Teaching a non-SD dog a task..help please.

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too old to eat- any more KD
Barked: Mon Aug 19, '13 6:27pm PST 
I posted this in B&T, but only got one response..Thanks again, Charlie Chaplin cheer
So I'm reposting here, hoping you kind, experienced folk can help me outsmile

Brief background: A friend with 4 dogs has recently moved her elderly mother into her home. "Mom" has dementia and my friend has taken on the Herculean job of caregiver.
One of her dogs has really taken to Mom, so much so that he is torn between sitting with Mom or following friend around (he is her big baby boy laugh out loud )
Now..here's the question/situation. Mom can wander, as in leave the house, if left unattended, even during a quick bathroom break. The doors are alarmed, but my friend worries about how to manage daily chores like cleaning, laundry, meal prep, her own hygeine routines, etc. that necessitate leaving Mom alone for brief periods of time.
I suggested that since dog is already attached to Mom, perhaps friend could train him to come get her if Mom tries to leave the room. She thinks this could be a great idea.
So...Any idea how to train this? I thought leaving dog with Mom & leaving the room, but hiding to see what happens. If/when Mom gets up, call dog & mark/reward as soon as he gets to friend. Then bring him back to Mom. Mark/reward. Repeat until he starts coming for treat as soon as Mom stands up. Then add a verbal cue, like "where's Mom?" Then increase distance until eventually he has to find friend in any other room & return with friend to Mom upon the cue.
Does this sound feasible? Any other ideas? Anyone actually trained this task? Any advice appreciated greatly
Charlie Chaplin suggested an alert if she touches the exterior doorknob. My friend likes that, but worries about her being unsupervised in the kitchen as well. She has an open floor plan, so no door knobs for dog to alert to.
Our generation is seeing a lot of folk taking care of aging parents on top of work, kids, grandkids, dogs, life! I think this could be a good discussion about how our dogs can help us ease the burden & stress. dog
Iris vom- Zauberberg

Service Werewolf
Barked: Tue Aug 20, '13 7:26am PST 
Would your friend consider it adequate to have the dog bark when her mother got up?

If so, I would be happy to write up the way I would train this task. I would post it now, but I'm not well today.

Edited by author Tue Aug 20, '13 7:27am PST


Seeley, CGC- (SDiT)
Barked: Tue Aug 20, '13 8:27am PST 
Hey Squ'mey!

I'll just add my quick two cents (which, unfortunately, doesn't answer the dog training question). I do volunteer Search and Rescue, and we search for a LOT of dementia/Alzheimer's patients. I would HIGHLY recommend your friend to get her mom a GPS tracking device/anklet. It's amazing how many searches we go on where the caregiver was "only left him/her alone for a second" and suddenly their loved one has wandered off and disappeared.

That being said, I think a dog trained to help is a GREAT idea IN ADDITION TO OTHER HELP, such as the GPS.

It's a monumental task to be a loved one's caregiver, and I'm of the belief that the more safeguards you can put in place, the better.

Not sure if that's useful to you or not, but just my two cents. big hug


too old to eat- any more KD
Barked: Tue Aug 20, '13 9:21am PST 
Iris: My friend thinks a bark would be great. I would love to hear how to train for it.
Ridgerunner: Ooh..GPS..what a great idea! I will pass that on.smile That is my friend's fear..that she goes for a quick pee, or throw in laundry, & Mom just leaves. Even with extra locks & alarms, it does just take a second for something to happen.

Edited by author Tue Aug 20, '13 9:22am PST

Iris vom- Zauberberg

Service Werewolf
Barked: Wed Aug 21, '13 7:07am PST 
I want to stress that I am not a trainer, but this is how I would break down the task if I were going to train it to my dog.

This process will take commitment, and will require some assistance from your friend's mother for the second part. This process assumes that the mother is able to stand comfortably and will do so when asked.

First, train the dog to bark on cue.

To do this, I would capture the behavior with a marker and treat. (I use a clicker as the marker, or the word "yes!") Whichever you choose, be consistent. This might take a while, depending on how barky the dog is. As soon as the dog understands that barking gets it a treat, attach a command word to the bark, and only reward when the bark is requested.

Make this solid before proceeding to part two, phasing out the treats and moving to praise as the reward.

Second, train the dog to bark when the mother stands.

Ask the mother to stand. After she is standing, give the bark command. Reward. From this point onward, the dog is commanded to bark ONLY when the mother stands.

Repeat this for as many minutes as possible up to 5 minutes. Try to do this three times a day, but I understand that you have to be realistic. Do this for a week or so.

Next time you train, do the stand --> command --> bark exercise a few times. Then have the mother stand and wait a few seconds to give the bark command. See if the dog offers the bark without the command.

If it does offer the bark without the command, Jackpot! Shower the dog with treats and praise. Have the mother stand again and wait a few seconds to give the command. If the dog barks, jackpot again. If not, give the command, reward and go back to the stand/bark command exercise for a few more iterations.

From this point on, mark and reward barking when the mother stands. When this is solid, begin to phase out the treats by skipping a reward, then skipping two, etc. Make it gradual so that the dog is not frustrated.

If it does not bark without the command, give the command, reward and continue with the stand --> command--> bark exercises a few more iterations.

Every so often, wait a few seconds after the mother stands to give the command to bark. Eventually, the dog should offer the bark without the command and you can jackpot and build on this.

This is how I would go about teaching this task. If others have suggestions, I hope they will post them, because I am always ready to learn more about training.

too old to eat- any more KD
Barked: Wed Aug 21, '13 11:31am PST 
Iris. Thank you so much flowers
I really like how you described it. It will totally fit with my friend's style of training. I will definitely pass this on. hail

Member Since
Barked: Fri Nov 1, '13 10:04pm PST 
In response to Iris' method, this is a very methodical yet effective and logical way to train a dog with lots of rewards and treats. I would train it this way too... Positive reinforcement is the way to gosmile

Yohannes H.
Website Owner