Jozet at Halushki asked me a few questions about sweet Writer, my guide dog.
I'm very interested in learning more about your dog. What was the training process like when you both first met? What kind of ongoing training do you do
with your dog? Are seeing eye dogs (is that the correct term?) all strictly working dogs in the family home? I know that they are always on the job when
out and about, but is the dog solely your companion in the home, or does he have "pet" time? I don't know whether I'm asking that question exactly right.
Ack! I apologize! I see you refer to the dog as a guide dog. I'm sorry if "seeing eye dog" was offensive in any way.
Here are so many great questions. I am breaking the questions down so I don’t miss any.
- What was the training process like when you both first met?
I decided to go to the school Guiding eyes for the blind in New York. The school paid for my plane ticket. The school provided everything free. I did not have to pay for food or anything while I was there. The lions club in that area raised money for my dog school. Before I met my guide dog the trainers talked to us about the dogs. What to do and what not to do. After going over a few things we were all sent to our rooms where they called us one at a time. When it was my turn I went to another room with a table. I was told to sit down. After seated they brought in Writer. They let her off her leash to wander around the room. She ignored me at first. After awhile she came to me. Then I walked her back to my room. Finally all the introductions were made. All the students met in the training room and sat down. We were taught how to get our dog to sit up and lay down. During this bit of training the dogs were quite funny. They would groan or sigh, urrrh, urrh. I think it was a lab thing. Oh yes, back to the question. I was at the dog school for a month. Every day, but Sunday we did training. I even took a train into Manhattan. Writer and I learned how to work with each other. We trained on how to go up and down stairs, escalators, and elevators. We learned how to ride in cars and other modes of transportation. I tempted her with treats and she practiced being uninterested. I knew that she wanted it but she couldn’t have it. I learned how to keep her skills up, by working with her every day. We did this together and all with praise. Writer did not get treats for doing what she needed to, but lots of praise.
Before I actually met Writer she had gotten six months of training.
- What kind of ongoing training do you do with your dog?
Before I actually answer this question let me say that I have basically retired Writer. This means that she doesn’t work much anymore. Writer was having some arthritis and since I was going to start a new job I also didn’t want her stuck in a corner for eight hours. At that, I didn’t want her all alone at home for 12 hours either. I just felt very bad. She had been so good to me I wanted to do what was best for her. So, my dad and step mom offered to have her come live with them. I didn’t want to part with her. I knew that it was best though. My step-mom is also home most of the day. Along with her they have two other dogs. Once I made the decision Writer moved. Even though she was the new dog in the group she told them who was boss. Writer is very happy there and is getting much love. Writer is very happy to see me every time I come over.
Ok, now to answer the question. I don’t actually do much training anymore, but when we were working full time we did a bit of training every day. I would give her a command and she would do it. I would praise her. It was fun.
Once in college Writer and I had some issues. We weren’t working together very well. I couldn’t figure out why. I called Guiding eyes for the blind and they actually sent a trainer to my college to help me figure out what was going wrong. Of course it was my fault, not Writer’s. I had been stepping out with the wrong foot. That simple thing had been messing us up. We got it worked out and we did lovely together.
- Are seeing eye dogs (is that the correct term?) all strictly working dogs in the family home? I know that they are always on the job when
out and about, but is the dog solely your companion in the home, or does he have "pet" time?
Most of the time at home Writer was off duty. The only time she was on duty was when her harness was on. Her harness was like a work jacket. One moment she would be very still and quiet. As soon as you would take off her harness she would act as playful as a puppy. She got lots of play time. She is like us. She needs her play time, but she loves her work time. Well loving work is not necessarily like us. I love my job, but I also have an awesome job.
- I see you refer to the dog as a guide dog. I'm sorry if "seeing eye dog" was offensive in any way.
It was not offensive at all. People refer to guide dogs differently. What I have noticed is that a blind person such as myself tends to refer to their dog based on the school they went to. I went to Guiding eyes for the blind so I call my dog a guide dog. There is a school called seeing eyes for the blind so they call their dog a seeing eye dog. There is another school called Leader Dog and students refer to their dogs as leader dogs. So in a way the title is a brand name.
The two most usual titles for the dogs are “Guide Dog” or “Seeing Eye Dog”. Both names are acceptable.
I think I answered everything. There is just so much information. If you have any more questions please ask.
I will answer another question tomorrow.
Sweet Writer memory –
Writer would sit or put her head on my foot when I was on my computer or sitting in a chair in the living room.