Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, 22 Months Old

My first guide dog, Glory, was this age when I got her from The Guide Dog Foundation in NY. She was a slight 42 pounds black poodle. She is responsible for my love affair with poodles. Sagan is a very different creature from Glory. He weighs around 52 pounds I think. I am currently working on getting his weight down. Sagan is a rough and tumble athlete whereas Glory was delicate and sassy. Glory was truly my heart dog but now Sagan occupies equal space there now. I feel so fortunate to have made it this far with him with a great support team. We are not ready yet to call ourselves a solid working team but we are getting there.

The picture above shows Mel, Stu, Seth and Sagan at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh.

We traveled to our future home in Pittsburgh for 8 days over the holidays. He has become a calm traveler and his public bathroom skills are getting quite good. We still get confused in those huge rest stop ones though with many doors. People are very kind though, so I just ask for direction. People love to help. I know a lot of people who are blind who complain about people touching their bodies to direct them but unless they are truly rough with me, I thank them gratefully. It is my gift to them. I use these opportunities for training him.

The two pictures above show Mel sitting with Sagan at the Botanical Gardens.

We went to many events while we were in Pittsburgh. We wanted to meet as many of our new neighbors as possible which required lots of restaurant visits. He was excellent. The best compliment a guide dog handler can get is, “I didn’t even know he was under there.” He still has a little trouble weaving in and out of tables smoothly. We need to work more on the concept of space clearance or what I call “double wide”. He follows Stu very well which is a command I use often. Pace and pull are still our biggest challenge. I have a strategy now though which is working. I will talk more about that later when I give it more time to work.

The two pictures above show Sagan watching the trains and the koi fish at the botanical gardens. 

The scariest part of the trip was a dog attack. A pit bull mix dog came out of nowhere with no person in sight. I was not walking him at the time for which I am deeply grateful. Stu had him out for a brisk exercise walk and Stu saved Sagan. The dog did not make contact with Sagan. Stu had to kick the dog several times before the dog stopped coming at Sagan. Stu was quite shaken up when he got home. I examined Sagan thoroughly and he was not hurt. Fortunately, Sagan seems not to be traumatized but we will know for sure as time passes. Dog attacks are one of my worst fears. If anyone has any suggestions on the best way to protect our guides, I am interested to know. It has become all too common and we all need a plan to deal with it. Three out of my four guide dogs have been attacked. Two of them had to be retired because of loose dogs. I wish there was some way to fix this growing problem but I don’t know how. We need to start a movement.

For information on The Rachel EcoVillage, visit

<< Go back to the previous page