Training My Own Guide Dog

Training Sagan: Training my own guide dog, Week 3

Sagan Training Blog: Week 3/10 Weeks Old

We have learned so much this week. I learned that perfectionism and my ego has no place in puppy training. I have also been humbled by how not nice thoughts come into my mind when Sagan has been barking for an hour straight in his crate. It brought to mind when my oldest son cried from 5:00 p.m. - 2:00 a.m. for the first three months of his life. I had to reach deep into my soul to stay calm and kind. We got through it though with no harm done that I know about anyway.

Picture above shows Sagan laying happily in the kitchen

As you know I am working The McCann Dog Training Method. We were supposed to be on week 3 but I decided not to put so much pressure on myself or Sagan. I relaxed and things got better. We continued to practice basic foundation skills. I did add waiting at the door and waiting longer for me to release his food. We also practiced meeting and greeting new people which went quite well. I gave the people the instruction to stay low so he is not tempted to jump and I told them to step on his leash in case his front feet just happened to come off the floor. He was great with this. I also taught the people how to make sharp noises at him when the teeth found skin or clothes.

A concern this week was that he began barking at other dogs and vocalizing loudly when impatient or anxious. Of course, I am anthropomorphizing because I am not really sure if he is either of these things. I will say that he appears to want what he wants RIGHT NOW, which is rather like me. I have consulted with the McCann instructors and they gave me a couple of choices as to how to handle the crate barking. I will ignore him completely no matter how long it takes for him to calm down unless I am convinced that there is another problem like pain or an urgent need to eliminate. I am already seeing improvement.

I have been researching food alternatives. I am more and more convinced that as close to a raw diet as can be managed is best. I have introduced a frozen prepared raw diet in additions to his kibble. My goal is to help him have a healthy, robust microbiome. So far, he is loving his food and is tolerating it well.

We did have an incident this morning which was I think more about hair around his anus than his food. This is probably more information than you want but it is part of having a puppy. I noticed that he was straining to poop. I am not squeamish about touching most body parts particularly if the puppy I love is in distress. So, being blind, it was necessary to use my fingers instead of my eyes to discover the problem. He had hardened feces all around his anus which I believe was impeding the free flow out of his body. I made him a nice warm bath and he sat in in while I fed him a favorite bone. Then we went back outside and all was well.

The most fun we had this week was my son and his partner coming to see the new family member. It was great fun. It is nice to have more people to entertain Sagan which gives me a break. We also went to puppy class. Sagan went into the swimming pool on his own and had fun in the tunnels. A baby pool is definitely in our future for the upcoming hot days.

Picture above shows Sagan resting with Family and friends in the kitchen

Today is a rest day. No formal training today. We have had a big week and a break is in order. I feel comfortable with our progress and bonding this week. He is becoming more of himself which is challenging at times but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

One more thing, I have discovered scrubs like doctors wear. They have tons of pockets which are good for having treats, poop bags, and even toys on hand. Having a puppy is like a baby in that I feel slimed most of the time. There is no need to pretend that fashion is important. Scrubs are the way to go. Below is the link to where I got mine. The fabric does not seem to be as enticing as some knits.

That’s it for this week.



Training Sagan: Training my own guide dog, Week 2

Sagan Training Blog: 9 Weeks old

Picture above show Mel sitting outside on patio holding Sagan in her lap.

Just so you know, I get nothing from any links to products I mention here. This is all a grand experiment and the products I like this week may be completely different next week.

Well, one thing I know for certain is that I AM TIRED! Having a young puppy is only partially like having a human infant. The differences being that humans stay where you put them, they do not bite, and they wear diapers. Puppies run fast, pee and poop like lightening exactly when you can’t notice or reach them and they bite like baby sharks. I am almost tempted to say that puppies are more challenging. Humans develop slowly while puppies seem to grow every day. One day he is easy and sleepy and the next he is a wild-thing. After saying all that, this second week home has been rewarding and hilarious. Sagan is smart. I can only hope that I can learn how to teach him faster than he learns how to train me.

This last week we worked from the McCann Dogs training method. The link to the class and YouTube will be at the bottom in case you are interested. We continued foundational skills like name recall, which he is pretty good about. Learning to follow a food lure is getting better as long as he is hungry and the treat meets his standards of delight. Sitting on command is quite good. The “down” command is still proving to be challenging. Honestly, I have not focussed that much on getting him to stand on command. That will be my work for today. He sits beautifully for his food which I pick up and move around the room several times during each meal. He tolerates this quite joyfully. His meal ends in his crate. I am also supposed to be working on teaching him the “drop it” command but I have not worked it much at all. I am most proud of him going up and down our stairs. He is cutely clumsy but he thoroughly enjoys it. I ask him to sit at the bottom and I say, “forward” before we head up or down. I never change this because this will be a guide dog skill that needs to be ingrained in every cell of his body. We are also working on “everything good comes from the left side.” I feed him on my left. He walks, if you can call it that, on my left. He comes and touches my left hand when I call him. Of course, none of this has been perfected yet but we are making good progress.

Now about “the gear.” I have two crates, one small puppy size upstairs where we sleep. There is a second crate which will be his adult crate. He just started going in there to eat and cool out during the day. Our large kitchen is gated off which is where he spends most of his time during the day. I rotate toys in and out of the kitchen so he is not bored. I occasionally throw in an empty box or paper bag wadded up which he pounces on and drags around with exuberance. I never leave him alone with toys that can be torn up or shredded to his detriment. Lastly, his “busy spot” is right outside our back door on gravel. Most of the time he uses it appropriately.

I have needed to make some adaptations due to my being blind. Upon the suggestion of another blind owner trainer, I put a little bell on his collar. I resisted this thinking it would drive me crazy. Actually, it helps quite a bit. I know if he is moving and which direction. The silence says as much as the sound in this case.

I tried several types of treat pouches and settled on a drawstring pouch with a zipper pocket. I put poop bags in there. This pouch hangs on a belt around my waist. I at times attach his leash to this belt as well. My hands need to be free at times. I have been told that I look funny with all the stuff hanging on my body. Link to pouch below.

One of the best things I got is a pair of Crocs shoes. They are ugly but I can step into them in the middle of the night. They can get wet and best of all, when I step in shit which is often, I throw them in the laundry sink with detergent and they clean right up.

Currently I am using a six foot leash but on the advice of other owner trainers, I will shorten it to four feet. This makes it easier to keep him close.

I am still in search of the best way to feed Sagan. I am moving toward more raw bones and frozen raw meats. Last week he enjoyed a frozen turkey foot. It was horrifying to look at but he is a carnivore after all. I am slowly introducing some fruits and vegetables. Blueberries and spinach are a hit. More research needs to be done.

We also went to his first puppy class. He was mostly interested in the people more than the dogs. I think this is good. He went up and down metal stairs which thrilled me.

Okay, enough for this week. I could go on and on like most parents but I will spare you all that.


Picture above shows Sagan resting in the kitchen and putting his nose through the gate.

Links to sites and products mentioned.



Training Sagan: Training my own guide dog

Introduction and Week One

A few weeks ago I mistook peppermint oil for dry eye drops. I know it sounds incredibly stupid. It was one of those blind moments that we who are blind are all too familiar. I  always keep peppermint oil near my bed to put in my nighttime water. I also keep eyedrops there. The shapes of the bottles were unique until that day. I had just gotten a new bottle of eyedrops which had the same shape as the oil. I was sleepy and I reached for the wrong bottle. I suppose you could say it was the wrong bottle, according to your perspective. I say this because after burning the corneas of both eyes with peppermint oil, I realized that I needed to get ready for being really blind. That experience of needing to keep my eyes closed for several days while my corneas healed showed me that I needed to step up my game in terms of blindness skills. I have been contemplating training my own guide dog for a while now and the peppermint oil kicked me into gear. So, I am calling the peppermint oil a gift. We will find out over the next years if this is so or not.

My intention with this blog is to document this journey with the hope of helping others who may want to train their own guide dog and to be an outlet for me on this uncertain journey.

The picture above is Mel holding Sagan next to Danielle, the breeder. 

Sagan was born March 2, 2022. The breeder is Danielle Grouleau and Sagan’s parents are Fiona and Mopar at Doe Valley Standard Poodles. Danielle breeds for Health, temperament, confirmation, and working. She does not dock tails which is very important to me. I don’t approve of that cruel practice. I spoke with her and felt certain that she had the highest standards for raising healthy, confident poodles. I put down a deposit and waited and prepared with high anticipation for about 5 weeks until he was ready to come home. I devoured everything I could on positive training methods. I settled on The McCann Dog Training Method after obsessively watching their YouTube channel, Their videos are fairly well described and they have been willing to help with accessibility issues.

The picture above is Mel on the kitchen floor holding Sagan. Jingles is in the dining room behind the gate looking in on a training session. 

This first week at home has been quite a ride. I have felt overwhelmed and completely exhausted. It is a good thing Sagan is so cute and smart because this has not been an easy week. I began training immediately according to the schedule laid out by McCann Dogs. We worked on name recognition, learning the importance of the marker word which is “YES!”, learning to follow a food lure, crate training, and of course, house training. We have made great progress along with a few melt downs from me. Everything was going great until it rained steadily for two solid days. At first Sagan didn’t find rain troublesome but then he decided it wasn’t fun anymore. He regressed in his house training and I regressed in my equanimity. Today was Mother’s Day so my husband, son, and partner took over Sagan care for a few hours so I could make an attitude adjustment.

Tomorrow Sagan will be 9 weeks old. We will continue to work on foundational skills like last week. I also need to get some better systems in place so we are not falling all over each other. I also need to pay better attention to Jingles, my retired guide dog. She is looking kind of sad these days with this new annoying puppy around.

As I get myself organized better, I will try to give more training details here. Time will tell how all this goes.

The link below is to the dog training method from Mccann dogs and the breeder's link to her facebook page, Doe valley standard poodles.

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