Back to School – Lesson 1: How not to drag your human and resisting temptation

Our guide dog puppies have returned to school after the summer break. At our September meet-up, the young dogs first released some steam by running around on a big field. Some of them even managed to get super-muddy before lessons about lead discipline and resisting temptation started.

The dogs – having had the chance to run around freely before the lessons – enjoyed the challenging tasks set by their trainers. The first task to complete was staying in one place and waiting while the humans had a chat with each other. The new puppy host families had a lot of questions, which shows that volunteering to raise a guide dog puppy is a difficult endeavour. Our dogs in training need to get used to being asked to wait; this is one of the first things the dogs learn in order to be able to wait quietly while their future owner will work, study, attend a concert or go to the gym. The dogs need to be able to wait while travelling on public transport as well, and some of the older puppies (whose names are staring with T) have already started learning about travelling as part of their training. The younger puppies (whose names start with S/Sz) have also started getting acquainted with the different types of public transport. The older dogs – Titan, Tango, Topaz, Tramini and Tulipan – had a lot to share with their younger canine friends Sama, Szikra and Szava.
How to resist temptation
You can watch this video here about how friendly strangers can interrupt the important work guide dogs are doing. This annoying behaviour is happening far too often; when passer-buyers see a guide dog walking past, they call out to the dog, throw kisses at him and even try to pat him. This behaviour results in the guide dog loosing his concentration on his important job and also halts the person trying to walk down the street.

That is why it is very important to teach our guide dogs to resist the temptation and ignore strangers offering kind words and a pat. As much as they thrive on kind word and lots of patting, our dogs need to stay focused and ignore these stimuli.

We asked some helpful humans to take on the role of the friendly but annoying passer-by, and most of our dogs performed really well on this test. Some dogs needed a bit more help from their trainers, who physically stood between their dogs and the friendly stranger.
Some of dogs in training did really well at this test, others not so well. That is why we take our dogs in training to a lot of busy events so that they can learn how not be tempted by all the humans in a crowd. It seems that the more we practise the less tempted the dogs will be to accept a stranger’s hello. First they enjoy the extra attention and patting but very soon they get bored with it.
Strangers are allowed to say hello to our guide dogs only after asking for permission from the handlers. Once the dogs are sitting and the handler says yes, the dogs can be approached and patted. This will be a similar situation when the dogs will be working with their visually impaired owners who can allow strangers to say hello to the dog. This is why it is always so important to ask the owner’s permission before approaching a guide dog (or any other working dog).
How not to pull on the lead
Do you remember how Karoly bacsi was dragged along the street by his vizsla dog Frakk in the Hungarian childrens’ cartoon? Well, we do. That is why our next lesson at puppy school was about how to walk on a loose lead while meeting lots of other dogs. Check out this video here and see how our dogs did at this exercise. The difficult task included walking past each other without saying hello to the other dogs.
The dogs weren’t allowed to stop to sniff, to play or even to say hello to each other, as this will not allowed when walking down the street with their visually impaired human.
Our four legged students did really well, although some of them did cast a quick glance at each other, which is perfectly acceptable. Our volunteer puppy handlers have learned from our trainers not to pull the dogs back when they see each other as this will result in even more pulling on the leash from the dog. The dogs should practice walking on a loose leash a lot and also have ample opportunities to meet other dogs off the leash. They will soon learn that when they are off the leash, they are free to play withother dogs but when the leash is on, they need to stay with their human.
All our dogs in training did really well at our first session back to school. We will meet again in October to learn some more!