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Disabled Need Well Trained Dogs, Too
Throughout the years (more than I care to remember) as a dog trainer I have noticed a very blatant trend in discrimination towards the elderly, disabled, people with severe arthritis, people in wheelchairs, people missing limbs, women and men who lack either upper or lower body strength (or both), in fact anybody who is not considered physically top shelf or "normal". Many of the people that fall into the above categories still have a desire to train their dogs but they do not have an avenue to pursue because nobody either cares enough to make a program or these people or they are just told point-blank sorry you just can't do the work, it's to strenuous, or whatever. This is a terrible attitude on the people who "are in the know" to help others with a desire to make their lives and their pets lives better. For those who "are in the know" SHAME ON YOU.

There are many options that can be utilized to help people who might not be considered physically top shelf or "normal". I will now give you some examples so, if you fall into any of the above categories and you wish to train your dog, you will be able to do it. The two solutions that are going to be discussed in this article which can allow anyone to get help in their goals to train their dogs: they are called "transference" and "remote assistance". By the way, both of these systems can be utilized by anyone who is having difficulty in training a dog.

Firstly, transference, depending on the dog's personality, is usually the more difficult of the two only because it involves the dog developing a second allegiance to a second party. If the dog already knows the second party then there is usually no problem for the dog. Transference is the act whereby another individual who is not the owner starts and completes all the training on the dog. After the dog has gotten the training down pat, averaging a 96%-99% proof-rate (that means that the dog is doing each exercise 96%-99% correctly) the dog is ready to be transferred to the owner. The owner, without the dog, practices all the command directives so he/she is able to recite them as though they were like his/her own name. The reason for the owner doing this without the dog is so that the dog does not have to suffer the ineptness of the owner's mistakes. The owner is then ready to take on the task of the actual training of the dog. The owner will issue a command, only doing this while the person who has trained the dog is there. Eventually the transferor will not have to be there, but for the foundation laying with the owner it is imperative that he/she is there. The dog, realizing that the owner is now giving the commands, will be less apt to obey them because the owner has not established a training rapport with the dog. When the dog either hesitatingly does the exercise or does not do it at all the transferor then assists the owner. The owner re-issues the command and in unison the transferor then initiates the appropriate action (including verbal direction) to have the dog complete the exercise. This develops a link between the owner the transferor and the dog. The dog then realizes that the owner then has the power to make the command happen. Even though the transferor is really initiating the corrective measure, this abstraction in the dog's mind doesn't click. The dog really believes that the owner now has the power to initiate and follow through on the command. Each exercise is worked separately so the dog achieves the percentages that the transferor had accomplished. While the dog is mastering each individual phase of the obedience work the transferor is distancing himself more and more away from the work. By the time the dog and the owner have completed the obedience package it is though the owner had done the training from the beginning. The dog and the owner have solidified their links, the dog is trained and everyone is the happier for it.

The second approach, remote assistance, is basically like the first approach but the owner and the "remote assistant" both have leads attached to the same collar. Just as in the above transferor method the owner should not touch the dog until all commands have been practiced and are like second nature. The owner is the only person giving the commands. The "remote assistance" helper stands to the right of the owner, being blocked out of view by the owner's body. When the owner issues the command the "remote assistant" doesn't say a word but places the dog into the correct position that the owner has authorized the dog to do. If the dog doesn't comply with the owners command the owner reissues the command again with the silent help of the "remote assistant". Each command is accomplished with this mode of training until the dog has reached the listening percentages stated above. After each segment of each exercise is done the "remote assistant" always returns to the right side of the owner. The difference between this method and the transferor method above is quite blatant. There is no allegiance from the dog to the "remote assistant". The "remote assistant" is basically a tool that the owner is using to accomplish the commands. When the owner is done with the training the tool ("remote assistant" ) it just disappears and what is left is the dog and the owner. The disappearance of the "remote assistant" is not very outstanding in this method because since the "remote assistant" usually resided to the right of the owner anyway his presence is really not missed by the dog.

Needless to say, all rules of positive reinforcement are applicable to the above methods. In the first method praise should come from the transferor and the owner. In the second method only the owner gives the praise. Depending on the dog's personality and what is the physical problems of the owner are determine which method to used and is more beneficial. But the reality is that both systems work and work well. There are options out there for anybody who is not considered physically top shelf or "normal". The bottom line is that you just have to CARE ENOUGH (for those in the "know") to do them. It is not right that an entire segment of our population does not have access to what others have and their animals also should not suffer because of it.

Written by Neal Seaman

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Aldo's Acres, Inc.
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