick is to set up one of our other two dogs. Spying some naughty goings on over food, Tinker will soon come running up to you, give you all the attention in the world then tell you what has happened, all the while glaring at a rather bemused grace.
Just because a dog is working or training to work doesn’t mean that they don’t get to have some fun. Play is an important part in any dogs life, including those who work. Tinker has now acquired many and many toys which always end up strewn around the house no matter how many times you pick them up. Playing with your dog is a brilliant way to build up trust, and a great time to test obedience. If you can get your dog to willing give you their toy in the middle of a playful game that’s a sure fire way that they not only trust you but see you as the boss.
Running round and round in circles the length of a field , trying to get our other two dogs to join in and rolling around in the grass are activities which Tinker gets to enjoy at least twice a day. Meaning when it comes to training she’s more than willing to put on her working hat , having burnt out all the manic energy in a field full of long, thick grass perfect for playing hide and seek in. It’s a long and complicated road to becoming an assistant dog. Often taking years before they pass all their assessments. But the independence and relaxing joy it can give a person means all the hard work for dog and owner becomes worth it.