Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, 17 1/2 Months Old

For the last two weeks training has slowed down due to heat, prednisone, and lethargy both his and mine. His eyes are better but they are not back to normal. We are down to 10 milligrams a day. He takes it in the morning so he takes a nice long morning nap. When evening comes he is back to playing. I am glad to have him back to his old tricks. The prednisone makes him extra hungry so counter surfing has become an issue. He keeps bringing his Tug a Jug to me to fill it with food. It is so hard not to give it to him because he is so cute and intent on his goal of getting more food. I do not want an overweight dog so I am restraining myself. 

We have by no means stopped his training even though the intensity has changed. For the last two weeks we have worked on overhead obstacles. We are doing this by setting up a tripod with a light wooden rod which is adjustable in height. Susie, our trainer came up with this system and it works great. Sagan is learning to anticipate the obstacle and then to either take me around it or to stop to allow me to probe for information. We can put the rod all the way across the sidewalk or pull it back so he must decide whether there is room to go around or to stop. It is a lot to grasp for him since he can walk right under the rod himself. We are having fun changing the positions and now we are adding distractions to the mix. Sagan and I will be walking at a nice clip while Stu walks across the street or Susie and I are talking to each other while she is located on the other side of the obstacle. Fortunately, I don’t get hurt if he runs me into it because it will swing away from me. I make myself close my eyes to make sure I don’t cue him unconsciously. He has only run me into the obstacle a few times. He learns it very fast. The distraction part of the training still needs some work. We are also using natural overhead obstacles like branches and pipes sticking out the back of trucks. Our plan is to work on this for the next few weeks increasing the difficulty then, we will begin traffic training hopefully in October. By then his prednisone dose should be very low or finished. It would be so grand if he heals completely from this rare vaccine reaction and the fear can go away.

The 2 pictures above show Mel with Sagan doing obstacle work.

Our HOA is spraying pesticides on the property today so Sagan and I will be inside for the next few days with windows closed and air condition on. I plan to get back to house manners and basic obedience which I can do indoors. We may take him on his first train ride if all the stars line up correctly maybe next week.

Overall, I feel good about his progress even though we have had to take it easier for the last few weeks. Now I need to recommit to teaching him new things and returning to daily obedience. I have done some back sliding due to general malaise. Training dogs to do anything is not a linear path and I am doing my best to accept that we have just taken a detour from the path we set in the beginning. I have had much anger and grief to work through and it set me back. We are coming out the other side now so all is well. 

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