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  • Writer's pictureJenny Stamm

Up & Off

Updated: Feb 8, 2023

Service dogs must be trained in certain behaviors to help their specific disabled partner. If the behavior is triggered with a command (visual or verbal), it’s called a “task.” If the behavior is triggered via an environmental cue (a sound, a change in the partner’s body, etc.), it’s called “work.”

This is part of a series on various service dog tasks/work behaviors, their purpose, and how to train them. You can find a glossary of terms here and the whole list of behaviors covered (so far) here. There are so many behaviors and ways to train those behaviors, but I hope to cover the most important ones. If I’ve missed something, please let me know!

Up & Off

These behaviors, while not tasks or work, are very useful for most service dogs to know. These can be used to teach a dog when it is okay to get up on furniture, to put their front paws up on something (such as when delivering a wallet to a cashier), and when to get off, as well.

Up is a good pre-task behavior, which can be used to teach how to put paws up on something (such as when doing deep pressure therapy like Lap) or how to jump all the way onto something (for smaller dogs doing Lap or for when a dog needs to jump onto a couch or bed to task). The Off is just as important as the Up as it gives a duration for the service dog to be up somewhere.

In order to train a dog how to perform Up & Off, follow the below steps. Mark (clicker or “yes”) and reward for correct responses and only move onto the next step when the previous one is consistent and reliable.

A note: if you think you might teach only 2 paws up at some point, teaching Up to mean 2 paws and a follow-up “All the way” for 4 paws might be the safest way to go.

1) Sit on a couch with open space next to you and pat the couch several times. If your dog jumps up immediately, mark and reward!

a. If they don’t jump up with just patting, use excited (high-pitched and fast) sounds, such as kissy noises, while patting the couch. You can even switch to clapping your hands, if necessary.

b. If nothing is working, try luring your dog up with a treat or toy drawn from their nose up towards the back of the couch. Don’t give it to them until at least their front paws are on the couch.

2) Once they’re up on the couch, make a big gesture pointing back towards the floor and say “Off.” Once they jump off (paws on the floor), mark and reward!

a. If they don’t get off, clap your hands towards the floor (away from the couch) and make excited noises. As soon as they jump off, mark and reward. Once they’re reliably getting off with your clapping, then add the word “Off” before. Slowly get rid of the clapping until you can rely on the single word “Off.”

3) Once they’re reliable with getting up on the couch with patting it and getting off the couch with the word “Off,” say the word “Up” (or whatever cue you prefer) before patting the couch. Mark and reward as soon as they have either 2 paws or all 4 paws up on the couch (your preference, depending on what you will use Up to teach later on). Still reward for “Off.”

4) Start asking for Up on objects you’re not sitting on (the couch, a bed, a chair, etc.). Mark and reward. For Off, stop rewarding with anything more than a “good boy/girl” or a pat on the head.

a. You can pat the object to help your dog understand where you want them.

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