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Service Dog Training while Social Distancing

by Delaney Custer

With shelter in place orders enacted in communities across the US, it can feel like everything is being put on hold. However, members of the Good Dog! Team are still hard at work training the next generation of autism service dogs during the COVID-19 outbreak. Desperate times don’t always call for desperate measures. It just takes a bit of creativity and a whole lot of love to help these Good Dogs! get ready to be someone’s new best friend.

"Leave It" practice for Good Dogs Shasta and Chelsea.

Here’s how Good Dog! trainers and volunteer puppy raisers are keeping their dogs engaged and trained during this time of shut in. And don't miss our blog How to Keep your Dog Happy and Healthy during this challenging time.

Even under quarantine, training doesn’t stop for Good Dog! service dogs. Our trainers are getting creative to simulate public access training from their homes and working hard to refine the dogs’ core autism task training.  Here are some creative ways our trainers and puppy raisers continue to train and socialize the pups: 

  • Simulating restaurants and cafes in their home with the dog practicing being unobtrusive and ignoring dropped food. 

  • Turning parts of their homes into stores and going “shopping” in the Kitchen Grocery Store, or going to the Clothing Store Closet. 

  • Breaking out the Halloween costumes & decorations (skeletons!) to get the dog used to unusual sights.

Good Dog! Shasta learns how to be an unobtrusive helpmate looks like in the "grocery store" , while Trainer Laura has her groceries scanned by Quarantina.
  • Having the dog work with different handlers in the house.

  • Sitting on the front porch or yard socializing to the sights and sounds going by.

  • Playing with children’s toys on the ground so the dog gets practice ignoring those enticing toys and stuffed animals. (see photo above)

  • Doing yoga and exercises in the home while the dog learns to stay in their “place”.

  • Using the internet to socialize the dogs to various sounds, like taking a virtual trip to Disneyworld (most Good Dogs! take a trip to Disneyland or Disney World at some point with their forever family!).

  • ​Refining the dog’s “household manners” like waiting at door thresholds, walking calmly up and downstairs, and ignoring human food.

Good Dog! continues to work hard to place service dogs with families because autism doesn't stop; it can't be put on hold or postponed. There is a lot of uncertainty during this time, but one thing is for sure: these Good Dogs! will be hard at work no matter what life brings. ​

Good Dog! Buddy gets used to (aka desensitized) to a backyard fire pit while ignoring yummy s'mores!

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