Chelly and I start work

Vale and I were together for almost ten years. At first I was the perfect (as far as one can be) guide dog owner. I used all the commands I was taught) plus some more I’d introduced) and did everything I was told to do. But, as with time, Vale and I fell into a pattern of doing things which didn’t always require the correct commands.
I never put our lives in danger and we had regular visits from the Guide Dogs organisation, so I knew I hadn’t affected Vale in any way. hhHowever, when you train with a new guide dog, you have to go back to scratch and learn everything all over again.
I remember the first time we approached a kerb. Chelly slowed down, and then sat herself firmly at the edge of the kerb.
“Oo,” I squeaked. “She’s just sat down!”
My guide dog trainer burst out laughing and said:
“Of course she did, that’s what Vale did isn’t it?”
I blushed and said:
“She did, at the beginning, but I’m afraid in time I didn’t ask her to sit at kerbs, as I knew where they were! She always sat at unfamiliar kerbs though.”
The reason for teaching commands and sticking to them is important to dogs. Especially at the beginning of a partnership, when the boundaries have to be established.
Two bits of obedience I will always use and never neglect are keeping my dogs off the furniture, and whistling before I allow them to eat.
I believe that a dog should always know who the pack leader is – and therefore the one who sits on furniture is top dog.
Chelly learned this very early.
I’d prepared my evening meal and went to sit in the chair I normally used. As I was sitting down I heard a muffled squeak, and there was frantic scuffling and snuffling.
Chelly soon realised that chairs are for people, not dogs!
As you will see in the next few posts, Chelly pushed the boundaries as much as any new dog, much to my amusement.
Whistle feeding, as I call it is when you sit a dog before putting the food bowl down. Then you either whistle, or blow a whistle three times before saying: “off you go!” The reason for this is that when a dog is free running (running without its lead) when you want it to come back you whistle three times and shout its name, or other command of your choice. Then if the dog comes back you can feed a bit from its food ration, or other tasty treat. Then, with practise the dog learns that coming back (or recall as its known) reaps rewards in the form of food. So, when you whistle feed it, it re-enforces the fact that something nice happens when a whistle is heard.
Everyone has different ways of training their dog, but I think, as long as the dog is happy and healthy – and you have a good partnership, just use whatever works for you.
Chelly worked beautifully during the first day. We bought her a new bowl and some toys.
Our trainer was very pleased with us.
Throughout my time as a guide dog owner, I’ve had lots of positive comments about how well behaved my dogs are. I give a lot of credit to the puppy walkers, the people who look after the dogs for the first year of their lives and teach them basic commands like sit stay and wait.
They’re the unsung heroes of the guide dog world.
We returned home exhausted.
Chelly flopped down and put her head in my lap. As she snored gently, I had a chance to reflect. The first day had been a roller-coaster of emotions. I felt so torn, I had left Vale with my parents, and although I knew she’d be perfectly fine with them, I really missed her.
I thought about what she’d be doing. “I would be feeding her now,” I thought.
But I had a dog lying on my lap who would depend on me for the next 9 years, and hopefully for a long time after that when she retired.
I knew the next two weeks would test us both.
I’d have to depend on her as much as she depended on me.
The question I had to ask myself was, “Am I ready to accept Chelsea as my new dog?”

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