Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, One Week Shy Of 5 Months Old

TEETH! Where are they going? Where have they been? Should puppies come with a warning to wear appropriate PPE before handling? How does the tooth fairy know how many toys to buy?

I am happy to say at least for this moment, that Sagan’s biting skin has subsided. He still misses his target sometimes when playing which can really hurt but overall he is more respectful. The last couple of days he is rubbing his face more and can’t decide which toy he wants. He has been going for harder objects like his leash buckle. Last night he was throwing himself all around his crate and sleeping was not happening for either of us. I finally got up and took him out of his crate. I took him outside but I don’t think that was the issue. We sat on the floor and talked about his problems while I rubbed his face. It seemed to soothe him and he went to sleep. Today he will get marrow bones and frozen treats to soothe his gums. I am told that this will go on for a few months.

Sagan had some new experiences this last week. He wore his training vest to the pet store and to my doctor’s office. He did a not quite perfect down and under the chair in the waiting room but that is to be expected. There were all kinds of people coming and going. I was very pleased with his behavior. After that, we went to the pet store to buy his raw food and a car safety harness. Pet stores are particularly challenging for pups but he was mostly a gentleman.

I have been asked to give an example of a typical day for us. Of course, there is no such thing but I will give you the outline I strive for most days.

Training starts from the minute I open his crate door in the morning. His Gentle Leader goes on and we work the stairs. My goal is for him to be controlled in his movements and mannerly. This is essential so we don’t get hurt. We go out to his “busy” spot and come straight back inside. The morning feeding time is a choreographed dance so that both dogs get their needs met with the least amount of chaos. Sagan is required to stay on his mat while I make his food. He struggles a lot to contain his enthusiasm. He understands now that if he breaks his sit or barks out of excitement or frustration, I stop making his food. He has made the connection after a few weeks of this that food comes faster if he just stays quiet and still. Consistency does pay off over time.

Sagan still naps quite a bit so training sessions come between naps. I have found that his best training period is after his first-morning nap. He is hungry and motivated to work for treats. We warm up with commands I know he can do easily then progress to expanding his skill set. We work on his positions like sit, down, up sit, and stand. Now we have progressed to perfecting how he sits, the position of his sit in relation to me, and lengthening the time he sits. We do this for all positions. Then we will play for a little but he loves training so we usually keep going. As of now, his commands are sit, down, up sit, stand, go to your mat, go to your crate, come, targeting my hand, and stay on his mat or wherever I put him. We also practice down and under chairs while I just sit. He gets treats but I am fading them out. We also work on his manners while being groomed. I know this sounds like a lot but he seems to love it all. The sessions are actually shorter than it sounds. We do them more than once a day. I am trying to find better ways to play with him so he gets tired physically. It is becoming clear to me now that I will need to ask for support for exercising him more. Now that he is older, we need to go out into the world for new experiences just for exposure.

The Picture above shows Sagan sitting obediently outside on the patio 

The day ends with me doing my best to avoid the Tasmanian Devil dog. I get out the hose. We water the plants and fill his pool. He runs around like a crazy dog. He runs through his tunnel, chases his football, and tries to eat flowers and the hose. I stay out of his way while keeping him safe. Once some of his energy is burned off, I give him a frozen marrow bone which keeps him occupied for a long time. He gets fed his evening meal and goes in for a nap. About 8:30 we go out one last time. I breathe a sigh of relief and put him to bed. I squeeze in domestic chores while he is napping unless I am a zombie in which case, I rest and read either training books or even a novel. The days are full and I do get tired but I am loving this challenge. My confidence is growing along with him.



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