Saturday, April 2, 2011

Training with Friends - It's all about shoes again

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?


  1. Actually most service dogs don't wear shoes on a regular basis. I have known more than a 100 teams and none of them put shoes on the dog everyday, Shoes are usually reserved for a very few situations like winter/summer extreme temperature days, hospitals, when the dog has a minor paw injury, or heavily urban= lots of trash/broken glass areas. When I introduce my service dogs to boots I find it is best to put all four one at once and then take my dog on a nice walk outside to get use to them. My dogs quickly appreciate the shoes this way and have no problems with them:)

  2. My brother's dog fought hard and then refused to get up when he put on all four boots. So when he asked me to help, we decided to do it in a slower manner.

    Yes, it is an option for every team and you should do what works best in your own situation. I still say our dogs will be booted more so (at any given point of their life) than the average pet dog. That introducing them earlier is better than later.

    These are the basic reasons as to why I boot:

    Right now I'm in a urban area, Spirit goes out with them every day. There has not been one parking lot without broken glass that we've haven't see or had to swerve around. He wears them at school because of the linoleum floors, and this helps to keep from sliding.

    I also boot in the cold and boot in the heat.

    Boots also help to keep them from picking up dirt in their pads and then tracking it into public spaces. For me this leads to a cleaner appearance of the dog team. And I never have to worry about his feet getting injured.