I’ve been focusing on only the Seeing Eye, but I would like to change it up a bit. I want to talk about training your dog. Now, because my dog lived with a puppy raiser and was house trained, I did not have to start from the very beginning. However, a dog in a new environment can often cause trouble. I know this first hand.
When I received my first dog, he was two and a half years old, well passed the puppy stage. I didn’t have to worry about him getting into my things and chewing them up. The Seeing Eye would tell all of the students to puppy proof your room. By puppy proof, I mean put anything away that a dog can get ahold of. This may include clothes, blankets, phone and computer chargers, and about anything that a strong dog with strong teeth has the ability to destroy.
I remember not really paying attention to this the second time I went back to get Joba because I had had no trouble with Errol. However, one night while I was in my dorm room at the Seeing Eye, I realized I’d better listen up. I realized this when Joba happily ran over to me with one of my shoes in his mouth with his tail wagging a hundred miles an hour. It was so cute, but the dog guide owner in me told me I’d better correct him and make sure he knows he is never to grab and play with my shoes.
I started putting things away so Joba couldn’t reach them. Then I got home to my apartment. It didn’t take long before two leashes and my phone charger were destroyed. Let’s just say I wasn’t very happy. I knew I had to make a change. It required some more training. The Seeing Eye gives us training and obedience techniques while we are in class. Usually an obedience practice takes up to five minutes. Do this once a day, and you’ll be all set. Keep in mind that these techniques will not burn all the energy a young dog has which is why, later on, I will talk about other techniques to help burn off some of that energy. But just for this post, I am going to give you some obedience instructions that you can practice at home.
First, have your dog on leash by your side. Then, take a step forward and say, first of all, your dog’s name and then heel or come. This can be good leash practice for your dog. Then, once you’ve walked forward a few steps, start backing up saying, again, your dog’s name and then come. You always want to say your dog’s name before giving a command. It helps your dog know you are communicating to him and not to someone else. Once you’ve taken that step back, tell your dog to sit. If your dog has not learned the sit and stay commands, you can place your hand on the dog’s back and push lightly while telling your dog to sit. Eventually, your dog will put two and two together, and you will be able to simply use the command. Repeat those three steps three or four times before moving onto the next step, teaching your dog to stay.
At the Seeing Eye, we use the command rest. Basically, rest means the same as stay, so feel free to use the stay command if you would rather. When you start out, you will have your dog at sit. You will face your dog and give the command down. Again, if your dog isn’t familiar with this command, pulling lightly down on the collar or leash will gesture to the dog that you want him to lay down. Then, give your dog the command to sit, pulling upward slightly on the leash. Once the dog is sitting again, give the rest or stay command. If you have a flexi lead leash, you can allow it to go as far out as the leash allows you to. If your dog does not stay and tries to follow you, give a gentle correction and tell the dog to sit again. Repeat these steps three or four times. That completes the obedience training.
Before I close, I want to offer you some advice. First, if you are able to, it is always a good idea to start the dog on this training when he or she is a young puppy. But while I’m not an expert on the appropriate age to start a dog on obedience, I believe you can work on this when the dog is older. Another thing to remember is to not get too frustrated. Dog guide users have dogs that have already been trained. While we may be new beginners with our new dogs, the dogs are already familiar with these commands. We just learn the commands and reinforce them.
If you are starting fresh with your dog, it may not be easy right away. However, if you get frustrated, your dog is going to get frustrated. I know it may not seem like it sometimes, but dogs love to please their owners. A dog can tell when you are not pleased with it, and just like a person struggling to learn something new can get frustrated and shut down, a dog can do the same. You can decrease this frustration by giving your dog lots of praise and petting. In fact, that is the best reward you can give your dog. Every time your dog obeys even a simple command such as sit or stay, praise your dog with enthusiasm. If you praise your dog, he or she is going to want to repeat that behavior that makes you proud.
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