Last night, a group of us went to hear Lori Long speak about her book. Lori has trained dogs for years, and competes in Agility contests. Then, at a college campus, she observed a person in a wheelchair whose service dog was trained to help her from her car, tug her wheelchair up a sloping curb, open a door into the student center, give her money to the cashier for food, get the change for her owner, then sit quietly while the owner ate.
Lori was amazed and intrigued enough to visit Assistance and Therapy Dog Training Centers to learn how to train the 'perfect' dog...one who can ride on an elevator comfortably, stay in a motel room (often necessary when traveling to Agility events), walk quietly in a mall setting, and otherwise be completely socialized.
Taking all that into consideration, Lori has written a book with information that any of us can use to work with our puppies, or our grown dogs, and turn them into "A Dog Who's Always Welcome."
Yes, even Sadie Mae!
Lori mentioned that small terriers are delightful hearing assistance dogs for those with hearing problems. They know to bounce to the front door when the doorbell rings and can be trained to alert their owner to a phone ringing or other sounds such as smoke alarms going off. Larger breeds can be trained to assist someone with balance problems when fitted with a brace the owner can hold on to. But the socialization is the key component. They need to know how to stay calm and focused when in a crowd of people.
A major point that Lori made was the crucial fact that we need to pay very close attention to our dog and what she or he is trying to tell us through their body language, their eye contact with us, their barking to get our attention, every signal they can use. Yes, it's train the trainer!
Two service dogs lay quietly at their trainers' feet in the back of the room, a testimony to their training. They wore assistance dog halters asking that no one pet them, as both were still in their training status. Best behaved Labs I've ever seen!
Lori Long spoke at the WestLake branch of the Franklin County Library, and the library managed to get an excellent price arrangement on the paperback. It was $12 as opposed to the printed price of $19.99 plus tax. The room was nearly full, and quite a few copies were sold as lines formed to buy a copy, and then to have Lori sign them.
Her talk was excellent, and now I'm reading her book, which I find to be very well written. It appears to be giving me just the information I need; after all, we have one older chocolate Lab, one chocolate Lab puppy, and of course, little Sadie Mae. This could present a real challenge!
Added note: The St. Francis of Assisi Service Dog training center will be holding an all-day event in Roanoke on Saturday, October 11th, from 10 am until 4 pm. "Free Admission, Bring your Dog!" There will be all kinds of things going on for what they are calling "Dogtober Fest." There'll be a Parade of Dogs, Agility Course, Climbing Wall, Moonwalk, Games for Kids and Dogs. Check out their Website for directions and more information at http://www.saintfrancisdogs.org
Labels: Lori Long, St Francis Service Dogs