ClickerSolutions Training Articles

Teaching Dogs to Ride in Elevators

>...it seemed okay, except one of the things it said that seemed kind of alarming was: Some of our teams have 10 - 12 pets on them and often they are required to be together in an enclosed space such as an elevator....Faith and I have been working hard on calming signals the last few months. This seems like putting dogs in a situation that goes against much of Turid's teaching. I don't know if I could handle being in an elevator with 10-12 people and pets, let alone whether or not Faith could! Have any of you guys done this?"

While the number seems excessive -- it's hard to know without seeing first hand the types of dogs and the size of the elevator (think 10 Paps in a freight elevator might be a tad different than say 10 Goldens or Newfs).

That said, and I mention this because I work in both assistance and AAA/AAT work, in 99.9% cases you have some discretion in these types of situations, and good AAA/AAT programs will emphasize that a human handler be aware of their individual dog's needs, and not put them in situations that will create undue stress.

In terms of whether dogs *can* be conditioned to accept this type of scenario...Sure....as with anything, it takes time, patience, breaking the task down into small components, and really high rates of reinforcement. So it's definitely feasible -- and some dogs, for whatever reason, don't seem to have major space issues with other dogs...then again, other's have *huge* definitions of what their personal space is (smile).\Elevators have more than a few components that are interesting to look at from a training perspective, and make for some interesting ongoing training for those with assistance partners.

For example:

  • Doors opening and closing
  • The variances in sounds made by different elevators (My Belgian used to have great head swivels when unique sounds came up)
  • Size of elevators, and for lack of a better term, smoothness of ride
  • Some elevators are open on some sides -- and this can be quite disconcerting to some dogs when first encountered (my current Lab likes to watch the scenery)
  • Textures of floors of elevators -- lots of varieties -- as well as what's *on* the floor (or has been on the floor) -- hospitals can create some apparently overwhelming scent information for dogs
  • Proximity of people on elevators -- if you think *you* feel crowded, from a dog's perspective (even the large ones), it can be quite overwhelming. (Note: lots of strategies on safe placement of dogs to decrease this)

Lots of great training issues involved in teaching dogs to ride comfortably on elevators. My preference at the moment, is to approach it in two parallel training avenues...

(a) acclimating the dog to being in an elevator -- just entering and exiting initially, then letting doors close and open, then short ride up one floor...etc....all down while we are only ones on elevator. At same time...

(b) acclimating dog to becoming comfortable with people standing close to dog while dog is sitting or lying down (this can initially start with dog standing). Gradually increasing dog's comfort level with greater/closer proximity, and increasing numbers of people. Then start adding other dogs (*safe* ho-hum dogs, and starting with one other dog first).

The latter can be accomplished away from elevators, and allows you more control over the situations, and increases ability to make sure it is an ongoing positive experience.

Again, lot's of great training opportunities here for positive reinforcement -- but the bottom line is, a good AAA/AAT program will encourage you to be aware of your dog's stressor points, and not place them in situations where they will be overwhelmed.

Kathleen Kisselburgh
kgsanborn@hotmail.com
copyright 2002 Kathleen Kisselburgh

 

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