Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, Almost 19 Months Old

Sagan is not afraid of rain which is a beautiful trait for a guide dog. He loves playing in the shower while it is running and playing dodge with the garden hose. I, on the other hand, am not a great fan of taking him outside when rain is coming down in sheets. My boy recently decided that he had rather go in the grass out in front of our house which requires a human escort rather than going out alone in our fenced yard. As a result, he did not evacuate his bladder for more than 24 hours at a time. This made me crazy! I worried that he had something wrong even though he was acting fine. I have since learned that dogs just do this sometime and they will let you know when they are willing to go in a designated spot. I confess I did take him out to the grass during a clear time in the weather. I refused to go to bed without him clearing his system. Anyway, we are still challenged by the behavior. I am sure there is an obvious solution but I have not wrapped my brain around how to execute the training in a step by step way. Any suggestions are welcome.

The picture above shows Sagan sitting outside on his bed. He was just asked a question so his head is tilted dramatically.

Our trusted favorite toy, Tug a Jug finally broke after a year of hard use. I dropped it one too many times while teaching him to find it on command. I have been trying to teach him to show me where something is that I have dropped. He learned the behavior at the expense of the beloved toy. Also, the rope inside finally succumbed to mold and mildew. It smelled pretty gross. I immediately ordered another because it is such a huge part of our morning feeding routine.

The picture above shows a closeup of Sagan's smiling face as he happily ran towards the camera.

Training has been off schedule due to weather. We did get to work several times last week on outside stairs at the nearby courthouse. He does very well with stairs but I still struggle to trust him. Sagan is excellent at evaluating a situation and making good decisions about which way to get around obstacles. He is also generalizing how to assess overhead obstacles. My challenge is to get over my own fears of falling or getting hit in the head by tree branches or pipes hanging off trucks. I have a very sensitive startle response so that panicky feeling is tough to work through. I must practice more and more with him. I am still not taking him out alone which is something I want to remedy very soon. Fear is my obstacle to figure out. Maybe I should wear a helmet and padded clothes. I doubt that would be a good look. Anyway, fear is my demon at the moment.

The 2 pictures above show Sagan after being groomed. He is much lighter in color. The first one is taken inside the house. He is wearing a halloween print bandana. The second picture is him sitting outside. He looks very regal.

Next month we hope to start traffic training. We will make sure he has the behaviors learned in a grocery store environment first before taking him to real traffic scenarios that we will set up for him. I am told that teaching traffic is not really difficult but there are obviously some planning and precision involved. I will keep you posted.

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