Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, Almost 6 Months Old

Something changed in my relationship with Sagan last week. He yanked out the screws from the wall that held the kitchen enclosure secure. I did not yell or cry. I laughed. I thought to myself, “They are just screws in a wall and we can fix that.” If all the damage done is so easily remedied, we will be just fine. It served to motivate me to think about how to phase out the kitchen pen altogether. He is going o figure out pretty soon that he can jump over it so the time has come again to rethink. This journey is keeping my mind nimble. 

I am beginning to trust that he will not bite me now that his teething has slowed down. I actually let him lick my face, raw food breath, and all. I got a little nervous when he started licking my throat but it had a happy ending. He is mostly quite gentle except when he misses his target when going for his bone or toy that is in my hand. I get tough on him when that happens and he is becoming more accurate.

The picture above shows Sagan sitting in the living room. He sits obediently as he looks at the camera for a picture.

Susie, our trainer came and took him for a long training walk. He wears his vest to alert people not to bother her while she is teaching him about curbs and obstacles. I still can’t go on these walks because of my foot. It might be better that she goes alone with him anyway for now. When my foot has healed, we will go out together to perfect our technique. Susie loves working with him because he is so smart and she has always wanted to train a guide dog. We are all learning together. I am so grateful she showed up for me.

The Pictures above show Susie and Sagan on a training walk into town. Sagan walks closely by Susie's left side and she directs him as they approach an obstacle on the sidewalk.


The other behavior that has changed this week is that he is learning to occupy himself more. He has an empty marrow bone that he throws up in the air or kicks around the patio. It goes a long way and it keeps him moving. It seems as if he is creating puzzles for himself with it. He takes it inside his tunnel and leaves it there. Then he runs around the patio for a minute and remembers his bone in the tunnel and pounces on the whole thing. He gets all tangled up in the tunnel until the bone is revealed. Then he starts over. I sit with my late afternoon libation and enjoy the show. Of course, being blind, a lot of it is in my imagination, so I reserve the right to embellish the story.

Susie and I are refining our list of commands that we will work from over the next year. There are so many details to think about when teaching a command. Right now I am deciding how far from a curb or down stair I want him to halt before actually reaching the step-down. If it is a staircase, do I want him to cut across my body to target the rail or stop and wait for me to tell him to find the rail. These are things I never thought about before because my previous guide dogs already knew what to do. I have forgotten how we did it so we are creating our own rules. In essence, I am making a custom-made guide. That is the beauty of training my own dog.

The picture above shows Sagan and Susie at a crosswalk. Susie uses the command word "halt" and Sagan sits immediately waiting for the next command word "let's go" when it is safe to proceed across the street.

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