Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, 15 1/2 Months Old

I must say, I could not be happier with the progress we are making with Sagan’s training. The majority of the credit goes to my husband who takes him on long walks in harness now most every day. I take him first for a shorter preplanned route and then we change handles to a longer one for Stu and they go out again. I am creating a short, moderate, and longer route for myself which will remain the same for some time. This allows for both Sagan and me to get into a rhythm with each other and to build our confidence. Stu walks behind us and gives commands in a code so I can issue them myself when needed. We are still perfecting our method but it is going well.

Last week Sagan had a play date with his best friend Blue, a big golden Retriever. They are perfectly matched in their play style and we enjoy the owners. Susie, our trainer, matched us up with Blue and it is working great. Sagan comes home a slobbery mess but I don’t mind one bit because the joy is palpable.

The two pictures above show Sagan with his friend, Blue. In the first picture Sagan greets Blue with a big hug and in the second picture Sagan's ears are spread out horizontally similar to Sally's Field's hat in The Flying Nun.

We took Sagan to Marshall’s, a huge everything store for practice inside. The idea was to learn more about moving obstacles like shopping carts and moving people. For the first time in harness with me handling, it went well. The store was busier than expected and the isles were narrower than we thought they would be. Susie took charge of him for a few rounds around the store and then I took him. He took me around obstacles and moving people. His work needs improvement but this is expected. Next, I will go grocery shopping with Stu with Sagan heeling at my side as I hold on to the cart. Sagan likes a lot of action so this may be challenging for him to be slow and calm.

The biggest challenge we face now is me. Due to knee surgery, I am a bit shaky and my balance needs improving. My walking gait is not smooth yet and I get very anxious on narrow paths which we have in our housing complex. They are ankle turners so Sagan needs to pay attention so as to keep me in the center whether or not his friend the squirrel is taunting him. So far, I can tell that he is paying attention to the squirrels but he has maintained his work. I get giddy when I realize how far we have come on this journey. I am so proud of Sagan and all of my support people.

Sagan is still resisting the harness even though I have pulled out all the stops for desensitizing him. Once the harness is on, he seems just fine but Stu and I have to tag team to get it on him. I am not happy about this. I will continue to work with him and hopefully, he will surrender more easily to the process. My hope is that over time he will be more joyful about it all. I am so grateful though that when the harness goes on, his pace and pull are delightful.

I am contemplating getting him boots to protect him from hot pavement. It seems like such a hassle to put them on. I was told that Musher’s Secret which is a wax formulation will work so I think I will experiment with that first. I will test it on myself first. If anyone has any suggestions about how to deal with hot pavement, I am all ears.

The picture aboves shows Sagan laying on Mel's bed surrounded by pillows.

Our last batch of toys have not passed the Sagan shred test. We are off again to the store this afternoon in search of the perfect toy. I will let you know what we find.

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