Guide Dog Aftercare

A guide dog trainer came to see myself and Sibyl on Thursday as part of a visit which usually happens 18 months after you qualify. The trainer who trained us both came last December, but this time it was a different one who had been to see O.J before, and who I always enjoy talking to. I wasn’t going to write about it, but I haven’t written much guide dog related posts recently, and it’s good to look back and have a reminder of our progress.

Sibyl was very overexcited when the trainer came to the door and for a good while as we chatted. We had a nice discussion about how things were going and any concerns I had. He was very interested in how I found the experience of moving from a first dog to the second, and assured me that the mixed feelings and confusion I felt was understandable and nothing to feel guilty about. I talked about Sibyl’s work and her often inconsistent distraction behaviour. I think he was expecting a terrible walk, and was pleasantly surprised by her cautious work and relaxed behaviour. I chose to walk around the park, along the beach, up a country road past my parent’s house and back down the main road home. It gave him a chance to see the Donegal scenery which he always raves about, while seeing Sibyl work in a variety of environments, including pavement, awkward road crossings, country roads and no footpath, and a park which often has lots of dogs running around off their leads. On Thursday there were lots of dogs, but Sibyl walked past them all and I hardly even noticed. It was as if she was trying to prove me wrong when I said that she sometimes has dog distraction issues.

The weather was perfect for our training walk. It took much longer than necessary because we relaxed and talked a lot. The instructor gave me some useful tips to keep Sibyl motivated while working, and to calm her lively behaviour at home when visitors arrive. He assured me that we were a good match and were working well together. I don’t travel independently out of our town often anymore like I used to, and was worried that Sibyl might be getting bored or not be challenged enough. He assured me that although our town is small, Sibyl has to deal with a lot more variety in her work than dogs in larger towns with nicely formed straight footpaths and road crossings would. Traveling to busier places and learning routes there would challenge her, but I can do it when I need to, and I shouldn’t be hard on myself in the meantime. Sibyl is looking happy and healthy and is having lots of fun working here, with a perfect combination of work and free time to play like an ordinary dog.

The only negative decision we came to during the trainer’s visit was something I’d known for a while but stupidly allowed a vet to put me off. Sibyl needs to have the same anal gland surgery as O.J had when he was a few years into his working life. She’s had the problem since she was in Cork, and although she doesn’t need to go to the vet every few weeks like he did, it is still causing her discomfort, and impacting her work much more than I realised. Unfortunately it will mean being without her for a few weeks in the new year, but it will be better in the longrun.

Having guide dog aftercare usually reminds me of the feeling when I’m doing an exam. I’m not overly worried, but you want to do well. I am always relieved when it is over. I enjoyed the visit on Thursday and felt a lot more confident after. I have work to do to make us a better working team, but it’s nothing difficult. It was nice to be reminded that I’m doing well, that I’m being too hard on myself (as usual), and to always do what I think works best for myself and my dog, and not to take other people’s opinions on board too much, especially those people who have no idea what it’s like to work with a guide dog. All in all, the visit made me feel much more content, and I hope I can transfer this to Sibyl as well. I’ve started by discovering how great zooplus is and buying her some new toys.

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11 thoughts on “Guide Dog Aftercare

    • No problem.
      He advised me to talk to her and direct her more clearly, sometimes gently holding the lead in my right hand if we are coming up to an area where I think she might be distracted.
      If we are standing still waiting for something or talking with somebody, keep my hand on the top of her head and/her.

      • My silly phone posted before I finished! Keep my hand on the top of her head stroking her, if we are standing still and she is looking around her. This focuses her attention back on me. It is also a nice way to bond with the dog while you’re working.
        I don’t know if you are in courage to to use food rewards at all? In Ireland some trainers use them more than others. He suggested that i use them to help her find specific kerbs and crossings more exactly. Sometimes if we are approaching a particular crossing and she isn’t too sure which way to go, she will slow down, look around her and sniff a bit. Obviously if she think she is getting a treat, she will bring me to that crossing quickly and stop there. It just makes her work more definite and gives her a bit of confidence. The treats can be gradually withdrawn after a while.
        They are really simple tips that I’ve heard before, but it’s just nice to be reminded of things we can use when we need them.

  1. Thanks! I especially like the idea of gently holding the lead in my right hand if we are coming up to an area where I think she might be distracted. I do this naturally when I am feeling fearful of something, but would probably be good practice to start doing it when I want her to stay especially focused as well.

    • Definitely. The kids would love it as well. There are lots of fairy trees and cool things for them to look at. Not sure if you saw my Facebook post yesterday? I was thinking of recording something every day for a month, just to get myself back into recording and radio/audio type things. I have no idea what to record, but one thing I was thinking was to record part of the walk around the park.

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  2. Well I actually wasn’t planning to go to any, but I might be going to a very special one next weekend which took me completely by surprise. You can probably guess who it is!! If I can’t get permission to record, I could do an audio review. You know how excited I am when I write about music? Well imagine that when I’m talking? It will be enthusiastic and give you a laugh if nothing else!
    Any other ideas for recordings appreciated. I’ll probably run out very quickly.

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