Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Thoughts of a Guide Dog: Leif and the treat mine

Life as a guide dog can be hectic.

Recently I have had to retrain William in his use of positive reinforcement.

William, over the eighteen months we have been working together had become prettylazy about offering treats. Instead of rewarding often he began only offering a treat after we reached a kerbside.

Of course this meant that I was working hard, avoiding the trash cans, lamp=posts and benches as well as the occasional pedestrian and car.

Now as a guide dog, I can't just say, "Hey Bud! Give more treats, dude."

We guide dogs don't work that way. It is not our nature. So, How did ?I show my disappointment in the situation? I sniffed.

Sniif a bush. Sniff a fire hydrant. Sniff a tree. My irritation knew no bounds.

Then Came a visit from a Guide Dogs for the Blind trainer. William pointed out "my" problem. Typical human, His problem is MY problem. But.

Easily resolved said the trainer, offer more treats more often. Reward only the good behavior not the bad.

Well I sat through that lesson with a rising heart. More treats. Treats for all my good work. Treats are great for encouraging  a guide dog.

Well  now I have to say, my life is easier. William gets into the treat thing pretty well. I get rewarded all the time. Now my life is less hectic. No more looking for places to sniff. Now my life is hectic in my driving to the next treat.

Fire hydrants, lamp-posts and benches are no longer sniff points they are possible treats mines. Avoid them and do so with gusto and I get a treat.

So tip to all those with a guide dog out there and in particular to you guides. Make every situation a treat mine.