Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, 18 1/2 Months Old

Sagan seems to be revisiting his rebellious teens this week. He has learned that in the middle of the night he can move to take up the exact center of the bed when I get up to go to the bathroom. This would not be so challenging if he would just move back to he spot, but naturally he is too smart to just give up his preferred position. Instead, he goes completely limp like a rag doll. I can’t move him. I pull and cajole and he does nothing. The other problem is that he is way too funny and cute so I am laughing and cursing at the same time. Talk about mixed messages! He will most likely need therapy to heal the scars.


The other less than perfect moment this week was he ate a half pint of the best tomatoes in the world. I may have created a tomato monster. I suppose this was mostly my fault but I did not realize I was shaping a behavior I do not want. This is my speculation on what happened. When he was younger it was suggested to me to give him cartons like you might get at the farm markets so he can shred them. I did this and he had a great time. Well, he generalized that all cartons like that are free for the taking. We learned not to leave those cartons empty on the counter. Then a few days ago I started putting these lovely tomatoes in his food bowl and there you have it; A dog who likes tomatoes and cartons. It only makes sense that together on the counter should be fair game. He saw me get the tomatoes out of the carton so when I was not in the kitchen, he devoured the tomatoes and brought me the carton to shred with him. Anyway, they did not bother his digestive system for more than a few hours the next morning. The moral of the story is be careful about what your dog is noticing because they might be learning something you did not mean to teach. You can’t unteach an unwanted behavior so now you must rely on teaching him impulse control. The other option is to not put tomatoes in cartons within his reach. I will most likely keep the cartons of tomatoes off the counter.

The two pictures above show Mel and Susie training sagan. The first shows Sagan firmly planted at State and Hamilton curb in Doylestown. The second shows Sagan checking oncoming traffic while guiding Mel across state street with Susie attached. 


We did do some actual guide dog training most days. We are refining his pace and pull and correcting our alignment when walking. Susie, the trainer attached another lead to his collar so when she noticed him wrapping in front of me, she was able to correct him quickly and effectively. He learns very fast so we were much better by the end of our walk. I am so grateful to have an excellent support team. Sagan takes his work seriously while in harness so I can forgive some teenage silliness in the house.


The first picture above shows Sagan guiding down Clinton Street sidewalk with Susie attached and traffic/cars in the background. The second picture shows Sagan taking an affection break at a bench on Court Street. 

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