Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, One Week Shy Of 2 Years Old

Snow, ice, snow, ice, rain, and more ice which comes with salt and unreliable terrain. My default mode when there is snow and ice is to “freeze” then “flee” as quickly as possible. I have no qualms about admitting that I am no “blind hero” type of person. I am an ordinary person who deems it a survival choice to remain inside when the world outside is very likely to be detrimental to my general well being.

The problem with this attitude is that Sagan, who needs a lot of mental and physical stimulation, still needs his mind and body occupied. I am extremely fortunate to have a husband who has no fear of snow and ice and is happy to take Sagen on snow walks. Sagan has gotten plenty of exercise on a 30 feet long line while walking in the ball fields next door. Sagan comes home with literal snow boots which require me to give him a quick foot bath or rather leg bath. He knows the routine now and jumps right into the bathtub. This has been going on now for about 2 weeks and outdoor training has suffered. Sagan really wants to be a sled dog but he was not hired for that so I need to refocus my efforts which I am now committed to doing. It has been a nice rest of sorts but we need to get back to setting boundaries because he is beginning to think he is unemployed.

The two pictures above show Sagan with his "snow boots" on. 

I have not been completely negligent these past snowy weeks. We have been to the dentist, restaurants, grocery shopping, and to other appointments which required him to follow Stu or lie quietly at my feet. He is quite good at the inside work. He finds bathroom stalls, lavatories, and doors to the inside and outside. He navigates people and shopping carts with sufficient confidence. We went to a huge store where there were two other “service dogs”. I think one of them really was a service dog but the other was certainly not. We had a bit of a tussle but it ended with me on my feet which is always a good thing. The store was quite crowded and Sagan kept his equanimity and I did too for the most part. I will just say, I did not cry.

The picture above shows Sagan in the snow at the ballfield. 

In two weeks we begin traffic training for real. Susy, my support trainer, Stu and I had a consultation with a professional Guide dog mobility trainer to discuss exactly how to do this. She gave us some great tips and she will be another part of the Training Sagan Team. I feel fortunate to have found a professional guide dog trainer who is willing to work with me. I will talk more about her in the future after we see how it all goes.

I am committed to transparency so I must say this journey has not been all roses and puffy white clouds. Sagan still pulls like a freight train and that needs to be resolved before I feel safe. He also really enjoys goosing people which is never appropriate. His recall needs work which is totally my fault. Sagan reads my mind so I need to clear my mind before I attempt to do something he is not fond of doing. I guess the good news is that I admit my faults and I am willing and excited to fix them. I wish I could just tell him that I can’t see so he would know what all this is about. Sometimes I feel like I am moving too slow with him and that I should be further along in his training. On the other hand, I am reassured by other owner trainers that the beauty of training my own guide is that we can do it at a pace that works for us as an individual team. We are unique and are not glued to a time line. Sagan is wicked smart which is kind of like working with a super smart child. They must be handled with care and forethought or being outsmarted is highly likely. I feel confident for the most part that this will have a happy ending, but sometimes I wonder, which is only natural. I will keep you posted.

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