Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, 4 1/2 Months Old

Sagan lost his first teeth this last week. This means the puppy tooth fairy brought new toys. He also got a vaccination which only means more new toys. He weighed in at 26 pounds which is 5 more than a month before. Of course, more toys because he deserves them, right? I can usually rationalize buying most anything when it serves my own addiction to novelty.

The 4th of July fireworks were not an issue. Honestly, I did not try even a little bit to expose him to them. I closed up the house and turned on a fan. They could be heard in the distance but he paid no attention. I may have made a mistake but I was just too tired to deal with it.

Picture aboves shows Sagan on his outdoor bed with his piggy toy.

This last week he got to have some new experiences. He went to the vet for his vaccine. He thinks this is grand because he gets a jar of baby food while he is getting the injection. The best part about this trip was that his manners were impeccable. I think he might be a reincarnated guide dog because he did things I have not taught him to do. He went down and under the bench and with a little reminding, he stayed there so nicely. He also sat at the top of the stairs before I asked him. He also stood quietly for a long time between me and the counter when we were checking out. I just couldn’t believe it. I almost cried he was so great. So, I really did need to buy him new toys.

The Gentle Leader continues to be the best tool. I feel like it is helping him understand good behavior because he seems to be more mannerly now when it is not on him. This may be my imagination but time will tell.

The trainer came. We worked on my technique for treat delivery. The idea is to use treats to perfect his position in relation to me. We also worked on holding positions while distractions were present. He learned quickly. We did make it easy for him though. Over time the distractions will get more intense. He is learning that no matter where I put his mat that he is to go where it is if I tell him to “go to your mat”. Generalizing from one situation to another is very important for guide dogs. I have begun to teach him how to generalize about “find a seat” command as well. So far, that is going well in our little patio area with the different seats. I am trying not to overload his brain with too much. He enjoys training so much that it is tempting to pour on too much at one time. It is so gratifying to see his spongy brain soaking it all up which makes me want to go too fast. Needless to say, I am learning a lot about myself. Sagan is teaching me so much!

Sagan has begun to alert bark. Alert barking is not a bad thing as long as it can be stopped immediately when commanded. It is a self-reinforcing behavior which makes it especially hard to stop. I have not figured out exactly how to train this so next week I will find the best method. I will let you know how we are doing as time passes.

Next week I will let you know which new toys are best. He will get his first haircut this week so that will be fun. I will try not to buy more toys.


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