Guide dogs are special, and do amazing work, but they don’t get there by accident…
I asked my friend Kirsty to tell us all about her work with potential Guide Dog for Blind puppy Dan. In this blog she explains the effort that goes into housetraining him.
You are not alone – guide dogs for the blind in the making need patience, too!
“This beautiful little bundle is Dan, a chocolate Lab cross Golden Retriever and one day he is hopefully going to have a very special job to do. He is a Guide Dog for the blind puppy – in training – and I am his puppy walker (also known as puppy socialiser).
Guide dog for Blind in training
For 12 months, I will be doing his basic training and taking him through the main socialisation period. In this blog I hope you’ll enjoy reading about his progress (and mine). Perhaps it will give you an insight into what’s involved in raising a puppy, as well as the extra expectations for assistance dogs. Although I am a student of canine behaviour & training, I’m not a professional trainer & I don’t have any special magic up my sleeve. Raising a puppy is enjoyable, but it’s hard work and it helps to have a good understanding of the stages of puppy development & realistic expectations of what your puppy can do. No magic, just lots of love, patience, consistency and hard work. (A strong stomach, impaired sense of smell and a good sense of humour can also come in handy!!!)
New puppy – help!
If you’d seen my calendar this month (December), you’d have been thinking ‘this person is a clearly hermit, with absolutely no friends!’ because virtually all plans were put on hold, to focus on the important business of toilet training and socialisation. I’m stocked up with a rainforest worth of kitchen roll and enough anti-bacterial spray to impress Kim & Aggie. All I can say is, thank goodness for wooden floors! I’ve kissed goodbye to completing any task that requires more than 20 minutes solid concentration. I’ve moved everything off the floor and above puppy nose height (because Dan has absolutely no concept yet of what is mine & what is his). All phone & TV cables are inaccessible and a puppy gate is installed. Accidents are to be expected, so I’ve prepared myself for some weeks of mopping up (I find newspaper or puppy-pad training just lengthens the whole process, so we wont be using these).
Introducing puppy to toilet training routine
For the next 4- 6 weeks Dan will be accompanied out to the garden, for the toilet;
• After meals
• After drinks
• Immediately after sleeps
• Every 20 mins while he is active/awake
By using this schedule we have already got outdoor toilet 60% vs indoor toilet 40%, which is 60% less cleaning for me – yippee. If I didn’t use this schedule, I think the outdoor success rate would be more like 2%. Ok, so I feel like a yoyo, but it gives me lots of opportunity to praise him for a ‘job’ well done & I’ve lost some weight. I keep a ‘spending sheet’ (pee & poop diary) to help spot any patterns and I’ve briefed my boyfriend & mum on the plan of action, so we have a consistent routine (oh don’t I sound like I swallowed the corporate-speech dictionary?!).
At this point I am guessing you might think I am a bit obsessive, but I look upon it as a wise investment of time. Trainers often say ‘a behaviour that is rewarded’ is likely to be repeated, or as I like to think of it ‘giving praise for a pee, in the place it’s supposed to be’ saves me cleaning the wee and improves Dan’s understanding that this is the toilet, not the living room floor. Practice makes perfect. Simples…
I’m so excited about the coming months with Dan, but also feel slightly bemused that my life plans will revolve around the pee & poop schedule of this little furball.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my first ‘Dan’ blog and thank you for reading. Dan LOVES questions & compliments, so feel free to leave them in your comments ☺ Once he learns to read & type, he might write in his own blog *wink*”
Guide dog puppies – Did you know?
- The pups learn to go to the toilet on a concrete area of the garden. Guide Dog owners can have a similar area installed at home (or at their workplace) to allow for easy cleaning.
- The toilet command word for a Guide Dog is ‘busy’. They are very polite ☺