Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, 2 Years Old

Sagan had his 2nd birthday on March 2nd. His coat is still clarifying so his coloring is patchy. The grey is coming out more and more but I would not say he is blue like he will be as he gets older. He is extremely handsome though.

I am happy to say that he has calmed down quite a bit. He still gets into trouble when his brain is not otherwise engaged. My husband’s ball point pens are still his favorite thing to run off with but he is less likely to crunch them to bits. He still loves to tear paper and boxes that do not belong to him. We have not yet mastered the “trade” game. That is one of the downsides of having a gifted and talented dog. He is very well aware that what he has stolen is way more exciting than whatever I am offering him for trade. I trust that this too will pass.

The picture above shows Mel and Sagan at a local park. Sagan "finds the door" of the bathroom.

The big news is that we started traffic training this week. We started with cars coming out of driveways slowly. Once he figured out what was going on, we made the encounter a little more dramatic. I challenged him to go forward while the car was still moving and once I showed him that he needed to plant his feet or back up, he understood very quickly. I was extremely pleased with our first session. I think the car drivers were a little nervous but all went well. I have not decided yet how intensive I will get with traffic training. I am thinking now that I will take naturally occurring opportunities to train him. This is a work in progress so we will take it one day at a time.

The two pictures above show Mel walking with Sagan during traffic training. Susie, the trainer is instructing the driver when to drive out of the driveway as Mel and Sagan approach. 

His pace and pull are improving. I am easing off the Gentle Leader. My goal now is to be able to have control most of the time with his leash in my left hand along with the harness handle. His level of distraction has diminished greatly so this feels reasonable now. Over all, I am very pleased with his level of skill. I confess that I have had some moments when I thought my ambitious idea to train a dog myself was a mistake. Stu and Susie kept reassuring me and encouraging me to take a breath and keep going. It feels so good to be almost ready to declare him a graduate of guide dog training. Of course, training never ends because there is always room for improvement and new tricks and skills to learn. Now if I can keep loose and aggressive dogs away from him, we will truly be a working team.

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