Paws on the Street Part 28 – Food Refusal – Obedience Training – Navigation and Routine
By Patty L. Fletcher
Over the past few months, I’ve gotten lots of feedback on what I’ve written about Blue and me. I’m over the moon that so many people read and engage in conversation. I love that readers, whether on social media, my blogs, through email or messenger and text are letting me know their thoughts on all we do each day.
That having been said, I want to try and answer some of the things which are asked of me. Sometimes due to time constraints I can only hit the like buttons or send a quick reply. So, today, I’m going to try to do a better job of answering what some of you have commented on.
I think, the biggest responses I’ve gotten of late are about Blue’s behavior concerning food and the ways in which we navigate within our apartment complex. So, I’ll tackle those first.
Let’s start with his behaviors concerning food and routine. Not long ago, I wrote a funny post on Facebook where I talked about sneaking quietly around my apartment getting coffee and being on the computer.
In that post, I shared some funny things which happened concerning my headphones, but a reader commented about the fact that Blue was still in bed instead of bouncing around asking to be fed.
The answer is this.
While In training at The Seeing Eye®, I began establishing a routine designed to simulate what I do at home. Each morning, I sat my alarm a good hour and half before I needed to be out to relieve Blue. I did this so I could ready myself for the day ahead.
While Blue slept peacefully in his crate, I would slip down to the lounge on my floor a few feet away from my room, grab a cup of coffee, slip back in, shower, dress and sit reading email while waiting for the announcement for students to come to the relief area to be made.
If Blue grumbled about my not interacting with him, I would state in a quiet firm voice, “Blue Quiet.” Making sure to use a tone of voice which brooked no argument and then I’d go back to whatever I was doing.
Once we returned home, even though after Blue’s boundaries had been firmly established and he was beginning to gain his freedom which included snoozing on the foot of my bed at night I continued making sure he knew he didn’t need to leap up the moment my feet hit the floor.
I did this, so I could enjoy a bit of piece and quiet before I needed to tend my dog.
Sometimes, I oversleep and must leap out of bed, grab up clothes and get him outside because I’ve gone passed the window of time, I’ve set for his morning relief and feed time but even on those occasions, he stays put until I call him to me.
Some have said I’m a rigid handler. Some have called me militant. To those I always smile and say, “Thank you for the complement.”
Now, concerning Food in general.
First, you’ll see as you continue reading, no dog, not even my big, Blue Dog is going to be 100 percent perfect at this. However, The Seeing Eye® works extremely hard with its dogs and then dog handler teams on food refusal. During training there are times when you may be going along minding your own business, when suddenly you come upon a piece of a sandwich, pile of chips or some other enticing tidbit on the floor or ground and if your dog goes for it, you’re expected to very firmly “Correct your dog!”
Not long ago, I’d ordered hotdogs and onion rings from one of my favorite eateries and when I sat down, I briefly lost my grip on the plate, it tilted, and onion rings fell onto my lap. I picked them up, put them back onto my plate and began devouring my food.
All through dinner, blue lay quietly in is place as commanded before I sat down.
When I was through eating and my plate and other detritus from the meal had been disposed of, I released Blue from rest and said he could get down to play Etc.
Later, as I was straightening up before bed, I happened across an onion ring which had fallen into the floor and though I knew of Blue’s strict training, which I continue enforcing each day, I found myself quite amazed and proud.
He had not so much as chewed on it. The onion ring was complete with no bite out of it at all.
I threw the thing away and called my dog to me. I knelt, put my arms around him and gave him lots of praise for it was apparent to me, all the strict training we’d done and continue doing had paid off.
But wait! It is said, “You can put the guide in the dog, but you cannot take the dog out of the guide.” If ever I have been given a reminder of this, it was today.
Earlier this very morning, after I’d begun writing this offering for you, I took my Big, Blue Dog out for his first relief time of the day and though I was a bit later than normal for our first walk, I foresaw no problems. But as we were making our way around the apartment complex a neighbor called hello, we walked over to visit and before I knew what was happening, the lady sitting next to the one who had called hello leaned forward as if to pet, I didn’t pull blue away and before I could so much as twitch an eyelash Blue was gobbling something from the woman’s hand.
“Blue! Pfui!” I said.
“Oh! It’s OK.” The woman crooned. “I just gave him some ice cream on a stick. I always let dogs lick the ice cream.”
I stood for a moment counting and taking slow deep breaths so as not to leave the reservation. Then, I stated in a soft firm voice, “It is most certainly not OK. First, I do not allow Blue to eat such things and secondly, I’d appreciate your not giving him anything at all without asking me first and last but not at all least, you should never give a dog ice cream because they’re lactose intolerant.”
The two ladies seemed to shrink away from me and one asked, “You mean you don’t give him ice cream?”
“No mam, not at all. I don’t even give those nasty frosty paws things. Blue is a working dog. He must always maintain a certain weight and health. He must maintain specific behaviors and taking food from someone’s hand without my permission is not among them.”
With that, I turned, gave a tight smile I hoped looked friendly rather than as if I’d like to snap off their heads wished them a good day and walked away.
Each day, to keep his skills sharp and ready for anything at a moment’s notice, I do three rounds of obedience with Blue. On leash in house. Off leash in house and on leash outside both in and out of harness.
I make sure to set him up for distractions, traffic checks and other necessary evils to keep his skill sharp.
Sometimes, I must get creative as we don’t always go anywhere but it can be done.
As to how we navigate here in our community, well, that’s easy.
When we first moved in, we went nowhere without blue’s being in harness. On the advice of my Seeing Eye® trainer, I carried my cane with me so I could get a good picture of my surroundings because we were learning our way and as you know, blue is only as good as my directional commands.
After some time had passed, and we’d learned our way well and gotten the residents used to us being out we began to enjoy early morning and late evening sniff fests with Blue heeling politely only on leash and me using my cane.
This is honestly easier than using the harness when relieving because I don’t have to remove the harness and then put it back when he is done.
However, during the day, when it’s busy here with people going to and from with walkers, canes, scooters, and wheelchairs as well as traffic going in and out of the complex Blue works in harness no matter what we’re doing.
I hope this better explains how we get along together so well.
If you’re local to our area, I’d like to invite and encourage you to attend the presentation blue and I will be offering at our local senior center. Below is that information.
THE SEEING EYE® GUIDE DOGS
& BLIND SERVICES
KINGSPORT SENIOR CENTER
Presented by Patty Fletcher
Join us to learn about guide dogs for the visually impaired, and the do’s and don’ts when interacting with these
working dogs. Patty will also go over some services for the visually impaired, some of which are local to the area.
Unlabeled graphicUnlabeled graphicTuesday, June 21
Sign up in the Front Office or call (423) 392-8400
For more information on the Kingsport Senior Center visit: https://seniors.kingsporttn.gov
To learn about The Seeing Eye® and all it has to offer those wishing for a more independent lifestyle visit: https://seeingeye.org/
Chief Seeing Eye® Dog Blue and I are available for public speaking in person and virtually.
We are willing to travel.
For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org