Thursday, May 24, 2018

Gentle Leader: A Guide Dog Story

Working with a guide dog takes a lot of work on both sides. I have become a little lazy with Leif, my black male Labrador. He has taken every opportunity to become his own boss rather than my partner in the team. I let him do that I admit guilt.

Leif a black labrador retriever looks into the camera as he sits in a light airy room.
Leif, Six Year old Black Lab

On Sunday we had a visit from Guide Dogs for the Blind. As graduates we can choose a telephone chat or a visit. Since it has been three years since our last in person visit and I know a lot of the problems were coming from me. Well I thought, get in the experts and knock myself back in shape to redress the balance in the team.

The visit went well. Analysis showed my surrender of the gentle leader in recent months had given Leif an edge.

What is a gentle leader? 

A Gentle leader is a light head collar for the dog, instead of attaching the leash to his neck the gentle leader allows the leash to attach under the muzzle so you as the handler know where in space your dogs nose is at all times. Useful if your dog is a sniffer like my Leif.

Well yesterday, I decided to go to the gamestore just about half a mile away. I harnessed Leif, put on his gentle leader and walked down to the store. I have to admit, Leif worked like a dream. No stops to sniff. No hearing the sudden crunch of jaws as he picked up some morsel of junk food from the sidewalk. He plodded along by my side, stopping right on the button at crossings. He took every treat politely and with gracious licks of my hand. A dream walk.

We even had to walk around a half dozen open doors in the strip mall where the game store is located. A reward was given for each.

When we got into the gamestore, we were greeted by one of the young women who works there. I felt a tug on the leash. Leif had seized the opportunity. An audience. Better a captive audience. His muzzle was now buried into the carpetted floor His head rubbing from side to side as I tried to lift his nose. He whinned a little and put all his weight against his shoulders pushing his face along the floor.

"Is he ok?" the young woman asked.

"Oh Yes!" I said. "He's protesting at his head collar. He was fine until he saw that he had an audience. He'll be fine. Just wants to show how cruel I am."

"I know you are not cruel with him." She said. "What can we do for you?"

I went on to buy my shopping list of items. As we chatted Leif began to ease up on his rolling and whimpers. Until we had finished and started to make our way to the door. Leif did a final dive into the carpet. With no-one taking any notice. He got up shook himself with a snort and lead  me all the way home.

On the walk home he was his usual plodding self. Conciencious and deliberate with his kerbside drill. I treated him often.

It just shows these dogs are intelligent. They reall7y know how to train us hummans.

Do you have a guide dog story to share? Tell us in the comments below.




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