A DIFFERENT VIEW - Guide dog training continues at home

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There is a lot more in the training of a guide dog after the dog is placed in the home with the blind person than most people realize. Actually the training goes on continually.

Different schools will vary to some degree in their methods.

Once the dog is presented to the blind student, he/she is kept with the blind person all the time or on a short tie down next to the student's bed.

Going home, this training continues for both dog and his handler. The dog is entering a strange house plus he is still learning that this blind person is the one he is to mind and also help.

"So," the instructor said, "When you get home keep the dog either with you or on a short tie-down where he can watch you 24/7 for a full month. This helps the dog to adjust to his new home and keeps the dog from getting into trouble if left alone and loose."

This is what I did with my first guide dog and I will say I met with a lot of criticism. I was accused of, "being mean" and almost ordered to "let the poor dog loose."

I had no earlier experience so I resisted these remarks and held to what my instructors had told me. Later as the same people who had accused me of being mean noticed how well-behaved my dog was they almost admitted that I had been right.

When my guide knew the house and the month was up I let her loose. Shewould follow me and if she didn't see me would search until she found me.

I used this same training with my present dog and never have I had a problem with them in the house. They chew on their nylo bone but leave everything else alone. I can leave my guide alone inside and know when I return there will be no messes and nothing chewed on, even with a table covered with fresh baked cookies.

I have friends who didn't follow this training plan but as soon as they brought the dog home they turned her loose in the house. Later I'd hear how the dog chewed up other items, scattered garbage and even got in the toilet.

Nor did the dog have that very close bond with the blind person.

Another part of training was to ensure the dog would always come when called. Today when I call he always comes, usually immediately.

Each dog will vary as no two dogs are alike just like no two people are alike.When we bring home a second or third dog we also have to be very careful to remember this dog is not the one we worked with earlier.

Over the years we adopt new words to use that the new guide must learn.

Also, it is easy to allow the dog to get away with, "only a little problem," but these must be corrected before they grow into problems that may bring harm to the person or dog.

Thus when I am asked if my dog is in training I will often say, "Yes," but then add that training is a continual process.

Remember to respect the working guide dog when you meet.

Ernie Jones, a registered nurse, retired early due to vision loss. Contact him at theolcrow@charter.net or 529-9252.

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