Hope for Abbigail - A Brigadoon Service Dogs Testimonial by Lynnett Buttars (2008)
Abbigail Buttars is 14 years old. She is fast becoming a beautiful young lady, and from outward appearances you may not even notice any differences when compared to other children her age. When Abbigail was 6 years of age she was diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. Abbigail experiences to some degree impaired intellectual functioning or information processing along with development delays, behavioral disturbances, and short term memory loss. Learning new skills and concepts does not come easily for Abbigail; repetition and reteaching are often required. To her credit, Abbigail is a highly motivated learner. Her perseverance in the face of frustration is remarkable. Abbigail maintains a positive attitude and is a joy to know.
Abbigail is a patient of Dr. Konkol. It has not been possible to manage her seizures with medication as she has had adverse reactions to those tried, and with her history of Lennox-Gastuat Syndrome there are not many other options. It was suggested that we, as parents, look into getting Abbigail a dog as a seizure assistant companion; a dog that would alert us, as parents and care-givers of Abbigail’s seizures. When Abbigail was visiting family in Utah, her Aunt learned of her situation and donated a purebred chocolate lab puppy to be trained as a seizure assistance dog. The puppy had been fostered to become a service dog, passing the tests, and temperament requirements. The challenge was finding someone who would be willing to train him as a seizure assistance dog for Abbigail. Most agencies generally deal with adults that have disabilities such as hearing impairment or sight impairment. After numerous rejections from other service dog programs, weeks of research on the internet, and calling the epilepsy foundation, we found a miracle! Brigadoon Youth and Service Dog Programs agreed to provide “Shorty” with the necessary training.
Abbigail would love to live a life as close to “normal” as possible. Shorty will be able to help her accomplish her goals. There is little doubt that Abbigail will benefit from the increased safety, confidence, and independence that Shorty will provide.
Clicker Training: A Better Way to Train Your Dog!
Dogs learn by association and repetition. No matter what method is used. I’m from the old fashioned style of training...jerk and pull with a choke chain. Everything was taught to the dog with a correction or push and a pull. I have not used that method in 20 years.
When I first heard about the clicker in 1994, I, like most people, thought it was a gimmick. Well, after learning what is behind its magic, I highly recommend it. For those who don’t get it...study operant conditioning. The dog associates offering a behavior with a click followed by a reward.. They want to repeat the behavior, they love learning new things and love the training session. Once you understand how it works you will never go back to the old fashioned choke chain again.
Example: Dog sits, gets a click, followed by a treat. Dog tries the behavior again, gets a click, and receives a treat. Before long the dog is offering sits anytime, anywhere just to get you to click and treat. Next, you name the behavior. When the dog sits, you say “sit”, then click, and offer the reward. Now the dog is associating the behavior of sit with the sound “sit” and soon will no longer need the click or treat. It will have become a stimulus response. Sound=Behavior=Reward. No punishment or correction was used and both the dog and person are happy. By the way, this is how dogs learn our vocabulary...through association. Behavior, sound (our word) results in either a reward (they will repeat it) or correction (stops behavior). Dogs are opportunists. They repeat behavior that works!