Maintaining Training during Quarantine

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to keep up with your dog’s training and keep them mentally challenged when most of us are living in states with a stay at home or shelter in place order.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Any command you use at home (even without the gentle leader, leash, and cape on) is considered daily maintenance or practice of that behavior. You are keeping those commands precise just by naturally needing them or using them.
  • Any command that you don’t use on a daily basis, we suggest you practice 2-3 times a week.
    • If there are certain commands that you may only practice in public, you maybe able to find ways to practice them at home.
    • For example, if you use “nudge” on an elevator button and “paws” on an accessible button, you can practice at home by having the dog “nudge” one light switch on and “paws” one light switch off. If you are concerned about your walls and don’t have them protected, you can cut out, or have a helper/family member do it, a small circle (around an inch or two round) for “nudge” and a small square (around 4 inches by 4 inches) out of cardboard.  Tape them on a wall in garage or basement or side of a brick house that you aren’t concerned about the walls.  Then practice both commands at separate times – not back to back.  Remember the dogs don’t know they are actually turning something on or making it open so it doesn’t have to really work – they learned this way in prison so it will be familiar to them!
  • If you want to, you can put your dog’s gentle leader, leash and cape on in the house for two-three 5 minute sessions a day to practice commands.
  • Go for a walk around the neighborhood if you can where you live. This provides fresh air for everyone.
    • This also gives you an opportunity to maintain proper positioning when walking and practice other commands when out there. If you see a bench or a stone wall (not above SUV tailgate height), you can practice “jump.”  If the dog is for your child, you could have the child practice a different command with the dog when you get to every corner before crossing the road.
  • You can teach your dog a new command – preferably something that will help you. Please be aware though that some commands or tricks might interfere with important tasks or obedience commands.  It cannot jeopardize your safety or the safety of others.
    • For example, “take a bow” interferes with the “down” command and makes the response less reliable and more timely. Teaching your dog to “army crawl” ruins the reliability and safety of the “down stay” command.
    • It would be the safest to check with your NEADS trainer first before teaching something new.

We hope that you and your service dog, as well as your families, are healthy during this difficult time in the world.  As always, NEADS is here to support you and your dog through life’s up and downs.

*With the recent news of many states closing schools for the remainder of the school year, many of our Assistance Dog teams might be wondering how to maintain their dog’s work-based and interactive training in a similar setting once some of the state restrictions/stay in place orders are lifted.  As those begin to be revised and NEADS has a better idea of what the “new normal” will look like, we will provide some additional suggestions for our Assistance Dog teams.