Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, 11 3/4 Months Old

I fully expect to get pushback on what I am about to tell you. If you had told me this two weeks ago, I would have had strong judgments about it myself. After talking to many people and searching my own self and with much deliberation with my husband, we decided to try a prong collar. I fully intended to do only “force-free” training methods with Sagan and a prong collar did not fit in my vision of how I wanted to train him. I promise you this decision was not easily made. It reminds me of when I gave my first son a bottle of formula when I was absolutely determined to breastfeed him at all costs. As a result, he was starving and I was in a very dark pit. One day, I said,” To hell with it!” and I gave him a bottle. He slept for 8 hours straight and I cried some more because I felt shame because I had failed to meet my own standards of mothering. Switching to a prong is proving to be like that. My son thrived after the switch to formula and Sagan is doing so much better after the switch. He does not resist the prong at all. He ran from us whenever we pulled out his Gentle Leader or the other head collar we used. He seems happier and is responding much better. Our walks are relaxed and enjoyable now. I feel like I made the right choice.

The picture above shows Sagan in the living room playing it cool with his ear flipped up.

Yesterday, my husband took him on a pack walk with other dogs. The last time he tried that was a nightmare. This time he chose to walk with a loose leash relatively calmly in the presence of other dogs. Later in the day, we had Canine Good citizen prep class and Sagan was able to stay calm around the dogs and children coming through. We took off the prong soon after class started and he continued to stay calm and focused. In order to pass the CGC test which is this coming Saturday, he must be able to be calm with a flat collar or martingale. I think he will pass. It seems like Sagan just needed to know what was expected of him and the prong gave him a clearer signal. I have not been able to walk with Sagan outside myself because I have knee issues and balance problems. I could not count on Sagan not to pull me over. I feel like now that there is hope for me to begin outside walking.

The picture above shows Stu and Sagan in the living room after going for a walk with the trainer. Sagan is sitting my Stu's side wearing his new prong collar and his vest.

On a lighter note, I have some links for you that we have found to be worthwhile. Sagan loves to destroy things and toys have not been easy to find. I was also worried that he would destroy his bed. We found a bed that he likes and there are no holes in it yet. It is called the PetFusion Ultimate Lounge Memory Foam Bolster Dog Bed w/Removable Cover. Here is the link,

We found a toy made by Kong that he loves and it is still in one piece. We do take it away from him after every play session. Here is the link,

My sons gave us a gift subscription to the Super Chewer Bark Box for Christmas. The first two boxes did not have toys that Sagan went for but this last box had 2 things that have been a hit. They are made by… One I use for peanut butter licking and the other is a disk that he chews and throws around. Overall, it has been fun getting the Bark Boxes but I will not continue the subscription. Here is the link to it though just in case you want to have a look for yourself.

So far, the best toys of all are marrow bones. After he gets the marrow out, I wash it very well and then give it to him to chew. I cut up an old pair of jeans and strung the bones with knots. This lasted a very long time. Recently I strung some bones on a cable that he cannot bite through. He carries the bones around with pure glee in his step. I sometimes put treats or peanut butter in the bones for his chewing pleasure. I think homemade toys might be the best choice for Sagan.

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