Category Archives: Guide Dogs for the Blind

Where are your eyes?

Body language is universal – amongst all ethnicities, all species, each individual!

Our eyes play a huge role in that. We could make the same body movements but with different expressions in our eyes, and we would be saying entirely different things.

So blocking our eyes, the doors to our soul, when we talk to someone is just as bad as when we work with animals. My dogs constantly make eye contact with me – this is not an act of dominance. It’s no different than when I seek steady eye contact with a person. I can catch my horses eye just as I can catch that of  my dogs’ to confirm what I told them.

I train guide dogs for the blind and my dogs learn to accept someone who may, or may not, wear large, dark sunglasses. But before they accept that human, they need to see them without the glasses, at least for a little while. It’s important for them to see that they are simply human. It’s interesting that it’s not necessary that we can see with those eyes, but simply that they are there. Sometimes even that is enough.

When I work with horses I never wear sunglasses unless the horse knows me very well, or I am riding. Just as I never wear them with a new dog – only when I am training a guide dog for someone who wears big glasses.
I see so many people wear sunglasses, losing so much valuable communication with their animals. Your dog or horse has no way of getting a feel for you and what you want them to do. It’s just a body with no soul or individuality.
I’ve also seen cases where people work with dogs and have the hardest time and when they shed their constant need for sunglasses, the dog makes huge improvements… coincidence?

No, our eyes help us communicate! Even a stern or friendly look can tell your dog everything it needs to know – without a word or body movement to accompany it. Play around with that concept a bit more, and see what changes come!

Unknown Photographer I own no rights to this Photo

Unknown Photographer
I own no rights to this Photo

Leave a Comment

Filed under Behavioral musings, Dogs, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans

Ich führ Dich – NEU FaceBook Seite

Für alle die sich für meine Blindenführhunde interessieren und Bilder auf FaceBook sehen wollt, habe ich eine neue FaceBook Seite gemacht!

For everyone who wants to see pictures of my guide dogs and their every day training, like my new page! Specifically for my guide dogs and, although it’s written in german, will have cute pictures…

 

HERE  is a link to the page.

Picture by me (Tiamat) Mowgli on the left and my three guide dogs in training.

Picture by me (Tiamat)
Mowgli on the left and my three guide dogs in training.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Guide Dogs for the Blind

Wie sieht das Leben mit einem Blindenführhund aus?

Hier erzählt Herr Sachse-Schüler ein bisschen über sein Leben mit einem Blindenhund. Seinen zweiten Blindenführhund, Sam, erhält er von mir.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Guide Dogs for the Blind, Video Discussion

Purely Positive Training Is An Illusion

As wonderful as it would be to say, “I only train with positive reinforcement and it works!”, it’s impossible.

Before you get too worked up about that, let me explain. I train my dogs with a clicker (only the guide dogs and advanced trick training, the foundation is not based on treats or clicks). I don’t use prong collars or anything that would be unfair on a dog (or any animal).

I read an article that got me thinking about “positive” philosophies. The truth is, something negative (even if only from the dog’s point of view) is always present. Even in clicker training; instead of saying “No” to your dog, you withhold a treat/click. That, for the dog, is a negative thing. So even the most positive of all training methods regularly has negative aspects.

You can’t only say “Yes” to your dog or horse. Then they would do everything and anything they want, which is the complete opposite of natural. People don’t want to harm their animals, and that’s completely understandable. I never do anything to hurt them.

I set boundaries. I live with an actual pack of dogs (at least 4 at a time) and because I train guide dogs there are new ones coming and going very often. If I don’t want complete chaos, all of my dogs have to follow the same rules. That’s how animals are amongst themselves, too. That is natural.

It’s interesting to think about the fact that you could definitely say that training without anything positive is possible, but that training without anything “negative” is impossible. What are your thoughts on the subject?

Unknown Photographer I own no rights to this Photo

Unknown Photographer
I own no rights to this Photo

1 Comment

Filed under Behavioral musings, Dog-Horse Similarities, Dogs, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, Teaching Tricks

NEW Video – Guide Dog at the Train Station

A new video of one of the Guide Dogs I’m training and I training at the Frankfurt Train Station today!

Take a look. What do you think? Tell me in the comments!

Sorry to my english readers that the voice-over is in German…

Leave a Comment

Filed under Guide Dogs for the Blind

NEW Video Training Guide Dog!

Hey, made a video today while training one of my dogs to be a guide dog for the blind.

Take a look at the video and tell me what you think in the comments below!

2 Comments

Filed under Dogs, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Video Discussion

No, YOU find the answer!

I’ve been playing around with my new poodle (I am training him to be a guide dog for the blind) and seeing how I can cause him to figure things out on his own.

He has been with me for about three weeks and has learned so much, so fast and so well… that he is coming up close to my dogs that have been with me for a few months. This is thanks to allowing him to figure things out “on his own”. I’m just there to confirm his decisions.

He’s learned so many things, but one that was really amazing was his ability to figure out the concepts of going left and right when I ask him to. This usually takes a little bit of time for a dog to learn and do correctly regularly. In the past, I was able to teach most of my dogs the commands left and right fairly fast, but it might have to be followed through with a tap from the leash as support. So they would learn it soon, but need support for a while until they just did it on there own every time.

With my poodle, it’s been the opposite. Just a little bit of well-timed support in the beginning and he learned it very fast. So we would stand somewhere and I’d ask him to go left (purely vocal, no body language). He would think for a second and then sort of look to the left. I’d say, “Yeah, yeah, yes… Yep!” Like a game of hotter or colder. The more he turned his head and then his body, the more I would agree with that decision. Just him turning his head was correct and then hearing that very affirmative voice from me, he knew he was on the right track and went left.

He picked it up within two days. This applies with all animals under any circumstance. It’s all about rewarding or correcting that thought right as it surfaces or maybe even before it surfaces if we can catch it then…

My poodle guiding my along the street. Photo credit: Humanima

My poodle guiding my along the street.
Photo credit: Humanima

1 Comment

Filed under Dogs, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Human & Animal Interactions, Teaching Tricks

Training Guide Dogs?

Everyone has one of two deeply-set opinions when they see me train my guide dogs (for the blind):

  • “Those poor dogs are slaves!” “They’re trained so negatively!” “So horrible… how could anyone be so strict with a dog and force them to work??”
  • “Look at that cute dog!” “What a wonderful occupation for a dog!” “How beautiful – a blind person having such a great dog by his/her side… such a heart warming connection.”

Or they know nothing about guide dogs.

Well. All I can say is that both of these could be true. People can do anything in a negative, cruel way or put their heart and soul into it.

I wanted to write this post to share how they can, and should, be trained. First off: the dogs are not slaves. They love their work and you can see that written on their faces every day they are able to guide. I also choose dogs that are good for the job – not aggressive, frightened or unstable. My dogs see me get their harness and leash to start the work day and they run over, wagging their tail hard enough to levitate two inches.

Every morning and night they go on a long walk where, at times, they’re on the leash (to practice some obedience and for safety reasons) and at that time they can’t play with other dogs. When we get to the woods and fields, they run free: they tumble, play, and run (only once I can call them back reliably).

They get to play a bit before and after training, also, to warm up to and then shake off their work day. So when you see a guide dog not allowed to interact with other dogs while on the job, don’t feel bad. Playing would put their blind owner in serious danger. They take a break with other dogs when they’re off work – just like people! We can’t throw parties constantly at the office, neither can working dogs.

My dogs are part of my family – live in my house and are treated the same as my own dog. They get to play, they’re healthy, and they have an occupation! It seems worse for a dog to sit at home doing nothing all the time, right? My dogs know they have a purpose and you can feel it surging from them while they work.

When I have my dogs guide me through the city, their tails wag back and worth, setting a rhythm. I can’t take the smile off my face when I see them strut around so proudly. People look at them and my dogs look back, “I’m cute, I’m cute, I’m cute… Do you see this harness? I’m important! I have a job, I have a job, I have a job… I’m smart! You can’t take your eyes off me, can you (I’m so important).”

Me and Chika - my guide dog in training. Photo Credits: Humanima

Me and Chika – my guide dog in training.
Photo Credits: Humanima

1 Comment

Filed under Guide Dogs for the Blind

Insulting Our Animals?

I train guide dogs. This requires me to be very specific with what they can and can’t do when “on the job”.

Actually, I generally expect a lot from the animals I work with (while still being fair), because I know they are smart.

But at least every other day, someone tells me: “Oh, they’re dogs! They can’t help smelling everything!” I think to myself, smelling is not a conscious thing they “do”. My dog can smell by sitting politely next to me – no need to pull on the leash towards something and almost kill their blind owner in the process.

It’s called manners. I find that people who think their dog can’t control themselves are insulting their dogs! They seem to think their animal has no sense of self-control, but they do. You could train a dog to walk over a carpet of bacon out of the oven, just as well as you could teach a child to walk through a candy store without unwrapping every candy.

My point is to not dumb-down your animal because they’re “an animal”. They can have manners! Dogs don’t need to pull towards another dog “because they’re dogs”! Every dog has the ability, the balance, to walk calmly and politely to greet another dog. I don’t sprint up to strangers and tackle them to the ground and neither should my dog. In fact, in a pack, that kind of behavior would not be tolerated – only humans seem to think that’s normal.

Politeness is a balance that animals naturally have. It’s just when a human takes a hold of the leash that the dogs says, “She’ll make an excuse for me! I’m a cute puppy!”

So dogs do have a strong ability for self control. Of course this is relevant to all animals – my horses are just as polite. Just like kids, they know they can get away with certain things, but that doesn’t mean they can’t understand it if you explain to them why they shouldn’t.

Unknown Photographer

Unknown Photographer

1 Comment

Filed under Behavioral musings, Dogs, Guide Dogs for the Blind

Ringing Bells!

One tiny bell can help your communication with animals become more soft, clear and refined.

There’s a trick when working with horses to put a bell on the tip of the whip. Every time you move it you hear the music! The “goal” of the game, if you want to view it that way, is to hear the bell as little as possible. Of course we don’t want to get neurotic over it – there will always be some noise as the whip shifts or as we ourselves move around with our horse. The question is: How little can we hear that clear ringing of the bell? It’s a balance, though, because we don’t want to tell ourselves to never use the whip.

We just don’t want to use it all the time, for everything, without even thinking about it. It should mean something – just the way a horse will bite or kick another after warning him. We don’t want the whip to lose “meaning” or for our horse to become desensitized so that we have to use it more, later. So we ask our horse to do something very softly. Then we ask again with a bit more intention. Then we lift up the whip (but don’t touch them!). Then… We can tap the whip. And the bell will ring, but hopefully, because you used the whip this time, you won’t have to use it the next time around.

This can also be done with dogs (probably with any animal). The dogs that I train as guide dogs for the visually impaired/blind, usually will carry a small bell on their collar. This way their blind owner knows where they are by hearing. If you put a bell like this on your dog and you always just heard a sweet jingling – it’s all good! But if we are walking our dog and we always hearing a loud almost banging sound because the leash is getting jerked around so much… take that as a hint.

Unknown photographer

Unknown photographer

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Guide Dogs for the Blind, Horses