Autism Service dog--anyone training one themselves?

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Mayzoo
Posts: 87
Joined: Fri Mar 29, 2013 3:50 pm

Autism Service dog--anyone training one themselves?

Postby Mayzoo » Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:43 pm

I am training my daughter's (13 yr old) autism service dog and was wondering if anyone else here is training one? I hope to trade stories, both the trying stories and the fun ones. I have trained and task trained dogs my whole life, so I think it is coming along fairly well so far. The whole family is in training, not just the dog. This journey will likely take a year or more to complete.

Background: We got the dog from a pound. He is about a year old. We have had him almost ten weeks, and I have been training him for roughly 6-7 weeks so far. He was not trained for anything, including house training or even sit when we got him. He sleeps in her room now and they have bonded as well as can be expected, for a kiddo with autism that is. She requests him there, and for her, that is big.

We live in a small (3800+) town, and so far every business has been more than accommodating (even though he is still in training), with some really being excited both for my daughter and some for the pup. More folks in town know his name now than know my name LOL. Of course, everyone in town knows my kiddos name. She is home schooled so no issues there. Kiddo is not aggressive and has been very gentle with him, but is still supervised during the day.

Now he can easily on command:

1. Sit
2. Lay down
3. Speak
4. High five
5. Sit and wait for specific release command to go outside and come in (ignoring all other words until he hears the word "okay").
6. Sit and wait for specific release command to go to his food (ignoring all other words until he hears the word "okay").
7. Stay for several minutes at a time, even enticed with food.
8. Leave food alone when dropped near him (no command)
9. House trained
10. Roll over
11. Controlled load and unload from car
12. Leash trained to sit when we stop and stay until command to get up (still working on this).
13. "Stay with ________" (insert a name of family member)--(still working on this)
14. Down the road, he will be trained like a seeing eye dog to not get up, even with release command, if a car is coming in a parking lot or street. He is small, so he cannot stop her, but he can be a reminder which is all she needs. She gladly looks both ways when reminded, but if not reminded, she never looks both ways.

I ordered the book The Guide to Training an Autism Assistance Dog to polish his training more. I have not received it yet. We are training based on the Public Access Test criteria.
DD 2002. PANDAS, Autism, ACMI, AC, Syrigiomylia, BL Strabismus, and Torticollis.

B.L. Pike
Posts: 69
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 10:29 am

Re: Autism Service dog--anyone training one themselves?

Postby B.L. Pike » Tue Aug 11, 2015 10:59 pm

Hello, Mayzoo,
Our (adult) son's service dog, now 6 years old, was trained by us. Also a rescue, he was 5 months old when we found him. He's a large (85 pound) Golden/poodle cross, smart and mellow and very trainable. I've written a bit about our experience here:
http://www.literarymama.com/columns/sen ... e-dog.html

The Public Access and specific skills training you're doing are both important, but socialization is foundational (and fun!) Gently exposing the pup to new experiences--public transportation; events that involve crowds, noise or loud music; eating out at a variety of restaurants; encountering people in costumes or carrying balloons or umbrellas; dealing with exuberant kids holding ice cream cones; encountering other dogs, even those that are out of control--all really important for building a bomb-proof service dog.

I'm a member of an on-line discussion group made up of service dog owners and trainers (all kinds of service dogs, not just autism). It's a great place to hear other people's experiences with their service animals, discuss issues important to us (access challenges, "fake" service dogs, vet problems, etc.), and to ask questions. Lots of the members are professional service dog trainers who are endlessly generous with their help, and there are lots of us owner-trainers too. It's a Yahoo group called "assistance-dogs" if you'd like to look it up and join (free, need moderator approval which is easy to come by).

Besides the tasks you mention, our dog does a "chin" command, putting his chin on our son's lap for blood tests, doctor and dentist visits or other trying circumstances. Of course training never ends, as we have to continue to keep his skills sharp and also find new ways for him to intervene. He's currently learning to back up and sit between our son's legs when our son is standing, giving him a reassuring presence and a sense of keeping other people at a comfortable distance. We're also (and always!) working on deepening our son's involvement in the dog's care, which helps him feel in control and also aids their bonding.

The dog is a genius at sensing our son's moods, catches changes before I'm aware of them. And he loves his work--which is absolutely essential to a great working dog relationship. I hope other owner-trainers join this discussion, as it's a really great way to work with our kids.

I'd love to hear more about your adventures!
B.L.

ScrappyMommyof3
Posts: 234
Joined: Fri Mar 15, 2013 12:51 pm

Re: Autism Service dog--anyone training one themselves?

Postby ScrappyMommyof3 » Thu Aug 13, 2015 8:45 am

Not yet. We are considering it though would love to hear if anyone else has success. My guy is afraid of larger dogs but has learned to tolerate smaller dogs so we are looking at possibly a beagle mix. We have a friend whose son has a service dog that goes everywhere with him (including school but they live in Nova Scotia, not sure if US schools allow) and has made great strides with his dog over the past few years. He's 13 now and I believe he's had the dog about three years. They even do training at their son's school with the NT kids so that seeing a dog at school doesn't cause problems.
Mom of 3
Daughter 13, Learning disabled
Son 9, Non-Verbal ASD
Son 9, Neuro-Typical

B.L. Pike
Posts: 69
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 10:29 am

Re: Autism Service dog--anyone training one themselves?

Postby B.L. Pike » Thu Aug 13, 2015 1:45 pm

Scrappy, schools in the U.S. are in a state of flux about service dogs, especially for elementary school kids who can't handle their dog alone. Basically, the question is whether it's the family's or the school's responsibility to come up with (and pay for) someone to handle the dog throughout the school day. Obviously the teacher can't attend to the dogs needs (food, water, relieving himself) and can't even be expected to be constantly on top of other kids who might distract the dog or even abuse it. Some families have also found that because of lax supervision throughout the school days their service dogs pick up "bad" habits that interfere with their trained tasks. There have been some recent court cases that attempt to establish precedents for service dogs in schools, but it's still up for grabs at the moment. It's not easy to find an aide who wants to tend a dog all day in a classroom situation.

Since you're in the early stages of considering a dog for your son, here's an article I recently wrote for the Autism Web blog about points to consider when thinking about getting a service dog--scroll down on the page to the third article, titled "Just the Three of Us" (there's a picture of our pup there too):
http://www.autismweb.com/blog.htm

You might also consider joining the Yahoo! group I mentioned above, as there's a wealth of information there that helped me consider all the angles before getting into it. Best wishes as you work toward a decision that's right for you!
B.L.

Mayzoo
Posts: 87
Joined: Fri Mar 29, 2013 3:50 pm

Re: Autism Service dog--anyone training one themselves?

Postby Mayzoo » Sat Sep 05, 2015 2:13 pm

B.L. Pike wrote:Hello, Mayzoo,
Our (adult) son's service dog, now 6 years old, was trained by us. Also a rescue, he was 5 months old when we found him. He's a large (85 pound) Golden/poodle cross, smart and mellow and very trainable. I've written a bit about our experience here:
http://www.literarymama.com/columns/sen ... e-dog.html

The Public Access and specific skills training you're doing are both important, but socialization is foundational (and fun!) Gently exposing the pup to new experiences--public transportation; events that involve crowds, noise or loud music; eating out at a variety of restaurants; encountering people in costumes or carrying balloons or umbrellas; dealing with exuberant kids holding ice cream cones; encountering other dogs, even those that are out of control--all really important for building a bomb-proof service dog.

I'm a member of an on-line discussion group made up of service dog owners and trainers (all kinds of service dogs, not just autism). It's a great place to hear other people's experiences with their service animals, discuss issues important to us (access challenges, "fake" service dogs, vet problems, etc.), and to ask questions. Lots of the members are professional service dog trainers who are endlessly generous with their help, and there are lots of us owner-trainers too. It's a Yahoo group called "assistance-dogs" if you'd like to look it up and join (free, need moderator approval which is easy to come by).

Besides the tasks you mention, our dog does a "chin" command, putting his chin on our son's lap for blood tests, doctor and dentist visits or other trying circumstances. Of course training never ends, as we have to continue to keep his skills sharp and also find new ways for him to intervene. He's currently learning to back up and sit between our son's legs when our son is standing, giving him a reassuring presence and a sense of keeping other people at a comfortable distance. We're also (and always!) working on deepening our son's involvement in the dog's care, which helps him feel in control and also aids their bonding.

The dog is a genius at sensing our son's moods, catches changes before I'm aware of them. And he loves his work--which is absolutely essential to a great working dog relationship. I hope other owner-trainers join this discussion, as it's a really great way to work with our kids.

I'd love to hear more about your adventures!
B.L.


We are going to try to do some distraction training at a "pet spa" and some more at both a dog park and pet stores. Right now, he has been in Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, Brookshires, County Clerk office, Post Office, a few thrift stores, other family homes with dogs, he is going with us to a doc appt soon, we will be going to our local park soon and frequently. We are doing early restaurant training at home for now, and will be going out to restaurants soon. Hubby manages a restaurant, but thinks his boss may fire him if costumers complain because they think he is allowing his family pet in (even though he has a service vest and tags that identify him as a service dog). He knows he cannot be fired directly for this, but we live in a right to work state, so he can be fired without the boss really needing to give a reason.

We are trying to hit most the types of transit she may go on in the next 15 years. We live in a tiny town, so some transit is virtually impossible. We are going to a bigger town to do much of that. We also had him out at our fireworks stand this year to meet lots of new people and to get the idea that he cannot always be the center of attention. Conversations will go on while he must just hang out. This was before we began much formal training.

We are now working on two new commands, one being "alert" so he can alert kiddo to her rising anxiety, and the other is "lap" where he puts two feet and his head in her lap to try to calm her. Mario loves to work too. Nothing gets him as excited as bringing out his service harness.

Besides the online community, what resources did you use to assist in your training? I read the book, The Guide to Training an Autism Service Dog and got a few ideas from it, but not as much as I had hoped.
DD 2002. PANDAS, Autism, ACMI, AC, Syrigiomylia, BL Strabismus, and Torticollis.

Mayzoo
Posts: 87
Joined: Fri Mar 29, 2013 3:50 pm

Re: Autism Service dog--anyone training one themselves?

Postby Mayzoo » Sat Sep 05, 2015 2:21 pm

ScrappyMommyof3 wrote:Not yet. We are considering it though would love to hear if anyone else has success. My guy is afraid of larger dogs but has learned to tolerate smaller dogs so we are looking at possibly a beagle mix. We have a friend whose son has a service dog that goes everywhere with him (including school but they live in Nova Scotia, not sure if US schools allow) and has made great strides with his dog over the past few years. He's 13 now and I believe he's had the dog about three years. They even do training at their son's school with the NT kids so that seeing a dog at school doesn't cause problems.


The dog I am working with is 9lbs. He is a Red Legged Yorkshire Terrier. Kiddo would likely not do as well with a big dog either. They are okay as long as they do not cuddle up to her. She lets Mario cuddle with her and he sleeps on her bed. She says she sleeps better with him there.

A service dog can be whatever size you need it to be, so long as it can accomplish the tasks needed by the disabled person. Our kiddo does not much in the way of physical help, other than guidance in parking lots (not crossing when cars are coming etc..) Mario can do this since she will not drag him. If he does not get up, she will have to wait and look again to see if it is clear. She is in training as much as Mario is. I tell her frequently, if she looks out for him, he will look out for her, and that they must work together as a team.
DD 2002. PANDAS, Autism, ACMI, AC, Syrigiomylia, BL Strabismus, and Torticollis.

B.L. Pike
Posts: 69
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 10:29 am

Re: Autism Service dog--anyone training one themselves?

Postby B.L. Pike » Sun Sep 06, 2015 2:34 pm

Mayzoo, we've used Sue Ailsby's Training Levels: Steps to Success for all our dogs (one of our other kids has a diabetes alert service dog). Following Sue's step-by-step training program builds a great relationship that leads to real ease in teaching any new skill--important, since service dogs are constantly learning new skills to mitigate new problems. Sue sells her set of two books, or you can access the material free online (we bought them, as it's that much easier to follow if you have them in hand, but you can try it out first online and see what you think.) Her website is here:
http://sue-eh.ca
If you decide to use the Training Levels there is also a Yahoo group that goes along with it, where you can keep your training records and ask questions. It's called Training Levels Support.

We also did a brief (but VERY profitable) training segment by Skype with a fantastic trainer in Canada (we're in the U.S.) named Donna Hill. She also has a whole series of training videos online. Here's her listing of them:
http://dogvideoindex.blogspot.com

I'm curious how you're training "Alert," and what alert sign you're using? Our daughter's diabetes alert dog uses a bringsel for alerts, but our son's autism dog uses a nose nudge for me and puts his paws on our son's shoulders--something your little terrier won't be doing!

I'm glad you've joined the Assistance-Dogs group and hope you'll get some really helpful answers--a bit slow over this holiday weekend, but it'll pick up soon.
B.L.

Mayzoo
Posts: 87
Joined: Fri Mar 29, 2013 3:50 pm

Re: Autism Service dog--anyone training one themselves?

Postby Mayzoo » Sun Sep 06, 2015 5:14 pm

B.L. Pike wrote:Mayzoo, we've used Sue Ailsby's Training Levels: Steps to Success for all our dogs (one of our other kids has a diabetes alert service dog). Following Sue's step-by-step training program builds a great relationship that leads to real ease in teaching any new skill--important, since service dogs are constantly learning new skills to mitigate new problems. Sue sells her set of two books, or you can access the material free online (we bought them, as it's that much easier to follow if you have them in hand, but you can try it out first online and see what you think.) Her website is here:
http://sue-eh.ca
If you decide to use the Training Levels there is also a Yahoo group that goes along with it, where you can keep your training records and ask questions. It's called Training Levels Support.

We also did a brief (but VERY profitable) training segment by Skype with a fantastic trainer in Canada (we're in the U.S.) named Donna Hill. She also has a whole series of training videos online. Here's her listing of them:
http://dogvideoindex.blogspot.com

I'm curious how you're training "Alert," and what alert sign you're using? Our daughter's diabetes alert dog uses a bringsel for alerts, but our son's autism dog uses a nose nudge for me and puts his paws on our son's shoulders--something your little terrier won't be doing!

I'm glad you've joined the Assistance-Dogs group and hope you'll get some really helpful answers--a bit slow over this holiday weekend, but it'll pick up soon.
B.L.


For now, I am using two fingers and scratching on my leg while saying "alert" to get Mario to scratch on my leg as the alert signal. Then he is told "lap" so he can put his head on my lap. When he has these two commands down pat, I will integrate them into him doing them on her leg and lap only, by command, when she becomes upset (sadly right now this is almost daily). My hope is that after a great of time, consistency, and patience, he will begin to do them by association, on his own, when he senses she has become upset.

Earlier today I recommended Sue's site to someone on the yahoo site you mentioned. I had joined the yahoo site a a month or so ago, but did not post there till yesterday. I started perusing Sue's site about a month ago and Mario was pretty much already at beginning stage two, if I recall correctly. We are working through the stages online, but I did not know about the accompanying website.

Mario has had a mini vacation because he was micro-chipped Friday, and I did not want him to over do or move around to much AND I was worried about putting his harness on right after that. Back to business later tonight though, since I had his chip read yesterday and it was right were it was supposed to be.

Thanks for the information. I will write more later, gotta run for now.
DD 2002. PANDAS, Autism, ACMI, AC, Syrigiomylia, BL Strabismus, and Torticollis.


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