Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, 20 1/2 Months Old

I am humbled again this week. I am now having to unteach some bad habits that I didn’t even know I was teaching. It is so easy to shape an unwanted behavior without knowing you are doing it. Behaviors that are cute when they are puppies turn out not to be so cute when they grow up. Sagan has started “demand barking” when he wants something like peanut butter in his bone or when he wants us to throw his bone for the millionth time. At first he began grumbling at us. We thought it was so cute because it sounded like he was trying to talk. We, mostly me, without thinking did what he asked because he was cute and I am a little too soft hearted. When I realized I was shaping an unwanted behavior, it was too late. Now, when he thinks I am not moving fast enough to fulfill his desire, he barks at me. Well, this is not at all good and I feel kind of stupid for not paying attention to what I was creating. I made my bed and now it is time to change the sheets.

The picture above shows Sagan resting his head on the arm of the couch.

Our training session this week was mostly about teaching me to unteach undesirable behaviors. Now when he demand barks, I redirect him by asking for a behavior he knows well and then praising him for that. He does not get what he is asking for anymore. It will probably be harder to train me than it is him. There will be no more throwing his bone from the couch at night while watching the news. He loves this game and it is an easy way to keep him occupied while we relax. The issue has become that we get bored with it before he does, thus, the barking, so no more bone throwing unless we are standing or sitting in a designated bone throwing seat. I am so glad to have a trainer that can quickly assess the problem and tell me how to fix it. I wish I was a training genius so I wouldn’t make silly mistakes.

The picture above shows Mel and Sagan sitting happily on the couch.

The good news is that Sagan learned how to walk on the treadmill in practically no time at all. He hopped right up and with a little encouragement he was off and walking at a nice pace. The plan is to teach him to walk at my pace. I need to decide what pace I want to be most of the time myself and then we will have him go at that speed. I will use the treadmill to increase my own speed so we will be at a good pace. I wish we could walk on the treadmill at the same time but the deck is not wide enough. I will march in place beside him. It was so fun teaching him and seeing how fast he caught on. I think he enjoys it.

The picture above shows Sagan learning to walk on the treadmill. 

The other funny thing, but not really, was that Sagan discovered tissue boxes. We have them all over the house and he located every single one of them. His goal was to shred the boxes. I have given him boxes to shred ever since he was a puppy. They make great puzzles and are generally safe if supervised. I always handed them to him so he would know they were his to shred. Well, he is a genius poodle and he decided he could find his own boxes which he proceeded to do with great efficiency. He had five boxes before I knew what was going on. Nobody got hurt but now I am back to teaching a solid “leave it” command. This is what I get for having a gifted and talented dog. They are just like super curious children. They need their mind occupied or they will make their own fun. Next week is Thanksgiving and our house will be full so for the next few days I will be working diligently to undo what I did. I will let you know how it goes.

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