Training My Own Guide Dog

Training my own guide dog: Sagan at 4 months old

Sagan has been with me now since May 1st. We are experiencing so many new things together. My hope is that my brain can grow as fast as his. I read every day about puppy development so I can anticipate what is coming next so I can prepare my house and get ready with new puzzles and toys to keep him mentally and physically busy. This keeps us both feeling good about each other.


4 months is often when the first really challenging phase starts to show up. They begin to lose baby teeth and their confidence grows. They start to realize that countertops and furniture are great places to explore, often with great results from their perspective. Well, Sagan is there. No more knives left on the counter or shoes left unattended. The best practice for dog training is to manage by eliminating the possibility of mistakes being made in the first place; so shopping we will go.


My kitchen is his main play area which is gated off. Before he was too small to worry about the possibility of counter surfing. He is three times as large as he was when we brought him home. He has discovered the counter so now it is our turn to make a new plan. My trainer suggested we get a tie-down for the kitchen for the times we need him to stay away from the counters and out from under foot. Thankfully I have tie-downs from the guide dog school so I can use them. All we need is a solid place to hook it. That is a project for this weekend.

The picture above shows Sagan on his outdoor bed. 

On the training front, we are making good progress. This past week we walked a short distance to the mailroom where we found a bench. He went down and under and we just sat and watched the world go by. He got lots of treats for doing a great job. I introduced him to curbs and steps. We practiced waiting at the front door before going outside as well as finding the door. He was able to learn these quickly. From my reading though puppies can regress when they become teenagers so I am not counting on his reliability.


The 4th of July is in 2 days which Sagan has not experienced. Fireworks can be frightening to dogs so I am getting my strategy ready to deal with them in case he finds it unsettling. Because he is to be a guide dog, protecting him completely from the noise is not good. He needs to be able to keep his equanimity around startling sounds. My plan right now is to allow the sound to come in the windows but not too close to him. I will modify my response according to how he reacts. My hope is that if I act like it is no big deal that he will do the same. This is going to be a big test. I will report next week.


We continue to work on his mouthiness. He is still going after my knees and ankles and if I am on the floor, he bites my hands and arms. I realized that I was not handling this situation well. My strategy now is not to try to discipline him with a collar and body hold but to get up and leave the playing field. This is already making a difference. Play stops when biting starts. 


The only thing I bought this last week is a pair of farmer overalls. It is much easier to have lots of pockets instead of wearing belts with treat pouches. They are also not as easy for Sagan to get his teeth into.

The picture above shows Sagan playing with his lobster outside as Mel looks on smiling.


Next week I will let you know how the fireworks land. I hate fireworks myself so I will need to monitor my own anxiety so as not to trigger him.

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