You may remember Logan, the friendly white Labrador retriever who lived with me for two months this summer. Logan belonged to an organization called Patriot Paws and was in training to be a service dog. Patriot Paws is a non-profit organization that trains service dogs for veterans with physical disabilities and/or PTSD. It takes about a year and a half to two years to train each dog, and the dogs complete the majority of their training with community puppy raisers and in Patriot Paws’ prison program, where inmates train the dogs.
Logan came to stay with me because he had some minor issues that were slowing down his training. One problem was that he had developed an aversion to his service dog vest. He would avoid putting on his vest. Then, once the vest was on, you could observe a noticeable change in his behavior.
Logan’s other big issue was that he was just too friendly! While it is good for service dogs to be friendly and comfortable around all sorts of people, Logan had a hard time knowing when it was and was not appropriate to interact with people. While out working in public, a service dog needs to be able to focus all of his attention on his handler. Logan, however, would sometimes get distracted, especially if a strange person passed by a little too closely. We could tell that he was thinking, “Surely the person is going to come and pet me!!”
Logan lived with me for two months, and several of the UNT ORCA students helped me work with him. While he was with me, he made a lot of progress with his training. When Logan went back to Patriot Paws at the end of the summer, he continued to do very well with the training program. So well, in fact, that the training staff decided that Logan was ready to graduate!
I was not able to attend the graduation ceremony, but two of my ORCA friends were able to go. In addition to Logan, four other dogs graduated during the ceremony. Logan was paired with a veteran named Alice. I think the two of them are going to be a great fit, and that Logan will really be great as a service dog. The Fox News station in Austin did a short piece about Alice and Logan, which is available online here.
Currently, I have another service-dog-in-training living with me. He’s also a white Labrador, and his name is Drill Bit. I haven’t had much time this fall to write on my blog about his training, but I hope to write more about his adventures as he continues with his training.
Right now, things are pretty busy around here. We are finishing up the fall semester at UNT. The undergraduate behavior analysis class that I have taught this semester has gone very well. The students are finishing up their final projects, which involves training a series of behaviors to a pet. Most of them do not have any animal training experience before taking the class. So, it is certainly a learning experience for them, and they learn a lot about how shaping and reinforcement works when you are working with a non-human animal.
The project challenges them, but I break it down into pieces so that they can be successful, and they usually have a lot of fun with it. Most of the students in the class are training dogs or cats, but I also have students this semester who are working with a ferret, mouse, beta fish, and llama!
I’m also busy preparing for a trip to Germany at the beginning of December. Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz and I will be in Hamburg, presenting a week-long seminar to a group of professional dog trainers. The seminar is going to cover a wide range of training topics, from some very theoretical and philosophical topics to very specific training procedures and strategies. The seminar is going to be a blast, but I am definitely staying busy preparing for it.
For my American friends, I hope you have a very wonderful Thanksgiving this week with your families, friends, and pets!