Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, Birthday Week, 5 Months Old

Well, I overdid it! I fed him too much and now he is a little chub boy. He is definitely food motivated which makes training easy but I have been giving him treats that are too high in fat. I was also using food to keep him occupied when I could not attend to him or if he was bored. The vet said he was a fine weight last month but this month he gained a lot, so adjustments must be made. Sagan doesn’t know it yet but he won’t get those lovely marrow bones or bully sticks nearly as often. I am switching to meat broth ice cubes and vegetables. I was also giving him kibble with his raw food morning and night. Now the kibble is just for training treats. I feel a little bit guilty about this because I am so nutrition conscious. I am calling it a learning experience. After all, I haven’t done this before and it is a grand experiment.

The Picture above shows Mel and Sagan outside of the Doylestown Friends Meeting building. 


Sagan got his rabies vaccine this week. Now he sports 4 tags on his collar along with his bell. He is a noisy boy which is a good thing. I can keep up with his counter surfing much better. He did get a prize tomato the other day when I was inattentive for one second. He thought it was interesting but not so much that it was a problem. Needless to say, more vigilance is required since he is taller and smarter.


We found 2 teeth on the floor this last week. The vet says most of his baby teeth are gone. Teething has been fascinating. I have not thought about dogs' teeth much before now. He has lost so many so fast. I am sure it is not comfortable. I can forgive his mad dog behaviors.


The picture above shows Sagan on his 30-foot leash exploring the grounds outside. 


The goal for last week was to increase his exposure to the world and to add another formal training session per day. Training sessions are about 20 minutes long or maybe a little more if he is really excited about what we are doing. I have begun to name behaviors that we do all the time like going inside and outside a door. I use the words that will eventually become commands. My problem is deciding on which words I want to use and stick to them. Indecision is one of my flaws which Sagan is teaching me about. Confidence and decisiveness are essential when training a dog. They learn fast to take advantage of squishy thinking and under-confident commands. I am learning to think ahead and to not be such a softy.


Overall, we are doing great. My biggest concern is barking. I know barking is natural and I don’t need to stop it altogether but it does need to be managed. Jingles, my retired guide absolutely never barks except when she is dreaming. I have been spoiled by her silence.  I try not to worry because he is a puppy. Guide dogs do not get to bark out in the world so this is a real project. I am a quiet person so hopefully, he will mellow out.

The Picture above shows Sagan and Jingles laying side by side on the couch.


Training Sagan is teaching me so much about myself. I am learning again about the fear that goes with such a visceral, ferocious love. He has become the center of my world which is not super healthy for me or my relationships. I have neglected my own self-care and my body and emotional balance have suffered. Recalibration is in order now. This is a spiritual journey with an external, practical result if all goes well. I am grateful to the people who tolerate my single focus these last few months. Balance will return.

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