Good day fellow classmates,
Now that we have graduated our freshman phase which is through basic obedience training, it's now time to upgrade our training experience. In Phase 2, I learned clicker training, basic obedience commands, collar pressure and especially, using a harness and getting the feel of it while walking on a treadmill. Can you believe it?
Phase 3: Initial guide work training
Now, the fun begins in our sophomore phase of college. This is when we really start feeling like guide dogs. This is when my guide dog classmates started guide work pattern training. The coaches pattern train each of the dogs, which means for me, Jessica showed me exactly what she wanted me to do, essentially “patterning” the correct responses."
Being a model student (?), I learned very quickly. She taught me to target "up curbs." That means as Jessica and I crossed the street, she would ask me to "find the curb" and when I found it and put both front paws up on the curb, she would "click" to indicate that I had done it properly and then give me a treat. Boy, do I like this part of the training. FOOD! So I had my eyes peeled for the next "up curb" so I could find that curb and be rewarded with a treat. More kibble means happy dog.
We were doing most of this training in the neighborhoods around the campus. They were lots of million dollar homes in this area (I understand that means they're nice, but what I hear today on CNBC, they may be half-million dollar homes!). I'm sorry that I had to pee a few times during this training. You might say that I left my mark in their neighborhood.
Then, while I'm concentrating on finding these up curbs, Coach has to throw in a few distractions. First, it was this good-looking French poodle that just happened to saunter by while I'm trying to find a curb. What did I do? Well, I missed the curb and just kept walking toward that poodle. Ooops, that was a mistake. No kibble.
Then they brought out these BIG German shepherds and had them barking their heads off at us as we walked by , but I did not pay any attention. I knew this was a trap and I wanted my kibble treat. All bark and no bite.
After we had mastered this neighborhood area, the coaches loaded us up in the bus and took as to downtown San Rafael for a trip through the city. Wow, all these cars, trucks and buses were making so much noise while I was trying to find a few curbs. But after a few days, I did not pay any attention to those vehicles and paid more attention to that clicker because I knew FOOD was not far behind. Besides, my puppy raiser had me around motorcycles and huge front-end loaders. These were like toy vehicles.
Phase 4: Intermediate Pattern Training
Now it was a daily routine to hop onto the bus at least twice a day and do our guide work in downtown San Rafael.
Now, Coach was teaching us to respond to many other "clicks" along the way. Next we had to learn the down curbs too. That means that I had to stop right at the edge of the down curb, Jessica would click and then I would get my kibble. Sometimes, there was no curb, just a down ramp or an up ramp and that meant that I had to stop right at the bottom of the ramp. I like these ramps because they are so much easier to go down and up.
Now as we were starting to get more responsibility, we learned how to go around obstacles like poles or trees or bushes and when we did it right, we earned more kibble. I like this training a lot!
With this advanced clicker training, also came a lot more distractions, like people walking down the street and trying to catch our attention, people walking by with their pet dogs to distract us, a few bicycle riders that looked like they were coming staight at us, so I had to pull the Coach to the side to ensure I kept her safe.
This phase of the training was the most difficult. I had to learn all these guide work commands like Right, Left, Forward, Halt, Hop Up, Steady and NO!, while the coaches were throwing all sorts of distractions at us. After a couple of weeks, I was doing really good. My most favorite sound was not only the clicker, but also the two most important words in guide work training, "GOOD BOY." I almost always got a treat to acknowledge a great job that I had done.
Phase 5: Preliminary Test #1
Now that I had gotten the great basic and intermediate training, it was time for the rubber to meet the road, or should I say, the paws on the concrete. Now my coach will be blind-folded and we went on a short route through San Rafael and I was measured to see how well I did.
This test really evaluated everything that I had learned, especially lots of distractions while my coach barked out the commands. In additiion, Coach Jessica also put me in the Sit position and then teased me with food at my feet. How dirty could they get? But when they say "NO", I must obey and not touch that food. I only fouled up once when I put my head down to sniff it, but I did not eat it.
Ah yes, many of my classmates as well as I passed the test and once we had passed this very first true test of our training, we had then graduated from the sophomore phase of our training.
Now it was time to continue the program with advanced training. A few of my classmates had to return to intermediate training because they did not pass. This is tough stuff!
Upward and onward,