Service Dogs in Snow
Helping Paws service dogs train for all kinds of weather because they work in all kinds of weather. Snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stay the dogs from performing needed tasks for their partners in life. Preparing them to do so is an ongoing part of the curriculum foster home trainers move through in working with each dog.
A certain number of tasks are particularly suited to the challenges of an Upper Midwest winter. We asked service dogs in training to demonstrate the more photogenic of their repertoire.
Juneau embraces the “neither snow nor rain” motto as he collects mail to deliver to foster home trainer Corinne McCuskey. Service dogs learn to pick up items of all sizes, under all conditions. Notice that in this set of photos Juneau is also working against a street curb, an additional factor that can pose a challenge for someone in a wheelchair.
Kevin and Kindle are retrieving items from puddles, an all-season hazard for people with mobility concerns. Kevin has an item the size of a cell phone while Kindle is maneuvering to pick up an odd shape, a measuring cup. Service dogs train for a sequence that includes retrieving, holding an item without chewing it, and finally placing it into a hand when the person is ready to take it. They also carry items, a handy skill for winter especially.
Inside the training center classroom, Fulton demonstrates helping remove winter clothing, in this case a heavy glove. Service dogs can also put the clothing away or as Fulton shows, hold it until their partner is ready to take it.
Many more skills—fix it (untangle your own leash), better go now (urinate or defecate without delays), and more—make life easier when weather poses its challenges. One final skill demonstrates the forethought that goes into preparing each dog for each partner: This is Keio doing the “shimmy,” shaking his coat on command to clear it of snow before entering the house.
Photos courtesy of Corinne and Steve McCuskey, LaDonna Seely and Ross Ruschmeyer.