Today my friend Sara (an assistant trainer here in Baltimore) came over and we kidnapped my brother's dog Koda. My brother bought him shoes (see back onto shoes again) and tried to get Koda to wear them. He wasn't successful.
Most Service Dogs are introduced to shoes early in their life. Because they are out and about more so than the average dog, the shoes protect their feet and provide traction on slicker surfaces. But as anyone who has tried to put shoes on an older dog. . .well it's kind of funny.
So armed with treats we tackled Koda. Here are some steps if you are introducing a dog to shoes. You will need:
- A friend - As you put the boot on one foot, they will hold the corresponding food up also. This keeps the dog off balance and keeps him from pulling his foot back and out of your hand (as you are stuffing their foot into the shoe and Velcroing them in).
- Cookies - Lots and lots of cookies. Make them small and high value. This can be anything from dried chicken to diced hot dogs.
- A room with room - A clean & clear distance for you to throw the cookies and for your dog to run on.
Now if the friend also wants to run a video camera...
So, how do you do it? Put one shoe on. Once it is secure throw a cookie about a foot away from the dog. Repeat and throw at different distances. Wait until it looks like they are using the paw normally.
Put on the next shoe.
I tend to start with the front feet. It seems that they have an easier time putting down the front feet in comparison to the hind feet. Once you dog is accepting the front feet fully booted, move on to the back. This is where most dogs get the weird, high stepping walk. Ignore it and keep tossing those cookies!!!
Once they are moving normally in all four boots, leave them on for awhile. Once the dog settles down, remove the boots and treat and tell them they are a good dog.
To get this behavior to stick, you should repeat the whole booting experience daily until they walk normally once you have put the boots on.
Spirit was watching all of this and started to mope, so we worked on some targeting. Koda was right next to us watching (Hey, Auntie Art had cookies and some might come his way again, you never know), so I went ahead and tried to see if he understood what we were doing, and he did it like a champ. Who knows, laundry might be next!
Sara's little dog Parker was there too, bossing the big guys around. We went out and played in the back yard. Koda and Parker ganged up on Spirit, who then started rolling on the ground. Both Koda and Parker looked at Spirit and backed up and said "Nevermind", while Spirit said "Hey!! Come back!!! I made myself shorter for you!! Attack my tummy!!!!!"
Koda's brain and body were totally exhausted. He will sleep well tonight!
can't a guy just sleep?