Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, 15 3/4 Months Old

This was a big week for us. Sagan got to play with his friend Blue, a big Golden Retriever. Sagan had a blast and it thoroughly exhausted him until the next day. I love seeing Blue too because he reminds me of Jingles. Goldens really do smile and it makes me happy to see that again. I have just enough vision to be able to see the contrast on Blue’s face. Sagan is black and I can’t differentiate his facial features. Stu and I really enjoy hanging out with Blue’s people too.

The picture above shows Sagan on his bed playing with his shark toy. 

We began taking regular walks with me handling. We have mapped out our routes. Sagan is doing great but honestly, I am feeling underwhelmed with my ability to take directions from Stu and my ability to stay calm. Sagan is a real trooper though because if I confuse him, he shakes it off and keeps going. My fear of walking is our biggest challenge now. It is easy for me to say “I need to build my confidence” or for the physical therapist to tell me “It just takes time.” I wish somebody would tell my adrenals to stop acting like I am being attacked every time I take a step. I practice breathing techniques and it really does help. I am doing what I am supposed to do to heal. The hardest part is to accept that it is more than my body that needs healing. Fear and my own lack of enthusiasm are the trouble right now. I have been through these phases before and I know for sure that it will pass. I am sure that most if not all owner trainers go through some variation of this during the training phases. I am so grateful that I have a great dog.

The best session we had this week was a trip to both a busy grocery store and to Costco which was also super busy. All I required of Sagan was to walk by my side with a relatively loose leash and stay calm. There was so much going on with carts coming from all different directions. Stu pulled our cart and I held on to the back with Sagan on my left side. We were a little jerky at first until I decided to stop and do some basic obedience commands so he could get his head in the game. That worked and off we went. We got into a nice rhythm after that. We made stops so Stu could run around and get stuff during which I either had Sagan standing in front of me between me and the cart or I had him sit beside me while we waited. We navigated both stores and he was fabulous. I am so so proud of him these days for his ability to stay calm. He is such a good boy.

The picture above shows Sagan napping on Mel's lap on the couch.

We have also begun taking him to restaurants. We started with outside places and now graduated to inside. He is not perfect at staying down and under the whole time. Sagan prefers movement so he finds being still for so long an affront to his nature. I am sure he will learn to cooperate the more we insist. The best part was when he took me to the restroom and he found the toilet, sink, and door out with no problem. I am generally very pleased with his behavior in public places. He is still very much a work in progress but aren’t we all?

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