For at least the first year, I intend to use her Training Levels - Steps to Success (the old version - and then the new when the books get to me!) to give my pup a good start in his foundation behaviours. Sue Ailsby is a well known clicker trainer and dog sport competitor, who has written levels by which to train your dog in a wide range of behaviours. They are particularly relevant for a dog who is to be an assistance/service dog - probably because Sue herself has a service dog and uses the levels as foundation training.
The 'old' original levels are free to access and can be found online on Sue's website. There are seven levels, and by the time your dog makes it to level seven, Sue says your dog is three weeks training away from a dog performance title. She has proven that claim too. Her levels really teaches dogs how to learn - in general with a clicker, and specifically in a good quality structured program. So when it comes time to specialise, such as as an assistance dog, the skills to quickly grasp new behaviours and cues are there.
Sue recently had two books published, which contain her 'new' levels. Her updated levels only go up to four now, and if anything are even more applicable for a young assistance dog prospect. You can order the books from Sue's website, and they can be sent to anywhere in the world.
Skills learnt from both old and new levels include:
- zen (leave it)
- formal retrieve
- target (hand, stick)
- loose leash walking
- crate behaviours
- go to mat
- going around a pole from a distance
- down stay
- sit stay
- handling manners
- stand stay
- eye contact
- walking down a board of wood
- swing finish
- 101 things to do with a box
- extra tricks of your own choice
So as you can see, the levels train a very complete foundation! Not only is this a great place to start for dogs that are going to be working dogs, or performance sport dogs - but also the average family pet. Get your family pet to say, level 3, and you'll have a very peaceful and happy canine family member.
Here is the link to the introduction to the old levels.
This is where you order the books containing the new levels, although note Sue has been overwhelmed by orders and won't be taking orders again until perhaps mid-September.
If you are interested, there is a yahoo group for those following Sue's training levels, it's called traininglevels. The list is lucky enough to have Sue herself contributing to it.
Overall I highly recommend these training levels for a highly structured clicker training program. Your dog will enjoy learning like never before.