Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, 10 3/4 Months Old

The last week was thrilling. I did cry once when I was too stressed out myself to be out and about with him. Our energies did not mesh well and it just wasn’t fun for either of us. I switched to a different kind of head collar which clips behind the head instead of under the chin. I thought this would be better for knowing where his head is located in space and that his pulling would not create asymmetries in his spine. Anyway, I hate the new collar. I don’t like the way it tightens around his nose. If he does not pull at all, it is great but he still pulls sometimes. So, we are back to the Gentle Leader and the martingale. I attach to both. We are working with him now to ween off the Gentle Leader. In order for him to pass the CGC test, he must have only a flat collar or martingale.

The picture above shows Mel standing in the dining room with Sagan at her side.


Now for the thrilling part. We have increased his public access to about three times a week with outdoor walks on the other days. Last week we went to a huge grocery store. Stu pulled the cart and I held onto it with Sagan on my left. Sagan had to walk slowly and stand still for periods of time. Standing still is his most challenging position. He did great though. I did obedience exercises with him while Stu ran off to get some groceries. He performed perfectly. There was even another dog in the store which he noticed but did not go ballistic. It felt so good to have a dog by my side. The most fun was when we went to Target where we met the trainer. She took him while Stu and I followed secretly. Her goal was to make the transition away from the Gentle Leader and to help with pace and pull. Keeping him focused on walking straight is also a work in progress. Then Stu took him for a while with Susie and I following. The best part was when I put away my cane and walked with Sagan through the store alone with Susie and Stu walking behind. Sagan was actually guiding me for the first time. He responded to left and right and he maneuvered me around carts and displays in the middle of the aisles. I was high as a kite after that. For the first time, I felt his real potential to be a guide dog and I was close to tears of joy.

The picture above shows Sagan in the living room looking into the camera with his stuffed shark in his mouth.


It was our second time at the Canine Good Citizens prep class Saturday. He does very well with the commands, trainer handling, and all the other requirements. The main issue is that he whines and is restless when he is supposed to be resting quietly by my side. He does eventually calm down but my perfectionism rears up its head and I worry. I tell myself the story that he will never get better. I have been assured multiple times that he is young and he will quiet down. I just have to believe that this is true. I have a tendency to want to rush him to the next phase before he has mastered the current one. It is like asking a teenage boy to jump over adolescence and go straight to being an adult. This mindset only serves to make all of us lunatics. I am learning to break everything down into manageable steps and not to skip over anything. This can be tedious at times but I am learning that it is better to take it in tiny steps in order to make the goal. I am embracing turtle mind. Now if I can just get him to be a tiny bit more like a turtle, we will be well on our way to making a great team.

The picture above shows Sagan in the living room watching televison. He was very interested in the little girl on the screen.

<< Go back to the previous page