Get the Door Breakthrough!

This just happened. Like within the last hour, and I couldn’t wait to share it. Seva had her Get the Door breakthrough!

In the last post, I showed how she would use her handle if I was holding it, but suddenly couldn’t see it if it was attached to a door.

I attached a piece of fleece to the handle and she worked with that over the last few weeks. I kept shortening the fleece, until there was nothing hanging down. She would nibble at it and open the door with her teeth in the fleece, but not on the rubber handle. Not even a little bit. That will get our pantry door open, but it won’t do for out in the world. Public doors are heavy.

From time to time, I’d remove the fleece from the handle and she’d go right back to ignoring it. Suddenly Seva is deaf, dumb, and blind.

And then, tonight she opened the door with the fleece a few times. I unwrapped the fleece from her handle, showed her a cookie, put it inside the pantry, and said Get the Door.



This is a huge breakthrough! I love it when she has these moments, finally connecting a command to an action, or getting over some nebulous hurdle like the mysterious aversion to her door handle only when it’s attached to a door.

This time the cookie is not in the pantry. We’re working on actually holding a door open until she’s asked to release it. She will one day hold the door open for me while I walk through it. For now, I’m just excited she’s using the appropriate tool!



I’m so proud of her tonight!


Training: Command Chain

Seva is 19 months old now. Her graduation is going to come up sooner than we think (between 2 and 2 1/2 years). At this point, she’s learned most of the skills she needs to be a service dog. The focus now is on consistency, duration, reducing food rewards, and linking commands into chains so that she can do more complex things. Oh, and minding her manners in public. That’s going to be tough!

We’ve been working on new skills, Rise–standing up on a wall–and Put–dropping an object into a bin, instead of Giving it to me. These are tough skills for a puppy. Recent additions to our homework have been to put together commands in a chain.

Now, Seva can do all sorts of command chains, like Get It, Bring, Give. Get Dressed, Rest Your Head. Rise, Snuggle. Those command chains are natural and intuitive. I didn’t think she was ready for a chain with Rise or Put in it, until Sunday.

I had her Rise (we practice with a board to save our walls), and thought, “What the heck.” I grabbed her light switch and gave the next command in the chain: Light. She did it! Camera time:




And if she could do Rise-Light, why not Rise-Put? I tried. She succeeded. I grabbed my phone again. It was propped up on the counter, so forgive the framing. You’ll see in the second go that Seva tries to quit halfway. She puts her chin on her crate like, “Come on, Mom. That’s good enough.” Typical teenager!


Get It-Rise-Put