Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, 11 Months Old

I am hesitant to say it but I will anyway. Sagan seems to be settling down. He still gets zoomies but the body slamming has stopped. He is able to stay down quietly for up to an hour which I think is superb. He still barks at his reflection in the window sometimes. Fortunately, he will stop when we ask him to. Overall I feel like we are in a good place.

The picture above shows Mel, Stu and Sagan in the living room. Stu is about to take Sagan out on a walk. Sagan is wearing his guide dog vest and waiting patiently.

Here is where we are in terms of his training. Some people say I am going too slow and others say I am going too fast. I have learned to take all suggestions and mull them over and decide what is best for me and Sagan.

These are the commands that we have a pretty good handle on. There is room for improvement of course. He has the basic ones down: sit, down, up sit, stand, wait, stay, go to bed, down and under, off, leave it, heel, halt, back up, find the front door, go busy, up on your table, in your crate, paws up, forward, left, right, about, left left (opposite of “about”), curb stops, stand and turn on the grooming table, close, which means he turns and sits between my legs, find the front door, and the forward command. His recalls are good but we are working with a whistle now to get them even better. He is good with the stairs in our house. This needs to be solidified out in the world. He can find a seat anywhere. After writing this list, I am rather proud of myself and my extended support team.

What we are working on now is: find the toilet, behind me, going to his bed when someone knocks on the door, tolerating longer grooming sessions, staying down in the well of the car, quiet command, going to bed and staying there, not passing on the stairs when off-leash, beginning to get used to having a harness on his back with a handle attached. We are using Jingle's old harness for this. I will be ordering his own harness soon. When walking out in the world we are improving his walking straight and focusing on what he is doing. Distractions are a work in progress and improvement is happening slowly. He is doing very well in his CGC prep class. I don’t know if we will be able to get him to the place where he can pass the test with only a martingale collar on or not. We have a few more weeks of class. We continue to expose him to stores and public places. His best work is in stores. I can walk with him alone without a cane and it is a huge thrill every time. My husband and our trainer do the outside walking because there are so many dogs here and Sagan is not reliably controlled. I have balance issues and I am not willing to risk falling. Sagan needs more time to settle and more time to mature.

The picture above shows Stu and Sagan in class. They are on the carpet with the other attendees awaiting instruction. 

There is much more training to do. It never ends really as everyone knows who has a guide dog. I continue to be astonished at his desire to learn and how quickly he learns some things and others not so much. I have days when I think I am a good trainer and others when I wonder what I have gotten myself into. I continue to hold the vision of the two of us walking confidently together with a proud stride.

Next week I want to tell you about my latest toys and equipment. I will give you some links to my favorite things.

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