With my disability, it's very likely that in the future I will struggle with being able to walk as I do now. Some days are a struggle now, but Azul is task trained to mitigate my mobility issues as they currently are. I want to make sure we train for that possibility so Azul is prepared.
In this video, Azul and I are just getting started and he needs to figure out where a heel position is, where to stand and wait at the end of aisles, and how to turn corners without getting under the wheels. It helps that Azul knows cues to turn left/right so I can give him a heads up before we turn the corner. And he's used to waiting at the corner, but we need to stop slightly further back then normal to be able to avoid sudden collisions. Plus this cart basically has 2 speeds, a slow creeper speed and full speed which is slightly slower then the speed we normally walk. Azul has to make adjustments for this as well.
This video demonstrates Azul and I working together to figure out his best position in relation to the chair based on what I need to do. We demonstrate heel, follow (walk behind me) turn, and backing up. Then we practice paws up, stepping over the chair floor and going around.
It's important for young Service Dogs to practice this type of thing to be prepared for the future possibilities. When Azul was a young pup, we practiced remaining calm as other people moved passed us in motorized carts. At first we watched them from a distance, but slowly decreased the distance until we were walking right passed them as they moved in the opposite direction. We've practiced walking behind & beside motorized carts. The only time Azul has been with me riding a cart was for a very short ride when he was about 16 months old as we delivered one to my sister because she couldn't walk the distance to where they were parked. Azul did very well with that, or I probably would have practiced more before now. My goal is to practice about 2-3 times a year so that Azul can stay prepared should I ever need to use a cart or wheelchair for real.
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