My future dog

At just over five years old, and having been a working dog for over three and a half years, I’d hope that O J is only mid-way through his career as a guide dog. He is very settled and knows his job well. He is very relaxed while working, and even when his harness is off he knows to behave if we’re out in public. I tell people it’s like having two dogs, because when he gets the chance to play, O J is still a very playful, hyper, puppy-like animal, with plenty of energy.

I’m not exactly sure why I’ve been thinking about this so much recently, but I have been considering what I would want in my next guide dog.
Ideally I want O J to work as long as possible, as long as he is healthy and happy, and willing to work. I hope I am able to recognise the signs when he does not want to do his job anymore.
He will always be very special because he was my first guide dog, and I waited so long to have the independence and freedom he has given me. I think I have been incredibly lucky to have him as a first dog, because despite being quite big and strong, he has been brilliant to work with. I haven’t had to contact a trainer for any advice since I finished my official training with him at the end of august 2007 (his only major problems have been health issues.) I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with contacting a trainer at all. Sometimes maybe I could have benefitted from their feedback if we had problems, but I persevered and worked things out, I’m stubborn like that. This doesn’t mean O J is a perfect dog, because he’s far from it, and I don’t think a perfect dog even exists.

O J has plenty of personality traits that I would rather my next dog didn’t have. He is a constant sniffer, never passing an opportunity to be nosey. He takes forever deciding where to relieve himself, going round and round in circles until he finds the perfect spot, even on grass he is familiar with. This is very annoying when its pouring rain or I’m in a hurry to be somewhere. Like most labs, he is highly motivated by food, and forgets his manners very quickly if left alone and there’s food in sight. He walks to the extreme left of everything and goes right up to an obstacle before working his way around it. People find this quite unsettling to watch, as they are sure he will walk me into something, but I know he won’t. He works much better when we’re alone together, when he has to take the lead and make the decisions. If there’s someone with us he’ll slacken off as if to say, “They can see so they know where to go”, and people can interpret this as him not being a good guide dog. I find myself having to explain his strange quirks to people over and over again.

Although he is very easily distracted, it is just as easy to refocus him again and continue working. All his problems are things I can work around and have learned to deal with, and they make him the dog I love being guided by. If my next dog doesn’t have any of these quirks I’ll be perfectly happy, just as long as his or her own personality traits aren’t any worse than O J’s.

I have also been thinking about dog breeds recently. I am very familiar with lab/retrievers, and love the temperament, adaptability and easy going nature of the breed. I like having a black dog because they are less common guide dogs around here than goldens, the hair isn’t as obvious when it sheds, and (I don’t know if it’s anything to do with the colour or not) but O J has a very shiny healthy coat, which people often remark on. Maybe if my dog is the same breed but a different colour, I’ll be less likely to compare them, and other people will too. I have always preferred male dogs for some unknown reason, even though as pets, they were harder to housetrain. That doesn’t mean I’d be disappointed if I got a female.
I would also like the challenge of working with a different breed of dog for a change. I’d be too small to get a shepherd and not sure if I could afford the high maintenance of a goldendoodle. I have no strong feeling for or against retrievers. A change of breed would help me not to compare my future dog with O J either.

These are just thoughts. I’d never actually request a certain breed, sex or colour of guide dog. I will let the guide dog trainer decide my dog by the best possible match when the time comes.
I hope dog number two is a long way away yet, and O J would probably be disgusted at the fact that I’m even thinking about this. I know I have to be realistic when the time comes though. Living without a guide dog is not an option for me anymore, so I will always have to think of the future dog.

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14 thoughts on “My future dog

  1. OJ has just rung to tell me he's calling the Guide Dog's Union in the morning – something about embarrassing him in public forums lol. In all seriousness, no matter what breed,colour sex, size of a dog you get, as long as it is as special and good to you as OJ you will be fine. And i, too, hope that's a long, long way off. Hope the house is going well. Still same situation here, but not too bad. Keep well

  2. It's great to hear the areas you would wish for improvement. As a puppy raiser this helps me double my efforts in a quick relieve on leash and not sniffing (something we are already working hard on). Black labs are very common out here. I am raising my second. However, having owned both a lab and a golden I can say goldens make excellent pets, but I like a lab for work. Love your blog. Keep em coming!

  3. Hope for many more years for you both. It is interesting to ponder as each guide has such unique personalities and traits that you appreciate and a few that are a bit challenging!

  4. Jen that's a very interesting post and I think it's very responsible of you to start considering this early on. Ike is the same as OJ. He takes for ever to spend. It drives me bananas!Freddie use to pull me left all the time and walk right up to obsticals as well. When people got to know him they commented that he was just doing it because it was the only way I realised that he was avoiding something and he was craving the praze. Not sure if it was true or not but interesting none the less. There are trees on the Crumlin road in Dublin that he use to weeve around even though countless people told me that he could walk straight down the path on one side without needing to navigate around everything.I've only met OJ once but he seemes like a very calm and easy going dog. Enjoy the next three to five years with him. He'll have to meet Ike soon. Maybe he can teach Ike to have a bit more energy.

  5. Waw, thanks everyone. :)John glad to hear things haven't got worse. Hang in there.You should come to Cool Discs on Saturday for record store day. I might even let you pet OJ!Alexis do you really think there's a difference in a black lab's work? Very interesting. Glad OJ's quirks are a help to somebody.Darragh its not often I get called responsible haha. I really want to meet Ike soon.

  6. Jen,i too have been giving this alot of thought too. yancy is comming up to 8 years old now. and peaple keep remarking to me that she is going gray, in her 'middle age'. this has prevoked me in to considdering what i would like too.yancy like O.J has a fue trates i could do with out, simler to O.J in fact, its deffo a lab thing it seems. but this is nice to have a chanlinge some times wile working, but not so fun as you say wen you need to get a moove on. i dont think unfortunitly i am as open minded as you as regards breed, and coulering. black to be onnist i think is best as you say it doesn't show up so much. also i think i prefer a bitch really. yancy is lab alsation cross so pure lab would probably be ok, but equilly an shep wouldn't be a problem form my point of view. good solid dogs by all accounts and from what i have seen, just as long as there in a staible ruteen. but every dog is like that to a point any way. yancy has alot of shep trates as well as the huge hunger that seems to go with being a lab. skaired isn't quite the rite word, but i cant think of an better one, so i guess i am skaired of what will happen wen she has to retire. i have at the moment a dog who feels as at home in a radio or recording studio as she does in my own house and just goes to sleep wile i am working. that is very very good and sutes me just fine. but what about the next one?…. we shal see i guess.sorry for the horrifically long comment i feel like i have hijacked your blog. so,back to jen. lol. Andy.B

  7. Hey Andy thanks for taking the time to leave your first comment on my blog!Rediculously long comments are always good. I'm much more interested in reading other people's opinions than my own.Sounds like you have a great dog there. I've only seen a shepherd retriever cross, never seen one crossed with a lab but I'm sure she's lovely.Its great when they can completely relax in certain environments and when your busy you almost forget they are there. Getting a new dog used to all that will be interesting.

  8. I don't even want to think about that dreaded time when it has to happen for us. My dad asked me what i would do when she had to retire, and i said i didn't know and wouldn't know until nearer the time. It's a scarey thought.I would prefer a female to be honest. They seem much more gentler and they don't seem maybe as boisterus as the males.I don't like how stubborn Ushi can be, but I love how cautious she is although having a literal dog is kind of hard sometimes lol.Interesting topic, and let's hope it's a while away yet :). Will reply to your email tomorrow :). Xxx.

  9. I'm with you –hope your second dog is years in the future. And thanks for your comment to my post about working with this third dog of mine, very much appreciated!

  10. Hi Jenny. I love this post because like you, although I love Gilbert dearly and hope to work with him for many more years, I have also thought about characteristics I would like for a future dog. Most notably, I would really like a dog who doesn't embarrass me in front of the neighbors every spring by completely forgetting his guide dog manners when he sees his canine neighbors after a long winter! I have thought about maybe asking for a shepherd next time because I heard they are not as distractable as labs. But labs are so adorable and sociable in public which has really helped me make friends, so making a decision about a future dog will be tough. But like you, I hope I won't have to think too seriously about such things for a long time.

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