Category Archives: guide dog training

GDB: days 10-graduation

Today was nice and easy. It was the traffic route this morning when Kelly drove the hybrid car to show us our dog’s reactions to moving vehicles. Since there was only one car, all six of us sat in the lounge and had to go out one at a time. That reminded me a little of the four-week classes of sit around and wait, but it was nice talking more to everyone. Jory did well. We missed Kelly the first time because we were walking too fast for him to pull out in time. He got us on the next block. Our first one was where he drove straight at us from the front, and Jory had to push me and back straight up. I had to remind myself that it was ok and take a deep breath because it reminded me of when Dee saved me from getting killed by a bus. Kelly did the backup check one more time, and Jory did her job. Then, at various points on the route, he drove in front of us and she completely stopped moving as well as behind us where Jory had to speed up. Finally, we had total barricades. That was easy, just have her show me, go to the street, and forward,/left back to the sidewalk. We have construction in Ruston right now, so Jory will have more times to use this skill.
Th afternoon was easy. We went to campus where we got the fun facts about your puppy Jory was raised by a woman and her daughter in Newport Beach, Calif. She loved to play with their pet German shepherd and was raised around horses and livestock. Jory loved going everywhere, but her favorite place was the beach. We also had the vet lecture about keeping our dogs trim and in good working condition. Jory had no health problems. She just had diarrhea once because she ate something she shouldn’t have.
Finally, we had the night route. I am totally blind, so that didn’t matter at all to me. Jory was a little more cautious on a couple blocks, but there was not really any difference for her either.
Wednesday, we went to Berkley to work on taking the train and get a crowded downtown experience. I had some lemon tea at Lock, Stock and Bagel while my classmate worked her route. It was nice to be sitting somewhere other than the lounge. I forgot her booties, so Emily found an entrance with stairs since the dogs are not supposed to do escalators without paw protection. Jory is getting better at the stairs. I worked with her on targeting the handrail, and she had fun doing that. We did platform refusal. I had Jory closest to the edge of the platform and told her left left, and she sped up. We turned around, and I told her right right, and again, she sped up and refused. She targeted the turnstile, and we got on the train. The first time, she almost slid her one front paw off the edge of the platform because she was quickly getting on the train before the doors closed. It was funny; when we got off, we moved just as quickly, but Emily said she looked at her paws and the ground when we moved.
Shatuck Avenue was crowded. There were several people with strollers, dogs, college students. There were also several obstacles: tables, chairs, winding paths, ETC. I love working Jory in the city. She wagged her tail the hardest on this route. She was totally excited when she took me around large groups of people and picked up her line to the curb. I travel a couple times per year to Minneapolis, D.C., Philly, ETC., so I’m excited to take Jory with me on all of those adventures.
In the afternoon, we went to the Dominican college campus. I’m a grad student in Louisiana, so this will be important. We back chained a route to the library. I kept for getting to slow my body and gestures while making a moving turn, so Jory missed it three times. Once I got my body in the correct position, she understood what I wanted. I clicked and treated at all the important points: the entrance to the bridge, the turn at the top of the hill, and the stairs that led to the library. We walked back and to the library again twice before going back to the van. On the way back, Jory wanted to take me over the grass, so I told her to be careful. She tried to take me over the grass again a second time, but the third time, she took the deep left turn on to the sidewalk.
Thursday morning, we went back to the college campus. Jory was soooo incredibly slow. Emily says physical correction and leash gestures make Jory dig in her heels and slow even more. I thought if we keep going like this, it’s going to take an hour to go three blocks. Emily asked if Jory needed to relieve, and I said she shouldn’t since she peed and pooped at 7 am. A few minutes later, I said I’m going to relieve Jory since that was such odd behavior for her. As soon as I took of the harness, she went to the grass and pooped again. That teaches me to listen to my dog’s signals. As soon as she was finished and reharnessed, she picked up her normal trotting pace with tail wags.
This time, we were backchaining the path that led to the hill. There were four Jory could choose. I love clicker training, and so does Jory. Once we got her consistently taking initiative and showing me the bottom of the hill, we worked to the library where she happily targeted the door inside and empty chairs for us to sit for a couple minutes. We walked back to the parking lot and did the route one final time. Emily said she wasn’t even thinking about any other paths; she was completely focused on getting me over the bridge to the bottom of the hill and right to the library. Lots of kibble and physical/verbal praise at the end.
In the afternoon, we did sidewalkless with cars parked in the road. I was better this time about remembering to check left along the edge. I clicked and treated Jory for pointing her nose at parked cars instead of using her iniative to take me around them.
Yesterday morning was our final trip. We went to Muir woods. Jory was excited because there were so many good smells in the air. Emily changed her harness from a 46 to a 44 because Jory has been escaping the harness when she is lying down. We all set out at a quick pace. My hip and shin splints were hurting some on this hike, but it was worth it. We stopped and took some nice pictures on a bridge near a creek. We also took photos inside a tree. It was weird. It was totally hollowed out and was open in the front with three on three sides. I stood inside and Jory sat. On the trail back, she showed nice caution going around other hikers. Emily said she looked like a car on a busy road. She sped up and stopped quickly, sped up and stopped quickly until she saw a wide enough opening for us to pass between people. Emily said she looked as if she were smiling with her ears forward and tail out. We also stopped in the gift shop where I bought dangling redwood bead earrings and a tree keychain that says Muir Woods National Monument.
In the afternoon, admissions brought us the binders with all the vet info, puppy info, guide dog resources, ID, access cards, and food coupons. I also got a box of cookies from Linda. They are yummy! All of my classmates happily took several cookies, and we had a before-dinner snack.
Today was graduation!!! I was happy to find out Jory’s raisers came. They flew in this morning from Newport Beach. They are nice. Jory was soooooooo excited to see them. She ran from one person to the other and kept spinning in circles and wiggling her butt. They were happy to hear my roommate has a dog because they said one of her favorite activities is playing with other dogs. They also said she was considered for the breeding program, but she was rejected because she has a pink nose and pink in her eyes. Jory also likes to tug on a rope. We got pictures together with the professional photographer. Poor Jory was confused. I clicker trained her to sit in front of the chair then scoot her butt back and under, so the end result is Jory lying down with her body beneath the chair and her head sticking out. The photographer wanted her to sit beside me, and she kept scooting and going under. It took a couple minutes of letting her know I wanted a sit this time before we got good photos.
Graduation was nice and short! We finished in fewer than 35 minutes. I was sitting there and one of the puppy raisers started to cry. I almost did too. Jory sat nicely while the puppy raisers and I spoke to thank the instructors, classmates, ETC. They had to get a plain at 4, so they said goodbye right away and left. We have each other’s phone numbers and email addresses, so we will keep in touch. We have already imessaged each other photos.
I am sooo excited to go home tomorrow. Jory is an amazing guide, and I hope to work with her for many years!

GDB days 5-9

Thursday was another rainy day. In the morning, Jory and I extended our route by a block to go into the courthouse to work on stairs. Stairs are something we still need to practice some more. Emily thinks she wasn’t sure I found the stairs with my foot, and she stopped at the top of every one. It took a while to get down all three flights, but she was faster on the last one.
Thursday afternoon was a little dryer, and we did our route again. Go south to forth street, turn east and cross E, turn north and go to fifth, turn east and cross D, C, B, turn south back to forth st, and turn west back across C and D to go to café du cirque. We did this route for the final time Friday morning, and I celebrated by having hot green tea at the café.
Friday afternoon, Emily took us to a path/hiking trail. Jory was excited and air scenting a little. It was bumpy and a little rocky. Jory was unsure at first because Emily said she had never been on such a steep hill before. We took it slowly and she did a good job.
Saturday morning, we went to the mall. I hung out in front of a store while Emily worked with my classmate. We did escalator work. I put Jory’s back booties on, and we got the usual comments of “why does the doggy have shoes?” There is a train that goes through Northgate mall, so Jory was a good girl and traffic checked it both times.
We got to the escalator in Macy’s, and I worked with Jory on targeting the handrail instead of the middle of the metal plate. Jory is a fast learner. I’ve been using hand targeting to teach her new things: find the sink, elevator button, door handle, back up, lie down long ways, and sit between my knees and down. She is always excited to see my right hand, so she had fun enthusiastically learning the railing. She was a little slow exiting escalators at first. I put more enthusiasm into my voice, and she happily worked off the last escalator.
We also stopped at See’s candies. I’ve never had their chocolate before. I had a sample of a cream truffle, and it was delicious. I bought a chocolate bar and some sour stars, and Jory did well sitting at the counter while I paid.
In the afternoon, we went to Sausalito. It wasn’t raining there!!! It is a nice area. On Jory’s side of the path was the bay, and on my side of the path was a street. She liked looking at the waves for a few seconds and got distracted by someone reeling in a live fish. There were also several dogs on this walk both on and off leash. Jory was distracted at first, but after a few times, she walked right passed them and got a halt and kibble for being such a good girl. I waited for my classmate at a coffee shop and had an éclair and water.
Yesterday was nice; finally a day off!!! It was of course windy and raining again. On the way to breakfast, we were coming from carpet on to the tile before the hotel restaurant, and I fell. My hip was sore from that. I was sitting on the floor for a minute, and Jory kept nudging me with her nose. After that, she has been very cautious in approaching the tile even though the fall wasn’t her fault. The rest of the day, I groomed Jory, played kong with her, and mostly slept. Our internet has been down since Saturday, so I didn’t really have anything else to do yesterday.
Today was awesome! We went into San Francisco! I’ve never been to California before, so I was excited to see a new city. We hung out at a coffee shop again, and I had some more green tea and chatted with a classmate while waiting for my turn. We had many four-way stop signs and lighted intersections. I have mild hearing loss and auditory processing disorder, so I was glad to be in this environment. Noise is hard for me sometimes because I have trouble telling from which direction sounds were coming. It gave me many chances to practice keeping my line while listening to traffic and trusting Jory to go straight even when I’m not too sure. I feel again too, not Jory’s fault this time either. I was walking and my shoestring got caught on some metal pipe sticking out of the sidewalk. Now, my hip is definitely sore, and I think I will be moving a little slower tomorrow.
Jory did an excellent job targeting all up curbs. She also showed caution around outside tables, strollers, and running children. We crossed several lighted intersections before taking a bus and walking back to the coffee shop.
We came back to San Rafael this afternoon. We first went to Petco where I picked up a tuffy ring and a collapsible silicon bowl to keep in my backpack. Jory got distracted by a little dog and wanted to sniff some dog food, but I was pleasantly surprised she didn’t try to jump at toys or pull too hard.
After that, she got to have some off-leash time in the grass paddock at GDB. She did lab scoots and ran some circles. She had more fun with the clicker because we practiced off-leash recalls. She also enjoyed playing on the agility teeter-totter, ramps, and running the tunnel.
Finally, we did country work this afternoon. It was a quiet road. Sometimes we wandered out too far to the right because I forgot to keep telling her to halt and check for left. We have sidewalkless where I live, but all the traffic is coming from a lighted intersection towards us. Since it is so busy, I have no problem staying left and keeping my dog left. Jory got much better by the end in anticipating staying left, and I got better at checking.
Tomorrow, we are doing the traffic route, more sidewalkless, going to campus to meet with admissions, and having the night route. Jory is doing an amazing job for me. I love having her and working her, and she is an excellent successor after Dee!

GDB days 1-4

Yesterday, I left Minneapolis for GDB!!! I had a nice nonstop flight to San Francisco. I got to the airport where I chatted with classmates for three hours till all of us were here. We got on the bus and rode for about an hour to the hotel. Dinner was good. I have several food allergies, and the staff has been very accommodating. I had a BLT without the bread or dressing. Afterwards, we had info from the nurse. We can do yoga on Tuesdays, and there is someone who charges $1 per minute for a massage. When that was over, I unpacked and went to bed since I was exhausted.
My alarm went off too early today; I could have happily slept for a couple more hours. We met in the restaurant for breakfast before going downtown to the lounge. Laurie and Amy from admissions had us sign our guide dog user contracts and contact info/public release. My instructor is Emily Courage. We worked on the handling techniques. Something that is new to me is the time-out. When the dog is really distracted by something, like seeing another dog, we move our left hand down the leash, bring the dog in closer to the hip, and have him/her sit for 10 seconds. After that, we tell him/her forward, and when it is back on task, we halt and treat.
I got my dog! She is a 1.5-year-old female yellow lab named Jury. Her pace and pull are exactly what I’m looking for. She’s efficient and quick. She showed me all the down and up curbs, and we made it through a dog distraction with a time out.
She is very playful and cuddly. She wags her tail a lot, and she sat in my lap for a few minutes before curling up in a doggy donut and falling asleep.
She relieved at our final time. I’m so excited to have her, and I can’t wait to work her more tomorrow morning!

Yesterday morning, Jory was energetic and excited to see me as soon as she woke up. She pooped at the 8:15 relieving, and we got in the van to go to the downtown lounge. We had a nice long walk for 10 blocks or so, and our destination is café du cirque or something like that. She kept a fast pace the whole way there.
In the afternoon, we worked the same route with Kelly, the class supervisor, serving as a distraction. I had Jory sit, waited a few seconds, and gave her a treat when she got past him and refocused. That wasn’t the proper way to do a time out; I was confused, so we did Juno work for a few blocks after we got back. Its pull out the leash with the right hand, slide the left hand near the bottom bolt snap, and pull her over to my side and wait for 10 seconds. She can be sitting or standing and looking at the distraction or not. I look away from her and don’t talk to her. Then, I pick up the handle, ask her to go forward, and if she ignores the distraction, halt and treat. I also had to work on my left turns because I was trying to do moving ones and not the ones where I stop then turn.
We got toys yesterday. I haven’t tried her with the kong, but she was excited for the nylabone. She chewed it on her rug for at least a half hour before curling up in a ball to sleep before dinner. We also got the grooming kits with a double-sided pin and soft bristle brush, a zoom groom, two toothbrushes, toothpaste, and a washcloth. I haven’t groomed her yet but plan to soon.
Today was disgusting and rainy. We all looked like ducks with our bright yellow raincoat and rain pants. Jory seems to enjoy the rain. She walked me through all the puddles, and I wish I had my second pair of shoes with me. I didn’t know I was going to GDB before I left for Minneapolis 1.5 months ago, otherwise I would have packed them and brought a different bag. She figured out which surfaces would be slippery and where she could walk at our normal pace. She slowed down for both leaves and the metal grates in the sidewalk. I’m hoping this skill will carry over to icy sidewalks and hills in the winter. I don’t want her to injure herself like Dee did because that eventually led to her retirement.
In the afternoon, it was only sprinkling a little. She worked well passed the distracting Kelly. She blew a couple curbs this time, so we reworked them, and she got them on the second try.
Finally, we went to the grocery store because I needed to get more food for the refrigerator in my room. Safeway was extremely crowded. This was good practice for Jory because she needs to learn that it is sometimes appropriate to steady down to an in-door pace. She bumped my right side into the handle of a cart, so we asked the person to stay there for a few seconds for a rework. She did well going around all the displays and maneuvering me out of the way of people with shopping carts who cut us off randomly. Now, I have more fruit, vegetables, chips, and a little bit of chocolate.
Jory did not want to sit in the store. Emily and I decided she probably really needed to poop. She did. As soon as we got back to the hotel, I took her outside, and she went in about 20 seconds.
She is the typical lab who inhales her food in under 30 seconds. She gets two cups in the morning and one at night. Now, I am lying on my bed with the handle of the long leash around my leg. Jory is lying on the floor beside my bed curled up in a ball fast asleep. I’m going to wake her up for the final relieving, and then I’m going to read for awhile and go to bed.

My Dee Girl

This is International Assistance Dog week, so I thought I’d write about my current guide Dee. As I’ve written before, I was in a better headspace and had been anticipating my new guide since I had been dogless for 9 months. Here I am posting the journals from our first few days together.

Even though it says it is 10:14 pm, it feels like 1:14 am because of the three-hour time difference between east and west coast. I left my house at 11:10 am east coast time. My cab driver got lost for at least a half hour before she found the airport. No problems going through security. I hate hate hate small planes!!! My first flight was through Johnstown Pa. I had a six-hour flight from D.C. to Portland. I spent the time alternating between reading Princess in Training and listening to happy, upbeat music on my Ipod. Then, I had a 40-minute ride to Borring, with Doug and Marsha, two GDB volunteers. Kelly, the RA, with her 10-year-old guide July, oriented me to the dorm. Breakfast is at 7:30 tomorrow. I’m sleeping till 6:45 or so and getting a shower. I want one now, but that would require energy and movement, which I definitely don’t have right now. I haven’t even set up my computer or the wireless network, which tells you how tired I really am since that is usually one of the first thins I do in a new place. More tomorrow.

November 16, 2009 9:22 AM

I woke up at five this morning. My body is still on Eastern time and thought it was time to get up for school. My phone, computer, and Braillenote all had different times. My roommate Holly texted me this morning, and I had to ask her what time it was in Bloomsburg so I could appropriately set my stuff three hours back. This morning we had the managing your dog, retrain, praise and correction, and obedience lectures. Oh, for breakfast we had scrambled eggs, hash browns, apple slices, and toast. We have juno walks soon. I’m having trouble keeping everyone straight. There are two men and four, counting me, females in the class. The instructors are Sue Strong, Michelle, and Becky. There is also Kelly, Erin, the training specialist; Su Jung, an intern from San Fransisco University, and Scott, the dorm manager. Now, I’m waiting to go on my juno walk and learning how to put the harness on weeler, a stuffed dog on a skateboard.

10:36 am

We’re having obedience practice. Juno sit,, check, good juno. Juno stay. The leash in the heal grip in the middle of the leash. When the leash is moved to the right hand, the palm of the left hand faces the dog’s nose and juno stay. Walk slowly towards the end of the leash, which is still in the right hand. After the sit stay and the hitchhiker grip, thumb pointed up and fingers wrapped around the leash, it’s juno heal, where the dog comes to the left side of the body with its head at your knee. Then, we did sit/down. Sit is three pats and a happy sit. Down is the hitchhiker grip then a slow motion with your hand sideways. We also got our treat pouches; they are square with a magnetic closure. We bring the treat smoothly and quickly over to the dog’s nose.

The left door entrance or exit is different here than at TSE. At TSE, we put our backs against the door, push it open that way, and bring the dog in front of us. GDB’s way is to switch the leash to the right hand, juno over here happy voice pats, the dog comes to the right side, juno wait, open the door. Let the dog go inside first at the end of the leash. Juno let’s go! My corrections are too hard, and I had to practice softer ones and of course my tone of voice.

1:13 pm

Lunch was garlic/potato soup with homemade bread.

2:04 pm

I know the names!!! There is a Flute, Artie, Rora, Ogden, and Lincoln. I’ll tell mine later when I get it. Oh my God, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!!!!! I’m soooooo nervous and excited and happy all at the same time. I can’t wait to meet this dog!!!!

8:59 pm

I met her!!! Her name is Dee, and she’s a 55-pound black lab. Her birthday is Jan. 2, 2008, and she eats 1.5 cups of food in the morning and 1 cup at night. She is 23 inches at the shoulder, and she was issued with a martingale, Thank God!!! She reminds me of Valerie with her short body and very short neck. I love her already. She’s adorable. She has been sniffing my shirt and hands and headband. She’s done awesomely at staying still. I am teaching her to lie across my chair longways like her head on the right side and her butt to the left. She stayed like this for a half hour with only two or three reminders of Dee down.

I’m still trying to keep the schedule straight.

Tomorrow is:

7:00 feed water relieve

7:30 breakfast

8:15 instructor’s visitors center obedience

Guidework and juno

Relieve

Greshim guidework practice

Relieve then water

12:30 lunch

1:30 discussion room street crossing

Relieve

Destination route in greshim

4:30 FWR

5:30 dinner

7:00 water

Orientation and route learning lecture review

8:30 relieve

November 17, 2009 8:33 am

She peed and pooped at the afternoon feed time and this morning. Nothing at the 8:30 time. We just did dog distraction obedience with a sheltie. She sniffed a little but wasn’t uncontrollably distracted like Valerie orr Zorro. We go to Greshim to work the dogs for the first time today, and I’m soooo excited.

November 19, 2009 7:24 am

I’m writing this quickly before breakfast. I absolutely love working Dee. She moves quickly, with purpose. She’s sometimes stopping with no reason but an encouraging hopp up seems to do the trick. Her curb approaches surprise me; you know how people run and slide into home base? That’s what they feel like. She also steps out when I say forward; with Valerie and zorro it took a few steps to get that fast pace. Not Dee, once forward is said, it’s let’s go!!! She’s soooo smart. I taught her under the desk, and after doing it only two times, she automatically goes under once i pull out the chair. We’re still working on sit. She’s having trouble sitting in the hallway or on the bus, but I think she’ll get it.

Dinner yesterday was roasted chicken with dijon sauce, greenbeans, potatoes, and a roll. I’m so hungry!!!