Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, 5 1/2 Months old

My boy is growing up in every way. One day he looks chubby and the next he seems to be taller and lean. One day he runs to me and jumps on my lap with his toy and the next he runs to his mat and ignores me completely. One day he obeys every command perfectly and the next he has selective hearing. We are having to readjust to new attitudes and his new physical strength, also. “Tough love” is the learning for this last week. I am a softy so I am learning. Fortunately, my newly retired husband is home more and he is great at catching behaviors and acting quickly.

Sagan had new experiences this week. We went into a pharmacy for the first time and walked the isles. He acted like this was no big deal. He paid no attention to items on shelves or people. He stood in line like he was already a pro. I was so proud. Then right after we went to a beverage store where once again he acted great. I was holding him and my cane while we followed my friend around the stores. I need more practice handling my cane and Sagan at the same time. It is pretty awkward. I am learning to let go of attempting to look dignified. There is no real need to worry about my dignity though because everyone looks at his cuteness.

The two pictures above show Sagan walking down the front walkway and sitting on the front lawn as he waits patiently for Mel to get into the car for an outing. He is wearing his new Martingale collar. 

Our dog and people trainer came this week. We learned how to teach the “leave it” command. This is important for guide work and general safety. He learned the command quickly and it will be my job to enhance it by increasing the difficulty. I have had to revise the method to fit my inability to see very well what his reactions are. Instead of using tiny little treats for him to leave, I put a little peanut butter in several Kong toys which are larger. So far, he understands. The challenge will come when he meets the dropped ice cream cone or lovely smelling bits of decaying dead things. We will set him up lots of times in front of our house and other places.

The picture above shows a close-up picture of Sagan resting his head on Mel's lap as they drive to the pharmacy.

We switched him over to a martingale collar for better control. I am finding that I still need him to wear the Gentle Leader in order for me to feel secure in my ability to manage his pulling.

I reached out to other owner trainers this last week for a therapy session for myself. I question my ability to be able to actually shape a super smart and physically strong male dog into a working guide for me. I was advised again to relax and to embrace tough love with consistency. They keep telling me not to compare myself and my dog to others. Every dog is different and every handler does things differently. I am a bit of a perfectionist and I don’t like feeling like I am making stupid mistakes. My biggest fear is that I am going to do something I can’t undo. I am also afraid that somebody else will damage his training in some way. Being a perfectionist control freak is not very endearing to others. The anxiety is seeping into my night dreams replacing the classic college anxiety dreams; you know the one when it is time for the exam and I never went to class. It is definitely time to get back to my meditation practice.

The picture above shows Sagan walking down the front walkway to the front door after his exciting trip through town. He looks very long in this picture. 

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