Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, 20 Months Old

It’s all about the toads these last couple of weeks. There was a big fat toad on our sidewalk in front of our house and it jumped away as Sagan came near. It sent him to a frenzy. He was desperate to understand this new amazing hopping thing. Now every time we walk out the front door, every leaf is a potential toad. It is kind of funny at first but the cuteness factor has worn off. There is also a cat that likes to lounge in the bushes of our walkway so just walking out the door these days is a massive training opportunity. It is good for us to have such an opportunity but I hate being hard on him with the corrections. He is getting better at working but he is clearly not as focused as he should be. I am sure we will get through it over time.

The picture above shows Sagan outside sitting happily on a chair with a marrow bone hanging out of this mouth.

Pace and pull are by far our biggest challenge still. I switched back to Gentle Leader nose collar again. The other collar was not working to help slow him down. The Gentle Leader does help. Naturally, I would like to not need anything other than his martingale and his harness. Maybe as he gets a little older he will slow down. We have several strategies to work with this so I feel confident that Sagan and I will have a meeting of the minds over time. I have ordered a treadmill to help me gain walking speed and confidence. Sagan will be trained to walk on it too. I am not exactly sure how this will work out but I am told that dogs love treadmills and it helps get them exercise when the weather is bad. I am excited to have another tool to help both of us find our rhythm.

The picture above shows Sagan playing with his new toy that holds a bully stick.

I talk to a lot of dog people and we love to talk about dog food. It can be a hot topic because there are so many opinions about the best foods. I get asked often what I feed Sagan. I, like most other dog people have strong opinions but I do understand that people make the best choices for their particular situation. I do want to share my thoughts on the matter though in case there is something for you to think about.

Well, to put it right out there, I think the vast majority of dry dog food is garbage. Many of the popular brands of kibble and canned foods are owned by Mars and Nestle candy companies. I don’t know about you but I don’t have a lot of faith that large candy companies have my dog’s nutrition requirements foremost in their minds. Most dry dog foods have been processed into little balls of colored and artificially flavored cardboard. After doing much research, I discovered way more about the dog food industry than anyone wants to know. Dog food companies and veterinarians promote feeding the same food to your dog forever. Humans are encouraged to eat a variety of whole foods and I believe the same holds true for our best creature friends. Dogs don’t want to eat brown cardboard every meal any more than humans want to eat dry toast day in and day out. Dry dog food did not exist until recently in our history together. Due to excellent marketing, we have been led to believe that we are doing a disservice to our dogs if we do not feed them their special balanced formulas. It is very easy to be swayed by good marketing because it is so convenient. We have become afraid to feed our dogs real food for fear that we will do it wrong. I believe that many of the cancers, kidney, liver, and heart problems found in our dogs today, not to mention allergies and behavior problems are due to dogs not having a variety of species appropriate foods. Also, I believe that dogs deserve to thoroughly enjoy their meals. There are many myths about feeding dogs that need to be busted but I am not the one to do that here. If you do some research, I believe you might decide to at least add some kibble toppers for variety and nutrition. At the very least, you can wet the dry food so that it is more palatable and keeps your dog hydrated. Most dogs do not naturally drink enough water to properly digest and absorb dry food.

Sagan gets a mostly raw diet with different protein sources. I do feed him a dry kibble for use in puzzles or training treats. I change brands every time. Right now he is getting a brand that I feel good about. It is Carna4. I do occasionally feed him canned food for convenience when needed. I look for the best ingredients I can find. Smaller food companies that are privately owned make the highest quality foods. I started this way of feeding the day I brought him home at 8 weeks old. So far so good. We have had no digestive issues of any kind and I feel good knowing that he loves his meals. It is funny to watch how fast he offers all his pre feeding commands. Before he gets to eat, he must go through a series of obedience commands. I change them from day to day so he does not know what I am going to ask for. You can’t imagine a more alert, focused dog.

The picture above shows a picture of the dog food that I get for Sagan. 

I know I get wound up about food. I do want you to know that I do understand that people make the best decisions they can. I do want people to be aware though that they can without fear feed their dog some real meat and even fruits and vegetables that people eat. It will keep your dog healthier longer as research is now showing.

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