Any guide dog handler or trainer will know that days like this come along, indeed must come along, as part of the becoming a team process. But as much as you might know that in your head, it is still sometimes discouraging.
We had a lot of trouble on our routes today. Poor curb approaches, distractions, me giving wrong cues, her not stepping out and losing confidence. It was hard, though a necessary and important part of it all.
We did the same Portland route today. Petunia’s curb approaches were not the best. sometimes she’d walk right up to it,a nd other times, she’d stop quite a ways away from where she should be. My instructor also had to get on me a few times for talking to Petunia too much. I’m the sort who like to praise and encourage my dog, so I’m saying things like, “atta girl. come on, all the way …” and so on. But I needed to let her focus on her work and getting to the edge. It’s such a change from how I’ve handled my dogs all these ears and it’s a very hard habit to break. I felt like I must be giving her all the wrong messages and cues and input.
But we eventually made it to the coffee shop where again I sat and had a latte with Debbie, the nurse.
After lunch, April asked me what I want to do for m secondary destination route. Did I want to continue going tot he coffeeshop, or did I want to do something else? After tomorrow, we will start customizing our work, so it is concentrating on the things we need. But we all have to have some kind of destination route, so we are still building a solid foundation with the fundamentals. Naturally, I picked the coffeeshop.
This afternoon was the hardest workout yet. Portland was very busy, tons of people out, distractions everywhere. We were on a tight schedule so shortened the usual route, and yet we dealt with at least six or seven distractions.
People cutting in front of us at the curb so Petunia couldn’t make her approach.
Young child with father. have I mentioned she loves kids?
Homeless person and shopping cart.
class of thirty third grade students walking across the sidewalk in front of us and then crossing the street.
Barking dog in car.
People kneeling on sidewalk.
I think there were more.
Plus, Petunia’s curb approaches pre and post street crossing were iffy. We had to rework two things that I remember. Rework means that if the mistake is important enough, you retrace your steps and do it again. Until you and the dog get it right. Poor golden girl was losing a bit of confidence as the route went on. We stopped a few times, just for me to hug her and praise her, to try to get her feeling more happy. On my part, I had to work on sounding more excited and silly when she did good things. Since she doesn’t care much for food rewards, she needs that to help keep her motivated and feeling confident. She depends on my as much as I depend on her. We’re a team, and if one team member isn’t getting what she needs it can cause problems.
But having said all that, as the route wet on, she improved, her confidence grew, her tail was out and wagging and her pace and pull intot he harness picked up. and I was able to get back into my stride and really give her that upbeat happy silly verbal stuff she needs. So though it was a rough workout I many ways, we got through it and got through it well by the end.
Afterwards, we came back to campus to do some clicker training. I did this with Juno, april, and we ran out of time before I could try it with Petunia. Since clicker involves much food reward, click and feed, click and feed, we’re not certain she will go for it anyway. Clicker is used to mark an action, finding a chair, finding a door, a pole with a walk button, things like that.
After the human dinner, we had a meeting about ear cleaning and teeth brushing, all familiar to me. Then I took her out on our patio and palyed with er a little. She had fun and so did I. I felt like she needed that, needed to know that she can have fun with me as well as working with me.
Tomorrow, most of the class will do escalators. since I don’t do them, I’ll work a route in the mall. I’m hoping to find a place to get a charm for my bracelet to commemorate my time here in Oregon. In the afternoon, we’ll do a variety of tings, including goal meetings with our instructor, to discuss our individual plans for the rest of class.
And that’s that for today.