The Rogue Lesson

No matter what we think, our dogs are always watching and learning.

This is the most important lesson rogue has taught me.

Let me explain.

As most of my blog readers already know, Rogue is my Guide Dog In Training.

Cessna will be 10 years old tomorrow, so I would like to begin retiring her after Christmas. She could still work another year or so, but I would like to have her enjoy at least a couple years of care-free pet life before she becomes too old to do so.

I began Rogue’s formal guide work training last fall, starting with basic forward guiding in hallways. Over the past year, Rogue has learned how to:

Follow directional cues;
Take me around various obstacles;
Manoeuvre through crowds;
Find doors, curbs and stairways;
Stop at curbs; and more recently,
She has gone on short trips with me.

The past twelve months have not been smooth sailing. It seems as though, for every success, there have been double the obstacles.

First we had the gear issue. rogue has always had a problem with how certain gear feels and it takes her a really long time to get used to wearing something as simple as a new collar.

Then we had the confidence issue. It’s probably pretty normal, but to me, it seems as though rogue takes a lot longer to feel comfortable with a new concept or route. when we begin working on a new route, for example, she will often stop every few steps to check in with me, or if she’s feeling really uncertain, she’ll sit and refuse to move. Even if i can get her moving, it honestly feels as though she is walking with a pickle between her bum cheeks. but, once she feels good about the new route, she picks up speed and walks faster than Cessna’s usual pace.

Our most recent problems though have been my fault. I have forgotten something important. I forgot how easy it is to “teach” a dog something you didn’t mean to “teach” them.

Rogue is very close to being able to take over, at least part-time, from Cessna. We just have one little problem.

Somehow, I taught Rogue that it is important for her to stop three feet back from a down curb and at least a foot back from the up curb – Whoopsie!

How did I teach her such a thing you ask?

It was a little easier than you’d think…

While we were working on learning to stop at curbs, I would dramatically tell Rogue that she had overstepped the curb edge and then immediately turn back and re-do it. the problem came from the distance I tended to walk back to before approaching the curb again. for some reason, I kept walking three feet back from a down curb and about a foot back from an up curb – Double whoopsie!

Now Rogue thinks she needs to stop exactly where we used to stop when re-working the curb…

Here i thought Rogue was having trouble learning what I wanted, when in fact, she was giving me exactly what I had taught her to do – Silly Human!

In order to fix the mistake, I have asked Huib to help me re-teach rogue proper curb approaches. he takes her out, in harness, to practice five up curbs and five down curbs each day. It’s taken her about two weeks, but she’s begun to have a 90% success rate, so we’ve begun going out together and Huib stops me the second Rogue is about to overstep a curb or tells me to keep going if she’s beginning to slow down too soon. when rogue does it correctly, Huib clicks and I give her a treat.

It’s amazing to look back at all rogue and I have accomplished in twelve months, but it’s more amazing, to look back at all of the lessons she’s taught me.

She’s taught me that not every dog learns the same way. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.

She taught me that sometimes you need to step back and appreciate what you’ve already learned.

She’s taught me that no matter how well-behaved she can be, she is and always will be a dog.

She’s taught me that I’m not perfect.

and, most importantly, she’s taught me that it may not look like it, but she’s always watching and learning.

Comments

  1. Smart girl; both of you. 🙂 I’ve noticed things I’ve taught my dogs, working and pet ones, unintentionally and sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad. So exciting that you two are progressing so well.

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