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Last year, I earned a position grooming and training licensed service dogs!!
Of course, I wasn't qualified for such a thing, but I am being trained along with the pups.
The main breeds we work with are german shepherds, dutch shepherds, australian shepherds, golden retrievers, labradors, doodles, and some mix breed rescue dogs. Occasionally we get some fun visitors, like a gorgeous doberman pinscher, or poodle.
The grooming comes very naturally and easily to me, as I've rescued matted angoras, and groomed english, french and jersey woolies.
Dogs of any of those breeds are MUCH easier than a matted up bun!!! Their skin isn't nearly as delicate, and they don't stress anywhere near as easily. It didn't take long for me to become the preferred groomer. It helps that I seem to enjoy grooming more than anyone who currently works there.
What can I say? I LOVED grooming my angoras, and my newfie, and can happily brush fur for hours and hours.
The rest of the staff seemed more than happy to leave those tasks to me. It's helping the more experienced trainers have more time to work with their dogs.
Learning the training is coming along well too, though it takes longer to learn how to train the great variety of different types of service dogs that we work with.
Today, I learned how to teach a dog to signal it's handler when the handler is approached from behind. Last week, we worked all of the animals on a wheel chair lift, to teach them to calmly walk onto an electric lift and ride it up into a van.
One dog is currently being taught to turn a light switch on and off to help her physically disabled owner, and another is being taught to respond to alarms and sirens to help a person with severe hearing loss.
Some dogs have the potential to help people with seizures or diabetes.
Although I don't know how to train all of those things yet, I am learning quickly, and it certainly is fascinating to observe a dog change from a rescue or puppy who doesn't know very much, into a service dog who can truly help someone.
Did you know a dog can help lift a person's legs from a wheel chair into a bed? Neither did I.
Thankfully, I've always had an easy time training my own dogs, and it turns out, my old pitbill could have been what is called a "balance dog."
When I was late in my last pregnancy, I would call him over and he would come to me and brace himself while I used his sturdy back to help pick myself up off the floor.
I don't really know how I trained my dogs, but people always thought of them as "well trained."
I guess now, the difference is that I'm learning the method and structure that can train just about any dog with the aptitude, instead of just instinct and intuition, which was always good enough to teach my dogs how to help with my own needs, but certainly isn't enough to train professional dogs how to help with everyone else's!!
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I have a German shepherd girl myself, so I definitely have a particular soft spot for them
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