Training My Own Guide Dog

Training Sagan: Training my own guide dog, Week 2

Sagan Training Blog: 9 Weeks old

Picture above show Mel sitting outside on patio holding Sagan in her lap.

Just so you know, I get nothing from any links to products I mention here. This is all a grand experiment and the products I like this week may be completely different next week.

Well, one thing I know for certain is that I AM TIRED! Having a young puppy is only partially like having a human infant. The differences being that humans stay where you put them, they do not bite, and they wear diapers. Puppies run fast, pee and poop like lightening exactly when you can’t notice or reach them and they bite like baby sharks. I am almost tempted to say that puppies are more challenging. Humans develop slowly while puppies seem to grow every day. One day he is easy and sleepy and the next he is a wild-thing. After saying all that, this second week home has been rewarding and hilarious. Sagan is smart. I can only hope that I can learn how to teach him faster than he learns how to train me.

This last week we worked from the McCann Dogs training method. The link to the class and YouTube will be at the bottom in case you are interested. We continued foundational skills like name recall, which he is pretty good about. Learning to follow a food lure is getting better as long as he is hungry and the treat meets his standards of delight. Sitting on command is quite good. The “down” command is still proving to be challenging. Honestly, I have not focussed that much on getting him to stand on command. That will be my work for today. He sits beautifully for his food which I pick up and move around the room several times during each meal. He tolerates this quite joyfully. His meal ends in his crate. I am also supposed to be working on teaching him the “drop it” command but I have not worked it much at all. I am most proud of him going up and down our stairs. He is cutely clumsy but he thoroughly enjoys it. I ask him to sit at the bottom and I say, “forward” before we head up or down. I never change this because this will be a guide dog skill that needs to be ingrained in every cell of his body. We are also working on “everything good comes from the left side.” I feed him on my left. He walks, if you can call it that, on my left. He comes and touches my left hand when I call him. Of course, none of this has been perfected yet but we are making good progress.

Now about “the gear.” I have two crates, one small puppy size upstairs where we sleep. There is a second crate which will be his adult crate. He just started going in there to eat and cool out during the day. Our large kitchen is gated off which is where he spends most of his time during the day. I rotate toys in and out of the kitchen so he is not bored. I occasionally throw in an empty box or paper bag wadded up which he pounces on and drags around with exuberance. I never leave him alone with toys that can be torn up or shredded to his detriment. Lastly, his “busy spot” is right outside our back door on gravel. Most of the time he uses it appropriately.

I have needed to make some adaptations due to my being blind. Upon the suggestion of another blind owner trainer, I put a little bell on his collar. I resisted this thinking it would drive me crazy. Actually, it helps quite a bit. I know if he is moving and which direction. The silence says as much as the sound in this case.

I tried several types of treat pouches and settled on a drawstring pouch with a zipper pocket. I put poop bags in there. This pouch hangs on a belt around my waist. I at times attach his leash to this belt as well. My hands need to be free at times. I have been told that I look funny with all the stuff hanging on my body. Link to pouch below.

One of the best things I got is a pair of Crocs shoes. They are ugly but I can step into them in the middle of the night. They can get wet and best of all, when I step in shit which is often, I throw them in the laundry sink with detergent and they clean right up.

Currently I am using a six foot leash but on the advice of other owner trainers, I will shorten it to four feet. This makes it easier to keep him close.

I am still in search of the best way to feed Sagan. I am moving toward more raw bones and frozen raw meats. Last week he enjoyed a frozen turkey foot. It was horrifying to look at but he is a carnivore after all. I am slowly introducing some fruits and vegetables. Blueberries and spinach are a hit. More research needs to be done.

We also went to his first puppy class. He was mostly interested in the people more than the dogs. I think this is good. He went up and down metal stairs which thrilled me.

Okay, enough for this week. I could go on and on like most parents but I will spare you all that.


Picture above shows Sagan resting in the kitchen and putting his nose through the gate.

Links to sites and products mentioned.



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