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I don't know how much general public attention this blog gets, but I thought I would throw this out for good measure. It is related to something that happens to me a lot lately. If nothing else, perhaps I can help clarify some things so that it doesn't happen to others.

I have had a lot of encounters with people who make quite syrupy sounding comments regarding my "good dog" in public. It occurs to me that most probably don't realize the impact this has on her and perhaps a few general pieces of information might be useful.

A dog wearing a harness is not in training. It is fully trained and working. It makes mistakes sometimes because it is dependent on instructions from the blind person, who may or may not know the area well, may or may not be paying attention fully, etc. Dogs also make mistakes because they can be distracted by any number of things: birds, children, food on the floor, something moving off in the distance, pain, or people looking at or petting or talking at them.

Most people who walk past and say, "good dog," mean it as a comment about the dog. However, "good dog," "good girl," etc, are terms of reward that dog guide owners use to communicate with their dogs. When someone else says those words, especially in isolation or while petting or making eye contact with the dog, the dog then associates the new person with reward and turns its attention to the new person. Even if a dog is lying quietly, praise from a person will "wake it up" and make it responsive to that person and in need of "correction" from the owner. Saying, "that's ok," when a person is correcting their dog is like saying that the person should not correct the dog. The person is likely not correcting the dog because you think it should or should not be done. The correction occurs because the dog's attention has wandered and needs to be regained.

I often ask people to pretend that my dog does not exist when she is with me in public. What I mean by this is that if they bump her, I would prefer they not turn and apologize to her--she is quite used to being bumped and tripped over because she refuses to vacate the middle of my hallway at home as I'm coming through saying, "Loretta, up." I also mean that those admiring stares really do get noticed by her, and I would prefer it if the admiration was in the mind and not the eyes. I also would prefer, when I am following someone, that they give direction to me instead of calling my dog. For one thing, this treats me like a person who is capable of navigating independently instead of treating the dog as the intelligent being and me as the passive follower getting dragged along for the ride. For another thing (and perhaps more important), it keeps my dog from getting happy about being called and forgetting to do her job. When she forgets to work because someone is calling her, I almost always get rammed into something, and often the person wonders why my dog didn't do her job.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
calledisrael
Apr. 5th, 2008 08:36 pm (UTC)
hey, thanks for this. as i might have said to you... i went on a few dates with a blind man once, and i remember in the end he decided to leave his dog at home when we went out... it seemed easier for him. it made me sad - i thought his dog was awesome - but like you say, she had a job to do, and sometimes it was more difficult that way for her to do it... he taught me alot about guide dogs, and i was so glad to learn.
3kitties
Apr. 5th, 2008 11:19 pm (UTC)
cool and rambling back
Some dogs are so darned people-happy! LOL! I think my dogs get to thinking they're professional greeters! I think too much about them when I leave them home, though, so most of the time we suck it up and go on. The only places I won't take a dog are movie theaters--the grime on the floor irritates me!
synonym4shedog
Apr. 5th, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, Sarah!

A lot to think about here. I love learning; and your post was a terrific teacher.
my_pen
Apr. 5th, 2008 10:38 pm (UTC)
Hi,

My name is Bethanna, and I'm a friend of puppybraile and sneaked over to her friends page to . . . meet some new people. . .**blushes** - and I read this post from you. May I copy it and forward it to my husband? I am currently training my german shepherd puppy for service work, and I think this information is not only very well written but very important to my husband's and our friend's understanding of what her position will be when she is working.

I won't do anything until I have your permission.

Thank you!
Bethanna
3kitties
Apr. 5th, 2008 11:47 pm (UTC)
forward away
Sure, copy away. And friend me if you like. :)
my_pen
Apr. 6th, 2008 12:25 am (UTC)
Re: forward away
Copied, forwarded and you are added!!! Thank you for the information and for the use of your written work!!

I'm looking forward to getting to know you!

Bethanna
3kitties
Apr. 6th, 2008 01:24 am (UTC)
Re: forward away
Likewise. Btw, it looks like we're sort of neighbors--I'm in Indiana. :)
my_pen
Apr. 6th, 2008 01:40 am (UTC)
Re: forward away
Sort of at that!! I used to live in South Bend many many years ago. You're just a hop skip and a jump a little sideways to the North!! **grins**
3kitties
Apr. 6th, 2008 11:20 am (UTC)
Re: forward away
Oh that's cool!
(Deleted comment)
my_pen
Apr. 6th, 2008 03:02 pm (UTC)
Hi!

No, I don't mind at all! I'll add you back, if that's ok.
(Deleted comment)
3kitties
Apr. 6th, 2008 01:23 am (UTC)
dogs in training
Yes, dog guides in training do wear harnesses when they're with the instructors. But it wouldn't make a lot of sense for a blind person to have a dog still not trained--unless they were training their own, which is fairly rare. Most people associate my dog with the puppy raiser program for the school which is several hundred miles away. I think it doesn't occur to them: dog plus blind person equals this is why people are raising those dogs, aka this dog must be done.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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