It’s surprising how many step downs and ups there are. I never paid much attention to them until I came to need a mobility service dog. Curbs are the main culprits, but some homes have dens you have to step down to enter, and decks with levels, gardens with a step up because of the slope of the land.
Step up and down is a touch alert I want to teach my next puppy, Levi. Since I can see a stair case, I’m going to limit this to one or maybe two steps. You know, the kind that make a person I won’t name go splat if she misses or misjudges it.
The alert is the initial part of getting up and down safely, and I’ve trained alerts before, but not this particular one. The process of teaching an alert is essentially the same though: see it, then touch me.
My first step will be to train the pup to notice a curb or a step: see it, click and treat. The general public will likely think I’m nuts, going about looking for curbs for no other reason than to click and treat! But he can’t alert me later on if he doesn’t really understand that there is something about that curb I want him to pay attention to.
The second step is teaching a touch alert using a hand lure, that turns into hand targeting without the treat. A hand lure is simply using a treat in your hand to get the pup’s nose to follow the hand until he touches the part of the body you want him to.
Hand targeting without the treat starts when the pup is beginning to see the step and look to my hand for the treat. Then I move my hand to get the touch so I can click and treat him. When he’s touching regularly, the word “touch” is said when his little nose hits my body.
When he can do both, I begin putting the curb notice with the touch alert. The crazy curb lady is now looking for a curb to notice then touch, before the click and treat comes. See it touch me, needs to be pretty solid before I move on into how to get me up and down those step ups safely.
Up or Down Brace
With a step, I want to teach Levi after alerting me, to put his front feet up on the sidewalk or down on the parking lot asphalt and stop. That way I have his harness handle about 6 inches in front of me. I can pull or brace some as I need when he’s grown. He’s positioned where it works best for me.
If it’s not, Levi will still be plenty close enough to counterbalance some, until I’m ready to move my other foot. Then when both my feet are up or down, I pause to check my balance and go ahead.
Now I’m adding a 3rd part for Levi: see, touch, step halfway up or down. Having worked so hard on him holding his position by my hip, and stopping when I stop, it shouldn’t be hard to stop Levi with his front feet only on or off the curb. The second his front feet are up, he gets a click and we stop.
A dog that’s used to clicker training knows that click means do this=get a treat since the action is over. They notice what they’ve done after having been clicked for it a few times. They make the association. Another way the clicker helps is the sound can interrupt the dog’s action and thoughts, assisting me in getting him to actually stop and notice.
The crazy curb lady is roaming about still!
Hopefully a pup will hold his position even if I’m bracing on him. I need to go back to clicking and treating him for accepting the brace in this new position for a few times, just to let him know that what he did was right. The same if he’s counterbalancing for me. (Forward, backward, or side has a page to the right).
With consistant practice this chain becomes a default action for the dog. Like I said, there are step ups and downs everywhere. The key is doing the process every time you encounter a step, and making the whole business a fun and rewarding activity.
It just grew into an exceptional idea for making service dog tasks smooth and quickly done, as well as fun.
This is from www.bighoneydog.com and Honey is a canine freestyle gal: she’s a competitve dancer!