Training a service dog is hard work. It typically takes 18 months to two years to complete training.
Snow is two years old, and she and I have been training for about 10 months.
We’ve had to overcome many obstacles to get to where we are today. All of these hurdles required practice.
We had to practice trust.
Snow wasn’t always so fond of my wheelchair. I would get close to her and she would slowly move away, cautiously staring at my wheels.
My trainer suggested placing treats on my wheels. This act would entice Snow to come up to my wheelchair to get the treats. Eventually, she would realize my wheels were not harmful.
It was a fantastic idea. Snow became comfortable around my wheels. That is, until Snow started to identify my wheels as a vending machine. She decided that if no treats were on the wheels, she’d nibble them in the hopes treats would appear.
She now trusts my wheelchair, but it has permanent structural damage.
We had to practice respect.
Snow wasn’t always so well-behaved.
Part pit bull. Part bull terrier. All trouble.
She was lovingly dubbed Disaster Dog by my neighbors.
Snow was able to escape any enclosure with a single bite. That’s right, I said bite.
She’d escape from her crate by biting the door and pulling back until the metal caved from the force of her jaws as if she were using the Jaws of Life to rescue a person trapped in a car. She’d escape my fenced in yard by biting the chain-link and lunging under it as if she were sliding on a luge. She’d escape her collar by thrusting forward and breaking the clasps as if she was the daughter of Hercules.
After escaping, Snow would either shred everything in my house that she could get her paws on, including the mask I used for breathing, or she’d run off.
Snow didn’t consider me to be an authority figure.
It took months of faith and accountability, but Snow now respects me.
We had to practice obedience.
Snow wasn’t always so good at following commands.
It’s one thing to be deaf and have a communication barrier. It’s another to simply ignore what I’d ask of her.
Even though she’s extremely food motivated, Snow lacked the desire to please me.
I’d give her a command and wait for her to perform the task. Sometimes, she would. Sometimes, she wouldn’t.
With patience and determination, she now performs all basic command including come, sit, stay, shake, and down through hand signals. But we’re still working on picking things up off the floor.
But there’s one thing we’ve never had to practice, and that’s love.
Do you practice love or does it come naturally?
Autumn Tompkins is the head sass-master at ink well copy. She is a skilled copywriter who creates dynamic copy that captures her clients’ expert voices and generates genuine sales, turning maybe’s into most definitely’s.