For 40+ years we've helped over 300,000 dog trainers just like you!

Learn more about Leerburg

$6.99 Flat Rate Shipping

Learn more
Ask Cindy Our Newsletter Free Catalog

Leerburg Dog Training Blog

The best source for dog training news, tricks and treats, right from world class leaders in dog training.

The best source for dog training news, tricks and treats, right from world class leaders in dog training.
Q & A’s that Guide Dog Handlers Get Asked About Their Guide Dogs by Daniel Jacob

Q & A’s that Guide Dog Handlers Get Asked About Their Guide Dogs by Daniel Jacob

The following is a blog post that Daniel sent to us at Leerburg. We were not asking the questions.

 

I’m here with Daniel Jacob, writer, guide-dog user and Montrealer. 

(Q) So, Daniel, how are you today.

(A) Fine Thanks.

(Q) How long have you had your dog now?

(A) For almost 10 years, he officially became mine December 21st, 2008.  The happiest, and the scariest day of my life…

(Q) Well, I think we can understand happiest, but why scariest?

(A) Because I knew that the training was over, and I had little to no backup.  You see, it’s easier to learn to train, than it is to learn to trust.  When I was with the trainer, Jason would warn me when a dog was approaching and/or whether it was off leash, when we were on public transport, he would ask curious passers by not to touch the dog at work, as they were extending a hand to touch it and before the hand got to the dog- also, he would tell me when the dog was deviating from an assigned route, and tell me where to go to correct the problem.  You see, there was a lot of snow that year, and it was bitter cold, so I did not have the usual tactile methods of knowing where I was or was going.

(Q) You can’t trust the dog?  Why can’t or couldn’t you trust the dog.

(A) Well, guide-dogs, as beautiful and wonderful as they are, are still pack animals.  In order to be able to trust them, you first need to gain their respect.  Service dogs are generally bred in such a way as to give them a lethargic temperament.  This reduces their drive or energy and this reduces the likelihood of aggression.  Though my dog showed little aggression, his level of energy always remains quite high- which requires me to give him lots of exercise and keep him active for hours a day.

(Q) But your dog, he would protect you though, if you were to be attacked, right?

  1. Hopefully, but not very likely, sorry- even if he is a German Shepherd.You see, the mission of any service animal is to help you in accomplishing most of your daily tasks.  Okay, let’s go over your question point by point!Firstly, Guide-dogs are specially trained to help you with tasks specifically related to orientation and mobility; in other words, helping you get from one place to another, and helping you navigate around in-door buildings like subway stations or work places.  Dogs with lethargic temperaments are routinely chosen for their submissive dispositions.Secondly;  personal protection dogs, guard dogs or police canines are trained in what I would call:  canine martial arts.As far as I know, They are taught how to place and hold a bite with the goal of subduing a subject by inflicting the maximum amount of pain, while limiting injury.

    While a guide-dog or service dog might be willing or even eager to engage a would-be attacker, as they are not trained in canine martial arts, their bites would most certainly cause more injury than pain, (tearing at skin and flesh as opposed to grabbing and holding joint bones so as to reduce the power behind the impact of a kick,  punch or slap), and as they are not trained to hold a bite, letting go at the wrong time would also, certainly result in the dog being kicked, punched, stabbed or possibly even shot.

    Thirdly, while a service dog can undergo protection training, all the schools that I’ve spoken with say that  protection training requires a dog with high prey drive, and lots of aggression. Increasing a dog’s prey drive and creating the necessary fight drive makes the dog agitated, possibly more aggressive and will cause the dog to want to patrol an assigned area when the dog should be sitting still, like at work the way a service animal should be for example.

    Lastly, as service dogs are legally entitled to accompany you everywhere you go, a service or guide-dog needs to be an animal that can be trusted.  Aggression or even the hint therein obviously breaks that trust.

    Besides, as the science of breeding service  or guide animals is so exact, I would say that 99.9 percent of all guide-dogs aren’t aggressive enough to make it as a protection dog.  In fact, I would say that it’s more the other way around.  It’s much more difficult to find a real protection dog, because few dogs are actually aggressive enough to make it through the training.

(Q) Thank-you, that’s a lot of information.  Daniel, you spoke earlier about finding it harder to trust than to train, but tell me, what does your guide-dog training consist of.

 

(A) Well, now it’s my turn to say wow!  Do we actually have time for all that?…  Hmm!  Okay, well for starters, it starts with something quite basic, finding the one place where the dog can relieve itself.  Dogs are creatures of habit.  While they are taught a command for relieving themselves, something like: get busy or go potty, dogs find it difficult to relieve themselves in unfamiliar places, so it’s usually best to find a place they will go to all the time…

 

(Q) Wait a minute here, cause you bring up a good point.  How do you know when your dog is crapping and, well…, I’m almost embarrassed to ask here, but how do you pick up after your dog? 

(A) Well, I can’t speak for all guide-dog users and/or other school training methods, but the way I was taught was to have your dog walk in a circle around you, which stimulates the bowel release reflex, and you give the “get busy” or “go potty command”, and when they go, you praise them.

When the dog’s urinating, you can hear it which is kind of self-explanatory.  But to answering your crapping question, if we want to know whether the dog’s crapping, we wait till the dog stops moving and feel for an arch in the back.  The arch will feel like an incline from the back to the front, and the head will usually be up in the air.

Once we’ve established this arch, we place our left foot at the dog’s back feet and our right foot at the dog’s shoulders, then wait for the dog to move away.  Once the dog has moved away, we can then reach down with a bag and feel for what’s warm.  I know, sounds simple, but it’s not that easy.  Believe me!  Especially not in the snow where the poop gets cold fast.

(Q) But, that’s obviously not the only thing you learn though, right?  What’s next!

(A) Ah-ha, no, it’s not the only thing I learned on my first night, but as it turns out, it’s the thing I get the most practice about.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s easier to train than it is to trust, but the dog too also has to bond and trust, so I was taught a trick my trainer called targeting.

That’s when you have the dog in front of you and, you have some food in your pocket or a bate bag.  You place a couple of food pebbles in your right hand then hold it in back of you.  Then, you call the dog over by his name while showing your empty left hand in front of you.  Once the dog nudges your empty left hand, you offer him the food as a reward.  Then, you switch hands.

 

(Q) How does this improve bonding?

(A) Well, contrary to popular belief, dogs don’t really do things to please us, they do things to either avoid pain, or to make themselves feel better.

Most dogs do exhibit high food drive, so the goal of the targeting game is for the dog to hear your voice while getting excited about getting food for nudging your hand.

 

(Q) Ah-ha, I see.  Can you play this game with any dog?

(A) Oh yes!  Of course!  Absolutely!  As mentioned in the article, a guide-dog is a dog just like any other dog.  It’s just that it’s trained to do a job and is quiet, well mannered and generally behaves well enough to go with us wherever we go.

(Q) What else do you do or learn with your dog?

(A) Well, the day after getting the dog, we learn specialized obedience.  Yes, the dog knows how to sit and lie down, but when it’s a service dog, the sit and lie down are very specialized.

When the dog sits for example, the dog has to sit tight to your leg.  The dog also has to lie down the same way.  This is for its own safety because of the confined spaces a service dog is forced to endure from time to time.

When we’re out on the road, we learn to follow the dog in its harness and, with our fingers on the leash, we learn to detect the dog’s subtle head movements.

We have to learn how to figure out whether the dog’s trying to judge the route for possible dangers, or whether it’s letting its senses carry it away to distraction.

We also learn that, when we tell it to find a door for example, we feel for the dog’s head and follow it up to and past its nose.  If the dog’s doing its job right, the dog’s head should be pointing its nose right to, or very near a door handle.

 

(Q) How do you know when you reach a street corner?

 

  1. Well, this question goes hand in hand with how do you cross a street.Knowing the answer to these questions is exactly why not just anybody can get a guide-dog.  The criteria for getting a guide-dog is actually pretty strict.  You have to know all these things by being subjected to a pretty intensive orientation and mobility course, whereby you learn where you are by listening to the sound of the traffic.In a lot of ways, your ears will tell you the same things your eyes will.  On most streets, if you’re walking along the sidewalk, the traffic will be travelling along side you parallel to you.  When you get to the street corner, you will start to hear the traffic going perpendicular  to you.Crossing streets apply the same principles.  Very busy intersections may require sighted assistance because as mentioned in an earlier article, dogs; most carnivorous mammals in fact are red green color blind.When we’re with the dog and we’re approaching a street corner, we will feel by the dog’s head movements that the dog’s looking out into the street to make sure the corner’s free of traffic.

    Guide-dogs are taught intelligent disobedience.  This is where the dog is taught to disobey the command to cross if it sees that danger is directly in front of us.

    Again, I go back to that whole thing about being a pack leader.  How can you be the dog’s confident leader, if you don’t know where you’re going or how to get there.

    Unfortunately, both first-time guide-dog users as well as the public at large have somewhat unrealistic expectations as to what the dog can and can’t do.  (In the interest of saving time and space, for a list of the dog’s limitations and reasons therein, please refer to the article previously posted on http://leerburg.com/blog/. Thank-you.)

(Q) Daniel, if you don’t mind, I had a couple of questions regarding the article you wrote?

The first has to do with some of the assumptions people make about guide-dogs in general.  Now, having gotten to know you a little, I’d say you’re pretty smart.  So, I just wanted to know about what dogs do when faced with large obstacles.

How, if at all, does the dog signal you when you come upon a large obstacle.

 

(A) Well, when we come upon any obstacle, large or small, the dog stops.  The dog is then taught to stay and let us trail our right hand along the dog’s back, over the head and to the impending danger.

Then, if at all possible we can direct the dog by giving it either a right or left direction, followed quickly by the: “find the way” command.  (In my case, I have changed this command to: “work it”, so that people who are close understand that the dog is really working, and not just walking).

If the dog has analyzed the situation and sees fit, the dog will escort you according to your directive.  Otherwise, especially when faced with dangerous obstacles like holes in the ground, the dog will freeze; especially if you try to take charge of the situation and step in front of the dog to force its hand.  The dog will not proceed till you have placed yourself at its right hip, allowing it to move forward according to its judgment.

Some guide-dogs have even been known to lay down in front of deep holes in order to protect you from yourself…, well from the human perspective anyway.

From the dog’s perspective, you’re refusal to yield to the dog’s judgment is an assertion of leadership which results in a stalemate.  That just means you’ll have to wait for someone to help you out.  In the case of road-wide construction, this might be a safe bet at any rate, in case the dog can’t figure it out on its own.  Don’t forget, unlike or compared to a guide-horse, a dog’s field of vision is quite limited.  (For more information about guide-horses, click here)

 

(Q) In your article, you mention that there is little to no way for the general public to know the difference between rookie and veteran guide-dogs.  But, is there any way at all?

 

  1. Absolutely!  Rookie animals, much like young children out on they’re very first excursions, can’t keep their eyes or their noses to themselves for love or money.In fact, love or money, in terms of food, is exactly what they’re looking for when they are looking of sniffing around.  Encouraging a dog’s sense of distraction by looking at it, or especially petting and talking to it in a high-pitched voice will very likely frenzy the dog and make him or her most unmotivated to work.  As mentioned in the article, this frenzy also becomes a confidence breaker for the user who, at the point of distraction, may become confused as to his or her dog’s ability to do that work.There are some dogs, independent of their breed who remain high-strung and easily distractible throughout their career, yet this does not impede their ability to do their job.  In fact, I dare say that it is often the most distractible dogs which are best able to avoid the most obstacles, as they are always alert.Case in point; I have had my easily distractible dog for almost exactly 10 years now.  In the first year, I slammed into about 15 non-human obstacles.  The second year, 5.  The third  year, I hadn’t slammed into any.  If you’re in to that sort of thing, the last non-human obstacle I slammed into was a cement divider on Cavendish and Demaisoneuve, December 24th 2010.  (And that was just my right hand which got hit).

If you’re going to acknowledge a working dog, it is preferable that you consider acknowledging one which is (not moving), as confidence will be high, (especially on the part of the user).  If possible and/or required, please do wait till the user takes off his or her dog’s harness to avoid confusing their dog?

(Q) After your day of work is done, what do you do with your dog?

(A) Well, we treat our working dogs the same way we would or should treat any new dog in the home. It’s still just a dog as I keep saying, so working dog or not, we have to treat it like it’s a dog and key off on it.

This means that the dog gets no private time on its own till it’s earned your respect.  You have to bring the dog on leash with you wherever you go.  If you go to the bathroom, you have to take the dog with you.  When you’re in the kitchen, that dog is with you.  If you can’t or don’t want to take the dog with you, you have to keep it either in a crate, or tied down on a tie-down chain, and you do this till you gain the dog’s respect.  This can take anywhere from about 10 to 30 days.

When I’m in a strange area, I never take my dog off leash, though I may remove the harness.

You do this, so that the dog won’t scout the garbage or defecate inside the house without your knowledge.  Defecation is one of the means dogs use to exhibit dominance.  I believe that this might explain why it might be difficult to train your dog to go in another place other than the one he or she is used to.

We do know however, that many animals in the wild will scent mark over another mark, we even know of certain species of invertebrates like the red sided garter snake or the clownfish which can either disguise themselves as a member of the opposite sex, or like the clownfish, change sex altogether.

I don’t think it would be a great stretch to say that I believe that dogs understand that crapping on a pile of crap wouldn’t remove a scent, only mask it, therefore, for some dogs, crap grabbing relieves stress and, by absorbing the scent of their rivals, an eager dog lacking in confidence, gets to elevate its status through non-confrontational means.

You’ll also notice, if your keen observers of your animals that i this behavior is most common in fixed dogs.

Just so we’re clear though, there’s no such thing as a fool-proof rule, but I’ve only ever been around one or two unfixed dogs that have done this…, that I know of of course.

But, if I base my hypothesis on other owners’ anecdotes which say that they actually took their dogs to the vet to find out why their dog was doing this and to see if they had a problem- but the vet said they were fine; as well as my 30 or so years around dogs, it would appear that crap grabbing, non-confidence motions of dominance in the canine court of public appeal seems to be the only plausible explanation for this behavior…  Sorry- a little off topic there…  You were going to ask me another question?

 

(Q) How do you know you can trust the dog or that you’ve earned its respect?

(A) The dog will follow you everywhere you go without question or fail.

(Q) Daniel, what is the hardest thing you have to do with your guide-dog?

(A) The answer to that question is 2 fold.

There’s hard, then there’s gut wrenching.  The hard part is learning the difference between working with a pet and working with a working dog.

Working with a working dog like a guide-dog is hard, because you have to learn how to be a pack leader, while letting go of the reins enough to let the dog take some initiative.

For instance, because the dog can see, the dog always goes through doors first.  This flies in the face of traditional dog training which dictates that you go through the door first.

Also, as indicated in the article, dogs, like most carnivorous mammals are myopic so they often have to smell for things like cracks or potholes in sidewalks; so we have to try to allow for that to happen, and try as much as possible, to discern  whether the dog is smelling for possible danger, or is trying to pick up left over food along the route.

The gut wrenching part of course, is often correcting the dog for something it has actually done right and realizing it later.  That’s why it’s important for the dog to be submissive enough to not hold a grudge, but strong enough to have nerves of steel.

Appropriate corrections are okay, but you do have to have self discipline, or you could break your dog’s spirit at worst, or at least break your dog’s confidence in its work.

(Q) Wow- I didn’t know that.  Well Daniel, we’re almost out of time here, but I was wondering if you could touch a little on the training guide-dogs receive as puppies?  Do you know a little about what is required for instance, from their puppy raisers?

 

(A) I do know some, but of course, not as much as I’d like.

Believe it or not, guide-dog schools are quite secretive about their techniques, because too many people are going out and trying to train their dogs as service animals and there are actually organizations out there which issue fake licences to non-service animals.
I can tell you that most if not all dogs are now trained using the marker or clicker system.  (For more information on this system and how it works, click here:  http://leerburg.com/markers.htm.)

 

Most puppies leave their respective kennels between 8 and 12 weeks of age, depending on individual schools and policies therein.

It goes without saying that this will also vary depending on the availability of foster homes.  Homes with families are generally sought out rather than single homes, as it is best for the dog to be socialized with a number of people and exposed to as many possible working situations as possible for the dog’s 12 to 15 months in the foster home.

I have heard it said that some school boards have instituted a “bring your pet to school day”, specifically for this purpose- though I have yet to confirm this.  Some guide-dog schools like Guide Dogs for the Blind  have puppy love days whereby they invite the public to love potential guide-dog puppies and find out about the school.

These days are also held in an attempt for trainers to judge puppies’ ability to handle excessive handling and to see whether they’ll behave properly when faced with human attention according to how they were taught.

Foster families are Absolutely Required to attend pre paid obedience courses as well as evaluations according to individual school specifications.  Don’t worry!  The school to which you are applying your family’s foster services will make their directives clear and well known.  I can assure you that failure to follow them to the letter will result in removal of the puppy.  These dogs cost thousands of dollars and schools aren’t likely to mess around with you.

The good news though, is that your dog food as well as any necessary medical treatment will be covered by the school.  While foster families are required to teach their charges not to pull, they are asked (not) to teach their dogs the heel command.

This is because the guide-dog heel is different from the traditional heel.  The traditional heel requires that your left foot be just between the dog’s right shoulder and the rib area, whereas the guide-dog heel requires your left foot to be at the dog’s right hip.

Guide-dog schools don’t want this heel to be taught, before the dog’s level of dominance is evaluated.  Teaching this heel to an overly dominant dog will make it almost impossible to get it to stop pulling…  Almost.

Also, a dog that walks in front is more likely to forage, or scent mark, depending on its age and maturity, of course.  The pack leader walks in front, remember?  More to the point, many schools won’t want foster puppies to learn the guide-dog heel, in case they don’t make it and to avoid confusing the puppies.

Though we can make a pretty good educated guess as to a dog’s rank drive from a relatively early age, most dogs come into the peak of their character cycle at about a year old.  By this time, they most likely have already been spayed or neutered and are entering their final tests for psychological, physical or neurological disorders.

The age the dogs start formal training will depend on three things.  Their level of energy, available trainers and obviously, their evaluations.


(Q) Well Daniel, that’s about all the time we have, but before we go, do you have any last words you’d like to say to the public, other users or both?

  1. Yes I do actually!  Though I understand that my words may be mystical yet blunt, savvy yet truly obnoxious; I apologize in advance for not knowing any other way to say this…Look, if it feels to some guide-dog users like I’m coming after you, I’m not.  At least, not for what you do with your dog out of harness anyway.First of all, I would like to ask the public and users both to please, read the article I wrote on service dog etiquette See leerburg.com Blog Post) .In it, I not only outline my position, but I also outline the reasons, and you may notice that I NEVER fudge the rules.  Although this may seem off topic but, you know- it really wasn’t all that long ago that the belief that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote was deemed acceptable till the suffragettes; or that the law preventing blacks from going to school with whites if at all was considered constitutional and was fought hard- even leading to a war on civil rights.Did you know that, although the principle of guide-dogs was introduced to North America in 1929, there was no government support allowing access to service dog users till the 1970s?  And that till then, public access to guide-dog users was left up to individual owners of stores, office buildings and drivers of public transport?

    Upon government intervention, we were quite tolerant, eager in fact, to share with you, the public our new sense of freedom.  We love and thank you for your love and interest in these animals- but it’s been almost 40 years now, and we’re asking you to please, let our dogs go and do their jobs.

    Are we not allowed to have our turn?  Are our dogs not allowed to work without distraction and with the respect and space their work demands?  In our attempts to find the magic in the things we don’t often see, many people have attributed magical almost mystical powers to these wonderful animals.  They aren’t benevolent, per-say, but nor are they dog bots.  They are just pack animals who’s pack and/or herding instincts we’ve been able to turn to our advantage by giving them a job which gives THEM a sense of usefulness.

    Our service dogs have a job and go with us wherever we go, while yours wait for you at home, barking with frustration and biting with anxiety hoping you won’t be too tired to exercise them when you get back from work.

(Q) We?…  You mean you, right?  Don’t you think it’s kind of a sweeping statement for you to include all guide-dog users in a fit of frustration?  What if some users do want to let their dogs be petted!  Isn’t that a matter of personal choice?

 

(A) That arrogant argument is almost as bad as me going around asking women if they think they’d be better off staying at home, bare foot and pregnant in the kitchen.

There are two problems with this line of thought.  The first is the weak justification given by a few schools to their clients which says that the signal for the dog to start paying attention is when we pick up the harness handle.  Even if I were to concede defeat and accept that the dog might actually know this, the public does not.

In doing research for my CJAD 800 radio interview in September 2010, I came across a woman’s blog.  In it, she rages on about how upset she is that so many people want to touch her dog.

Yet she herself blurs the rules with comments like: “it’s okay if you touch my dog, so long as I’m not holding the harness handle”, or “it’s okay if I’m sitting on a bus or on a chair so long as you ask me”…

But people aren’t computers either.  You can’t just type in a couple of equations, throw in an if then statement, press a key and hope it all works out!  When heart strings are pulled, people just don’t work well in the world of maybes or could be’s.  They never have, and they never will.

Love and compassion are not acts of social grace, they’re acts of instinct, and in the heat of an instinctual moment, people don’t ask, they just act.  It’s only natural- especially if they’ve been allowed to act upon their instincts before; either with or without a user’s permission.

Unless you, as a sighted person knows someone with a guide-dog, you will most likely not know that rule about the dog’s being signaled to attention by picking up the harness handle- and, as it is not a widely regarded nor supported view, I’m not all that sure you should!

This affore-mentioned directive was issued in the early 80s pre dog parks, to students who had high-strung dogs who seemed to calm down when socialized with other people and before dog parks came into prominence, where dogs could socialize off leash.

This leads me into the second part of my “it’s a personal choice” argument annihilation.  And that’s the obvious personal side. Any novice student in human nature can tell you that people tend to cubby hole things and for some people, it only takes one experience for them to label it as: “all things are like this.”

By taking this haphazard stand of letting someone touch your dog “under certain circumstances”, you, both as a user and as a school have:

1- invited other people who aren’t privy to the working rules   to touch your dog, whether you like it or not.

2- raised the expectation of your new found friend to think that he or she can go around touching all other service dogs when they can’t or shouldn’t in any case. And:

3-By forgetting the principle that just because these dogs work in the public doesn’t mean they work for the public; you’ve inadvertently told witnesses watching your new found friend or even your old friend touching your dog, that they can go around and touch any working dog they want, including yours and you might not know about it till it’s too late.

 

(Q.)  Hold it there!  Hold it!  Take a deep breath there!  Now, you’re saying that by allowing others to touch THEIR dog, that they’re making a decision for you?  How does that work!  Don’t you think you’re doing the same by not wanting people to touch like… Any working dog? 

(A) For me, that’s a fair question. But the way most democratic societies work is that, the majority rules.

I think that if you were to take a pole on users who would be willing to allow their dogs being petted under certain circumstances even while in harness, I think that the majority of people would come out against it.

Although, I have to admit that the reason some of us users are almost being assaulted by people so desperate to touch our dogs is that the majority isn’t quite as large as I’d like to think, and this is because of the mixed messages that organizations, not people but organizations put out to the public.

But, alright!  Let’s get back to just me then.  Here’s the thing.  I would never use my dog as an ice breaker to make friends at other users’ expense.  I would not do this, because I understand that if the harness, which is the symbol of work to the dog becomes tainted as a work symbol to the public, people, sometimes in high places, will lose respect for those dogs as working animals, and they will just be seen as nice dogs that lead blind people around.

Then, some poor schmuck will find him or herself in the news, because a cab driver refused to pick them up, or some security wino wouldn’t let them into a public library.

Trust me- it’s happened before; and it will continue to happen, so long as there is always this grey area because some disabled people are afraid they won’t get help if they’re not nice enough.

To those people I say:  Be Not Afraid!  If you don’t let people touch your working dog in its working harness, you’re not losing an old friend, you’re making place for a new and better one.  I know that I, personally, don’t want friends who can’t respect the dog’s work and who refuse to see the possible danger they can pose by repeatedly distracting the dog and breaking its concentration.

(Q) Well Daniel, we’ve certainly seen your obnoxious side, so tell me! Do you have enough mysticism to tell us how we can best solve the problem?  For instance, what do you want us, the sighted public to do, if we see someone reaching out to touch your dog for example.

 

(A) For starters, I want more people like you, to ask the very same question.  I appreciate your concern, thank-you!

Well, I can tell you that it’s not necessary to engage in a confrontation from the outset.  As you can see, our inability to see, does not preclude our ability to communicate.

What we need from you most is to be our secondary eyes.  If you see someone’s hand reaching out to our dogs or mine, since we’re talking about me, just say, like this:  “Sir?

Just to let you know, someone’s reaching out to touch your dog, is that okay?”  Just like that, then let me decide.  If I say no and they persist, then, by all means, engage away!  I’ve heard it said that it takes a village to raise a child.  Well, I say that sometimes, it takes a village to teach a child- especially one who refuses to grow up.

(Q) What about if we see that the dog is in distress?  What should we do?


(A)  Never forget to communicate!  We’re humans too you know.

Look, I know it’s hard and that many people love these dogs, but so do we, otherwise we wouldn’t use them.  If, as you ask, the dog is in distress, then tell us what you think you see, and ask us what we want.

Don’t…  Touch…  The…  Dog, unless directed too otherwise.  Touch us if you must, but please, not the dog.

Also, for those who do wish to pet the dog, and for the users who are more open to having people touch their dogs, I would ask the public to consider that, if we’re walking, we are most likely going somewhere.  So it’s not a good idea to ask us if you can pet the dog while we’re walking.  Wait for us to be still like at a bus stop or sitting somewhere.

Please give us the chance and the space to take off the harness where there is no danger.  Use your heads!  Don’t ask us or otherwise distract the dogs at street corners, or at the foot of stairs.

For those who are extremely religious or spiritual, here’s a little tip.  All spiritual thought comes in 3 parts:  the father, the son and the holy ghost.  Past, present and future.  Think, ask, then act whenever and wherever permitted.

If you don’t get permission?  Then, as Meatloaf would say:  two out of three ain’t bad.  I personally though, never let my dog be distracted in any way till he’s off leash, because I find that otherwise, the lines just get too blurry.  I have made this choice, because of the high level of well-intentioned aggression I’ve had to face, which has left me with a real bad taste in my mouth.  Just because you’re trying to do good, doesn’t mean you’re not being aggressive.

 

FOR ALL GUIDE-DOG USERS!

As I wrote earlier in this blog/article, the hardest thing to deal  with your guide-dog, especially when it’s your first guide-dog, is the guilt you feel when correcting your dog for actually doing the right thing, but it happens. 

You as a user, also need to swallow your pride and learn to communicate- because your dog might be trying to tell you something you don’t understand.

If you’re having a problem with your dog, as much as possible, Do Not take your frustrations out on your dogs.  You, like me, are an example onto others.  Just because funds for these dogs don’t come out of the “public purse”, doesn’t mean that they don’t get paid for by private interests.

You must understand that these dogs Do work in the public.  Therefore, if you are abusing or neglecting your dogs, you will draw attention to yourself, and many people may be forced to nurture them in your stead.

That nurturer will then take that pity and pass it off on another dog out of fear that it is being abused as well.  Because schools understand the level of frustration their clients have to go through, they will only take their dogs back under extreme circumstances, unless asked otherwise by the respective client.  In such a case, the dog is likely so broken that it might be wasted on someone else, so you’ll have that on your conscience, as well as having the knowledge that it’s your fault.

In conclusion, I’d like to say that I have a dream too you know.  I have a dream that people might be able to look past the picture on the wall, past the dog on the floor, past the person in the seat, to the energy we share.

No!  The energy we are.  I have a dream, a dream to one day make you understand that the trust dog and user share, is a bond of unspoken words.  A bond of golden silence; who’s words cascade from the mouths of our hearts, who’s lives are shaped and molded in the silence of our thoughts, and who’s light is shown through the eyes of our love.

I have a dream that we may all one day be still; but just for a moment.  Being still you see, is not the same as doing nothing.  For it is in the stillness are hearts are opened, letting out glimmers of admiration which, shining like fireflies in the night, lead us to a future we all can see.

 

(Q) Daniel, that was really beautiful and there’s a lot of information there for everybody to digest.  Well folks, that’s all the time we have for today so, on behalf of all people with working dogs everywhere, I’d like to thank you for being our guest.  It’s been a real honor speaking with you and good luck in all your future endeavors.

(A) Thank-you- likewise.  I promise to stay in touch.  Take care and till next time.

30% off Raising Your Puppy with Michael Ellis stream 24 hours only