Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, 21 Months Old

Sagan is old enough now to start some more serious finishing and polishing. We have accomplished all the major guiding commands except intelligent obedience in relation to traffic. I hope to begin that gently next week. Of course, a guide dog is never finished training. It is important to keep up their skills daily. They can get sloppy with their work if they don’t keep practicing. Getting him to slow down has been my main priority these last weeks. I feel like I have a technique now that is working pretty well. I added back the Gentle Leader with his martingale. I keep a steady tension on both collars with the leash in my right hand. Ultimately, I want to have my right hand free. This method helps me keep a lighter touch on the harness handle which is what I want. I am using the treadmill to help him understand walking more slowly and pairing the command “steady” when I slow down the speed. Then I use the command “hop up” to speed him up. Different people spell it differently. He seems to enjoy the treadmill which will come in handy on bad weather days. Overall I feel pretty good about our progress. Sometimes I worry that I am not pushing him or me enough but I suppose there is no set in stone time table. That is the beauty of training my own dog.

The two pictures above show Mel on a training walk with Sagan. The first picture shows Mel and Sagan stopping at a curb before crossing the street. The second picture shows Sagan stopping at curb. He places his 2 front feet on the top of the curb and waits for the next command. 

My husband started working again which made our outings to public places less frequent. Sagan needs to learn to be calm and relaxed when there is nothing going on like sitting in a restaurant or lying at my feet while in a meeting. Since I am not going out as much, I have started putting on his harness and having him at my feet for long periods of time. He is at my feet as I write this. He is not super happy about it but he will learn that he can relax while in harness. We also practice going up and down the stairs and to the bathroom. This combined with the treadmill tires him out which is always a good thing. Poodles like to be using their brain and body more than I do so it is a challenge to keep him from finding trouble. Poodles often take a little longer to mature than other commonly used guide dog breeds. I think because they are very curious and tend to be very independent. I don’t mind. I can wait. I never want a different breed. For me, poodles are the best. 

The picture above shows Mel and Sagan sitting at a bench in the neighborhood as a very loud firetruck  with Santa and a firefighter on the roof drive by. 

Sagan did start what is called “morning bilious vomiting” a few weeks ago. I was feeding his last meal of the day too early. I now give him a small handful of Vital Essentials nibs at bedtime and then a few more when he gets restless in the very early hours in the morning. This sounds like a burden but I usually need to get up anyway so it is no problem. This has solved our problem and now he sleeps later in the morning. My biggest challenge is not to feed him too much in a day. He does need to lose a little so I am adjusting. He is food obsessed and it is so easy for me to give him a bone or something with too many calories to keep him busy. This is my problem, not his.

The picture above shows Sagan laying on his bed with his new gingerbread man toy which he has already destroyed. 


If anyone here has trained traffic skills to their dog, I am open to suggestions and tips as to how to do it. It isn’t a skill I want to mess up so suggestions are welcome.

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